Evander Holyfield, former world heavyweight boxing champion, is taking on an even greater role in helping displaced communities of the Syrian refugee crisis.

On November 13, Holyfield announced that he would be working to aid the alleviation cause for an estimated of 6,500 refugees fleeing from the war-torn Syrian nation, those of whom have settled in Bulgaria. During the announcement, Holyfield noted, “Somebody helped me and that gives me the opportunity to help someone else.”

The refugee crisis that has taken shape out of the Syrian civil war has become staggering. It’s estimated that 9 million Syrians have been displaced out of a population of 23 million.  Syrians are settling in nearby countries such as Jordan and Turkey, most of where large camps have drawn the majority of foreign assistance — muting attention for the relatively small amount that has ended up in Bulgaria.

Holyfield and the Global Village Champions Foundation, the organization where he works as a Goodwill Ambassador, hope to raise awareness and deliver support for these refugees. To future add to the impact of celebrities bridging successful traction to raise awareness, the head of the Global Village Champions Foundation is musician, Yank Barry, from the 1960s band “The Kingsmen.”

The pairing might seem odd, but they are united in their hope to make the lives of the Syrian refugees at least somewhat easier.  In an interview with CNN, Holyfield stated, “at some point in time, when you leave this earth… they’ll say: What did you do for the least of them?”

Yank Barry may not be as well known in modern pop culture, but he has been actively philanthropic in recent years.  Barry founded the Global Village with Mohammed Ali in 1995, and they worked together until Holyfield took Ali’s place within the organization in 2012.  Since the founding of the organization, it has sent out 900 million meals to the needy around the globe and, according to Barry, including “5,000 tons of food to (Syrian) camps” since last year.

During the 1990s, Holyfield’s biggest worries were Mike Tyson’s left hook and how he would retake a heavyweight championship belt that he ended up winning five separate times.  Now, he has taken it upon himself to help the world community that he once entertained.  While recent reports have claimed that Holyfield has not retained the fortune he accumulated over the course of his boxing career, his reputable standing as a celebrity can still help causes for those that never had the opportunities he did.

While the help from private foundations like the Global Village is welcomed and inspiring for others to emulate, the global community still has plenty of work to do.  The UN says that the number of Syrian refugees registered in various EU countries ranks over 62,000 with more likely to come.  With so many of them looking for ways to get by, the hungry continue to appreciate the influencers like those in the U.S. for the help that such refugee communities could barely survive without.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Fox News, CNN, Huffington Post
Photo: Vintage 3D

The World Food Program announced that over the next year, nearly a million people in the Gaza Strip will require food aid. The U.N. agency is requesting $95 million from donors to assist those in need.

Due to the projected increase in those who will need international aid, more countries will have to donate to effectively assist those who are food insecure.

According to the executive director of the agency, Ertharin Cousin, the rise in those who are hungry and requiring aid has risen 7 percent since last year and this has largely been exacerbated by Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis and high unemployment rates.

The conflict has destabilized the entire region, and competing interests for resources from states and corporate interests have left those most vulnerable without basic security and trapped in poverty.

Another reason for the most recent increase in families needing aid was the recent closure by the Egyptian government of smuggling tunnels. The tunnels that ran under the border to impoverished Palestinian enclaves provided access to jobs and construction projects, including a clandestine route for militant groups and weapons trafficking.

Currently, about 813,000 Palestinian refugees are receiving food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The organization expects a 10-20 percent rise in demand in 2014 as the conflict continues to destabilize the region, displaces more people, and keeps the cycle of poverty continuing.

Food security is a major issue for those living in the Gaza Strip. A majority of households are food insecure. In 2012, some 71 percent of impoverished households in Gaza are either food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity. Without assistance these food insecurity levels are surely to continue to rise.

Compounding the lack of food is unemployment. Maher al-Tabbaa’, an economist from the West Bank,  recently told Reuters he expected the coastal territory’s unemployment rate for 2013 to rise to nearly 38 percent.

