In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—a country currently at the bottom of the Human Development Index—the sentencing of Germain Katanga at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this past week has brought mixed reactions.

The Court convicted the former commander of the Forces de Résistance for his role in the February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro in North-Eastern DRC that resulted in the deaths of over 200 people.

Conflict has consumed this area of the DRC, and more specifically the Ituri region, for years. The power struggle stems from the drive to control the local natural resources, namely gold. Approximately 130,000-150,000 persons in Ituri alone mine gold, often working over 12 hours a day.

High gold taxes and exploitation of small-scale miners prevents many from achieving a decent standard of living. This, in partnership with low agricultural production, produces hunger throughout the population.

Of the two convictions the ICC has realized since its inception, both defendants committed their crimes in Ituri. Critics of the Court point to the prevalence of indicted African leaders as an example of political influence. The failure to enforce their indictments, as in the case of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, has weakened the Court’s credibility.

Signatory states to the ICC’s Rome Statute can also refer certain cases to the Office of the Prosecutor, which means governments may use the Court as a weapon against political opponents rather than a source of justice. Critics have also questioned the influence of the West on the Court, considering 60 percent of ICC funding comes from the European Union.

The ICC appears to be arriving at a crossroads between political showcase and legitimate enforcer of the law. Were the Court to gain its intended footing on the international stage, it would have the opportunity to affect change in the DRC. Deterrence aside, criminal trials allow victims to finally describe their experiences, which can help in the process of national reconciliation.

Implementing law promotes the stability that could do little to harm an economy destroyed by years of warfare. Each trial brings media coverage that can be harnessed to advocate for aid to the DRC. Regardless, the relationship between the ICC and the DRC will be interesting to watch in the coming years.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Brookings, European Commission, International Policy Digest, IRIN, La Presse, World Bank

The book begins: “July 15, 1955. The birthday of my daughter Vera Eunice. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her, but the price of food keeps us from realizing our desires. Actually we are slaves to the cost of living.”

Carolina Maria de Jesus’s diaries were edited into a book called “Room of Garbage” (1960), which quickly became one of the most successful books in Brazilian publishing history. In Sao Paulo, 10,000 copies of the book sold out in the first three days and it has since been translated into 13 different languages, becoming an international bestseller. Despite her success, within a few years she would return to living in the favelas and would later die in poverty.

Carolina was born in 1914 to a single mother in Minas Gerais. After attending primary school for two years, she was forced to drop out. She wrote her diary entries while living in the favelas (slums) of Sao Paulo with her three illegitimate children.

After World War II, the number of favelas exploded in major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo due to mass migrations. Favelas were located on the unwanted lands left behind by urban development, often in the hills surrounding the cities.

A self-confident woman, Carolina refused to conform to social standards. She never married, and she expressed herself aggressively with sometimes racist views. Her diary entries describe her struggle to rise above poverty, living as one of the “discarded” and marginalized.

She collected paper, bottles and cans for coins, held various odds and ends jobs and scavenged in garbage bins for food to feed her children. Her stories, poems and diary entries deal with themes of poverty, loneliness, hopelessness and death. She writes of the racial injustice and discrimination heaped onto the poor and the blacks in the favelas.

She writes about political events and politicians with their empty promises to the urban poor, arguing, “Brazil needs to be led by a person who has known hunger. Hunger is also a teacher. Who has gone hungry learns to think of the future and of the children.” Many readers and critics were surprised that an uneducated black woman from the slums could eloquently write about politics, racism and gender discrimination.

In 1958, Audalio Dantas, a reporter for Diario da Noite, heard Carolina yell at a group of men on a playground, “If you continue mistreating these children, I’m going to put all of your names in my book!” Dantas convinced her to show him her writings and took them to his editor.

Although her book would reach international acclaim, many Brazilians criticized and ostracized her for her refusal to conform to social norms. Today, most Brazilians do not acknowledge her impact, only recognizing her as that “slum dweller who cracked up.” Why is Carolina Maria de Jesus important if her country refuses to remember her?

Her stories humanize poverty and hunger, bringing attention to the human lives behind facts and figures. She describes the pain of hearing her children ask for more food because they are still hungry. She writes about watching restaurants spill acid in the trashcans to prevent looting by the poor. In the favela, she had the “impression she was a useless object destined to be forever in a garbage dump.”

