Hope for life, freedom and happiness
In this photo from Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, the World Food Program drops food aid on Pibor, South Sudan. South Sudan is one of four countries whose areas could slide into famine, the United Nations has warned, along with Yemen, Burkina Faso and northeast Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)
Independence Day reminds us of what America stands for, a nation dedicated to the rights of every person in every country. This spirit, enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, calls us to act to save millions of people from the brink of starvation around the world.
As the Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
Americans defend human rights, including the most fundamental, which is food. It is the right of everyone to have food for living. No one should starve in the world. Yet 325 million people are on the verge of starvation according to David Beasley of the United Nations World Food Programme.
History tells us that America will respond to the massive hunger crisis unfolding this summer.
In 1919, a group of United States Army and Navy officers were called into action for a special mission. The fighting of the First World War had ended with the armistice of November 11, 1918 between the Allies and the German-led Central Powers.
The Latvian nation, which had just declared its independence, was still in conflict within its borders. Bolshevik Communists from neighboring Russia invaded in early 1919 and took control of the main port city of Riga. Opposition forces, including Germans and Latvians, came together to drive the communists out of the city.
But a familiar old enemy has emerged: hunger. People were starving in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
American soldiers have been recruited by the American Relief Administration (ARA) to bring vital food to starving Latvians. Former President Herbert Hoover was the coordinator of the ARA. A food train was loaded by ARA officers and taken to Riga. It wouldn’t be an easy delivery amid the violence.
Herbert Hoover received a telegram from the leader of the food train, Lieutenant George Harrington, confirming his worst fears. Harrington warned “This special food train encountered blown up tracks and bridges.”
Lieutenant Harrington and his men worked to repair the tracks. The dedicated soldiers even transported food by wagon and handcarts to Riga. Harrington traveled to Riga to analyze the situation.
Harrington wrote that there was an urgent need “to ship food to Riga as quickly and as much as possible, while making this action widely known in Riga, so that people know they are being helped”.
The food train finally arrived and more helpers followed. The ARA, which brought food to many starving countries during and after the First World War. They did their part to try to win the peace.
Today we also need to help starving nations like war-torn Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, DR Congo, South Sudan and many more. Afghanistan, following a massive earthquake, is on the brink of starvation. And we must help feed the victims of the war in Ukraine.
We will rise to the challenge of this hunger crisis. We will not let people starve. This humanitarian spirit represents the best of America.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the United Nations World Food Program for the book “Ending World Hunger”.