With less job security comes more hungry families needing more aid from the global community. Without funding from donor countries the food crisis will only continue and will also serve to further the conflict and the ongoing violence that has already cost too much.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: Forward, Sydney Morning Herald

The latest conflict driven food crisis has emerged and come to international attention by aid agencies. The thousands who have been displaced in the most recent outburst of violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being aided by the World Food Programme (WFP) and were recently visited by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Powers.

In Bangui and elsewhere in the country, fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis in which food is a top priority and a main concern for security. It is believed that hundreds of people have been killed in the country since the outbreak of conflict at the beginning of the month and insecurity makes it harder to deliver food to communities that need it. There are still reports of killing in the countryside and the turmoil as created a difficult situation to successfully deliver food aid in

Nearly 127,000 displaced people are in Bangui alone, and these numbers are only  expected to increase. The WFP is giving families rations of maize meal or rice, split peas, vegetable oil and salt. More food is being brought in, but stocks are quickly depleting. Many have gone for days without eating before receiving assistance from WFP-run sites. Activities are frequently disrupted by waves of violence

Seasonal harvesting in some parts of the country has been severely disrupted by the conflict. Aid agencies are scaling up to reach more than a million people in the CAR in 2014. Muslim and Christian fighters continue to carry out atrocities on both sides creating more need and making more families vulnerable.

With the visit of Powers, the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit the country, comes $15 million in humanitarian aid from the U.S. Her main focus on the trip was to try to lessen the violence in the country. Christian and Muslims have a history or inter-relations, but the country has been in chaos since the coup in March.

Powers is urging religious leaders to help promote peace and reconciliation and that the government must hold all militias to account

Without a break in violence, aid cannot successfully be delivered and only more will need assistance and food.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: NPR, World Food Programme
Photo: Vintage 3D

Located in the northwestern Pacific, comprised of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines suffers more storms each year than any other nation in the world.

To date, Typhoon Haiyan is the most catastrophic natural disaster to strike the Philippines. More than 9.7 million people have been affected, with over 3 million of them being displaced due to the storm.

The death toll continues to rise, hitting 3,637 casualties. In a country where poverty and inequality remain a challenge, climatic disasters only thwart the growth of the economy and the citizens.

Typhoon Haiyan destroyed 384,000 acres of rice, corn, and other crops, totaling $105 million worth of damage. These crops are staples in the diets of Filipino culture and countries surrounding them; the damage  is a devastating blow.

With the recent FARM bill heavily under debate in the House and Senate, Congress is in a position to provide the U.S. international food aid program with the flexibility necessary to effectively respond to natural disasters.

Just days after Haiyan struck the Philippines, the USAID’s Office of Food for Peace devoted $7.75 million from the International Disaster Assistance account. These funds will be used to purchase foods for the Philippines and neighboring countries in need.

Currently, 1,100 tons of rice positioned in Sri Lanka are in transit to the distraught area, but are not expected to arrive until December 2. In addition, 55 tons of emergency food products were airlifted from the U.S. to provide aid.

The United States is the top respondent in the world to humanitarian crisis situations around the globe. America’s humanitarianism displays the desire to help others that runs true to core human values.

Yet with food aid come various restrictions that deter not only the process of giving assistance, but the steps to receiving it as well. Food aid restricts the U.S. to only being able to send nutrients that are grown on U.S. soil.

The commodities are then shipped across the ocean; had the U.S. sent rice rather than Sri Lanka, it may have taken 10-12 weeks to arrive. This timeline can be twice as damaging as the storms themselves, considering the starvation and hunger needs that take place immediately after a natural catastrophe.

The argument currently under scrutiny is that it would be much more beneficial to send money; a resource that can be received immediately with limited restrictions.

Although the United States was able to provide financial support, had Typhoon Haiyan taken place at any other time, assistance may not have been available. Due to stipulations on aid, the U.S. may have been limited on cash from responding to crises earlier in the fiscal year.