A quick search on the Internet can show you numbers and statistics about the millions of people living below the poverty line in the world, but Carolina’s words showed people “the meaning and the feeling of hunger, degradation and want.” To overcome global poverty and move forward with understanding and empathy, Carolina’s stories and the countless stories of others must not be forgotten.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Latin American Studies, The Life and Death of Carolina Maria de Jesus, Notable 20th Century Latin American Women
Photo: Omenelick 2 Ato

In South Sudan, 3.7 million people are at high risk of starvation, one million of which were forced from their homes by the ongoing ethnic based violence between the Dinka and the Nuer. Many have resorted to eating grass, roots and other foliage in the desperate attempt to survive, some of which can do more harm than good. Humanitarian aid during this crisis has been road blocked by a number of factors, preventing much needed food from getting to the mouths of the hungry.

According to the Associated Press, due to the tightening of governmental control over United Nations vehicles since March, road deliveries of food and other aid have increased in cost by 25%, with checkpoints charging up to $10,000, on top of the ever-present threat of theft, soldier harassment and violence.

Air drops are three times the expense of road deliveries and they consume too much of the already constrained UN budget. USA Today states that although $1.27 billion was requested to deal with this crisis, only about one third has been raised.

Despite these barriers, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has so far sent more than 72,000 metric tons of food throughout South Sudan this year.

Moreover, the United States provides nearly $68 million to the WFP, UNICEF, NGOs and the International Organization for Migration. The total assistance given by USAID and State funding to alleviate this crisis is about $143 million as of May. This funding provides 13,500 tons of food aid and also helps support health, nutrition, refugee placement as well as assistance in agriculture.

With thousands of people killed, one million refugees displaced, and the difficulty of getting the right amount of aid to those who need it, the already dire hunger situation will be exasperated by the fact that farmers cannot plant crops which will lead to famine. The UN, helped by funds from numerous countries including the U.S., is trying to prevent this worse case scenario from becoming a reality, but they are doing so amid a volatile and precarious battle.

As refugees in South Sudan turn to eating grass in the attempt to survive and quell the ache in their bellies, humanitarian aid organizations continue to try to navigate through the barriers, the violence and the lack of sufficient funding in order to help those in need.

The hope is that this conflict will find resolution soon, before it becomes increasingly difficult for that aid to be sustained in the long term.

– Heather Johnson

Sources: USA Today, The Guardian, USAID: Crisis, USAID: Additional Humanitarian Assistance
Photo: Borgen Project

FeelGood Eating Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
“We need to alter the way that we think about global poverty. Often we say that there are a billion mouths to feed… No, there are a billion human beings with an unimaginable potential that is waiting to be unleashed,” shared Connor Spahn, Changemaker Ignitor at FeelGood.

FeelGood is a nonprofit youth movement working to end global hunger by 2030. With more than 25 chapters on campuses across the country, “FeelGood students engage in a multi-faceted training program, gaining the knowledge and skills to run a successful social enterprise—a grilled cheese deli—to raise money and build public support for a systemic approach to hunger eradication.”

In 2004 FeelGood co-founders Kristin Walter and Talis Apud Hendricks from the University of Texas at Austin realized there were one billion people in the world who lacked a voice.

“This didn’t feel good to them,” Spahn explained, recollecting stories he has heard of the organization’s origin. The idea for FeelGood was the brainchild of Kristin’s future husband: start a pop-up grilled cheese stand on campus and start selling sandwiches. A simple idea to combat a colossal issue. The duo raised ten thousand dollars by the end of the year. There is no reason why this couldn’t happen on every campus, they thought. So after graduation, they got FeelGood established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Through word of mouth (at first) colleges began to open chapters.

“One thing we know for sure is that college students love grilled cheese sandwiches,” Spahn reported.  “It’s a simple point of nostalgia in American culture. Students should be aware of international issues because they are a part of an interconnected and interdependent world. Whether we notice it or not, we are dependent on the lives of people in other countries.” But as Spahn pointed out “international issues are hard to grasp, they’re more daunting and less digestible, but the point of a grilled cheese is to make it digestible,” Spahn shared humorously.

“Our solution is two-fold: first, end chronic, persistent hunger through raising money for organizations that work on grassroots development and tackle gender inequality. Second, combat apathy in this country.”

“As freshman, I was drawn to table because of stickers,” Kristen Fu, fourth-year president of UC Berkeley’s FeelGood chapter recollected. “My roommate really loved grilled cheese and she was there, so we decided to check it out. The tabler explained what seemed to us like a really simple and cool idea… sell grilled cheese, donate money, end world hunger.” She was interested and became a general member, attending meetings and volunteering every Wednesday for two hours.

