Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

199 posts categorized "Foreign Aid"

Two Billion People Suffer from ‘Hidden Hunger’

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A student who benefits from a USAID funded feeding program in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Kimberly Burge

According to a new report released this week, a staggering 2 billion people do not get the essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. They remain undernourished, suffering from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

The annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) is released jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe (one of Germany's largest private development organizations), and Concern Worldwide. The 2014 report finds that, while great strides have been made to feed the world, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they do not get enough to eat. Even those who get sufficient calories can suffer from hidden hunger, an often overlooked yet critical aspect of hunger and nutrition.

Hidden hunger is often hard to detect, but is potentially devastating. Hidden hunger weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death. It wreaks economic havoc as well, locking countries into cycles of poor nutrition, lost productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth.

Bread for the World Institute has explored the issue of hidden hunger in several previous Hunger Reports. Frontline Issues in Nutrition Assistance: Hunger Report 2006 recommended food fortification and the addition of vitamin and mineral supplements to nutrition programs to help boost the health and nutritional status of those who are malnourished. For example, iodine deficiency causes problems with cognitive development and remains the world’s single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. But developing countries are making efforts to add iodine to household salt, efforts that are paying off. Between 1997 and 2002, 67 percent of all households in sub-Saharan Africa were consuming iodized salt, along with 53 percent in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; 80 percent in East Asia; and 91 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Welthungerhilfe president Bärbel Dieckmann. “In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food.”

Hidden hunger is not found exclusively in developing countries, however. It crosses borders and exists here in the United States as well, as the Institute’s Senior Editor Todd Post saw while researching Hunger Report 2012.

“In Philadelphia, I visited emergency rooms with Dr. Mariana Chilton, head of Witnesses to Hunger, who recruited women to participate in Witnesses first by targeting mothers who brought their babies to the emergency room for something they thought was unrelated to hunger,” recalls Post. “The children were suffering from a condition known as ‘failure to thrive,’ a precursor to stunting, which was malnutrition related.”

“Failure to thrive” is the clinical term for a child severely underweight for her age. Witnesses to Hunger was born out of Children’s HealthWatch, a multi-city research project that is studying the effects of hunger on the health and well-being of young children. The project screens children in emergency rooms and ambulatory care clinics at five medical centers across the country, since undernourished children have higher rates of hospitalization.

To read more about Witnesses to Hunger and Dr. Chilton’s work, see p. 52-53 of Rebalancing Act: 2012 Hunger Report.  

There was good news to be found in this year’s Global Hunger Index. The number of people going hungry has steadily decreased in most developing countries. Since 1990, hunger in the developing world has fallen by 39 percent, and 26 countries have reduced their scores by 50 percent or more. Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam have seen the greatest improvements in their scores between the 1990 GHI and the 2014 GHI.

And bad news, too: Levels of hunger are still “alarming” in 14 countries, and “extremely alarming” in two, Burundi and Eritrea.

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

Join Us on Twitter for a World Food Day Town Hall

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Every year on October 16, the global community pauses to celebrate World Food Day and raise the profile of the ongoing struggle to end hunger and poverty. This year’s celebration will focus on the 500 million small family farms, which help feed the world. 

The majority of these family farms are in developing countries, and most are run by women. They contribute in critical ways to local economies, support sustainable development, and provide nutritious food to billions of people. They are crucial partners in the effort to end hunger by 2030. That’s why @Bread4theWorld and @WorldFoodPrize are encouraging our supporters and partners to do their part to advocate for and on behalf of small farmers.

In honor of World Food Day, October 16, @Bread4theWorld and @WorldFoodPrize Foundation will moderate a Twitter Town Hall at 11 a.m. CT (12 noon, ET). Our chat will focus on the critical role small farmers play in the fight to end hunger by 2030 and how each of us can play our part, too. 2010 World Food Prize laureate and Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann (@davidbeckmann) and 2014 World Food Prize laureate Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (#RajWFP) will lead this public discussion with partners, bloggers, and leaders who are working together to end  hunger once and for all.

Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter on Thursday, October 16 at 11 am CT (12 noon ET) using #WorldFoodDay. And please share about the Twitter town hall with your network through social media channels, blogs, websites, and emails before the event.

Crippling All of Humanity: A Reporter’s Reflection on Seeing Child Malnutrition

By Robin Stephenson

Earlier this year, PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan traveled to Guatemala and saw the effects of malnourishment firsthand. Malnutrition, he saw, diminishes human growth, but also the future growth of a country’s economy.

