So romantic are the dreams we have of the countries that are
East of the sun, west of the moon, washed by the perilous seas
of Faery lands forlorn. Once upon a time dream was reality.
Now these are the countries that have gone “Beyond the headlines”.
The countries of sickening soul and body destroying drought.
Where no rains fall; where ground is dry and parched and barren.
Where children die , often unmourned and un-noticed because of hunger.
Just before Christmas we cared, we lucky quarter of a crazy world.
We dug deep, we gave money and we wished 0ur charities well indeed.
We could eat our Christmas dinner untroubled by the hunger of others
For we had given to alleviate distress, given to those who cared
And who would do with our money what we would do – feed the hungry.
How many hungry though? In how many countries? And how much food?
And how much money ? We said then, and we say it again – this problem
Is beyond the resources of any charity or all charities – it is the world.
We have brought order out of chaos; we have stopped that terrible keening
That, almost more than pictures of stick-like children, tears the mind
For it you cannot shut out of brain and, once heard, you remember the noise.
Before they get to the stage of dull unheeding acceptance of horror,
The hunger pangs have been so sharp and cruel that only calling out will help
Or perhaps they hope the call will reach across the world to the lucky ones.
Well, it did didn’t it – last in nineteen hundred and eighty four.
And now it is June and our winter and their summer, and still they die.
Just as many, and even more deadly than in Ethiopia, but what of those who ran off?
Refugee camps – a misnomer – for refugee squats is more like it
Where they gather and wait for food to come so that they have a chance.
Rain would put dignity back, but currently not enough, and they must eat.
Lots of lovely words and phrases – peace in our time – what peace for them ?
No nukes – maybe a few power stations would save the life-giving trees.
Brotherhood of man – do families really treat their poor relations so?
Khartoum – remember the Mahdi and Gordon and Kitchener ?
It now lies in the drought stricken Sudan and no dervishes twirl.
For now there is not the strength to hate or whirl, or even live.
In Mali there really is that magic city of relegation – Timbuktu
Have we not all consigned our dearest or our worst or most infuriating there ?
Now it too faces the magnitude of the hunger of the multitude .
In the north of Kenya, in Uganda that was once the Pearl of Africa,
In Somalia where the British used to keep order; in Burkina Faso
That was the Upper Volta, there is the dull ache of unceasing hunger.
Perhaps you are tired of hearing about starvation and death in Africa .
You gave – or you wouldn’t be reading this magazine right now.
But it is continual giving that is going to turn the tide and change things
Would you rather hear about Bangladesh, that once we called Bengal?
Where there are no rocks and stones so they make bricks for road-making,
Narrow brick roads that are worn by the feet of patient poor and oxen.
Sometimes it rains unceasingly with melting Himalaya snow the rivers flood
And everything gets washed away, and hunger stalks the land.
Sometimes it forgets to rain, the snows are poor and there is no water.
When there is no water and no proper flooding, rice – the staple diet is not planted,
And so the children die because they are hungry and there is no food.
The poor blind Bangla must beg from his poor hungry compatriots.
Would you rather hear about dozens of different countries
Or would you rather I went away with my tale of sorrow unending.
So that you could have a good meal, watch telly and pretend all is right.
All is not right while more than three quarters are poor and hungry.
Under-privileged poverty stricken, north/south, rich and poor.
Land hungry, social justice and equality for all – call it what you will.
Let me stir your conscience, let the eyes of the children and their woes
Move your heart to pity as you are moved by the face of compassion
Displayed by the nurses who go to tend the sick and feed the hungry.
Never let it be said that we could turn away from a child in need.
A child who did not ask to be born, but who is a living fact,
And who must be cared for, for the child is the hope and future of man.
Our children laugh and are happy, well fed, housed and schooled.
In most of the world they cry and are sad, ill fed, ill housed
And not schooled at all. We cannot continue this dichotomy.
What we need is more money because money which we can all give
Will buy food and medicines, shelter and nursing skills.
Once off is not enough, it never is, you cared once, keep on caring.
We say please, we beg you to give, to care, to make a contribution.
But you have seen it on TV, you have heard the reality of hunger .
Do we really need to implore you to give help to the helpless?