She became more involved every year, she continued to learn more about how they operated and their relationship with their non-profit partners, CHOICE Humanitarian and The Hunger Project. She was really inspired and encouraged that as students they could make such a big difference.

As a general member, Connor just had an hour shift. “It was such an easy way to get involved, any college student could do it. If an hour or two is a good level of commitment for you, then that’s great; if you’d like to do more, then that’s great too! Give whatever feels good to you.”

Both Connor and Kristen spoke to the immense enrichment that their undergraduate involvement with FeelGood provided. Kristen attested to the practical skills she has learned, how to run her own business, speak to donors, articulate a philosophy, event planning, leadership, self-motivation and more. However, they were both in agreement about bigger takeaways as well, such as an understanding of social entrepreneurship, doing business for good and learning to be a global citizen.

“They’re not just people you see or read about in commercials, not just a statistic but a person. That philosophy drives a lot of what we do. In order to become committed to ending global poverty, it has to be something that feels good.”

— Leonna Spilman

Sources: Choice Humanitarian, FeelGood, The Hunger Project
Photo: Taste Spotting

Child Labor
Child labor is work that steals a child’s childhood. Defined in International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, child labor is work that children should not be involved in given their age, or – if that child is old enough – work that is too dangerous and unsuitable.

Forcing children to take part in often dangerous and strenuous work and preventing them from attending school, child labor stands in the way of a child’s healthy physical and mental development in addition to his or her education.

In some cases children are enslaved laborers, engaged in the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors, or in domestic service, subsequently pushed into homelessness and living on the streets. However, others are trafficked and enslaved in prostitution, or forced into armed combat as child soldiers. These are all forms of child labor; the latter qualifying as some of the worst forms of child labor given that such bondage is especially harmful and in direct violation of a child’s human rights. Child labor is a continuing global phenomenon and following are some shocking, but important, facts regarding the practice.


Important Facts about Child Labor


  1. Currently, there are nearly 30 million people held in slavery and an estimated 26 percent are children.
  2. In 2012, 168 million children – from 5-years-old to 17 – were involved in child labor. Of this number, 85 million worked in hazardous conditions, enduring beatings to sexual violence.
  3. Around the world one in six children are forced to work, with children below the age of 18 representing between 40 to 50 percent of laborers.
  4. Children living in more rural areas can begin working as young as the age of five.
  5. According to the ILO, an estimated two thirds of all child labor is in the agricultural sector.
  6. The highest proportion of child laborers is in Sub-Saharan Africa where 49 million children are forced laborers.
  7. The highest numbers of child laborers are in Asia and the Pacific, where over 122 million children are forced into work.
  8. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are over 300,000 child soldiers forced into armed combat.
  9. In most regions, girls are just as likely as boys to be involved in child labor; however, girls are more likely to be involved in domestic work.
  10. According to the ILO, only one in five child laborers is paid for their work, as the majority of child laborers are unpaid family workers.

So why are some children forced into labor?

Poverty is the most often cited reason why children work. Pressured to provide food and shelter, as well as to pay off debt owed by the parents, some children have no other choice but to become involved in labor in order to support their families. However, some children are sold against their will and forced into slavery. Other factors that influence whether children work or not include barriers to education and inadequate enforcement of legislation protecting children.

Child labor is a complex issue, as are the solutions, but the following steps must continue to be pushed for in order to see further progress. First and foremost, child labor laws must be enforced. Another strategy would be to reduce poverty in these areas so as to limit the need for children to be forced into these situations. Finally, providing access to quality education ensures that each child has a chance for a better future.

Rachel Cannon

Sources: UNICEF 1, International Justice Mission, UNICEF 2, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, International Labour Organization, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr

Even if a person is getting enough food to eat sometimes those foods are not the right foods, which leads to malnutrition.

Malnutrition can make daily life difficult for people living in developing countries. A child’s learning abilities become lower and physical work becomes extremely tiring and impossible to perform. According to UNICEF there are 200,000 malnourished children in Somalia. UNICEF supports stabilization centers in Somalia which help malnourished men, women and children gain access to resources that are not normally available to the community. The stabilization centers admit severely malnourished children under the age of five.

