24 posts categorized "Development"
Last month, news reports indicated that the food crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region was worsening — at about the same time the United Nations declared the famine over in the Horn of Africa.
The countries in the Sahel, which is just below the Sahara and extends from the Atlantic Coast to the Red Sea, are among the world’s poorest. According to the U.N., nearly 23 million people in Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon — including 1 million children — could face food shortages this spring. This isn’t a new phenomenon. For years the region has been challenged by droughts, poor harvests, climate change and the impact of overpopulation.
While we can’t control Mother Nature, we can help the people of this region and others who rely on U.S. food assistance by urging Congress to protect food aid funding and to pass a farm bill that improves the nutritional quality of food aid and reduces costs and inefficiencies. Members of Congress will debate and authorize a new farm bill this year.
Congress should consider a bolder approach to how U.S. food and farm policies can meet our global and domestic challenges. Bread for the World Institute’s 2012 Hunger Report recommends that food aid programs should follow the lead of Feed the Future — a new U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative — by focusing more on improving nutrition for the most vulnerable people, especially pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of 2. This will help achieve the strongest possible nutrition and development outcomes with the limited resources available.
The most critical period in human development is the 1,000 days starting at pregnancy and lasting through a child’s second year. Healthy development, particularly in the brain, depends on getting the right foods during this critical time. Even short bouts of hunger can be catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible. Early hunger and malnutrition is associated with problems later in life, such as chronic illness and poor school attendance and learning.
According to UNICEF (the U.N. children’s fund) more than 1 million children in the Sahel region could experience “severe and life-threatening malnutrition” this year, and more than 300,000 children under the age of 5 in Niger are at risk of severe and acute malnutrition.
The United States should strengthen its leading role as the world’s largest provider of food aid, and also move quickly to improve its nutritional quality. Current regulations should also be restructured and improved to include cash, vouchers and local procurement of food.
New mothers, young children and other vulnerable people — such as those living with HIV/AIDS — can benefit from highly nutritious forms of food aid now available. These cost more than the foods normally included in U.S. food aid, but it is possible to reduce costs by purchasing in or near the countries where the food is needed. By buying food from smallholder farmers in and around the region, we would help reduce poverty, build self-reliant communities and get aid to where it is most needed — more quickly and cheaply.
The longer-term solution to these recurrent food crises is to improve the productivity of farmers in the region, improve the process of getting food from farm to table, and improve access to markets through programs such as Feed the Future.
In crisis situations, food aid is critical. The farm bill gives the United States an opportunity to improve this essential tool and to more effectively help the poorest people in the poorest places, such as West Africa’s Sahel region. Food aid is a crucial tool in combating global malnutrition, and Congress should act before the next famine is declared.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
These women are part of a sewing/tailoring workshop at a family center run by MRDS.org in Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq. (Copyrighted photo courtesy of Heber Vega)
If people remember a photograph, they are more likely to remember the issue or event that goes along with it. As a photographer, I try to take memorable and striking photos that will help our members remember the issues of hunger and poverty.
But when it comes to photographing hunger and poverty-related issues, there's the added responsibility of maintaining the dignity of the people being photographed. It's what I aim for in my photography for Bread for the World, and it's what these photographers do well on their blogs.
Here are my top five humanitarian photo blogs, in no particular order:
- Esther Havens is an American photographer whose work I first stumbled upon on the Charity:Water blog. Her vibrant pictures capture people's strength, dignity, and unique personalities. Some of her pictures are even funny -- which is rare in humanitarian photography -- as you can see in this blog post about Rwandan boys participating in an education and food program. Don't miss her post about the reality of working as a humanitarian photographer.
- Ikuru Kuwajima is based in Kazhakstan and works around Central Asia, an area that I hadn't seen many pictures of before following Ikuru's blog. From people rebuilding their lives in Kyrgyzstan to Armenians still coping with the aftermath of a 1988 earthquake, Ikuru's pictures reflect his journalism background, but with an artist's sensibilities. He also spent time last year in Japan -- his home country -- documenting the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear plant emergency.
- Glenna Gordon, an American photojournalist, shuttles between West Africa and New York, but used to live in Liberia, where she photographed for newspapers and NGOs. If you're looking for news and music from Africa, plus fresh photographs and introspective commentary about life in Africa, then you'll enjoy Glenna's blog, Scarlett Lion. Her photo story on Harper, Liberia, a decaying coastal town, is a must-see.
