Angli­can leader spot­lights plight of hun­gry in Bri­tain

Lesotho Times - - International -

LONDON — The Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury has said he found see­ing the hun­gry in Bri­tain to be less se­ri­ous but more shock­ing than the plight of those starv­ing in some places in Africa.

Justin Welby, head of the 80-mil­lion strong Angli­can com­mu­nion, com­pared his two re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences of see­ing hun­gry peo­ple in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, to talk­ing to a fam­ily mak­ing a col­lec­tion of free food in Eng­land.

He said, although less “se­ri­ous”, the plight of a fam­ily who turned to a food bank in Bri­tain had shocked him more than ter­ri­ble suf­fer­ing in Africa be­cause it was so un­ex­pected.

“In one cor­ner of a refugee camp in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo was a large mar­quee. Inside were chil­dren, all ill. They had been sep­a­rated from fam­ily, friends, those who looked after them,” Arch­bishop Welby wrote in the Mail on Sun­day.

“Per­haps, mostly hav­ing dis­abil­i­ties, they had been aban­doned in the panic of the mili­tia at­tack that drove them from their homes. Now they were hun­gry.

“It was deeply shock­ing but, trag­i­cally, ex­pected. A few weeks later in Eng­land, I was talk­ing to some peo­ple — a mum, dad and one child — in a food bank.

“They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked mis­er­ably. He said they had each been skip­ping a day’s meals once a week in or­der to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.

“So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with re­spect, love even, by the vol­un­teers from lo­cal churches. But they were hun­gry, and ashamed to be hun­gry.

“I found their plight more shock­ing. It was less se­ri­ous, but it was here. And they weren’t care­less with what they had — they were just up against it. It shocked me that be­ing up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage. There are many like them. But we can do some­thing about it.”

“The scale of waste in this coun­try is as­ton­ish­ing. As a na­tion we dis­card about 15 mil­lion tonnes of food a year, at least four mil­lion thrown out by house­holds,” he said.

A cross-party par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into Hunger and Food Poverty pub­lished on Mon­day high­lighted the grow­ing re­liance by needy Bri­tons on food banks, which pro­vide the needy with free emer­gency sup­plies.

The Hunger and Food Poverty in­quiry found that the num­ber of peo­ple in Bri­tain pro­vided with emer­gency food as­sis­tance by one char­ity, the Trus­sell Trust, rose to 913,138 in 2013-14, up seven-fold from 2011-12.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive de­lays in pay­ing state ben­e­fits was the rea­son many peo­ple vis­ited food banks, the in­quiry found. It rec­om­mended that the gov­ern­ment re­form the sys­tem to de­liver pay­ments more quickly.

Arch­bishop Welby and other re­li­gious lead­ers have in the past crit­i­cised Bri­tain’s cur­rent gov­ern­ment for the cuts it has made to the wel­fare pay­outs, part of its ef­fort to re­duce a large bud­get deficit.

Re­li­gious lead­ers say they have forced ris­ing num­bers of peo­ple to use free food banks, skip meals and turn off heat­ing to save money. Bri­tain’s $2.8 tril­lion (M30.4 tril­lion) econ­omy is fore­cast to grow faster than any other Group of Seven econ­omy coun­try this year. The econ­omy is fore­cast to grow three per­cent in 2014 and 2.4 per­cent fore­cast for 2015. — Reuters.

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