49 posts categorized "1,000 Days"
Kaleda Begum holds her friend's child Adia Akter (left), 17 months, and her own daughter, Akkee (right), 18 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. These children are healthy and overall the rate of stunting fell among Bangladeshi children from 51 percent to 43 percent between 2004 and 2007, according to USAID. However, more than 10 million children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition in Bangladesh. It's an issue being addressed by the Bangladeshi government and donor partners incuding the United States. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
Tohomina Akter washes pots and dishes in a pond near her home on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, in southern Bangladesh. Tohomina participates in a maternal and infant nutrition program called Nobo Jibon administered by Helen Keller International. The program stresses proper nutrition in young children.
Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl / Text by Molly Marsh
BARISAL, BANGLADESH---The afternoon hours are Tohomino Akter’s favorite time of day. That’s when she can take a break from her household tasks, rest, and play with her 17-month-old daughter, Adia. Like any toddler, Adia much prefers movement.
Adia runs through the four rooms of their home, her pink sundress and plastic pink shoes contrasting against the gray tin walls. First is her parent’s bedroom, then the room where her father’s parents and brothers sleep. Then a small room that contains clothes and dishes, and finally the kitchen, a skinny corridor that opens to the outside on one end, where her mother prepares their food over a fire.
Adia stops suddenly at the front steps, looking out at the familiar faces of Char Baria, a village in the Barisal district of Bangladesh. In front of her lies Tohomino’s garden, a 25-foot square of spinach, amaranth, chili, and pepper plants, an important source of nutrients for Adia and her family. Spinach and red amarinthe are Adia’s favorites.
Tohomino planted the garden after receiving training in “Nobo Jibon,” a program administered by Helen Keller International, a nongovernmental organization that works in several Bangladesh districts. The vegetables she harvests have increased the nutrients available to her family, especially her daughter. What’s more, the extra money the family earns selling the surplus vegetables goes toward buying additional food for Adia.
In the program, Tohomino learned why a diverse, healthy diet is important, and also about the importance of breast-feeding her daughter. Tohomino attended classes for almost two months, hearing from health workers the benefits of giving Adia only breast milk during her first six months of life.
Tohomino has stuck to that schedule, introducing supplementary foods only after the initial six-month period, and she’ll continue to breast-feed Adia until she is 2.
“I did not do many things [before taking the class],” Tohomino said through a translator. “But after learning, I am keeping things clean and hygienic to prevent diseases, and cooking nutritious foods to keep me and my family healthy.”
Tohomina Akter feeds her 17-month-old daughter Adia. The nutrition programTohomina participates in stresses exclusive breast-feeding until six months and breast-feeding plus supplementary feeding from six months until 24 months.
Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.
I attended the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Day last Friday, March 23, at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. It was sponsored by the Office of Public Witness, the advocacy office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Washington, DC. The purpose of the event was to bring together Presbyterians on the eve of Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which Bread for the World cosponsored, to explore issues of particular importance to Presbyterians. I attended a workshop on food security/food sovereignty and one introducing a paper called, “World of Hurt, Word of Life: Communion in the Work of Economic Reconstruction,” which is being presented to the 2012 General Assembly by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
The paper explores the issues and causes of the global economic crisis and proposes a response by the church that is grounded in our theological tradition. There was one particular section of the presentation that struck me as I was sitting and listening. And this section noted values in our culture that exacerbate the crisis and offers responses, alternatives values that come from our Christian faith that we can lift up in our advocacy for the circle of protection. So I thought I’d share them here.
We are an ownership society.
We are a stewardship society!
We are a society of individuals.
We are a covenant community!
We value the common good!
Sustainability is responsible!
The market is infallible.
God is sovereign!
Government is fallible.
Government is a gift from God!
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, we offer reflections from Bread staff and others who faithfully work to end hunger.
Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Come with me to a poor urban neighborhood in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. We are heading up an uneven, broken stairway. We carry food along this Via Dolorosa — such small penance on our part!
This is our second-to-last day in Africa, and after all the walking of the past ten days, my troubled foot requires the cane I brought with me. My fellow pilgrims help me up these stairs. It is African hot.
We are taking this food to two families for their graciousness in allowing a bunch of well-meaning U.S. Christians to learn from them the way of the cross.
