From July to September of this year there’s been just one day of rain per month where “it should have been raining every other day,” Mr. Yasin, a local farmer in Ethiopia, told reporter Jacy Fortin of NY Times. His crops have since failed as this year’s drought in Ethiopia erodes away his land and his stability.

Reportedly caused by this year’s potent El Niño, the drought is beginning to take its toll on this country where 80 percent of the population works in agricultural productivity. Because of this, 40 percent of the country’s economic output is from the agriculture, which makes for a bad mix.

This drought is estimated to put 8.2 million people in need of food assistance; that nearly doubles the count before the drought began which was 4.55 million.

This year, however, is not the first time this country has faced a massive drought; in 2002, the GDP of Ethiopia dropped 2.2 percent as a result of widespread crop failure from a drought. Once before then the country had fallen to drought since there was a drastic famine that spurred massive aid to the area as a result.

Ethiopia’s government plans to outsmart the drought this year and has come up with ingenious precautions and early action initiatives to supplement its food aid assistance. In doing so, it hopes to establish a source to cling to throughout the drought’s duration.

Since July, the parliament has allotted $192 million in food aid, water transport and animal feed with the hopes of sustaining a viable option even with the effects of the drought. This plan was adopted because early warning systems in Ethiopia are capable of providing large windows of time before possible droughts occur.

Despite this domestic solution, more is needed to successfully pull through the crippling natural disaster. The conditions have forced the government to raise international funding requests by $164 million in order to fully assist all those in need.

Only about 43 percent of the total $596 million request has been met, but international aid does take time to fully take effect, so Ethiopian officials are expecting more soon. They also claim that the drought could last up to a year and estimate a staggering 15 million could be in need of food assistance in 2016.

For now the Ethiopian government must stress the importance of rationing food, and individuals must find new ways of providing monetarily and nutritionally for their families.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: NY Times, University of Notre Dame
Photo: Flickr

new_zealandThe Tribal Huk gang of Ngaruawahia, in New Zealand, has been working for the last four years to help feed the country’s poor children. Every day, the gang has been making and delivering sandwiches to thirty-one schools in the area and putting food in more than four hundred hungry children’s mouths.

Jamie Pink, the president of the organization, called Kai 4 the Future, knows what it is like to grow up in poverty. As a child, he barely ever had enough food for himself. When he grew to be an adult, he knew he wanted to do something about it. Although he does admit he likes violence, he says he liked helping people even more.

Now, Tribal Huk leases fifty acres of farmland around Horotiu and Ngaruawahia, and owns dozens of beef, sheep and pigs. Some animals are sold to finance the foundation while the rest go in the sandwiches.

In New Zealand, 270,000 children live below the poverty line, according to the country’s Children’s Commissioner. Although the government has implemented a $9.5 million program in the last couple of years to help solve the problem, children remain hungry.

Pink laments that New Zealand has enough water, food and other resources- sheep even outnumber people ten to one- to support their population, but children are still going hungry. He hopes to get government assistance so the gang can make even more sandwiches every day.

He is also hoping to start a new trust in which people donate just $5 a week to the Foundation. If 50,000 people pay this amount for a year, they would collect $30 million – enough to feed every hungry child in the country.

Radhika Singh

Sources: Stuff, RadioNZ
Photo: Stuff

Changes to Food for Peace to Increase Sustainability
Sixty years after being put into effect, the Food for Peace program faces congressional reform that will lower costs and provide sustainable support for those living in conflict-ridden countries. Currently, law requires that food aid be grown in and shipped from the U.S. – a mandate that increases costs 25-50 percent more than they would be on the current market. Advocates for reform criticize the program for its inefficiency and helping American shipping and farming businesses profit from such programs.

Shipping firms, farms and some NGOs form an “iron triangle of special interests” that have benefited from international aid and attracted criticism from politicians in both parties. Between 2004 and 2013, 88 percent of USAID funding was used to harvest and ship food- a huge cost that decreased the amount of food the organization was able to provide by 64 percent.

A system designed this way is not only inefficient in properly allocating resources, but also counterproductive in affecting any kind of change in the countries that need it most. Daniel Maxwell, professor and research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, commented, “We need to support local agricultural producers and markets, or at a minimum, not undermine them.” Reformers advocate for changing the system to implement locally grown and shipped food resources rather than those from the U.S.

Senators Corker and Coons, who are cosponsoring the reform of the bill, have estimated that such changes could expand the program’s reach by 12 million people and free up $440 million through local, sustainable production. Providing support for local growers and shippers will strengthen local economies rather than keeping them reliant on international resources, empower and employ more people, and create a more sustainable rebuilding of communities.

