One hundred years ago, the Armistice of Nov. 11 brought the fighting of World War I mercifully to an end. The U.S. and Allies had defeated Germany and the Central Powers in what was called the Great War.
As we reflect on this history, let's remember the timeless lessons of war and peace that emerged. World War I showed not only the horror of armed conflict, but its brutal partner: Hunger.
When President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress about the Armistice, he warned of hunger in the defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary and other Central Powers. Wilson said, "Everything that is possible in the circumstances will be done to supply them with food and relieve the distressing want that is in so many places threatening their very lives... Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness and all the ugly distempers that make an ordered life impossible."
No armistice can be signed against the enemy of hunger. The battle against food shortages continued long after Nov. 11. Herbert Hoover, who coordinated food aid, described how in France "when the curtain was raised at the Armistice, there came into view destroyed cities, homes and farms."
With farmers displaced from their homes and unable to grow food, famine became the threat. Hoover wrote, "A belt of once fertile land on both sides of the trench lines was so torn that it required years for restoration."
Americans donated to help feed France and other nations in distress. The Congress also passed appropriations supporting food aid for the war victims.
It's vital we remember the Armistice and the hunger that followed. The tragic thing is 100 years later there are still nations affected by war and at risk of famine.
The civil war in Yemen has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yemen is on the brink of famine. Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children, says, "This brutal conflict continues to claim the lives of more than 100 children per day – not just from conflict but also from disease and extreme food insecurity, which have been exacerbated by the ongoing violence."
Yemen desperately needs a ceasefire, a peace treaty and food aid.
The civil war in Syria has destroyed agriculture, which will also take years to recover. Refugees from Syria are scattered throughout the Middle East and with the loss of livelihood they suffer from hunger.
South Sudan, a country with fertile land, has seen its farming industry also devastated by civil war. In the Sahel region of Africa conflict and drought have left millions with food shortages.
All these nations need emergency food aid. Catholic Relief Services, The World Food Program, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and other humanitarian agencies provide life-saving aid with the generosity of donors. As was the case after the Armistice the goodwill of the public through food drives and fundraisers is needed.
With enough funding these nations can rebuild agriculture and grow their own food.
Like after the Armistice, Congress is needed to back humanitarian relief through spending bills. Today’s Congress should increase funds for the Food for Peace program to fight hunger in today’s war and disaster affected nations.
One thing that was done after the Armistice was providing school meals to children in countries impacted by the war. Congress could further support school meals overseas today by increasing funding for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.
With the Armistice came hope of a lasting peace and the end to war and famine. We should never give up on these noble dreams that can inspire us this Armistice (Veteran's) Day on Nov. 11.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.