Pope Francis condemns 'lack of empathy' towards global hunger crisis

Catholic leader asks why starvation-related deaths do not make the news

Pope Francis voiced concern over global hunger and the 'silent pandemic' of chronic anxiety affecting young people. Reuters
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Pope Francis has criticised the lack of attention towards global hunger despite surging levels of food insecurity.

The head of the Catholic Church on Monday asked why annual deaths from hunger did not make the news, when they may have even exceeded the fatalities from Covid-19.

Pope Francis was reflecting on a wide range of problems that he says are afflicting the world including the “silent pandemic” of chronic anxiety affecting young people.

In a July report, Oxfam said 155 million people are living in crisis levels of food insecurity or worse – 20 million more than in 2020. The charity blamed conflict, the climate crisis and the economic shocks of Covid-19 for the deteriorating situation.

“Speaking of pandemics, we have stopped questioning the scourge of the food crisis. Despite advances in biotechnology, millions of people have been deprived of food, even though it is available,” Pope Francis said in a video address to the fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements.

“This year 20 million more people have been dragged down to extreme levels of food insecurity; severe destitution has increased; and the price of food has risen sharply. The numbers relating to hunger are horrific and I think, for example, of countries like Syria, Haiti, Congo, Senegal, Yemen and South Sudan.

“But hunger is also felt in many other poor countries of the world and not infrequently in the rich world as well. Annual deaths from hunger may exceed those of Covid. But this does not make the news. It does not generate empathy."

The Pope said Covid-related isolation had only exacerbated chronic anxiety in young people.

He blamed “hyperconnectivity, disorientation and lack of future prospects, which is aggravated by the lack of real contact with others – families, schools, sports centres, parishes, centres for young people – and ultimately the lack of real contact with friends, because friendship is the form in which love always revives”.

The Pope said that while technology “can be a tool for good”, it “can never replace contact between us, it can never substitute for a community in which we can be rooted and which ensures that our life may become fruitful”.

Updated: October 18, 2021, 1:13 PM