49 posts categorized "2014 Offering of Letters"
The news has seemed especially distressing recently, like the world is falling apart all at once. There are troubling reports of violence in Syria/Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and then there's Ebola in West Africa.
What can one person — an individual American — do to create peace and calm in far-away places and in such large, complicated situations? It's easy to feel helpless in times like these.
These crises are political, military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and health in nature—or sometimes a complex situation with a few of these aspects at play at once. They are seemingly fit for only national governments to deal with on a large scale. However, individual Americans are connected to these situations every day. Our federal government is acting on our behalf, with our tax dollars, and because of the positive influence of Bread activists in the legislative process of our Congress.
In all of these countries, desperate people are at least getting food to eat, and that is partly because of Bread for the World's work on food aid from the U.S. government this year, namely through Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. The U.S. is the world's largest food donor, and much of the food aid from the U.S. government is given to and distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), part of the United Nations.
WFP reported recently that it is responding to five level-3 emergencies, the highest level on its scale of severity. There were six level-3 emergencies until recently, when Cameroon was downgraded to level 2.
"This is the first time ever that the international humanitarian community has been dealing with five humanitarian crises of this scale at the same time," said Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president. "We must continue to advocate to Congress on behalf of the millions of people experiencing hunger and poverty during this unprecedented time of suffering."
What's happening in these places
In South Sudan, the crisis ravages on as 1.8 million people have been displaced since conflict broke out between President Salva Kiir's government forces and rebels allied to his former deputy, Reik Machar. Over 10,000 people have already died. The outlook remains grim as food security may deteriorate sharply into next year. A famine is declared when at least 20 percent of households face life-threatening food shortages with an inability to handle the problem.
South Sudan has already received $1.2 billion this year from aid agencies, but an estimated $345 million more is needed to support the U.N.'s response there.
The Ebola crisis continues to deepen in West Africa as over 3,000 people have died from the infection in the region. The WFP has already reached more 180,000 people in Ebola zones with vital food assistance. Over the next 3 months, the WFP will be targeting 1.3 million people with food assistance, but it needs $107.7 million more.
Recent violence has affected nearly the entire Gaza strip. Nearly 1 in 4 people in Gaza have been displaced from their homes, but 350,000 Palestinians living in U.N. and public shelters are receiving ready-to-eat emergency rations of food on a daily basis. Food needs are increasing, and the chaos in Gaza requires U.S. aid to prevent starvation.
In Iraq, 1.2 million people are being targeted for food assistance. In August, over 190,000 people received family food parcels, which consist of food essentials, including rice, lentils, and vegetable oil.
In Syria, the conflict rages on without a solution, and humanitarian needs are increasing. Seven million Syrians are in need of food assistance. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Syrians are fleeing every day to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The WFP needs approximately $35 million a week to assist over 7 million Syrians in urgent need of food assistance.
In the Central African Republic, approximately 175,000 people are displaced and an estimated 416,000 have fled the country. The persistent violence has affected the entire population, and 1.7 million people are at risk of hunger. But so far this year, WFP has assisted nearly 1 million people.
These simultaneous crises have stretched not only the WFP, but also other international humanitarian agencies, to their limits.
"Remember that U.S. food assistance, including our country's support for the World Food Programme, is providing help and a bit of security for desperate people in these situations," said Beckmann.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's October online newsletter.
The Last Hunger Season Film Series: Part 1, "Expanding Possibilities." Watch other videos in the series here.
Today’s celebration of World Food Day lifts up the role of smallholder farmers through the theme, “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” There are plenty of these farmers to celebrate: 500 million smallholder farmers live and work in the developing world. Most of them are women.
Last year saw the publication of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, a book by Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and longtime friend of Bread for the World. Now there is a series of short documentary videos online that bring the book to life, telling the stories of smallholder farmers in Kenya.
Here’s a description of the story:
Africa’s small farmers, who comprise two-thirds of its population, toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as they did in the 1930s. Without mechanized equipment, fertilizer, or irrigation; using primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, credit, and insurance; they harvest only one-quarter the yields of Western farmers, half of which spoil before getting to market. But in 2011 one group of farmers in Kenya came together to try to change their odds for success—and their families’ futures. Roger Thurow spent a year following their progress.
In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO’s, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?