Half of Guatemala’s children lack access to nutritious foods in the first two years of life. They will never reach their full potential. Physically and mentally stunted for life, malnutrition leads to health problems and reduced mental capacity. In turn, this leaves a country with a weak labor force.

Sreenivasan met one-year-old Lidia Chumil, whose diet typically consists of beans and herbs. Her mother does not have access to the nutrients she needs to feed her daughter. Baby Lidia is underweight and small for her age. It is unlikely she can ever regain what she has lost.

Reducing child malnutrition is a complex problem that requires new ways of thinking. Guatemala’s minister of food security, Luis Enrique Monterroso, told Sreenivasan that a focus on poverty interventions in the past did not work. Today, the Guatemalan government targets malnutrition.

Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) would agree that addressing malnutrition is key. In a recent contribution to The Hill, they write, “Specifically, addressing malnutrition requires coordinated planning and programming of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across multiple sectors, including agriculture, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, social protection and humanitarian assistance programs.”

The congressmen go on to laud the recent introduction of a USAID nutrition strategy that will strengthen the impact of federal dollars by coordinating programs and resources across government agencies. “[The strategy] also acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can significantly impact a nation’s GDP potential, as well as other economic and social costs,” they write.

As a partner, the United States can bolster efforts by the Guatemalan government with new foreign assistance programs that also target malnutrition. The Feed the Future initiative, legislation that takes a multi-sectorial approach to ending hunger, was introduced in both chambers of Congress. The legislation develops a whole-of-government strategy that supports country ownership, nutrition, and food security.

More than Guatemala’s future is economically stunted by malnutrition. There is a global price to pay.  It is estimated that childhood malnutrition will cost the global economy some $125 billion in lost GDP growth by 2030. Not to mention, hunger is presently driving children to flee Guatemala for the United States, creating an immediate crisis on our border.

Although Sreenivasan saw malnutrition up close, in a personal reflection, he steps back and takes a global view. “The question I’m left wondering is what becomes of a world where a significant portion of the population grows up without even the basic nutritional foundation to give them a shot at anything else,” he writes.  “As the business leaders in our piece say, from an economic perspective, that kind of inequality will cripple the productivity potential of entire countries. But from a human perspective, it seems like it will cripple us all.”

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Ask Congressional Candidates: More War or Less Hunger?

14993376395_5036a73b4c_kBy Stephen Padre

We are hearing of war and rumors of war yet again as a gruesome story develops over ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. With reports of beheadings of American and British citizens, diplomatic, military, and political leaders are debating how to respond to the newest terror threat in the Middle East.

Bread for the World is watching these events out of a concern for the way the situation may create more hunger in the region. When there is war or conflict, there are often refugees and displaced people, and hunger often increases. Religious leaders are also concerned about the unfolding crisis, including Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, a partner of Bread.

In a Sept. 12 Huffington Post editorial titled “War Is Not the Answer,” Wallis presents arguments mainly about the political and military dangers of going to war again. “[W]ars often fail to solve the problems and ultimately make them worse,” he writes. He argues that a result of the previous war in Iraq was to bring us to the present situation with ISIS, to the brink of another armed intervention.

Bread is concerned not only about the humanitarian situation that a new conflict could create, but also about the attention the conflict could draw away from ending hunger. This escalation could suck huge amounts of time and money away from efforts toward ending hunger and poverty. While debates heat up over how the United States might lead in a military intervention against ISIS, the U.S. government could also get more serious about leading the world in ending hunger.

We have a window of opportunity to encourage our federal government to make ending hunger a priority. In the campaigns for Senate and House seats, which will end with the mid-term elections on November 4, candidates are courting votes from concerned citizens. The next eight weeks of campaigning are one of the best times for citizens and others in the electorate to get the attention of potential decision makers in Congress. Bread has materials to help you make hunger an election issue.

 Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Photo: A child looking through fencing in the Hittein Refugee Camp, Zarqa, Jordan, 2014. (USAID)

Return from Recess

Capitol 2
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

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:

Food-Aid Reform

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.

On September 11th, Remember and Recommit

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Children in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan (USAID)

By Stephen Padre

Today, September 11, is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. While we solemnly remember the thousands of lives lost and the destruction of some of our national symbols and other property, we should also remember the other fallout from that day: years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where there is war and conflict, there is often hunger.

