There’s an unusual lack of conversation happening around the world regarding starvation being caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s irresponsible and inhumane. During every major plague in human history, starvation inevitably followed. And now it’s here. Famine flags are everywhere. The hunger games are staring us directly in the face. Worse, nobody is hearing the cries for help.

Famine flags aren’t being mentioned in the mainstream news. Social media is largely ignoring the famine flags.

I live in El Salvador. I see hunger in the communities around El Salvador.

We live during a time when everything has been politicized. Food, water, education, science, health and now…the pandemic. This has turned people’s hearts into cold pits of indifference, essentially putting agendas before even the starvation of others. What happened to humanity? 

Please, stop your arguments for a moment and recognize that people need help.

Fear of Covid19 Is Causing Starvation

The fear has taken a heavy emotional toll on those in underdeveloped nations because they know that if infection rates rise, health facilities will be unable to treat a large number of patients. Everyone here is aware of what happened in Ecuador.

Salvadorans are doing their best to abide by El Salvador’s lockdown measures but it’s getting harder and harder as the threat of starvation creeps into their lives.

This Famine Flag can be seen near an impoverished town of El Salvador:

Famine Flag El Salvador

English translation:

“Community La Esperanza – We Need Help (Food)”

“Thank you”

This makeshift sign, made with a bedsheet and spray paint, captures the suffering that is embracing poor communities in Central America and South America. This banner is representative of families that are putting aside their pride and pleading for help in the wake of Coronavirus.

But who is listening? The small town La Esperanza is located less than thirty minutes from me. However, few people see the famine flag because less cars are on the roads recently.

Living in Central America, I see the worries of the people here. At first, their worry was fear of contracting coronavirus. And while that worry undoubtedly still exists, the focus has shifted. The worry is now more about feeding their families.

Families are being put in the impossible position of choosing between being exposed to covid19 or going hungry.

White Flags = Famine Flags

Famine Flag

“Help” – El Salvador – One of many photos from this tweet.

Families are placing white flags on the entrances to their homes. These flags are “Famine Flags”. They mean one thing: “We need food”. As families exhaust food supplies, more and more families are placing famine flags on their homes.

Have you heard about Famine Flags? Probably not. Mainstream media and human rights groups are not covering the story, or their coverage is minimal. Where are the mainstream journalists to cover the starvation in latin countries?

I imagine those paywalls (pay-to-access) on their news websites are at least putting food on their tables, while those south of the border feel anguish from having empty stomachs, feeling alone and like nobody cares.

I apologize. It’s just irritating to me how agenda-driven everything seems to be. 

Famine Flags Are Going Up Everywhere

In El Salvador you can find famine flags in Greater San Salvador, in Santa Ana and in Usulután (abbreviated list).

Starvation Flag El Salvador

“We Need Food” – El Salvador – Photo from this news website.

Hunger Flag El Salvador

“Colony of Margaritas, Soyapango – We need help, We have no food nor Money. Help Please” – El Salvador – Taken from this tweet

Famine Flag

“We Request Help! Water, Foods, Medicine” – El Salvador – Photo from this article

Numerous Famine Flags

Four hunger flags  – Image from this tweet.

Starvation is no longer just a threat. It is happening now. And it will only get worse unless something is done about it.

The flags can be seen in other countries across Latin America too:

Mexico photo: “At home and without food. Food support is urgent” – From this tweet.
Guatemala photo: From this news article
Colombia photo: From this Twitter post

I invite you to do a quick search of the Hashtag: #50DiasSinComidaNiAyuda (Translation: 50 Days Without Food Nor Help)

All over twitter you’ll see famine flags from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and other Latin countries.

It’s a tragedy what’s happening across Latin America.

Disrupted Food Distribution In Central America

Locals here purchase the vast majority of their food from other locals. While large grocery stores are also fairly common, most families buy and sell items of other local family businesses for their wellbeing. It’s a mutually beneficial system for everyone. 

Small family-owned makeshift businesses, “tiendas” in Spanish, are essentially food stands constructed with wood planks, sheet metal and rope. Sometimes the stores are small brick-and-mortar shops that have welded iron bars and cinderblock walls. In most of these businesses, they sell fruit, vegetables, rice, corn flour, bread, drinks, cookies, toilet paper and sometimes clothing. If their business is lucky, they’ll be able to afford a cooler or freezer with ice to offer cold beverages to customers.

But this market system has been disrupted. Families that once relied heavily on their small shops, now have little to sell. They’ve exausted all of their resources while hiding from the coronavirus.

For example, at a smoothly stand that I use to buy smoothies for $1.50 USD, they started selling homemade popsicles for 25 cents each. Then they closed their doors completely. They can’t afford to keep fully stocked freezers because their freezer’s electricity cost money, rent costs money and they have less customers.

At another nearby food stand, I’ve noticed that their food products are “older”, which could mean one of two things: They have limited products and are trying to sell their older items, or their suppliers have limited products. I don’t know the answer to that.

For most of the family food stands, they’ve closed their doors completely. For the few surviving markets, they’re operating at razor-thin margins, hoping to earn maybe a $2 or $3 a day to purchase something to eat for their children – rice, beans, plantains or juice. Meat is more expensive and therefore a luxury. 

You can see how incredibly delicate this situation is. Families are essentially balancing on a tightrope that’s fraying at both edges. As resources diminish, more stomachs go empty.

Starvation, Food Shortages And The Necessity of Money

There is a worrying cycle at play. In fact, it’s beyond worrying. It’s upsetting and tragic. I see it happening around me. 

The problem isn’t necessarily for food shortages (yet). There is food. But people cannot afford it. And as people cannot afford to buy it, farmers are put under pressure.