Watch The Last Hunger Season online. Learn more about Bread’s efforts to enact much-needed reforms to U.S. food aid. Then take action to help more smallholder farmers, like those shown in Kenya, and hungry people around the world as well.
As summer draws to a close, members of Congress return to Washington for a short work period before entering the final campaign stretch before the midterm elections. Here are hunger-related items before Congress this fall:
Over the August recess, Bread has been urging senators to co-sponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). This food-aid reform legislation will free up as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people. Read more about the legislation at www.bread.org/indistrict. While this legislation may not become law this year, more co-sponsors will significantly help push the issue forward in the new Congress.
The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to mark up the Coast Guard reauthorization bill (S. 2444), but that mark-up was postponed before the August recess due to unrelated issues. There is no word on when the legislation will come back up in committee, but Bread will continue to encourage senators to omit the harmful cargo-preference provision that the House had. This harmful provision increases the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers, costing the government an additional $75 million and would leave 2 million hungry people around the world without access to lifesaving food aid.
Immigration and Unaccompanied Children
In the weeks before the August recess, Congress was debating and crafting legislation to address the surge of unaccompanied children fleeing Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Read Bread’s bill analysis on the pieces of legislation that Congress considered before its recess at www.bread.org/indistrict.
Until recently, the debate has lacked much attention to the root causes of the crisis: poverty, hunger, and violence. However, during July, Bread activists sent over 10,000 emails to their senators and representatives, urging them to include these root causes as part of any legislation addressing the child refugee crisis. In meetings with congressional offices over the past few weeks, Bread staff have noticed that members of Congress are starting to incorporate root causes into their thinking about the issue.
When Congress returns, there will be two opportunities for legislators to address the child refugee crisis. Congress could pass a separate emergency supplemental spending bill as both the House and Senate were attempting to do before the recess. Alternatively, Congress could include provisions to address the crisis in the regular spending, or appropriations, bill, which is a “must-pass” piece of legislation to keep the government open. Congress will pass a short-term measure in September to get through the mid-term elections and will then revisit these appropriations decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year in December. Both periods offer an opportunity for Congress to add language addressing the surge of refugee children in the U.S.
Budget and Appropriations
In September, Congress will have to pass some sort of budget as the government's fiscal year ends at the end of the month. Congress may pass a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. The easiest route is to pass a clean CR that just extends current funding levels. However, both parties will push for certain spending add-ons, such as funding for the border or wildfires. Some Republicans could also press for additional spending cuts. Any CR is likely to last until mid-December to push any concerns over a shutdown beyond the mid-term elections.
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.
By Robin Stephenson
Rice farmers in Liberia’s Lofa County were celebrating a rice surplus earlier this year, helped by a U.S. funded program to increase agricultural productivity. The small-holder farmers, who previously produced just enough to consume themselves, were able to sell 125 bags of rice through their cooperative.
Front Page Africa wrote, “The year 2014 may go down in history for these farmers.”
It may, but not because of a banner year for rice.
2014 will go down in the history books for the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. More than 1,000 Liberians have been infected and more than half have died since May. The World Health Organization expects the number to increase by 12,000 in the next six months. But Ebola is only the beginning. The collateral damage from the outbreak is hunger, without increased interventions of food assistance. Neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone face a similar narrative. Now Nigeria and Senegal are also reporting cases of the virus.
Liberia is still struggling to recover from years of civil conflict. Rebuilding the infrastructure required to sustain a healthy economy as well as an effective public health care system takes time. Poverty rates in the West African country remain high and chronic malnutrition stands at 36 percent.
Rice harvests in Liberia, which occur September to December and are expected to be above average this year, will help mitigate hunger in the short term, but the outlook for the next hunger season is bleak. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is predicating increased food insecurity throughout March of 2015 due to market disruptions and labor shortages. The World Food Program (WFP) reports that the majority of Ebola victims are between the ages of 15 and 45, which will reduce household incomes for hundreds of households.
Investments in projects focused on poverty before the outbreak will lessen the need for assistance later, but it won’t be enough. The WFP is bracing for more humanitarian need throughout the region.
Food insecurity in West Africa will just add to an already over-taxed food assistance system. Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and people threatened by looming famine in the Central African Republic and neighboring South Sudan are already in need of precious food aid resources.
