850 campaign
Earlier this summer the United Nations World Food Programme made a plea for an additional $186 million in funding in order to be able to restore full rations for refugees in camps across Africa. A shortfall in funding has led to a reduction in rations for 800,000 African refugees, affecting their ability to get the proper nutrients and risking greater long-term issues.

In response to this funding shortfall, the newly founded 850 Campaign is raising awareness of the funding gap and draws attention to the dire situation affecting vulnerable refugees by only eating 850 calories a day – the same amount that the refugees are eating.

There are around 2.4 million refugees in 200 sites across 22 countries that depend on regular food aid from the WFP. For nearly 450,000 refugees in the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan, supplies and rations have seen cuts up to 50 percent. An additional 338,000 refugees in Liberia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ghana, Mauritania and Uganda have seen rations reduced between 5 and 43 percent.

Adequate funding for food is vital because before larger issues of education, health, shelter and returning home can be addressed, there are certain essentials that must be provided. Refugees who are already vulnerable and undernourished are at risk of further problems if their rations are not able to provide the sustenance they need.

When thinking about how many calories 850 is, the campaign has drawn comparisons to some classic American fast food meals.

For example: a Chipotle chicken burrito with rice and beans is 815 calories; a McDonald’s double cheeseburger with a medium fry is 820 calories; and a Subway roast beef foot-long with Sun Chips is 850.

These meals, which are pretty standard fast food meals that many Americans have eaten at one time or another, contain more calories for one sitting than the average WFP ration for one day.

Limited food has significant long-term effects. For children, not enough food and nutrients stunts their growth, inhibits their ability to learn in classrooms and subjects them to health issues that can affect their life dramatically. For these reasons and many more, ensuring that the WFP is able to provide the world’s most vulnerable people with adequate nutrition is incredibly important. The 850 Campaign helps raise awareness not only about the funding, but also why food aid is so important in development work.

– Andrea Blinkhorn 

Sources: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 850 Calories, UNCHR, Humanosphere
Photo: Inside Fort Lauderdale