The U.S. government does not have the flexibility to purchase food resources in any market except its own – a crippling factor that prevents America from being able to reach its full potential of assistance.

Even with the support that has been provided, Typhoon Haiyan has emphasized major errors that exist within food aid. This past spring, President Obama proposed a total reform of food aid. This presidential bid would have forced Congress to consider food aid a foreign aid issue – separating food aid from domestic agricultural issues.

In turn, this would have removed the stipulations that currently surround food aid. President Obama’s proposal was rejected, however, and the FARM bill continues to be ironed out in a special committee in Congress.

Samaria Garrett
Sources: Common Dreams, Fox News, Brookings

American Foreign Aid USAID
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a successful program engineered to combat poverty. USAID has focused on diminishing poverty in several aspects. Improving nutrition, assisting in food aid, and advancing water supplies are all important USAID goals. These three issues are connected on a deeper scale, as improving nutrition levels is conjoined with clean water supply and food aid assistance.

Proper nutrition is a basic necessity for every human. Malnutrition leads to approximately 2.6 million deaths per year, deaths that could be prevented if steps were taken to counteract malnutrition. USAID has partnered with Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) to help achieve basic nutritional improvement in impoverished areas throughout the world.

USAID and SUN have laid out a strategic approach to achieve their goal. They plan to prevent malnutrition through a package of maternal, infant, and young children programs. USAID and SUN will also combat malnutrition by targeting supplementation to vulnerable groups, managing malnutrition through community based projects, providing nutritional care for those living with HIV/AIDS, and improving the quality of food in the food assistance programs.

USAID is not only well prepared to handle global malnutrition levels; they are also prepared on the food assistance front. USAID works with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to effectively deliver lifesaving aid to food-barren areas. USAID and WFP have developed a working protocol that efficiently delivers food supplies to shortages worldwide.

USAID and WFP are constantly upgrading their food science programs, allowing them to deliver greater amounts of healthy food to needy areas. USAID is using a supply-chain management system that allows food to be sent out more efficiently. The programs have also combined to implement an emergency food service, which allows USAID and WFP to purchase emergency food in disaster-stricken areas. In addition, USAID also funded the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), which is highly regarded as one of the best early-warning systems in the world.

Food and nutrition are two basic necessities in life. These epidemics are two of the most common problems known worldwide, yet a third is often overlooked. Lack of clean water supplies is just as important, and it receives a similar amount of attention from USAID. USAID has a specifically laid out plan to implement clean water supplies in needy areas. USAID focuses on increasing access to a sustainable water supply for all communities, finding a way to sanitize the water supplies, and teaching the community key hygiene behaviors to keep the water sanitized.

Through the actions of USAID, positive results can be seen in all of the targeted areas. In 2011, 3.8 million people had better access to clean water. USAID and affiliated programs provided over 1.5 metric tons of food to communities in 2012. The nutrition programs have been equally effective, with predictions that malnutrition will decrease by 20 percent in the next two years in targeted countries. The progress can be easily seen; all of which were made possible by the foreign aid budget that often falls under much criticism.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: USAID, USAID: Food Aid, USAID: Nutrition
Photo: Flickr

The decision made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to send financial support to the United Nations World Food Program for the Republic of Djibouti is coming at an imperative time for the country. Djibouti has been experiencing a drought for the past several years and its population, particularly those living in rural areas, is in desperate need of food assistance. USAID has already sent the first installment of the $4 million dollar commitment to Djibouti.

Almost immediately, USAID and its partner, Food for Peace, jumped in to restock Djibouti’s stores of yellow spit peas and vegetable oil. Djibouti is where USAID stores these items for its food assistance programs so it was vital to keep the warehouses fully stocked. As the drought continues, the food situation is expected to become even worse.

This current partnership between USAID and Food for Peace is not the beginning of a relationship between the U.S. government and Djibouti. For the past decade, USAID has been working with the country to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Since 2006, the number of child deaths as a result of malnourishment has reduced from 20% to 0.2% in 2012. This is in part due to USAID’s support of the Famine Early Warning System, a program that observes the country’s food security and raises alerts when the food situation turns for the worse.