Eric Munoz at Oxfam America says that a program created 60 years ago is not useful or appropriate for current times. Indeed, when 60 million people per year are in need of food aid, expansion of resources and lowering costs is more greatly needed than ever. Many farmers believe they have a right to profit from food aid programs and would suffer from reforms, but experts estimate such programs amount to only 1 percent of agribusiness profits.

For policy changes that would so greatly impact those in need, lessening the profits of huge farming businesses in the U.S. seems trivial. Worrying about this profit loss is “an inappropriate way of viewing the rationale of providing emergency assistance and foreign assistance, particularly assistance that is meant to address food insecurity in complex crises like Syria or South Sudan,” says Munoz.

Corker and Coon’s reform bill will see congressional debate in September.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN 1, IRIN 2
Photo: Flickr


As fighting persists in Syria, life for the population remains a struggle and food security a challenge. Millions of people have been affected amid the escalating violence and the situation is rapidly deteriorating. The U.S. has announced a contribution of $65 million dollars to the World Food Program, which is operating within the Syrian borders.

The armed conflict in Syria, also called the Syrian Civil War, has been ongoing for years since unrest began in 2011. In the wake of the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurred across the Arab world. What began as protests against the government gradually morphed into a rebellion after a violent military force used by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

As of January 2015, the death toll in Syria had risen above 220,000 and approximately 6 million people have been displaced, cut off from basic human needs such as water, food and electricity.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is giving $65 million dollars to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to achieve their goal of providing food assistance to 4 million starving people inside the country and 1.6 million more in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

In Syria, the WFP has been running dangerously low on funding but the money infusion from USAID will keep the WFP afloat and operating through November preventing what could have been a complete shutdown.

The U.S. being the biggest donor to the Syrian crisis has contributed more than $4 billion dollars overall, allowing millions of needy families within Syria and those affected outside access to food and clean water.

According to USAID, the U.S. has now given more than $1.2 billion to the WFP for its Syrian operations – including more than $530 million for operations inside Syria and more than $693 million for operations benefiting Syrian refugees.

Although USAID has donated billions to the WPF, the international community has for the most part dropped the ball, forcing the WFP to devalue their food vouchers by half to refugees and lowered the amount of food in monthly household parcels inside Syria. USAID and the WFP continues to reach out to other governments hoping to rally more support and pressure them to take more actions.

In a press release by USAID on Friday, July 31, 2015, Dina Esposito, Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace said, “we have heard tragic stories of hungry refugees returning to war-torn Syria and taking children out of school to beg.” He continued, “We hope this new funding will help mitigate such difficult choices and help Syrians as the winter months approach.”

In war torn Syria, families are fleeing what were once their homes, desperately seeking safety. Starving and suffering from illness, people are getting life-saving food, water and medical care, thanks to the WFP and the disaster averting financial rescue from USAID.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: USAID, Reuters
Photo: Huffington Post

In the wake of large budget cuts and conflict with the Islamic State, or ISIS, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling back its food aid for more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. These cuts will manifest themselves in the monthly food assistance vouchers that Syrian refugees receive. Normally valued at $19 per person, the vouchers will be reduced to $13.50 as of July.

Around 75% of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon are undergoing “some level of food insecurity,” according to a recent WFP survey. In addition, roughly 800,000 refugees in Lebanon qualify for food vouchers, and this scale-back is arriving right in the middle of Ramadan.

The WFP was banking on a ceasefire between ISIS and the Syrian government in order to let Syrian farmers harvest wheat stored in ISIS territory. No such ceasefire took place.

“That wheat that is harvested cannot be brought across lines of conflict into the area where it is needed most by people who are suffering now into a fifth year of this conflict,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin told the Associated Press.

A WFP press release issued earlier this month points out that the WFP’s refugee operations are currently 81% underfunded. The WFP is requesting $139 million in order to continue aiding refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq through the summer.

“We are extremely concerned about the impact these cuts will have on refugees and the countries that host them,” WFP Regional Director Muhammad Hadi told the U.N. News Centre. “Families are taking extreme measures to cope such as pulling their children out of school, skipping meals and getting into debt to survive. The long-term effects of this could be devastating.”

– Alexander Jones

Sources: McGuirk, UN, Wood
Photo: The Guardian

End Starvation
Nearly 25,000 people die every day from starvation. While in richer countries nutrition isn’t always a paramount problem, there are still 947 million people living in developing nations who are undernourished; we have the ability to help lower this number. Below are a list of ways you can help easily end starvation.

1. Raise Money

During the 2011 East African famine, relief organizations such as Save The Children and UNICEF launched campaigns to raise money for feeding starving children. By using clear and simple incentives (“just $10 can feed a child for seven days!”), smart organizations allowed even those halfway across the world to help those in need. Donating money is simple, easy and can usually be done online with just a click of a button.

