Posts

Hunger in Pakistan: Fighting A Continual Uphill Battle
According to a  2016 report published by the World Food Programme (WFP), Pakistan produces enough food to feed all its citizens, yet, six out of 10 Pakistanis are food insecure. The worst off are women and children under the age of five, nearly half of whom are malnourished.

A tragic manifestation of this statistic is in the Tharpakar district of Pakistan. Within the first fortnight of 2016, 55 children in this region died as a result of malnutrition, pneumonia and other preventable diseases. Further, at least 650 children have died of the same causes over the last three years.These chilling figures bear more than a cursory investigation.

The International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) food security portal cites the main cause of widespread hunger in Pakistan as “a combination of militant activity, natural disaster[s], and economic instability”. These factors are particularly devastating in a country where the agricultural sector employs almost half the workforce and contributes over a fifth of total GDP.

The destruction caused by the 2010 floods in the Indus river basin bear testament to the catastrophic nature of the aforementioned elements. According to the WFP, the floods left almost 20 million people without access to food, which damaged the country’s agricultural sector. Bloomberg estimates that  sugar, wheat and rice crop worth $2.9 billion were ruined within three months of the flooding. Massive inflation and unemployment caused by militant activities in the region worsened the impact of their destruction.

What can be done for those who suffer the consequences of such devastation? What can be done for the children of Tharpakar, Pakistan?

Government acknowledgment of inaccessibility and insecurity plays a huge role in, at the very least, creating a starting point from which larger policy changes can be affected. Unfortunately, this seems to be a far-fetched goal. According to the Sri Lankan Guardian “Two provincial ministers who visited [Tharpakar] blamed underage marriages and carelessness of mothers for the child deaths…Despite print, electronic and foreign media all reporting the same child death statistics, the government continues to deny the figures.”

Therefore, raising awareness about the problem both in Pakistan as well as on a global level to pressure the government to be more proactive becomes incredibly important. The WFP is playing their part by releasing statistics to be shared on Twitter and other social media sites. In addition, WFP also partners with the Pakistani government in assisting malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, helping over 3.6 million people as of April 2016 through endeavors such as providing staple foods in schools across Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agencies.

An early warning system for disasters such as the flood and subsequent earthquakes in the region would be a huge step forward in ensuring that stored crops are protected from their impact, which would help to combat hunger in Pakistan. And, taking a page from neighbor India’s book, passing a food security bill intended at providing vulnerable populations with subsidized grains could also help reduce malnourishment and insecurity, particularly among children and mothers.

While prospects for improving the situation in Pakistan have looked bleak in the past, NGOs such as Thali, Micro Nutrient Initiative and Action Against Hunger in partnership with the WFP, are making strides in reducing hunger in Pakistan. For the children of Tharpakar, even these baby steps are huge leaps into a healthier future.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

Top Humanitarian Aid Organizations
The Borgen Project has received lots of praise for an innovative approach that has taken the global poverty fight to the political level, but there are numerous aid organizations doing great work. The United Nations offers consultative status to 3,900 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with roughly one-third of these located within the United States.  While most NGOs offer humanitarian aid, some focus on issues regarding hunger while others on human trafficking. With so many different groups and issues to choose from, how does one decide which of the top humanitarian aid organizations to support?

 

Top Humanitarian Aid Organizations

 

1. World Food Programme (WFP) 

This organization is part of the U.N. system and is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  Each year, the WFP reaches 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries.  In 2012, the WFP provided 53 percent of global food aid and distributed 3.5 million tons of food.

2. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)

CARE is an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty.  The organization leads community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of disease, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, and protect natural resources.  CARE also provides emergency aid for war and natural disasters.  They have supported close to 1000 poverty-fighting development and humanitarian aid projects.

3. Oxfam International

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working in approximately 90 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and related injustice around the world.  They focus on issues of active citizenship, agriculture, education, gender justice, health, peace and security and youth outreach.  Through advocacy, campaigning, policy research and development projects, Oxfam continues to change the lives of many.

4. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) 

IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people in 189 National Societies.  Their vast volunteering network of 13 million allows them to tackle issues in four main areas: disaster response, disaster preparedness, health and community care and promote humanitarian values of social inclusion and peace.

5. Action Against Hunger (AAH) 

AAH is a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger, works to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger.  In 2012, AAH provided 550,000 small farmers with tools, treated 42,000 malnourished children in Democratic Republic of Congo and helped 170,000 people gain access to clean water in Kenya.