This program, and many others that USAID supports, are helping the government of Djibouti to not only recognize famine and hunger, but also learn how to combat and prevent it. While short-term solutions are critical for aiding in ending immediate hunger, USAID is also concerned with long-term solutions, including services that guarantee food for children, pregnant and nursing women, building community gardens, and the overarching issue of reducing poverty.

As for now, USAID’s most recent contribution will be critical for those living through this devastating drought. More food aid will be delivered in the next few months.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Sabahi Online, All Africa
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

The House of Representatives is considering a bill that would reform the Food for Peace Act, which currently requires all agricultural commodities (i.e. food) in programs administered under the Act to be produced in the United States. The proposed Food Aid Reform Act amends the Food for Peace Act, but what does that mean for us here in the U.S.? Are we going to lose valuable American jobs by purchasing agricultural commodities abroad?

The Food for Peace Act is the bill that governs how we respond to emergency and nonemergency situations in other countries by providing food aid in times of need. Currently, the Act requires that all agricultural commodities be purchased in and exported from the United States to the target country, say, Country X. The reason this is a problem requiring a potential reform to this process is because of the high premium we pay for food in the U.S. versus the cost of the same food in Country X. That is, food may actually be much cheaper if purchased in Country X or a neighboring country.

Not only may food in Country X be cheaper, the cost of transporting food to Country X is astronomically higher as an international export than it potentially would be to transport it domestically. Especially if American food is being transported across oceans to arrive in Country X, the cost to both the taxpayer’s wallet and the environment are quite high in comparison to food being purchased a mere hundreds of miles or less away from the target area.

The Food Aid Reform Act changes the wording of the Food for Peace Act to allow agricultural commodities to be purchased in Country X or a neighbor of Country X to avoid the costs associated with purchase and export of American goods. Not only that, the Reform Act functions as an investment in the local economy of Country X, so that it may no longer need American food aid in the future. In that sense, this investment becomes an investment in our future.

Though there is an argument that we may lose a minimal number of jobs in the process of downsizing the rate at which we ship our food abroad for relief-type situations, the reform of our food aid system allows an investment in our future economy. By helping our friends across borders, we build future markets for American consumer goods. By the numbers, most countries to which we have offered aid have since developed consumer markets which, in turn, purchase goods from us. So, if the ethical argument isn’t convincing enough, consider the future of the American economy in reaching out to your local congressperson on these important issues. Your voice matters.

 – Herman Watson
Sources: The Borgen Project, GovTrack.US, ONE,
Photo: The Telegraph

Food for Progress

The United States Department of Agriculture has long been an advocate of agricultural enterprise here in America. Its support for the improvement and development of agricultural practices is not limited, however, to within these domestic borders. Through its Food for Progress program, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service can spread its agro-influence globally.

The Food for Progress Act of 1985 established the program as a means to help bolster the agricultural enterprises of fledgling democracies. American agricultural commodities are donated to qualifying communities in need. These commodities are then sold in local markets, with the proceeds going toward the funding of development projects, many with an agricultural focus.

The general process to initiate a Food for Progress program is very similar to that of a grant, with an applicant organization submitting a proposal based on eligible American agricultural commodities and the demonstrated need of a community. Applicant organizations can be private voluntary organizations, cooperatives, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, or foreign governments.

For a recipient community to be eligible, it must be in a country that meets certain priority need criteria. These criteria include per capita income at lower or lower-middle-income standard per the World Bank, greater than 20% of the total population as undernourished per the World Health Organization, and social structures supporting freedom as defined by Freedom House, including political rights and civil liberties.

The project should also involve measurable objectives and a preferred focus on the private agricultural sector. Tangible benefits to this sector can include development initiatives like improved marketing systems, training in more efficient agricultural practices, and updated farmer education. Selected projects are also vetted to ensure no effort would disrupt existing commercial markets.

