"Mommy, I'm Hungry!"
"And there will be famines..."
Are we living in a time of increased famine? There are 1.2 billion poor people in developing countries who live on $1 a day or less. Of these, 780 million suffer from chronic hunger, which means that their daily intake of calories is insufficient for them to lead active and healthy lives. Children are famine's most visible victims. Malnutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year.
In June 2002, 32 countries faced exceptional food emergencies, with an estimated 67 million people requiring emergency food aid as a result. As in previous years, drought and conflict were the most common causes and Africa the most affected region.
Worldwide, drought and other unfavorable weather conditions triggered food shortages in 21 of the 32 countries facing emergencies. War, civil strife and the lingering effects of past conflicts sparked crises in 15 countries, including several also plagued by bad weather. General economic problems severely undermined food security in eight countries, frequently in combination with adverse weather.
A Plagued Planet
"And there will be pestilences..."
As with war and famine, the severity and frequency with which "pestilences" (plagues) continue to strike is alarming.
Last century, the medical profession prematurely claimed victory over a wide array of bacterial and viral killers. In 1969, U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart declared, "We can close the books on infectious diseases."
As recently as 1983, a medical textbook declared infectious diseases "more easily prevented and more easily cured" than any other major group of disorders.
But instead of fading, the cases of infectious diseases have skyrocketed throughout the '90s. Dr. Sherwin Nuland, in his bestselling book, How We Die, laments, "Medicine's purported triumph over infectious disease has become an illusion." Doctors now warn that the current resurgence of drug-resistant bacteria strains could prove to be more deadly than AIDS.
The medical community is now warning that not only are bacterial plagues on the rise, but viral killers like AIDS and Ebola are occurring more frequently than ever. The global SARS outbreak showed us how vulnerable we are. But the threat from influenza might be the most dangerous of all.
The influenza virus has developed the ability to circumvent the human body's main defense against the disease, raising the prospect of a deadly new global outbreak, scientists have discovered.
Research into an outbreak of the illness several years ago, which killed one-third of its victims, has established that the strain responsible was able to bypass completely its victims' first and most crucial immune response to the infection.
Dr. Klaus Stohr, the leader of the World Health Organization's global influenza program, called the 1997 outbreak "the last warning from nature" that the world must prepare for a flu pandemic similar to that of 1918, when 50 million people died.
"The last pandemic was 34 years ago, while the average time between pandemics in the past has been around 28 years. We are beyond the odds now—it is a question of when."
The Big Shake-up
"And there will be earthquakes, in various places..."
The Universal Almanac tells us that there were only 21 earthquakes of major strength between the years 1000 and 1800. Between 1800 and 1900 there were 18 major earthquakes. In the next 50 years, between 1900 and 1950, there were 33 major quakes—almost as many as the number in the preceding 850 years!
The prophet Isaiah also envisioned monster quakes in the last days, saying, "The foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is ... shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut … in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall" (Isaiah 24:18-20; 30:25).
Our Violent World
Another condition that Jesus said would be prevalent immediately prior to His return would be unrestrained violence: "As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37).
How were things in "the days of Noah?" The book of Genesis tells us "the earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11). We are all painfully aware that today's headlines are full of tragic stories of senseless violence.
Political violence is the term used to describe the violence perpetrated by governments on their own or conquered people. In the 20th century it is estimated that around 110 million people died as a result of wars. However, this pales in comparison to the 170 million estimated to have been killed in political violence. We are all still deeply saddened at the loss of life in the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, DC, where it is now estimated that around 2800 people lost their lives. However, 170 million deaths translates to around 4,600 people being killed every day for 100 years. That is equivalent to nearly two attacks such as 9/11 occurring every day for the last 100 years!
Aside from political violence, violence in all its forms surrounds us. One country that has statistics readily available on this is the United States. In the USA more people died from gun-related killings in the 19 years spanning 1979-1997 (651,697) than U.S. servicemen and women that died in combat in all the wars going back to the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) through to the end of the 20th century (650,858).
1. "Alleviating protein-energy malnutrition," WHO, 2003.
2. Shnayerson, Michael & Plotkin, Mark J. The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria. Boston, MA.: Little Brown & Co., 2002; p. 18
3. U.S. News & World Report, 29 Jan 1996.
4. Nuland, Sherwin B. How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. New York: Random House in association with Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
5. "The End of Antibiotics," Newsweek, 28 Mar 1994, pp. 47-48.
6. "Antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise," Brad Evenson, National Post, 28 Sep 2002.
7. Fraser, Lorraine. "Deadly flu virus heightens doctors' fears of new pandemic," Electronic Telegraph, 22 Sep 2002.
8. The Universal Almanac, Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel, 1993.
9. Rummel, R.J. Death by Government. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.
10. "Trade Center death toll revised down by 22," CNN, 7 Sep 2002.
11. The 1994 World Almanac's table for casualties in "principal wars" of the U.S. The source is the Department of Defense and the United States Statistical Abstract. The National Center for Health Statistics has an annual count for gun deaths for the years 1979-1997.
Excerpted from The Future Foretold, by Michael Roy