Any one of these humanitarian organizations offer chances to donate, volunteer, and advocate for their respective causes.  For more information regarding humanitarian aid and charity organizations, visit charitynavigator.org.

Syrian_Refugees
Jessica Watson would like to see children around the world pursue their dreams. In order for that to happen, she must first tackle world hunger.

The 22 year old is a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Hailing from Queensland, Australia and awarded Young Australian of the Year in 2011, Watson is the youngest person to ever sail around the world solo and unassisted, having completed the global voyage when she was 16 years old.

Watson’s most recent expedition, however, brought her to Lebanon and Jordan, where she visited Syrian refugees. Her “Sail with WFP” initiative recognizes the intimidating journey made by young Syrians who have left their homes for Lebanon or Jordan. As WFP’s Youth Ambassador, Watson provided food and support for suffering families.

Founded in 1961, WFP is the largest hunger fighting organization in the world, supplying food in times of emergency and working with communities to create sustainability. The goal of the organization is to end world hunger and eliminate global poverty. Funded by governments, companies and private individuals, WFP provides annual assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries.

In Lebanon, Watson sailed with five Syrian and Lebanese youths from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, to a northern port. In Jordan, she spent time in the Azraq refugee camp. There, Watson met single Syrian mother Manal and her eight children. She accompanied the family to the camp’s only grocery store, where refugees buy food with electronic food cards from WFP.

Earlier this year, however, WFP had to reduce refugee stipends due to a lack of funding. As a result, the refugee program is 81 percent underfunded and many Syrian families are struggling to stay alive. The organization requires $138 million to continue helping refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq through September.

Watson also visited a Save the Children International youth center in Amman, Jordan’s capital, and hopes her journey will bring attention to the hardships faced by the Syrian people. A WFP Youth Ambassador since her young global voyage, Watson sails towards a new, hunger-free future.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: WFP 1, WFP 2, WFP 3
Photo: News Pronto

chad malnutrition
Those who suffer from undernourishment are more vulnerable to infections and diseases like malaria. Due to the country Chad’s lack of health care, frequent droughts and lack of access to safe drinking water, 790,000 citizens need emergency food assistance, while three million are in need of humanitarian assistance in general. The country is believed to have the highest rate of malnutrition in West Africa compared to its other impoverished countries.

According to a SMART nutrition survey, the child malnutrition rates in 2014 were between 6.8 and 13.3 percent. Those living in the Sahelian area of Chad experienced the worst: five regions in that area exceeded a 10 percent rate, and six regions exceeded a 15 percent rate of malnutrition. Fifteen percent is considered the minimal rate needed to declare a hunger emergency. It should be noted that contributing to these malnutrition rates are refugees from the Central African Republic and Sudan. There are up to 450,000 who have pursued safety in Chad, and while there has been no official survey conducted yet, up to 14 percent of child refugees at just a few refugee sites have been screened as “acutely malnourished.”

Chad’s traditional health services are underwhelming, with less than one qualified person who can provide medical aid for every 1,000 people. The government allocates a mere three percent of its budget toward health initiatives. This has prompted outside help to intervene in this dire situation.

While there are a few programs to provide medical aid to those suffering in hunger, the problem will not be solved until the core issue of poverty is looked at. According to Richard Currie of Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, five percent of children die in their care—and those are the ones receiving treatment.

“It is tremendously rewarding to discharge a previously critically ill child from our program as ‘cured,’ but in the absence of adequate nutrition in the home and an improved food security situation in the community, the child remains at risk of falling back into illness later and eventually re-entering the program,” Currie explained.

Other organizations lending a hand are UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Programme, which are trying to distribute food and introduce programs that will help citizens before emergency medical treatment is required. WFP claims to have targeted 1.3 million citizens in 2014. Nourishment rates in 2014 showed improvement compared to previous years, and hopefully the intervention of all these organizations will improve the rates even more for 2015.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Irin News, World Food Programme
Photo: UNICEF

Malnutrition_in_Niger
Niger ranks dead last out of 187 countries on the 2014 Human Development Index. With a very high fertility rate and very low life expectancy, Niger exemplifies a country that is in crippling poverty. Its location renders the country landlocked and adjacent to the Sahara Desert, leaving few resources, especially food, available. This leads to severe malnutrition in Niger.

