A United Nations security officer in Nepal is setting out today on a different sort of field mission - to scale the heights of the world’s loftiest mountain in order to raise awareness of the depths of child hunger in one of the poorest regions on Earth.
UN World Food Programme (WFP) security officer Mark Squirrell hopes to reach the summit of Everest on 21 May, the same day as ‘Walk the World,’ when hundreds of thousands of people around the world will walk in communities to call for an end to child hunger.
“I’m very excited to finally be going,” the Australian national universally known as Squiz said of his unusual mission, which aims to raise sponsor money to help Nepal’s children. “To be able to combine a personal dream with the potential of helping children in this country while raising awareness about hunger is both rewarding and humbling.”
Walk the World is organized each year by WFP and its partners to raise awareness and funds to fight the scourge of child hunger, which accounts for 18,000 deaths a day. In 2005, over 200,000 people participated in the event, raising $1.5 million. This year it is hoped that 750,000 will participate in over 100 countries.
Squiz, who has been training for months, will be taking time off from his regular job to make the attempt, which is a personal effort, not a WFP initiative, although it is supported by WFP worldwide. He has already lined up sponsors that have provided funding, services and equipment, including Youngone and the Chaudhary Group.
With the help of sponsors, expenses for the climb have been kept to a minimum, and all proceeds from donors will go to WFP’s school feeding programmes in Nepal covering 570,000 children.
By giving children a nutritious hot mid-day meal, the programmes encourage school attendance and allow students to concentrate on their studies. In some schools, girls are given an additional take-home food ration as an added incentive for their families to send them to schools.
“Whether we make the summit or not, this is an incredible opportunity,” Squiz said. “We have the ability to make people more aware of the ongoing problem of hunger in the region and with luck, help hundreds of children in the process. We’re ready.”