We are only visiting one family because the other family has had a death. A 4-year-old under-nourished little boy died last night in Dar es Salam. He died because his body could not endure chicken pox. Chicken pox is a deadly disease along this way.
As we reach the first house a woman’s sharp and painful wailing dissects us and great grief wraps itself around our legs, our minds, and our hearts. We stop outside her door. We suffer with her. We pray. We furtively look into each other’s eyes as we leave the food that we brought for this family on this way of sorrow.
By the time we get to the second house we realize our catalog of questions has shattered along this Via Dolorosa. We have inhaled enough of the poverty to make our chests hurt; we have ingested enough of the sorrow, and we have grown heavy with our knowing. We have already learned enough. We are more than a little numb.
I stand at one end of a small, narrow hall that opens on both sides. Multiple households live here. Sixteen (Or did she say 18?) people call this space: Home.
We give what now looks like not enough to the mother of the second household, and she thanks us profusely.
I need to you to see this woman. I need you to see her children. We must all do more! Please, carry this story beyond the borders of this page! Please know that we must not only continue with the dollars that funds USAID, Feed the Future, and the 1,000 Days Movement. We must be bold enough, we must be inspired enough to see the gospel as it is preached along this way of suffering: we must ask to have it increased! For the hope of the resurrection, we must ask!
Inez Torres Davis participated in an ecumenical delegation of church leaders in a trip to Africa sponsored by Bread for the World last October. She works with the Women of the ELCA as their Director for Justice.
Last Friday at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, Bread for the World co-sponsored a side event called "1,000 Days: Improving Nutrition for Rural Women." Other co-sponsors included the Presbyterian Office at the United Nations, the Women's Missionary Society of the AME Church, Franciscans International, the 1,000 Days Partnership, Save the Children, and Family Care International. The effort was coordinated by staff at The Hunger Project. A standing room-only crowd of more than 100 people came to hear about the importance of maternal and child nutrition in the 1,000-day period between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
The expert panel was moderated by Mary Ellen McNish, president of The Hunger Project. Lucy Sullivan of the Washington, DC-based 1,000 Days Partnership office shared basic information about how critical it is for women and children to have good nutrition in the 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. If malnourished, children can suffer permanent cognitive and physical delays, including shorter height, poor eyesight, diminished intellectual capacity, and weakened immune function.
Isatou Jallow, of the Gender Unit at the World Food Programme, framed the issue. It is critical for women -- particularly rural women -- to have control of land and money because women are responsible for feeding children. And women are more likely than men to invest any profit back into their family.
Carolyn Miles, the first woman to be president and CEO of Save the Children, shared their 2012 Nutrition Report. She highlighted ways in which Save the Children includes nutrition in its programs to address poverty and hunger issues with women and children.
Catherine Bertini, professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, addressed the role of the U.S. government in improving nutrition for women and children. She talked about the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future, the two flagship programs administered by USAID that address nutrition within the larger context of health and agriculture. She also highlighted the importance of the domestic WIC program, which helps thousand of mothers and young children improve their nutrition.
After the presentations, I talked about “1,000 Conversations,” the vehicle that the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement is using to spread the word about proper nutrition in the 1,000-day window. Women of faith are pledging to have 1,000 conversations in 1,000 days about maternal and child nutrition. It is critical that we spread the word about nutrition and put pressure on our government officials to continue to fund and promote nutrition programs.
Photo caption: Martha (left) and her daughter clean beans grown in their garden in the highlands of Nicaragua. Photo by Richard Leonardi.
The 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations (UN) is gathering from February 27 through March 9 to discuss and debate this year's theme of "the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development, and current challenges." The commission will develop a set of “agreed conclusions” that offers priorities for member countries in their work to improve the lives of women. The commission meets with a different theme each year and draws up a set of conclusions. The NGO community provides statements to the Commission that become the starting document that they work on throughout the two weeks.
A group of women gathered last Saturday, through an organization of religious NGOs called Ecumenical Women at the United Nations (www.ecumenicalwomen.org), to review the document as it relates to hunger. They discovered that while the document names nutrition and food security as issues in the introductory materials, nutrition is not brought up again in the recommended actions for the countries.
