Editorial, by Samuel Morard, MIDE intern, 4 October 2018

2018 10 04 ED droit alimentation"A child who dies from hunger is a murdered child"
Jean Ziegler

Infant malnutrition was once just put down to fate, but wasn't seen as a violation of rights. Although this problem has been known since the dawn of time, being understood in terms of human rights is relatively recent. Solutions to undernutrition are now known, and agricultural production is largely sufficient to cover the food needs of all humankind. The right to food has thus been recognized in international law based on an observation: the availability of sufficient food does not guarantee that everyone has access to it. Among the most vulnerable are children. They were the first to see their right to food enshrined in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child - 1924, which stipulates: "The child that is hungry must be fed" (Article 2). The legally binding 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) takes a broader view of nutrition, including food, health, care, living conditions, as well as the fundamental principles of best interest, non-discrimination, the right to life, survival and development.

Undernourishment should therefore only be the concern of historians ... but… the latest Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (2018) shows that the number of people suffering from hunger has increased to 821 million (one in nine). Children are proportionately more affected, as 151 million under-fives (or more than one in five) are stunted, and wasting (low weight for height) threatens the lives of 50 million of these. Although absent in the statistics, children over five are certainly not better off. The odds are against them when they first come into the world, "increasing their risk of impaired cognitive ability, weakened performance at school and work, and dying from infections." (2017 report) Nearly half of all child deaths are related to undernourishment - more than three million children under the age of five each year. Therefore, the mass grave that fills daily with the victims of hunger is huge.

As a terrible war ravages their country, many Yemenis, like Zaïra, born in the North three years ago, can no longer afford food, which has increased in price by 68% since 2015. Save the Children has raised an alert: 5.2 million children are at risk of dying from undernourishment. States that have ratified the CRC are committed to ensuring that "the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration" (article 3): the life of a child must therefore prevail over other issues, be they political, geopolitical or economic.
So, what about Zaïra's right to food? She starved to death, after an agony as slow as it was atrocious.

Picture: © UNICEF/Yasin (A mother on her way to see a doctor, seeking medical treatment for her child. At Al-Sabeen Hospital. June 4, 2015.)

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