2. Urge your Congressional Leaders to Support Crucial Legislation

Calling or emailing your congressional leaders is a simple and a sure way to increase their chances of supporting a bill which could save millions of lives. One such bill still waiting to be passed in the House of Representatives is the Global Food Security Act of 2013, which would improve nutrition and strengthen agriculture development in developing countries. Other similar legislation that could use your support includes the Food Aid Reform Act and Water for the World Act.

3. Limit Your Daily Intake

Over the past three decades, the average intake of dietary fats has dramatically increased in almost every country except Africa. With a recommended range from between 15 to 35 percent, we are seeing a stark contrast in dietary intake. In fact, many countries in North America and Western Europe exceeded this recommended daily intake, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia fell dramatically below.

Despite our growing intake, we are quickly running out of natural resources. In an overpopulated world, it is up to each of us to individually be cognizant of our daily intake. By limiting our intake in richer countries, we are ensuring that our world is capable of growing enough food in the first place for all of our global citizens.

By helping others who suffer from malnutrition, we are also helping ourselves in return. The most common causes of death around the world—including heart disease, obesity, cancer and chronic illness—can be a result of unhealthy eating habits.

By remaining aware that we have a much larger role in helping to end global hunger and poverty than we may believe, we can help put an end to millions of those going to sleep hungry at night.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Borgen Project, McCollum House, Food for the Poor, Green Facts, Green Facts 2
Photo: Action ContrelAfaim

famine in africa
Despite the great strides, development programs have made in feeding hungry people in Africa, many of the continent’s regions have experienced famine. Famine can have disastrous humanitarian consequences; according to Mother Jones, the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa killed 29,000 Somali children in its first three months. Even food crises that are not officially famines can cause significant loss of life. Aid agencies must understand famine’s causes to address potential future famines in Africa.

The U.N. defines a food crisis as famine when 20 percent of households have food shortages, 30 percent of people have acute malnutrition, and more than two people per 10,000 die per day from food-related causes. Since 2000, the U.N. has declared famines in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia. The ongoing food crisis in South Sudan, which has already caused suffering, could soon become a famine.

Africa also has many instances of food insecurity, making its countries more susceptible to future famines. In 2013, the World Food Program found that the East African nations of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia had undernourishment rates of over 35 percent, the highest in the world.

What has made famines and other food crises in Africa so common? Droughts play a role because they reduce crop production and kill livestock all over affected regions. In 2011, the Horn of Africa experienced abnormally low rainfall, leading to food shortages and an eventual famine. This year, Kenya’s Capital News Network reports similarly bad weather patterns across East Africa.

Droughts are not the only contributing factors to famine in Africa, however. Violence and political instability made it difficult for NGOs and aid agencies to distribute food in affected areas. Mother Jones reports that clashes between the Somali transitional government and the extremist al-Shabab militia prevented many groups from reaching people in the 2011 famine. Al-Shabab itself expelled aid agencies from Somalia, worsening the crisis. Capital News estimates that the famine killed 250,000.

Today, South Sudan shows similar signs of potential famine. Low rainfall combined with an ongoing civil conflict means that people, especially refugees, will have reduced access to food. Already, 3.5 million South Sudanese citizens struggle with dying crops and livestock, malnutrition and food shortages.

The food crisis in South Sudan is not yet a famine, but the lack of an official label may worsen existing conditions. According to The Guardian, studies on the Horn of Africa famine found that more people died from undernourishment before the crisis was declared a famine. Without the official famine designation, the media did not cover the crisis as much, there was less public outcry for support, and governments did not appropriately scale up funding.

Only when the Horn of Africa crisis became a famine did aid providers start to become more effective. To properly distribute food aid and prevent future deaths from the recent South Sudan shortage, the international community will need to act quickly and urgently. The threat of famine in Africa will continue, but with a strong early-reaction network the world can help prevent it. If the world can come together and get support for aid before crises become famines, millions could be saved.

Ted Rappleye

Sources: United Nations, Mother Jones, World Food Programme, Capital News Network, The Guardian
Photo: Mother Jones

food aid
Over 40 tribal elders in the Bannu region of Pakistan voted to ban women from collecting food aid for Internally Displaced Persons fleeing the military offensive in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Witnesses report seeing men slap women who had joined the line for food rations. The women reportedly left quickly after experiencing such violence, but the question remains as to how widows or women unaccompanied by men will receive aid. One man distributed leaflets discouraging women from attempting to attain food rations with a warning to husbands who fail to keep their women at home. The Bannu region is especially conservative, where women wear full-length burqa robes and rarely venture outside their homes.

Violence and discrimination against women in Pakistan have plagued the country, as recently as on July 23 when unknown assailants threw acid at two women at a shopping center in Baluchistan. A similar attack occurred one day earlier when four women were attacked with acid. In both attacks, the perpetrators rode past on motorcycles spraying their victims with acid. Officials believe the crimes to be the work of religious extremists in the area.