But we know that nutrition is critical, especially for women and children in the window between pregnancy and the child’s second birthday. Without proper nutrition, pregnancy is more risky, children can suffer from permanent cognitive and physical delays that can ultimately lead to a 2 to 3 percent reduction in GDP in countries where malnutrition is widespread. It is particularly important for women to know the importance of nutrition and have the power to choose healthy food both in the market and in their farms.
Ecumenical Women is advocating for including language about nutrition in both the food security and the health sections of the agreed conclusions. They will advocate for these changes as they meet with country delegations to the commission and as they ask questions in briefings offered by these country delegations.
Photo caption: Participants in Ecumenical Women's Advanced Advocacy Workshop take a look at the agreed conclusions. Courtesy of Ecumenical Women at the United Nations.
Photo by Flickr user VinothChandar
Earlier this month Bread for the World hosted more than 50 religious leaders from around the country to help strengthen the advocacy voice of the church in the 1,000 Days Movement. Representing a variety of national church partners including Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant and traditionally African-American denominations, participants included bishops, leaders from religious women’s organizations, and advocacy and development experts. The participants attended meetings with high-level U.S. government officials including USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Lois Quam, executive director of the Global Health Initiative. The group also met with two members of Congress, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). Claudette Reid, coordinator for women’s ministries, Reformed Church in America, has these reflections on her visit to Rep. Lowey’s office:
This was my first visit to Capitol Hill, so I didn't know what to expect. One thing was for certain: I was a bit apprehensive. I can’t explain why exactly -- perhaps it was because I knew visiting Rep. Nita Lowey was an important visit. We only had a few minutes to persuade one of our key leaders that protecting funding for proper nutrition is the key to saving lives and could also assist her in being an effective steward of her budget.
We arrived at the Capitol a bit early so it gave us time to huddle in the cafeteria and review our talking points, which was extremely helpful, especially since the others decided that I should lead off the discussion. Me? Were they crazy? Did this stellar group of advocates---veteran lobbyists--- temporarily lose their collective minds in asking this neophyte to frame this discussion?
Our short walk from the cafeteria to the congresswoman's office was a blur. All I can recall is being nervous and worried that I was going to make a fool of myself. We arrived at the congresswoman’s office and after the usual pleasantries and introductions, my colleagues all looked at me with the non-verbal command to "go ahead."
I can't remember everything I said, but I know I began by sharing our collective thanks/gratitude for everything that the congresswoman was already doing on behalf of women and girls and marginalized peoples both locally and globally. Then our group launched into our presentation on the importance of reinforcing our commitment as people of faith to bring awareness and sensitivity to the plight of those who cannot speak for themselves.
Our presence at this meeting was a continuing response to the exhortation to take care of the "least of these" -- a moral and religious responsibility and privilege -- as we partner with Christ. Staff representative Erin Kolodjeski was quite gracious and engaging. She entertained our comments and questions and emphasized that faith communities like ours are key to the work that they are trying to accomplish. We bring life to the data and statistics they already have in abundance.
By the time our time had come to a close, I realized that I had just completed my first 'lobbying' experience, and the earth did not fall in, and my nervousness had disappeared. I’m ready for my next round!
On February 1, after months of planning, everything was in place. More than 50 religious leaders from denominations and relief organizations around the country filled Bread for the World’s boardroom in Washington, DC. The goal? To build the advocacy voice of church leaders for improved nutrition for mothers and children, especially during the crucial 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. (Learn more about the 1,000 Days movement here.)
Bread president David Beckmann greeted the attendees, who included bishops, presidents of denominational women’s organizations, advocacy staff from around the country, and representatives of denominational relief and development agencies. Organizations represented included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Church Women United, among others.
For some, this call for advocacy was personal. Lucy Sullivan, director of the 1,000 Days partnership, told the group she was a “1,000-days baby”— she and her mother were able to get proper nutrition during the 1,000-day window because they had access to the critically important Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). As a result, Lucy is 5’10” and significantly taller than her immigrant mother. We also heard from Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), about his childhood visits to relatives in India. He was known as the “giant cousin” from the United States — no doubt because of the access to nutrition he had growing up in the United States.