Once a project is approved, the process is the same as for the other two major U.S. food assistance programs, Food for Peace and Food for Education. The applicant organization, now known as a “Cooperating Sponsor,” assesses its project’s specific needs and orders commodities for delivery to the recipient community. The USDA Kansas City Commodity Office directly handles all purchasing of the type and amounts of commodities requested by the Cooperating Sponsor.

The USDA evaluates the commodity bids by American producers and awards a commodity contract based on the lowest landed cost. The commodity contract establishes the date by which the goods must be at a U.S. port and ready to be shipped to the destination country, but all logistical arrangements for delivery are the responsibility of the cooperating sponsor per their agreement with the USDA, to whom a progress report is due every six months.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the Food for Progress program helped an estimated 6,950,000 beneficiaries, the majority of whom were located in Senegal and Nicaragua. Through its unique approach of fostering local agri-business, Food for Progress is not simply a food aid program but is also a development initiative targeting a critical sector within foreign economies. With continued support from the U.S. government, the Food and Progress program offers an exciting future as a leader in global food security assistance.

– Lauren Brown

Sources: US Food Aid and Security, FoodAid
Photo: WFP

Asda, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, has now teamed up with one of the U.K.’s largest food charities. Instead of sending extra stock back to the manufacturers, Asda will send it to FareShare, a national charity fighting hunger. It is a simple concept with huge consequences for the battle against hunger.

In recent years, many large supermarket chains have received criticism for their unprecedented level of food waste. With 5.8 million people in the U.K. considered to be living in ‘deep poverty,’ Asda’s pledged donation will make a sizable difference in the number of people FareShare can reach.

The food from FareShare is sent around the country to other groups who prepare meals for those in need. At the moment, FareShare provides food for 42,000 meals per week. It is estimated that this partnership with Asda will generate more than 3 million meals per year for those living in deep poverty.

A big challenge of charitable food distribution has been accessing perishables like dairy products, meat, and vegetables. Asda’s contribution will increase the supply of perishables by 1,500 tons per year and increase the overall food donations FareShare receives by 41%. Asda’s pledge has also spurred other major chains like Sainsbury’s and Tesco to develop plans for contributing foodstuffs to other anti-hunger projects.

– Zoë Meroney

Sources: The Guardian, The Independent
Photo: Your ASDA

Hunger in Rwanda: The Good and the Bad
In Rwanda, poverty and hunger continue to pose a major challenge for the rapidly developing country. Based on the UNDP Human Development Index for 2011, the country ranks 166 out of 187 while maintaining one of the highest population densities in Africa. The large population puts a strain on proper healthcare as well as the already limited natural resources of the country. Although the government of Rwanda, together with the World Food Program, has found that nutrition levels and food security have been improving over the last seven years, the situation is still far from optimal.

Some of the major challenges Rwanda faces with regard to poverty and hunger could be solved by foreign aid investments or direct cash donors from developed nations and foreign aid organizations. 83.7% of the population survives on $2 a day or less, and without proper disposable income, it is impossible to support families with proper food, water, and nutrition.

Up to 90% of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. This, combined with the extreme crowding and limited access to land, makes subsistence farming inefficient.

WFP’s country director for Rwanda, Jan Delbaere, weighs in on the topic, explaining that “during 2012, WFP bought 23,000 metric tons of food in Rwanda, mostly for operations in neighboring countries. This is a clear sign that Rwanda is more than self-sufficient for its staple crops. However, households with only a small area of land for cultivation simply cannot afford to access enough nutritious food to live healthy, active lives or to provide for their basic needs from their land alone.”

The WFP remains committed to supporting the government in Rwanda to increase food security and food production programs, and the country itself has chosen to sign the “Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) compact and to secure funding, thus confirming malnutrition and food insecurity as one of the government’s key priorities.” In spite of its food insecurity, Rwanda’s GDP has been growing by 7.2% annually since 2010. With proper investment and aid, these issues can be solved, and the country set further on the right track to stability.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: WFP,Hope in Action
Photo: ESB Blog