It sounds overwhelming but we can do more with some of the resources we already have. By creating more flexibility in the U.S. food aid program, we can reach more people. Pilot reforms, such as those that buy food near a disaster instead of shipping commodities from the United States, have helped get food to millions more people and build resilience against future disasters.
If Congress passes the Food for Peace Reform Act (S.2421), we can reach 9 million more people and, during emergencies, deliver food two months faster and support local farmers, all without spending an extra dime of taxpayer money.
Smarter food aid can do more than reach more people. It can build on progress already made. Liberia has worked hard to make progress on hunger, with help from foreign donors like the United States. Sending commodities will help deal with hunger today, but buying locally will help strengthen their economy tomorrow.
When the last case of Ebola goes into the history books, smart food aid means Liberia can return to making progress on ending hunger.
The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. Take a moment to ask your senators to co-sponsor this bill.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
An expiring budget, food aid reform, and a humanitarian crisis at the border await Congress. After hearing from the voters, will Congress return from a five-week recess on September 8 ready to act on these connected issues?
Asked if it is possible, Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World’s deputy director of government relations, answers emphatically. “Absolutely. If they have the political will and make ending hunger a priority, they will work together.”
“These issues are too important for Congress to sit on any longer.”
The 2014 budget expires October 1. Congress has only 11 working days to pass a temporary extension before going on another break or face a government shutdown.
In addition to simply extending the budget, Congress should protect funding for WIC and maintain a strong safety net as the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession. As the economy slowly improves, further cuts could sink more Americans into deeper poverty.
Looming famine in South Sudan, drought in Latin America, and Ebola in West Africa are wreaking havoc with global food security – not to mention the millions of conflict-displaced families needing help in the Middle East. Efforts to address global hunger today mitigate food prices and global security concerns in the future.
Boosting poverty-focused development assistance is an investment that will decrease hunger in future food emergencies. Programs like Feed the Future, which take a long-term approach to building food security, are saving lives and building resilience in countries like Tanzania.
There is an opportunity to make our U.S. food aid—programs that respond to global disasters—do more with reform. Senators can build momentum for even more flexible and efficient food aid by cosponsoring the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) and holding a hearing during this session.
Funding smaller reforms passed in the farm bill will free up the funds needed to help more people now and expand programs that are already working. For example, Guatemala has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and is one of the countries children are fleeing for the U.S. southern border. Catherine Pascal Jiménez, who is featured in the 2014 Offering of Letters, can keep her children at home thanks to a U.S.-funded food-aid program.
Ignoring the humanitarian crisis at the border or criminalizing children who flee poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America will not stop the flow of migrants. Funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability in the sending countries is a first step in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with emergency funding on its return to Washington.
Swift action may be a tall order, and there is certainly a reason to be pessimistic with this unproductive Congress. However, this is a democracy, and as Kegan points out, “Members who don’t listen to voters don’t stay in Washington.”
Kegan says faithful advocates need to make a lot of noise as Congress returns to the nation’s capitol next week. “If enough people demand action, they will act.”
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Reforms to make U.S. food aid more flexible will benefit farmers, like the one pictured from El Salvador, and local economies to build resilience against future food insecurity. (Jim Stipe)
By Arnulfo Moreno
Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish? We all have that innate feeling to help someone when disaster strikes. Children should not have to go to bed hungry because a tsunami happened to hit their neighborhood or because they were living on a fault line. At the same time, aid should not destroy local economies in order to provide temporary relief. As this article highlights, the key is flexibility.
Most of the federal government's programs that deliver food aid were created in the 1950s, but many of the administrative policies haven’t changed since then. The global population in 1950 was 2.5 billion people. In 2010, the year most recent data is available, the population was more than 6.8 billion people and growing. The rigid restrictions on food aid did not take into account such growth or changes in agriculture technology and transportation, as well as cultural and political changes.
The most important thing that we can draw upon from this past half century is experience. We know that flooding a market with free food can paralyze local economies and has adverse effects on populations when the food is not common to the region. We have seen that having the flexibility to purchase food locally or to issue food vouchers benefits not only those receiving the assistance but also local farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurship.
We can continue to invest in people and future trade partners by making food aid more potent. By allowing food to be purchased locally, we help those economies devastated by disasters, both natural and human-caused, and ensure that they become self-sufficient.
