At the launch of a new book by George McGovern, Bob Dole and Donald Messer entitled “Ending Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith”, former U.S. Senators McGovern and Dole sounded a strong call for joining forces on hunger across religious and partisan lines, and stressed the importance of tackling hunger and nutrition as part of the care, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
The launch was introduced by David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, the U.S.-based Christian movement that seeks justice for the world's hungry.
Beckmann highlighted the two former U.S. Senators’ bipartisan efforts to vanquish hunger, ranging from a major expansion of the American school lunch programme 30 years ago to the McGovern-Dole school feeding legislation in 2000, which provides for donations of U.S. agricultural products and funds to school feeding projects in low-income, food-deficit countries.
“The efforts of McGovern and Dole have fed hundreds of millions of hungry people around the world – and that’s the truth,” he said.
Food, nutrition and HIV/AIDS
In his speech, McGovern praised U.S. President George W. Bush's administration for confronting HIV/AIDS in Africa, but stressed the critical need for a food/nutrition component in the treatment, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS – a theme explored amply in the book.
“One thing we’ve learned about AIDS is that these wonder drugs – that enable you to go on living – simply don’t work well unless the person being treated has adequate nutrition," he said.
"It doesn’t work to administer these ‘wonder drugs’ if a person is malnourished.”
Messer cited the example of a WFP-supported programme in Eldoret, Kenya, “where PEPFAR (President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) provided the drugs and WFP provided the food. They were administered together. In that one place, we saw a miracle being performed. We saw people walking in the streets, growing their own food, thriving.”
Both former Senators want funding for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programme returned to its initial US$300 million level.
“If we do that we can produce well-fed, healthy youngsters and we can combat AIDS,” McGovern said.
He added: “We believe there is common ground between those of a religious nature and those of us in politics. That common ground is hunger.
"I don’t believe there is a significant religion anywhere in the world that doesn’t (enjoin its followers) to feed the hungry.”