The World Food Programme estimates that there are around 2.5 million people living in Niger that are chronically food-insecure and unable to meet the basic requirements of nutrition even when their agricultural production is at its normal capacity. In 2005 and 2010, agricultural production took hits and the country fell 14 percent short of the usual outcome each time. For a country finding it hard to function at the average level, this was detrimental, especially for the children of Niger.

Children under the age of five are often the most susceptible to opportunistic diseases caused by malnutrition. Diarrhea and skin and respiratory infections are commonly linked to malnutrition. It is estimated that nearly 331,000 children under the age of five in Niger will need to be treated for malnutrition.

UNICEF and the WFP are working together to help alleviate the malnutrition in Niger.

UNICEF is providing a blanket feeding program that is targeted for children and lactating women in the worst affected areas in Niger. One first-hand account of this program is that of a 19-year-old mother and her 19-month-old son.

Hanatou Hassan brought her son, Boubakar, to a feeding center run by UNICEF. The workers said Boubakar was so thin and weak that he couldn’t keep his head up. When admitted, Boubakar was given two nutrient-rich formulas in order to return him to health. After two weeks, Boubakar was able to breastfeed again and was also able to go back to his parents. When the father came to get his son, he said he couldn’t even recognize Boubakar they had done so well with him.

The WFP aims to strengthen the resilience of the chronically vulnerable and at risk communities by ensuring there is a safety net for all the areas that are affected by seasonal periods of constrained access to food. The Under a Protracted Relief and Rehabilitation Operation, or PRRO, created by the WFP, implemented the following programs:

  • Food for Assets activities promoting land regeneration
  • Water harvesting/irrigation activities towards increased local production
  • Year-round Targeted Supplementary Feeding for moderately acute malnourished children ages six-59 months and pregnant/nursing mothers

Niger is in a worrisome state. Its location prevents them from conducting many types of trade and their economic and agricultural systems are very fragile. Through the programs described above, UNICEF and the WFP may be able to take down acute malnutrition in Niger and maybe even all malnutrition in Niger.

Erik Nelson

Sources: World Food Programme,  UNICEF 1,  UNICEF 2, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: The Age

malnutrition in sierra leone
Sierra Leone has both one of the highest malnutrition rates and one of the highest child mortality rates.  More than a third of children are chronically malnourished; in 2010, 22 percent were underweight, 44 percent were stunted, or had a low height for their age and eight percent were wasted, or had a low weight for their height.

The child mortality rate is 267 deaths per 1,000 children. Almost half of these premature deaths are caused by malnutrition.

The major influence in the high malnutrition rate is the lack of breastfeeding. Only eight percent of infants are breastfed. The rest are given insufficient substitutes, sometimes water.

Because of the conflict in Sierra Leone’s recent past, malnutrition has only recently come into focus as a concern. Even now, malnutrition is one of the most neglected areas of concern for the country. Despite Sierra Leone’s economic growth, the number of underweight children has increased 24 percent.

With such a high rate of malnutrition, many organizations are working to lessen the number of those malnourished.

One focus has been to vary diets, many of which consist mostly of rice. Farmer Field Schools were developed to increase agricultural productivity, but they have now been adapted to teach farmers how to raise more nutritious crops.

These Field Schools also connect farmers to markets where they can sell their crops.

Mother-to-mother support groups have also been set up.  These target the community level by educating women to teach others.  They also report instances of malnourishment that they see.

A total of 1,228 Peripheral Health Units are running in Sierra Leone, too.  They serve around 5,000 people each by providing medical care and nutrition services.

The WFP, UNICEF and WHO have also started their own supplementary feeding programs and centers.

There are 63 WFP-organized supplementary feeding centers in western Sierra Leone, which have reached almost 50,000 children.  They are funded by the government of Japan.

Children who are under 70 percent of a normal body weight are admitted.

The centers give children sugar, oil and a modified cereal that is enriched with micronutrients.  The UNICEF centers provide high-protein biscuits, therapeutic milk and a complex of vitamins and minerals.

Parents also receive health and nutrition education from the centers.  Many parents believe that milk and eggs are bad for children, and this education corrects these notions.  They also teach parents how to provide supplemental feedings.

After they provide rations and education, the centers continue to monitor the progress of the children.  They check to make sure children do not develop pneumonia or diarrhea, and they check to ensure that the child’s health improves.