As a taxpayer, I want to make sure that my money is used to help those who need it, not to line the pockets of the shipping industry or other industries. Allowing food-aid programs the flexibility to choose the best transportation method and food-allocation method helps bring costs down and grants our government the ability to help millions more with no additional cost to taxpayers.
If we set aside money to help our brothers and sisters around the world, then we have to make sure that every penny is used as efficiently as possible. Food aid should have the flexibility to meet people where they are. Give people a fish and/or show them how to fish, depending on their circumstance—not on a rigid set of our outdated policies.
Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.
The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421) will reform U.S. food aid and feed more people at lower cost. Mothers and children, like these in South Sudan, will benefit from targeted nutrition. (USAID)
By Eric Mitchell
A future free of hunger will require good ideas. I want to share with you a really, really good idea.
Picture this: Our federal government provides life-saving food assistance to 9 million more people around the world who experience hunger every year. What’s more, during emergencies, we deliver food 2 months faster and support local farmers, all without spending an extra dime of taxpayer money.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It’s called the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421), a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).
So what's the problem? In short, time. The clock is ticking on this Congress.
Nine million people can't wait for congressional inaction. Will you take a moment to email your U.S. senators asking them to co-sponsor this bill?
Bread for the World has a long history of winning reforms for food aid. Bread members helped improve the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust in 1998. That fund will help with the current famine threatening South Sudan.
And yet, we can and must do better. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. Won't you please take a moment to ask your senators to co-sponsor this bill right now?
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
There has been a lot of bad news in the world lately. Though it is not always reported, many of the grimmest stories also involve hunger.
The innocent in Iraq evade death on mountaintops where the lucky find food aid dropped from the sky. Elsewhere in the Middle East, families huddle together in refugee camps and pray for peace. Children who flee poverty and violence in Central America arrive at our southern border hungry and traumatized. And in South Sudan, where the atrocities of civil conflict drive families from their homes, hunger is about to get worse.
Famine – a human-made obscenity – looms over the landlocked country of South Sudan in northeastern Africa. The world’s newest country, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 but internal conflict has led to widespread food-insecurity. The United Nations is already struggling to feed an estimated 100,000 civilians. Sixteen-year old Nyiel Kutch, her mother, and five siblings made it to a Ugandan refugee camp in December of last year. She told The Guardian, “The place here is good, but the food is not enough for us.”
A hunger crisis becomes famine when four out of every 10,000 children die every day. Experts predict that South Sudan will qualify as early as December. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that 50,000 children under age five were at risk of dying of malnutrition in the coming months.
Yesterday, the United States announced it will send $180 million in emergency food aid to address the crisis. The funds will be distributed from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The trust is a food reserve set aside and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to respond to unexpected food crises in developing countries.
Your advocacy efforts in the past are helping to feed hungry people in South Sudan today. Bread for the World was instrumental in the expansion and restructuring of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of the organization's 1998 Offering of Letters campaign, Africa: Seeds of Hope. Advocacy work started even earlier – 1977 and 1978 – when Bread activists began lobbying their members of Congress to establish the legislation.
In front of us is yet another opportunity that will pay dividends in the future. Changes in U.S. food aid policy can build resilience against future catastrophes. Food aid that takes into account the quality of food and not just quantity can stem the tide of needless deaths from malnutrition. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421).
We can unlock food aid from archaic policy. By increasing program efficiency, flexibility, and improving the nutritional value of food aid, we can help 9 million more people – people like 16-year Nyiel Kutch – who deserve a future free of hunger.
While the news today may be overwhelming, as people of faith called to end hunger and love our neighbors. We must rise to the challenge and act for tomorrow. Urge your senators to cosponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act.
Learn more about food aid reform here: www.bread.org/indistrict
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.
Photo: South Sudan. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)
Last year Bread's multimedia manager Joseph Molieri travelled to Guatemala where he saw hunger and solutions to hunger up close. He filmed Catarina Pascual Jimenez,and tells her story in the short video, Food for the Future.
By Joseph Molieri
Reading the news stories of a surge in child migration from Guatemala does not surprise me. Last year I was there, and I saw the devastation that hunger can cause.
In Guatemala City, the street life is alive with the calls of vendors selling their wares, congested streets, and bustling pedestrians. I took a taxi to a rural region just north of Huehuetenango, about a 200-mile drive from Guatemala City, where life was slower but harder. We had come to Guatemala to observe the impact of food-security programs, which are partially funded through grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and to gather stories for Bread’s Offering of Letters in these western highlands of Guatemala.