Malnutrition causes generalized oedema, which is the abnormal swelling and buildup of fluid in the body’s tissue, mainly in younger children. Accordingly, acute malnutrition cause Somalian children to suffer from diarrhea, anemia, malaria, dehydration, high fever and vomiting. In fact, 50,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition in Somalia are at risk of death.

Once the child is healthy he or she can be discharged from the stabilization centers. Immediately after the child returns home the care at the outpatient therapeutic centers begins. These are located close to the child’s home and continue to provide services to the child and the family. Only children well enough are discharged from the stabilization centers.

The therapeutic centers’ services include a basic nutrition package which promotes treatment and the prevention of disease and illness. The packages contain micro-nutrient support, infant and young feeding information, along with maternal nutrition information. Moreover, the centers encourage the proper use of handling and cooking food as well as, managing child illness and immunizations. The children are also given a peanut-based paste to help maintain proper nourishment along with vitamin A and deworming tablets.

Mothers in Somalia do not have access to basic human necessities, and unfortunately leave their new born babies unattended for hours while foraging for food. However, UNICEF aims to end this issue by the end of 2014. In fact, UNICEF’s goal is to give over 90,000 vulnerable people the basic foods and non-food needs. The mothers will attend health and nutrient workshops provided by the therapeutic center to help promote a healthier lifestyle throughout their communities. These workshops provide information to call attention to the benefits of breastfeeding to prevent malnutrition for infants.

Furthermore, giving information on subjects like proper hygiene standards and washing hands regularly will help reduce the spreading of disease and illness. Currently, UNICEF hope to administer 1,900,000 children under the age of five with the polio vaccine, as well as 300,000 children under the age of one with the measles vaccine. These vaccines will lead to more longevity for the people of Somalia. Once these methods are instilled in the lives of Somalian women and children the communities will continue to promote and prevent these issues from reoccurring.

– Rachel Cannon 

Sources: UNICEF, WFP

Malnutrition claims the lives of more than 3.1 million children a year. Those who survive face mental impairment as well as a heightened risk of disease or disability.

Yet the rising gross domestic product (GDP) of low-income to mid-income countries fails to correlate with a decline in stunted, under-weighted or wasted children. In field of development, many presume economic growth and improved standards of living lead to greater food security. S.V. Subramanian, a social epidemiologist at Harvard, reports an “insignificant decline in stunting” during times of economic expansion. He and his associates researched 36 of these countries, collecting data on children from 1990 to 2011. The Journal Lancet Global Health published the results this month.

With every 5 percent gain in GDP, less than 1 percent of decrease in stunting results. This results in a “zero effect” of GDP on child malnutrition, according to Subramanian.

Derek Heady of the International Food Policy Research Institute objects to this conclusion. “Income growth is a necessary condition for increased spending on food, health, education, sanitation and so on,” he asserts.

Subramanian, however, attributes this “zero effect” to disparities in income distribution and the inefficient delivery of health services. A rising GDP, he remarks, may not benefit every individual, region, or sector. For instance, these countries often invest money into sectors that initially led to the this growth. Such investments, however, often fail to improve child health.

India highlights this tendency. Its GDP has grown rapidly in recent decades, reaching an estimated 5 percent increase per year. This growth far surpasses that of most Western countries. Yet nearly half of children appear stunted and an additional two-fifths underweight. This limited food security among children has persisted as early as 1990.

Rather than investing in nutrition efforts in schools or clinics, the government focused on highway construction. A large population currently lacks basic sanitation. Child malnourishment endures without interventions in safe water, breastfeeding practices and food aid. Economic growth alone cannot resolve this health threat.

Lawrence Haddad heads the Institute for Development Studies in England. He highlights Ghana, Vietnam and Brazil as success cases; in these countries, malnutrition declined as a result of both economic growth and investments in water, sanitation, health services and nutrition programs.

“Unfortunately, with malnutrition, there is no silver bullet,” he elaborates. “It’s like a series of links in a chain, and if any one of those links is weak, it undermines everything else.”

Understanding the driving factors in malnutrition, though, promises reform in government spending. These growing economies hold the potential to combat this health crisis. First, though, strategic investment in the fields of nutrition and sanitation must occur.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: NPR, Voice of America
Photo: United Nations Photo via photopin

Out of every eight people, one of them will go to sleep hungry tonight. Ending world hunger takes many different forms, including donations, volunteering and education. Those who suffer from chronic hunger are more likely to be affected when famine hits or when they fall ill. To alleviate chronic hunger and food insecurity, it is necessary to come up with sustainable solutions that empower small farmers, women and locals.

