Grand Army Plaza was filled with images of starving children last week as Doctors Without Borders drove home the message that the richest nation on earth shares the planet with abject poverty.
Swedish tourists Pernilla Carlsson and Barbro Hautala were stopped in their tracks by the medical group’s re-created “field hospital” filled with disturbing imagery from world hunger hotspots.
“We didn’t know that a lot of the food sent overseas in aid is substandard,” said Carlsson after viewing the exhibit, called “Starved for Attention.”
Inside the canvas tents, there was more indigestible food for thought.
Visitors toured the simulated medical clinic largely in silence, with staff and aid workers sharing the international humanitarian organization’s work to prevent and treat malnourishment in Niger, Burkina Faso, India and elsewhere.
Greenpoint Nurse Carissa Guild captivated a group of students from the East New York Family Academy with her own experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Starvation increases with ongoing drought and conflict, and affects nearly 200 million children under age 5, 90 percent of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the France-born group, which provided visitors with a petition to sign, calling on policymakers to improve the nutritional quality of food aid.
Doctors Without Borders contends that the cereal-based fortified flours currently donated by governments to developing countries do not meet basic nutritional standards for infants and young children, a reality highlighted by the fact that none of the cereals are used in nutrition programs in their own countries.
“This double standard must end,” said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in America. “Although the U.S. is the largest food aid donor in the world, it sends food overseas to children that it would not feed its own citizens.”
The exhibit drew more than 2,000 visitors during its New York run, before heading to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
For information, visit www.starvedforattention.org.