Malnutrition’s impact on children is shocking. Without proper nutrients, children can experience permanent damage: shorter heights, weaker immune functions, impaired vision, and underdeveloped brains. All of this leaves them more vulnerable to illness and less prepared for school. Malnutrition can also result in lower earnings — up to 10 percent — over the course of their lifetimes. And what’s worse, the cycle continues with underweight mothers giving birth to underweight babies, and baby girls growing up to become underweight mothers giving birth to underweight babies.
Under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. government has taken steps to improve nutrition through development assistance — especially in the two flagship programs the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future. When our group met with leaders from the State Department and USAID on February 1,they asked tough questions about continued nutrition funding and pushed for effective coordination of programs on the ground and across departments in the United States.
We must continue to put pressure on our government to improve nutrition for women and children during the critical 1,000-day window, in the United States and abroad. To do that, we need to spread the word. Denominational women have created “Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement” and are pledging as groups and as individuals to have 1,000 conversations in 1,000 days about maternal and child nutrition.
The human and social costs of under-nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, from conception to age 2, are staggering. In Zambia, 45 percent of children are stunted; the rates are similar in Malawi and Tanzania. Malnutrition causes disease, impaired academic performance, and lost productivity. But my experience in a village in southern Malawi gives me hope. U.S. international assistance and church action can successfully improve nutrition and bring life.
Upon our arrival, the women were dancing and singing in traditional African style, but the words were different. They chanted, “Is there nothing that WALA cannot do!” WALA is the Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement program funded by U.S. international assistance through a grant to Catholic Relief Services that is being implemented by the local Diocese of Chikwawa.
WALA’s strategies are profoundly simple and profoundly effective. Mothers are taught the importance of good nutrition, especially from the beginning of pregnancy. They are taught to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of their child's life, and then to gradually add complementary feeding as they continue to breastfeed until the child is 2 years old.
WALA also introduced improved seed varieties that are more drought resistant, encouraged diversification of crops to enhance a nutritious diet, and provided a pump that enables people to draw water from their deep hand-dug well to irrigate their crops, especially new seedlings. The pump is operated by two men on what looks like a Stairmaster built for two.
Women come together periodically to prepare a porridge that is more nutritious than the traditional maize-only porridge. When we were there they proudly explained the benefits of adding in various flours that they had hand pulverized from dried beans and other crops. To remind themselves of the importance of a diversified diet, many of the women and men of the village wear dresses and shirts with a large logo depicting the various food groups.
Stephen M. Colecchi is director of USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace, and writes about his travels to Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania as part of an ecumenical delegation of Christian leaders sponsored by Bread for the World.
Zambian women frequently must walk miles to gather firewood. Photo by Margaret W. Nea.
As the Bread for the World delegation to Africa approached the office of the Commission on Food and Nutrition in Lusaka, Zambia, we saw three enormous "1,000 Days" banners that were 10 feet wide and six feet tall on the walls in front of the building. I have been working with denominational women’s organizations in the United States for the last six months building support for the 1,000 Days Movement, so this was encouraging to see.
The commission, established in 1967, was lodged in the Ministry of Health so that it would have more flexibility than an additional ministry. Unfortunately, now it doesn’t have the authority over other ministries to build a multi-sector approach to ending malnutrition and hunger in Zambia. It has focused on treatment instead of prevention by increasing caloric intake, but not improving nutritional value.
Dr. Cassim Masi, executive director of the commission, said, “Food is the first medicine.” In the United States we take nutrition for granted and think only of medicine when our children get sick. In Zambia, when a child is sick and needs medicine, she also needs the proper nutrition to strengthen her immune system, heart, lungs, and brain.
Nowhere was this more evident than at the feeding center at the University Training Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia. Parents bring acutely malnourished children there. I spoke with a young woman who told me she learned the food that she was feeding her 1-year-old son did not have enough nutrients. Hospital staff taught her how to feed him a variety of foods and to incorporate vegetables in his diet. I asked her if she would be able to change his diet in this way and she said, “I will try.” It’s heartbreaking to know that information alone is not enough.
The good news is that Zambia has taken the first steps to address malnutrition—especially during the critical 1,000 day window from pregnancy until a child’s second birthday. They have signed on to be an early-riser country in the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) and will partner with donor countries and organizations with technical expertise to develop strategies and implement programs to improve nutrition across several sectors of society including agriculture and health.