Here’s How The Cycle Of Devastation Works

  1. People want to purchase food, but they don’t have money because they can’t work. They’re no longer earning the $10-15/day they were earning per before the Covid19 pandemic.
  2. Local farmers selling less, so some food spoils. They start to produce less because it’s backbreaking work and fewer people can afford their vegetables, certainly not their beef.
  3. Police and military here are pressuring people to stay at home because of the virus.
  4. Food is less accessible due to lack of money and concerns of contracting the virus.
  5. As producers produce less food, there’s less food available to buy, 
  6. The downward cycle gains momentum. 

This crisis is spiraling. Everything is affecting everything else. We need to reverse its direction.

Saving money was very difficult for Salvadorans even before this crisis. To buy a new skillet, freezer or tools was a considerable purchase that often took months of savings. Now, people are selling off their items just to survive. 

At the heart of this, there’s really only two options:

  1. The government gives families money to purchase food.
  2. People return to work to earn money to buy food.

If governments will not give people money to buy food, then people have no option but to work. 

I must be clear – governments in developing nations don’t have enough money or resources to cover the cost feeding every family. There is simply not enough money. The only way they could cover the cost is by heavily taxing the rich, something that would undoubtedly cause another civil war. And, the point of this article is not to create class warfare. I just want to ensure that people are fed.

The Failure Of Mainstream Media & Human Rights Groups

Challenge yourself: Disregard any news articles that you read about “worries of starvation” or “concerns of hunger” or what “will” or “could” happen. We’ve passed that stage. It’s no longer just a worry or concern. Starvation is here. People are hungry now.

Now is the time for immediate action.

Efforts of The United Nations

The United Nations published an article (without a date) that’s titled “UN working to avert dual crises as COVID-19 hits hunger hotspots”.

“Working to avert hunger” is very different from “averting hunger”. Altogether, the UN’s efforts are insufficient for the remaining hundreds of millions of people that don’t have food security. And it’s not their fault. I’m certainly not blaming anyone for trying. Yes, they’re feeding some people. But handing out bags of rice and corn to a few million people is less effective than throwing a thimble of water at a raging forest fire. 

If you had 100 starving friends and only 3 of them were fed, would anyone claim the problem was solved?

I suppose that the UN deserves a pat on the back for trying to help. But it’s nowhere near enough. People need to step up. We need to be more proactive. We can’t expect other people to fix this. People are hungry now and this can only be solved on a community basis, worldwide and it must happen fast.

Communities need to restart their engines and initiate grassroots efforts. Individuals need to start talking about it. People need to see what is happening. Awareness must be followed by action.

I’m no expert on this stuff. I’m just a guy that lives in El Salvador.

A Small Effort To Combat Hunger In El Salvador

Stephanie and I have decided to launch a small campaign to fight hunger in El Salvador.We can’t sit idly as people around us are suffering. After research online, I found a website called Fundly that permits individuals to launch individual campaigns for disaster relief:

The campaign is small, only $1,000.

We estimate it will feed approximately 20 families for a week, perhaps longer if we can get more discounted rates on food. 

We’ve never done anything like this before, so please bear with us as we learn how this all works. 

Surely, a larger campaign is necessary.

However, we didn’t want to make a large campaign that will last for months. People need food now. Hunger doesn’t wait. Also, we have the option to create more campaigns later if this one is successful. 

This situation is frustrating for us. It’s heartbreaking. The children that I once saw playing in the streets here are now essentially locked in their homes heavily depending on their parents that are struggling to put food on the table. I cannot express the overwhelming sadness it makes me feel to imagine that people are starving.

Children and families do not deserve this.

It’s upsetting to see the lifeblood sucked out of entire communities. Food security no longer exists here.

I want the story to be told. I originally started just to be a travel blog but I’ve expanded my writing over the past few months in order to share an inside glimpse into what’s going on. And I’m only a drop in the bucket. My pitiful writing efforts are rather non-influencial in the grand scheme of “news”.

But at least I make the story exist in a world where it otherwise would never be told.

We Need To Stop With The Childish Politics

We should open the economy!” Simpleminded response: “You want people to get infected and die!

We should all stay at home!” Simpleminded response: “You want people to starve!

Is it not obvious? Both arguments have semblances of selfishness. Neither side is morally superior.

In both cases someone is being forced into a life-threatening position. And this is exactly why we’re seeing coronavirus famine flags all over Latin America. It’s impossible to escape it. We cannot pretend that expecting people to starve in the interest of protecting us all from the virus is a viable solution. Additionally, we cannot go galavanting around town as if we’re not facing a pandemic.

I realize that mentioning those two arguments will annoy some people. After all, everyone wants to be “right”. But instead of getting angry, casting blame and make politically charged statements, which all do absolutely nothing for anyone, maybe it’s a good idea to just help people.

Sure, we’d all love for the government to solve these problems. But they aren’t. And we cannot wait for them to solve the problem. The poor are starving now. This is why we’re seeing famine flags everywhere.

Dare I mention “Balance”?

We’ve all balanced more than one thing in our life. School and work. Having more than one job. Writing more than one research essay at university. Time with friends and time with family. Arguably, life is about balance. This all or nothing world that we live in is pushing us beyond the brink of disaster. The poor are already the first victims.

Perhaps we can reduce starvation and reduce infection rates at the same time, if we are cautious.

Please Join Me In The Fight Against Hunger

It’s time to unite against hunger and starvation. Regardless of what the solution is, people need our help. And they need our help now. We all have the ability to do something

We need to stand by our brothers and sisters in their great time of need. It’s unacceptable for anyone to feel hunger. We must not let personal biases, selfishness, nor politics destroy our will to help those that desperately need us. 

Thank you for giving attention to this important matter. 

Image Sources:

“We Need Food” – El Salvador – Photo from this news website.

“In House and Without Food” – Main article image from this twitter post.