Our government took the lead in those wars in what it called a pursuit of justice and peace and a protection of Americans’ way of life. As a result, Afghanistan and Iraq are much different places politically than they were several years ago. Yet these countries still struggle mightily with poverty and hunger. The largest assistance program of the U.S. Agency for International Development, our government’s main anti-hunger agency, is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the U.S. government still has a large military, diplomatic, and humanitarian presence in Iraq, even with a drawdown of troops there.

In the same way that our government took decisive military action in these countries, our government can and should take the lead in addressing poverty and ending hunger there. This has been Bread for the World’s call for the world over – for the U.S. government to do its part, to make hunger a priority and to end it by 2030. When the way of life of an Afghan or Iraqi child is conflict and hunger every day, then our government and we as Americans must do our part to offer that child protection.

For Americans, September 11 was a day of catastrophe, a disaster in our homeland. Today is a day of remembrance. Let’s also make it a day to remember the ongoing “silent disaster” of hunger that will occur on September 12 and every day thereafter in Afghanistan and Iraq, in South Sudan and Central America. And let’s bring the disaster of hunger to an end one day soon.

Stephen Padre is managing editor at Bread for the World.

Ebola Crisis Expected to Become a Food Crisis

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Members of a women’s farming group harvest rice in Liberia. (David Benafel, USAID FED)

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.

 

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

Capitol
(Joseph Molieri/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.

The Perfect Food: Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

Pisano program
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Breastfeeding was not something I expected to be a key point in a sermon on hunger, until I heard Rev. Dr. James Forbes.

“In God’s world, food is not negotiable,” said the renowned preacher to those gathered for a homiletics course in Portland, Oregon, last year. He paused to let the statement sink in. “God made the arrangement that every child has food to eat.”

Rev. Forbes was talking about breastfeeding. Women are designed to produce not just food, but the perfect food.

Earlier in the year, I visited a local WIC clinic – a domestic nutrition program designed to help women, infants, and children at nutritional risk. Walking in the door, I was greeted by a poster on the wall. One side of the sheet was a short list of the ingredients in formula with a lot of hard-to-pronounce words. The other side included the long list of what comprises breast milk – ingredients that change over time with the baby’s nutritional needs. Wow, I thought, God is an amazing creator!

It is World Breastfeeding Week, a yearly campaign to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. The perfect food is a key resource in combatting hunger and malnutrition.

Globally, malnutrition leads to about 3 million deaths of children under five each year – deaths that could be prevented. There is a critical1,000-day “window of opportunity” between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday where nutrition is vitally important. Investments in nutrition interventions can prevent stunting and other harmful consequences of malnutrition. Nutrients received through breastfeeding provide important protections to fight infection and disease. Malnutrition, especially in children under age 2, can affect brain development, cognitive performance, and even earning potential later in life. Yet, only 37 percent of the world’s babies are breastfed for the recommended six months.

World leaders are starting to see nutrition as an ingredient of economic growth. In this week’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said, “We invest so much in infrastructure, in bridges and roads. But most important is grey matter. We really need to invest in that.” It was reported from the Summit that poorly fed children rob Africa of up to 16 percent of its potential growth. Exclusive breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition is one of the best investments Africa can make – one of the best investments every country should make in their children.

Lawmakers in the United States have a role to play. The United States has a global nutrition strategy through USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development), but Congress has proposed budget cuts to international programs that promote nutrition. Domestic nutrition programs like WIC, which help American mothers learn about breastfeeding, have seen their funding shrink over the last few years.

Adequate funding for programs that invest in nutrition both here and abroad is a smart investment. After all, in God’s world, food is not negotiable.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

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 Grandmothers in Jinja, Uganda. The proportion of undernourished people in the developing world decreased from 23.2 percent in 1990–1992 to 14.9 percent in 2010–2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"Among other success stories, growth and sustainability in Africa are a testament to the fact that targeted foreign assistance works. The sub-Saharan African countries that received the most assistance in the past 10 years have made, on average, twice as much progress in areas like health and literacy as the continent overall.”

-David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, writes about this year’s U.S.-Africa Summit in a Huffington Post piece, “Africa Restores Our Belief That Ending Hunger Is Possible.” 

Beckman highlights three pieces of legislation that will maintain progress on ending extreme poverty on the continent of Africa and across the globe. The Corker-Coons bill (S.2421) to reform food aid, the Feed the Future initiative, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are all critical pieces of legislation that Congress should pass to redouble our efforts to end hunger around the world.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

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