Sierra Leone faces many struggles as they attempt to combat malnutrition.  The constraints for aid range from low funds, to a lack of data for what is needed, to low governmental support.

Staff are often underqualified, and there is frequent turnover.  The low numbers of personnel lead to less knowledge being passed to the people who need it, as information is diluted passing from person to person.

Mothers have low incentives to help their children because they are often blamed for their children’s poor health.  They see it as shameful to admit their children are malnourished, so they do not seek help.

Many nutrition efforts have seen an added strain from the recent Ebola outbreak, as well.  Sierra Leone has been upgraded to a Level Three food emergency, the highest threat level.

Despite these setbacks, Sierra Leone is working hard to increase the health of its population.  The country is making progress, but there is still work to be done to decrease malnutrition in the country.

– Monica Roth

Sources: WFP, UNICEF, Reuters, New Internationalist
Photo: Sorenbosteendahl

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

child labor in afghanistan
Poverty forces children to work and sacrifice their chance at an education. Today, sadly, child labor in Afghanistan is a common occurrence. Estimates are difficult to come by but through various sources it can be stated that between 21 and 25 percent of Afghan children are part of the labor force. Children as young as 6 are often involved.

 

Cause and Effect: Child Labor in Afghanistan

 

Child labor is hard to overcome in Afghanistan because although it is illegal by law for anyone under the age of 14 to work, many families are so desperate that they need one of their children to work in order to survive. Employers are desperate for cheap labor as well. The government seems to be doing little to enforce this law.

A common job for Afghan children in Kabul is working in brick factories. They can work up to 12 hours for around $1.40 a day. Other potential jobs for these children are working in bakeries, weaving, selling toilet paper and shopping bags, mining, washing cars or farming. Some children even begin to beg.

It is important to look at the physiological affects of child labor. Childhood is a time when people are supposed to be able to play and avoid the stresses of life.  This crucial time period allows them to develop into healthy adults. Research shows that, “75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells.” It is essential for children to play with their parents and with other children.

If Afghan children are working, they are missing out on this crucial developmental step. It is possible that a work environment would replace play and stimulate a child’s brain but it is not certain if they are gaining the right type of knowledge that a child would otherwise gain from play. The stress children endure when having to work will also cause other stunted developmental issues.

The main reason children are sent off to work is so that they can feed their families. This is due to a loss of a parent or both parents. A child might have to go to work because their father dies and their mother is unable to find work because of her gender. Poverty and gender bias seems to be two of the causes of child labor in Afghanistan.

Poverty in Afghanistan is caused by many factors, one being the fact that it has been in a state of almost perpetual war since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded, followed by Taliban rule and the post 9/11 American invasion coupled with Taliban guerrilla warfare. But regardless of the reasons as to why poverty exists in Afghanistan, it is essential to raise people out of poverty so that child labor will cease.

The task of raising the Afghan people out of poverty is certainly not an easy one. There are a range of problems arising from misallocation of USAID funds by the Afghan government, the inability of U.S. officials to better Afghan government institutions and just general distrust and confusion between the two countries.

A possible solution to this would be for the U.S. to give money to more grassroots NGOs and intergovernmental organizations who are currently working in Afghanistan. This would get the aid directly to the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan, specifically children. Organizations like the World Food Programme have operations already in place. Activities like school meals, food for training, Food-for-Work, nutrition programs and flour fortification are being carried out in Afghanistan today. They also support programs that try to close the gender gap.

Imagine if the U.S. gave more money to these programs instead of fighting with the Afghan government over misallocated funds?  These programs are already helping thousands of Afghan people, why not help even more? Child labor in Afghanistan is increasing, and with poverty as its main cause, the U.S. government should put more of its aid money toward proven, successful poverty alleviation programs.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: Global Post, Los Angeles Times, Montana State University, The New York Times, UN Data, WFP
Photo: CRI English

yemen_malnutrition
“We are hungry and we need jobs,” says a Yemenis woman, who faces a recording camera while standing on the side of a dirt road. Her clothes are stained by sand and her eyes are bloodshot, but she responds with firm assurance to questions in a recent YouTube video composed by activists from Support Yemen, who aimed at facilitating dialogue in the capital city of Sana. Topics ranged from the ongoing political instabilities that the region faces to other matters, such as closing the gap between civilians, military, and tribal forces. These are not the only factors hindering Yemen’s economic and social progression, as high food prices, endemic poverty, diminishing resources and influxes of refugees and migrants are also damaging the region from within.