In March, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body that provides legal advice to the Pakistani government, said laws that ban child marriage are “un-Islamic.” Current laws require boys to reach the age of 18 before marriage, and girls the age 16. Chairman of the Council Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani continued, “Sharia allows men to have more than one wife, and we demanded that the government should amend the law.”

Child marriage in Pakistan, according to experts, explains the country’s high infant mortality rate, as early marriage results in frequent pregnancies with inadequate preparation. The country also has lower reproductive and maternal healthcare coverage for women than its neighbors India, Bangladesh or Nepal.

Over 990,000 people left the North Waziristan following the June airstrikes known as the Zarb-e-Azb operation, and 84 percent of these IDPs have fled to the Bannu District. North Waziristan has long served as a haven for militants in Pakistan and although the Pakistani government claimed to have targeted all militant groups equally, the U.S. and many locals say Pakistan protected the Haqqani group, which has been based in Waziristan for decades. Many accuse the Pakistani military of allowing Haqqani militants to escape before the operation began. The U.S. sees the Haqqani as a threat to stability in Afghanistan, and is withholding $300 million in aid to Pakistan until the Secretary of Defense determines Pakistan to have “significantly disrupted” the Haqqani network.

The Pakistani military has used militants as proxies in Afghanistan and India for decades. Experts believe the operation — which has killed over 450 since June — is intended to primarily target Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, central Asian and Arab militants in the region that militants have traditionally used to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has since joined Pakistan with its drone strikes on Saturday that killed 15.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Business Standard, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Reuters

hunger crisis in south sudan
This fall will not be a bountiful season for the world’s youngest country, according to recent warnings from several British foreign aid agencies. Four million people – including 50,000 children under five years old – are likely to be left hungry from August through November as South Sudan undergoes what its president, Salva Kiir, describes as “one of the worst famines ever.”

Political unrest in South Sudan has been rampant for over six months as warring factions fight to secure control of the government. The turmoil has already left thousands dead, caused nearly a million people to flee some of South Sudan’s more violent areas, preventing farmers from planting crops. Civil strife also complicates the distribution of foreign aid, making the upcoming famine even more dangerous for South Sudanese people.

The dangers aren’t stopping humanitarian organizations from trying to mitigate the effect of the imminent hunger crisis in South Sudan. The agencies that predicted this crisis are the same ones that predicted the famine that swept through Somalia in 2011. Having learned from the event in Somalia that public interest is crucial to financing this sort of humanitarian work, those agencies are trying desperately to drum up significant media coverage before South Sudan’s food crisis takes effect.

Lack of public awareness of Somalia’s famine – which was the worst of the century – left humanitarian organizations lacking in both private donations and government support. If such organizations are more successful this summer in obtaining the necessary finances necessary to implement targeted food aid programs in South Sudan, they could save hundreds of thousands of lives. The United Nations currently has approximately 40 percent of the funds it would take to prevent the food crisis, but over a billion dollars is still needed.

In June, South Sudan led The Fund for Peace’s list of the world’s most fragile nations. Because a famine as huge as this one can only further weaken the nation, it’s imperative that aid organizations do as much as they can to prevent such a food crisis from occurring in the first place.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: BBC, Aljazeera, Care
Photo: Youth Ki Awaaz

food crisis
The food crisis in Africa is worsening;  nearly 800,000 refugees on the continent are seeing cuts in their food rations. A lack of global aid funding is causing even further malnutrition, potential starvation, stunted growth and anemia, particularly in child refugees.

These cuts in rations are up to 60 percent of what the refugees were previously being given. In order to restore full rations, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) needs $186 million by the end of the year, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs another $39 million to provide nutritional support to the refugees.

Both of these organizations are working tirelessly to fix this food crisis. The leaders of the two met in order to make an urgent appeal to governments to provide aid. Ertharin Cousin, executive director of WFP, said, “We are appealing to donor governments to help all refugees – half of whom are children – have enough food to be healthy and to build their own futures.”

Throughout Africa, 2.4 million refugees in 22 different countries rely on regular food aid from WFP, and already one third of them have experienced reductions to their rations. UNHCR chief António Guterres said, “It is unacceptable in today’s world of plenty for refugees to face chronic hunger.”

The cuts have affected the refugees of Chad most harshly. The 300,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic, have experienced the most severe cuts at about 60 percent.

Many refugees are being provided with 850 calories per day; when compared with the 2,100 calories recommended for adults to be healthy, they are receiving about one third of their expected intake.

The biggest concern about the reductions in rations is that refugees are already some of the most vulnerable groups of people. They have experienced trauma and most likely are undernourished to begin with.  Adding these cuts and the potential effects of them could cause irreversible damage to the population.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Sudan Tribune, allAfrica
Photo: Child Fund