A former monk will traverse the stony trails of Carrauntoohil this weekend to raise awareness for world hunger. Photo: Cahir Davitt

‘I've seen the cold face of hunger’

A former monk who has witnessed children dying from starvation is set to become the first person ever to climb Carrauntoohil barefoot.

Cork man Pat McMahon, founder of Indian-based charity Mothers First, will attempt the agonising five hour climb up Ireland’s highest mountain on Saturday to mark World Food Day.

The pilgrimage is partly in response to the Irish media’s lack of coverage of extreme global hunger which Pat says has been rising for the past five years.

Pat told the Cork Independent that his experiences in some of the poorest parts of the world have changed him forever.

“I’m nothing special, I’m not a saint, it’s just that what I’ve seen is so horrific. I remember a child I saw dying of hunger maybe 12 or 13 years ago called Sonny and it was like a before and after moment. It's just horrific,” said Pat.

Having undertaken many pilgrimages in India, Pat is confident that his fitness and willpower will be enough to get him through Saturday’s attempt.

“I'd be fit anyway and I know what my feet can take. I know it's bloody painful but as long as your feet are in good condition, it's doable,” he said.

One of Pat’s main goals is to raise awareness of global hunger and to increase media coverage around the subject so that the general public can be better informed.

“We know what Trump is eating but we don't know about extreme global hunger. People are literally starving. The World Food Programme is actually pulling out of areas and giving half rations purely because they don't have enough food. It costs the World Food Programme something like 25 cent to give a meal to an adult and even at that they have to half their rations. We need to be talking about what's actually important,” said Pat.

A recent UN report on extreme hunger in South Sudan described “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity, disease, and availability and access to health and water services.

In the same report, household surveys revealed that 97 per cent of the households are restricting adult portion size to save food for children.

Despite this humanitarian emergency, Pat says humanitarian response plans are underfunded by between 45 to 50 per cent.

According to Pat, the World Food Programme is about €5 billion short of what is needed to begin to reverse world hunger, a figure he says in “minimal” in the context of global spending.

He said: “A child is dying every five seconds from hunger, and when you think it's just because of a lack of food, it's not like some fancy medicine or some treatment.”

Pat is now calling on all media outlets and members of the public to do what they can to “wake us up” to the harsh reality faced by so many in our world.

For more information on Pat’s pilgrimage and to donate to his cause, visit mothersfirstcharity.org.