Why should children be made to bear the brunt of grownups’ wars?

Published: Mon 27 May 2024, 7:27 PM

Not letting children die of hunger is not a prosaic agenda that the world community should set for itself, but a moral responsibility to which we all must equally commit and contribute to

By ASHA IYER KUMAR

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Children wait with pots to receive food rations from an outdoor kitchen in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas.  — AFP
Children wait with pots to receive food rations from an outdoor kitchen in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. — AFP

One of the charming perks of living in a city like Dubai is the boutique environment it provides to its residents, ensconced in a feeling of affluence that becomes an attitude over a period of time. Whether in real time or in a state of aspirational fantasy, dearth loses its meaning here when life offers a lot more than the bare essentials – food, water and shelter.


When there is plenitude in our life, we tend to get myopic and our range of experience shrinks to our immediate precincts and personal well-being. A ‘me first, the world next’ attitude creeps into our bones that makes us impervious to the bigger sufferings of those around us. And needless to say, we are witnessing humanity rapidly sink into abysmal levels of self-centred, callous behaviour hastening our approach to doomsday. It is not a prediction, but a certainty if things continue to go in this direction.

There is a fundamental philosophy in nature and an all-encompassing law of the world that determines the course of life and we are witnessing a drastic fall in values and ethical considerations in the higher echelons of global power. And the fact that children, caught in the conflicts of the grown-ups, are the most severely hit makes the situation even more despicable. We are on the verge of ruin as a race because we have essentially stopped thinking about our children and their future.


By our children, I don’t mean our biological offspring (about whom we are the most caring and will go the distance to fulfil their dreams), but the children of a wider world torn by strife and resultant hunger. The children of the world who have been displaced, orphaned or left crippled; the children to whom life in the foreseeable future will be spent in makeshift tents, in inhuman conditions and on the largesse of other richer, generous nations; children whose sleep is fraught with nightmares.

There are humanitarian crises unfolding in every part of the world with wars and conflicts becoming the norm to settle political, societal and economic disputes. From Yemen and Gaza to South Sudan and Haiti, violence and power struggles have rendered millions homeless and vulnerable, and a large segment of children are staring at a bleak future, sans food, education and health care. The fact that my life is safe and that I get three square meals every day doesn’t make me oblivious to the fact that children are dying in the thousands because of malnutrition and lack of medical supplies. But I suspect that we are slipping into complacency as a species, content about having our own lives secure and sated to the exclusion of others. Call it selfishness or unworthy stoicism.

As a species, we are forgetting to comprehend the gravity of putting the lives of the world’s children at the risk of dire conditions and do something collectively to save them from the prospect of an inglorious death for which they are not responsible. Why do children have to pay for the meanness of adults? Why do children in Gaza be deprived of their innocence by making them witness the cruelties of war? Why should children be victims of bombs and gun-toting gangs in other parts of the world?

If as humans we don’t possess the rational thinking that would permit aid convoys to reach desperate people, if we cannot let war-weary populations restart their lives in safe zones, we don’t deserve to be called humans. If we don’t give a glimmer of hope to children who are traumatised by the destruction they have by now grown accustomed to, if we cannot promise to build a future in which starvation and hunger will not be made weapons of war, then the better-placed men and women of the advanced, peaceful societies must be made to bear the remorse of living opulent lives untouched by the greater miseries of other people.

May 28 is World Hunger Day founded by the Hunger Project in 2011 to address the looming global food crisis. Creating a world without hunger might be a mighty mission to accomplish owing to multiple factors that contribute to it, but it will be utterly inhumane to let people die because of apathy and cruelty of warring factions across the world. Nothing can justify the lack of accountability on the part of the powerful nations and its political parties to turn a blind eye to the plight of starving, emaciated children.

It is impossible for a columnist in an affluent city to put an end to the hunger of millions of children in the world, but if the written word spreads that with every morsel that we waste and dump into the landfills, a child goes to sleep on an empty stomach in the world, it will be worth the while spent on this piece. We deserve the bite of the guilt trip, indeed.

If warring nations can convince themselves that their primary enemies are not children and they need to do everything that can be done to safeguard the latter’s future at whatever expense, if combined efforts can be made by regimes to filter out children and women from their wars, if those who purloin children’s joys with bombs, bullets and deliberate deprivation can be held responsible and punished by an international court of law, then alone can we say that there is justice and order in the world.

Not letting children die of hunger is not a prosaic agenda that the world community should set for itself, but a moral responsibility to which we all must equally commit and contribute to. As individuals, we cannot influence warmongers and brutal forces that will stop at nothing to accomplish their devious political ends, but there is something you and I can do – feed hungry mouths, especially children, that we encounter in our daily lives. If a world that has everything going for it doesn’t reach out to those deprived, then we are failing miserably in our true purposes of being human and humane. It is not philosophy; it's a fact that we often choose to overlook.

(Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author and columnist.)



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