As we traveled farther into the countryside, a palpable feeling of coldness grew stronger. About halfway into the trip, we pulled over and got out to stretch for a few minutes. The indigenous locals walking by glanced nervously at us before pulling their children to the other side of the road. Roberto, my driver, said this area saw a lot of fighting during the civil war. I knew this, but I was only beginning to see and feel it.
For many years, the indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala has lived in extreme poverty, exacerbated by a political system at times designed to disenfranchise them. The Mayans have also experienced exclusion from development and wealth. Guatemala has made headlines in recent weeks as the country with the worst malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hotspots where children are leaving to migrate to the United States. During my visit, I began to get a glimpse of why this might be.
At our destination I met Catarina Pascual Jimenez, a mother of four children. Her oldest son, Antonio, now 17, left when he was 15 to work as a migrant laborer. Opportunities and access to nutritious food are severely limited in her remote village. Her youngest children, Roni and Shelia, given their age at 17 months, would become two more statistics of malnourishment and stunting without the USAID program.
As we met with more mothers, we heard similar stories. These women and children had a small opportunity to overcome hunger because of the USAID nutrition program. However, for this one village with the program, there were countless more without it, where children might suffer all their lives as a result of malnutrition. The issues these women face, like many others in Latin America, are not isolated incidents of a poor economy but rather the result from years of political unrest, bad policies both from their own government as well as neighboring countries, and racial discrimination.
Matthew 25 asks me when I saw Christ hungry. I saw hunger in Guatemala. I also saw that when we invest in programs and give people a hand up, we not only live out the Gospel call to “do for one of the least of these” but we alleviate conditions that cause people to migrate for survival. I called my member of Congress, and I invite you to join me. Children like those I met are desperate and coming to the United States on dangerous journeys because they are hungry. We cannot turn our back on them. What we can do is try to change the circumstances they are fleeing.
Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.
Joseph Molieri is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World
Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. She irrigates her small farm with water from a nearby stream that she walks back and forth to with a watering can. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
In a recent interview with Devex, Roger Thurow says a key ingredient to global food security is the smallholder farmer. “Smallholder farmers haven’t been at the center of agriculture development efforts.” We have programs today that can change that.
Thurow is a senior fellow on global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.
Thurow says reversing the pattern of neglect is a major challenge of our time if we want to face a food-secure future. “These smallholder farmers who have been so badly ignored and neglected by a kind of collective us… [they] are now really indispensible to our future of feeding the planet.” Deficiencies in global agriculture become even more urgent when factoring in climate change and population growth, which will put increasing pressure on global food resources in the future.
Evidence suggests that agriculture-led growth is a key to ending hunger and poverty. Faustine Wabwire writes that the missing link is women. In A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, takes a closer look at the composition of smallholder farmers, the majority of which are women. In sub-Sahara Africa, women produce up to 70 percent of the food for their households and markets. She writes, “An estimated 12 percent to 17 percent reduction in global malnutrition could come from enabling female farmers to match the yields of male farmers by allowing them equal access to resources.”
USAID has been leading the charge with a new kind of development that addresses smallholder agriculture and women as change agents. Programs like Feed the Future are already charting a course toward self-sufficiency. Investing in and reforming U.S. food aid to allow flexibility, improve nutrition, and build long-term resilience is also critical to a future free from hunger.
Congress must make these investments a priority in their 2015 spending bills if we are to end global hunger. However, appropriators in the Senate have approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future in the State-Foreign Operations bill. Investments in food aid reform, although minimal, have been proposed for House and Senate Agricultural appropriation bills and pushed through with the help of persistent urging on the part of anti-hunger advocates. We will continue to support amendments that allow U.S. food aid to reach more people.
The nightly news shows us we face daunting problems: children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, Somalia on the brink of famine, the incomprehensible human suffering of refugees in South Sudan – the list goes on. At the root of each of these crises is hunger and poverty. Solutions that address root causes are solutions that last. Looking at smallholder farmers as the engine for poverty reduction can help end what Thurow calls a medieval affliction of our time – child malnutrition. He asks, “Why in the fourteenth year of the 21st century are we still afflicted by all these problems?” Why indeed.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
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