- Heber Vega is a humanitarian aid worker-turned-photographer who has been based in Iraq since 2003. His blog is a mix of his own photography -- like this post on photographing women in a Muslim Country; interviews with other photographers; and advice on photographic techniques. One thing that impresses me about Heber, who's from Chile, has nothing to do with his pictures: he founded The ONE-SHOT Project, a nonprofit that teaches photography and multimedia skills to Iraqi children.
- Photo Philanthropy is well-known in photography circles for promoting photography for social change. Every year since 2009, the organization has granted awards for the best humanitarian photo stories from professional and amateur photographers (full disclosure: I entered the contest in its first year and didn't win). The blog features pictures, interviews with Photo Philanthropy award winners and grantees, and opportunities for photographers to work with nonprofits.
If you know any other humanitarian photo blogs that you like to visit, please share them with us in the comments. And don't forget to check out Bread for the World's Flickr stream and the Bread Blog for beautiful photos and compelling stories.
(Copyrighted photo courtesy of Esther Havens)
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on how U.S. farming is changing, and several updates on development campaigns such as the Half-in-Ten campaign and the Millennium Development Goals. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming. (Donoghue, Erik…et al. USDA/ERS, Dec. 2011): "Future innovations will be necessary to maintain, or boost, current productivity gains in order to meet the growing global demands that will be placed upon U.S. agriculture."
- Achieving the Right to Food: From Global Governance to National Implementation. (deSchutter, Olivier. UN Committee on World Food Security, Oct. 2011): "What he meant is that unless we take seriously our duties towards the most vulnerable, and the essential role of legal entitlements in ensuring that the poor have either the resources required to produce enough food for themselves or a purchasing power sufficient to procure food from the market, our efforts at increasing production shall change little to their situation."
- Cutting Poverty in Half in 10 Years: Tools for Action. (Half in Ten, Nov. 2011): "The Half in Ten campaign’s goal of cutting the U.S. poverty rate in half over the next decade goes beyond a simple examination of the number of people who fall below the official poverty level. The campaign recognizes that well-being is multidimensional and that moving above the official poverty line does not necessarily signal an end to deprivation."
- The Big Handout: How Government Subsidies and Corporate Welfare Corrupt the World We Live In and Wreak Havoc On Our Food Bills, by Kostigen, Thomas M. (Rodale, 2011).
- FWD: Famine, War, and Drought. (USAID): "Famine, war, and drought are threatening millions of lives in the Horn of Africa and the world should be talking about it. Do more than donate. FWD the facts."
- More Money or More Development: What Have the MDGs Achieved? (Kenny, Charles and Andy Sumner, Center for Global Development): "What have the MDGs achieved? And what might their achievements mean for any second generation of MDGs or MDGs 2.0? We argue that the MDGs may have played a role in increasing aid and that development policies beyond aid quantity have seen some limited improvement in rich countries (the evidence on policy change in poor countries is weaker)."
What would you do this Christmas if you had two little children to feed and all you had in your house was one banana? This was life for Heather Rude-Turner, a single mom working full-time. Even with her job, there just wasn’t enough to support her two kids, Naomi, 5, and Isaac, 3.
“I don’t eat a lot of times because I feel bad taking the food away from my kids. I have one banana in the house. If I cut it in half, they can each have half of the banana. I don’t need vitamins.”
Unfortunately, one in five families with children in America are struggling to put food on the table this Christmas season. They need your help.
Can you make a special Christmas gift today for hungry families? Your gift will enable Bread for the World to fight for programs that help parents feed their children.
The government programs that Bread advocated for over the years allowed Heather to get the help she needed so she could feed Naomi and Isaac. Heather recently completed her college degree, and in a few months she’ll be marrying her sweetheart, Mark.
But many families are experiencing a different story this Christmas. The economy has pushed more people into poverty. At the same time, all programs that are focused on helping hungry and poor people are under attack in Congress. If these programs are slashed, the cuts are going to cost lives. Children across America will be hungry.
Will you make a gift now to help us protect funding for programs that benefit hungry people?
We need your support to fight hunger. Please give a special Christmas gift today, and help families like Heather, Naomi, and Isaac.
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