1. Target Food Producers
Focusing on small farming communities has been the focus of Heifer International for nearly 70 years. This organizations helps small farmers increase productivity in order to create a surplus that can be sold or provided to hungry people. Heifer was established on the philosophy, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

2. Connect Farmers to Markets
In Gulu, Uganda, small farmers can bring their corn to a warehouse built by the World Food Program, have it cleaned, dried and stored, and the farmers can then sell their cleaned corn for $400 a ton. Normally, these farmers would only be able to sell their corn for $100 a ton. The Purchase for Progress program links the WFP’s demand for food commodities with the expertise of partners to support smallholder farmers. By providing a market for smallholder farmers, Purchase for Progress has helped farmers increase crop quality and sales.

3. Empower Women
Women often have unequal access to resources, education and income, making them more susceptible to hunger than men. However, when resources are given to women, they use it more effectively than their male counterparts, ensuring that food gets to their children. In many countries, women make up the majority of farm laborers – in Africa, eight out of 10 people engaged in farming are women and in Asia, six out of 10 are women.

These three solutions to ending world hunger are part of a larger solution: improving production and access to food for the hungry. By helping smallholder farmers, connecting local farmers to each other and to the marketplace, and empowering women, progress can be made in terms of ending world hunger.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: CNN, Freedom From Hunger, Huffington Post
Photo: UN

Derrick Walton knows what it feels like to be homeless, sleep in abandoned cars and not have enough, if anything, to eat. Therefore, when he established Chef D’s Rock Power Pizza in January 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa, he pledged to shut down his restaurant once a week to help in feeding the homeless.
“I made a promise that if I ever got in a position where I could help somebody, I would give something back,” Walton told Yahoo’s Good News blog.

Although Walton can’t really afford to close his restaurant one night a week, he continues to do so to make sure anyone who needs food can get it – for free.

On April 2, 2014, Walton was invited on the Ellen Degeneres Show and she gave him $10,000 for his cause. Ellen has been partnering with Bank of America to highlight people who give back to their communities. When she heard of Walton, she was touched by his story and wanted to help him get the word out about his restaurant.

Walton grew up in Detroit in a household of eight kids and he learned to cook from his mother. After going to culinary school, Walton said he made some bad choices that landed him homeless.

“It put me in a position where I needed help from others, but the doors were always closed,” he recalls. “I made a promise that if I ever got in a position where I could help somebody, I would give something back.”

After saving up money from a dish washing job and later a line cook, Walton was able to open Chef D’s Pizza. And now, the $10,000 check from Ellen will help him continue to be able to keep his doors open for the homeless on Monday nights.

Iowa is home to almost 3,000 homeless people. The state has a poverty rate of 12.7%. With poverty often comes food insecurity and Walton is doing a small part to alleviate hunger in the homeless population of Des Moines.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Ellen, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, Spotlight on Poverty
Photo: LiftBump

Kenya is a country in Eastern Africa, bordered by Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Though the country is one of Africa’s most successful in crop production, the reoccurring droughts and dry seasons often cause food crises for Kenya’s people. The economy and uneven wealth distribution leaves 50% of the population living in hunger in Kenya.

Felix Koskei, Kenya’s agriculture secretary, estimates that Kenya will face a food shortage beginning in June. Koskei’s concern comes from the lack of maize being produced this year; Kenyans are estimated to eat about 45 million bags of maize a year, but they are currently only producing 40 million bags. Some of the estimates fluctuate because different areas consume more food than others.

Koskei also recognized the food crisis could be due to maize being exported to South Sudan, where Kenyans are able to make twice as much off of a harvest than if the product was sold in Kenya.

During the months before June, Koskei urges “private stake holders to import food and farmers to plant short span crops” to tide over Kenyans. He stated that maize is currently being harvested from the “long rain harvests” to help curb hunger in Kenya. Over 653,000 bags have been purchased so far.

To help during future food crises, Koskei mentioned that the government has arranged “negotiations with two prequalified bidders to start a fertilizer manufacturing plant,” which he estimates will be erected by 2016.

With this manufacturing plant, farmers in Kenya will have the ability to provide food for their families and Kenya will be able to sustain its population.

The possible struggles Kenyans will be facing include malnutrition, starvation and possibly death. With malnutrition, Kenyans will be more susceptible to diseases such as waterborne illnesses and malaria.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: The World Factbook, Press TV, All Africa, Action Against Hunger
Photo: Totally Cool Pix