In hopes of relieving some of the hunger the Yemenis people are facing, much needed food support will be streamlined into the region thanks to recent contributions by the Government of India and the World Food Programme (WFP.) After a Comprehensive Food Security Survey was conducted in Yemen last year, WFP found 22 percent of the population was living under severely insecure food standards. This has led the WFP to set a new goal at providing five million people in 16 governorates with food assistance and programs to strengthen their community’s resilience.

It has also been announced that the WFP will be appropriating a budget of $495 million for programs and activities in Yemen, starting in 2014 and ending in 2016. WFP’s continued effort in Yemen has already provided assistance to 5 million children, pregnant women, and internally displaced persons (IDPs.) In a place where nearly half of children younger than five years old are malnourished and stunted, there is still much more that can be done.

Doing their part in combating hunger in the area is the Government of India, who recently contributed $1.8 million in an effort that will aid almost 121,300 people most in need of assistance over the next six months. Those funds were used to purchase approximately 2,600 metric tons of wheat, which will provide emergency food assistance for 3.5 million people, 600,000 IDPs, and other nutritional support for 405,000 children under the age of five. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sa’adi, a representative for the Government of Yemen, had this to say about the donation: “We are grateful to the government and people of India for providing this timely donation and we highly appreciate the cooperation between WFP and India in delivering assistance to those in need.”

Appropriated funds going towards Yemen will provide relief over the next few years, but it will only prove temporary if sustainability and community resilience aren’t increased in the area. With a growing deficit of $3.2 billion and poverty rates on the rise since 2011, it is important to realize the consequences which many men, women, and children will face after they have taken a toll. As donations come into the area from across the globe and programs are constantly being implemented into Yemen communities, it is hopefully a fruitful sign of things to come.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: WFP, WFP (2), Saba News, Yemen Times, Albawaba

chad_poverty
Topping the charts as one of the world’s most food-deficient countries, Chad ranks 184 out of 187 countries on the 2012 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. With a population of around 11.5 million, nearly 87 percent of the rural residents live below the poverty line.

This economic instability is in part the result of several different conflicts over the last 50 years between different ethnic groups within the country. However, Chad is also hindered by a landlocked location and tough desert climate that makes it especially vulnerable to chronic food deficiencies. From erratic rains to locust infestations and cyclical droughts, Chad’s cereal and crop production has seen a severe decrease as of 30 percent in 2011, followed by an even more severe food and nutrition crisis in 2012.

It is a crisis that has continued to worsen, as refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan and the Central African Republic have flooded Chad. As of now, there are approximately 330,000 refugees in the country, all in need of food and shelter.

Currently the World Food Program (WFP), with the assistance of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), has launched a number of different projects in an effort to combat hunger and fight malaria in the nation.

One such project is the Relief and Recovery Operation, started in January 2012 and set to last two years. The program’s five main objectives are to:

  1. To curb acute malnutrition among children 5 years of age and younger, as well as among lactating women.
  1. To prevent acute malnutrition to children under 2 years old.
  1. To meet adequate food needs for Sudanese and Central African refugees.
  1. To strengthen and build resilience among communities in regards to weather threats.
  1. To reestablish food security for communities and households most affected by external conflict.

The Relief and Recovery Operation also includes the distribution of blankets, general food and other supplementary supplies to over 2 million beneficiaries, at a cost of $412.8 million. Meanwhile, between January and December 2012, the WFP Food Assistance Program reached around 2 million people, 760,000 which were children. Approximately 62,000 metric tons of food valued around $91 million were delivered.

Steps are also being taken to end Chad’s malaria epidemic. Currently, 780,000 people are suffering from malaria, a number almost double that of previous years. Some experts have speculated that ongoing droughts and erratic rainfall, which could encourage mosquitoes to breed, might be responsible.  So far malaria has taken the lives of almost 2,057 people in the past year alone.

In the districts where malaria runs most rampant, supplies such as bed nets, medicines, vaccinations and other preventative treatments have been distributed by the Chad government, with the assistance of UNICEF and WHO. In a place where 33 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 23 months are not vaccinated and run the risk of disease and malnutrition, preventative measures and outside assistance offers Chad’s future its best chance.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: WFP: Countries Chad, WFP: Countries, Irin News, WFP: News
Photo: ABC