Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

217 posts categorized "Foreign Aid"

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."

They Are Our Children

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Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Rev. Carlos L. Malavé

The most important responsibility of the Church is to promote, nurture, and protect human life and dignity. When the Church relinquishes this duty because of political expediency, or even in defense of its theological and ideological convictions, it loses its moral grounding and credibility.

The Church is called to be the most unequivocal expression of the heart and conscience of Christ. The way we respond to the cries of the children of God either affirms our legitimacy or exposes our failure. Our allegiance is not to the political, theological, or sociological winds of the time. Our allegiance is to the one who will call us into account when the last act of the human drama wraps up.

Every follower of Christ, every minister, and every local congregation must offer refuge to those seeking freedom, healing, and salvation. Our ears cannot become deaf to the words of Jesus: “Because you did it unto one of these little ones, you have done it unto me.”

In an introduction to a published sermon of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American Dream,” Bishop T.D. Jakes, Sr. says, “It would appear to me that in many ways our country has lowered its head into the soft satiny pillow of apathy. We have been lulled to sleep by indifference and rest in the vain pursuit of economical images of success while a stone’s throw away there are children dying in the streets” (A Knock at Midnight, p. 79).

There are children dying in the streets of Chicago and Philadelphia, and there are also children dying in the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande. They are our children. They are our children because we are one human family. The children of Salvadorian, Honduran, and Guatemalan families are as human and as important as my own three children. How can anyone think that their own children have the right to live in peace and security while denying this same right to others?

Pastors and members of our congregations must guard their souls from apathy and the callousness that pervade our political and economic systems. We are called to be Christ to all, but in a very intentional and biased way, we must be Christ to destitute, hungry, and oppressed people. Our actions, care, and concern for poor people reveal the presence or absence of the living Christ in us.

The Church in the United States must seize this incredible opportunity. We are followers of the one who said, “Let the children come to me…” (Luke 18:16). How do we dare to send them away? The Church is responsible before God’s eyes to live—or even to die—in the pursuit and defense of human live and dignity. Christ is in the journey with our children. Christ is a witness of our actions. Christ is also calling us.

Rev. Carlos L. Malavé is the executive director of Christian Churches Together, an ecumenical organization that brings together a wide variety of denominations and organizations to build relationships with each other. Bread for the World is a participating organization.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter

Africa Can Inspire America in Fighting Hunger

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The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. Kenyan Farmer. (ACDI/VOCA)

A few minutes ago, Bread for the World President David Beckmann addressed the 13th U.S.-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, one of the official events leading to the historic U.S.-Africa Summit next week.

He focused his speech on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its role in opening the continent’s economies and building free markets. Since 1981, Bread has maintained a long-standing focus on African development. We helped to pass the first AGOA legislation in 2000 and have been actively involved in AGOA ever since.

Beckmann in particular addressed broader efforts to fight hunger and poverty worldwide, and how African countries can inspire the United States in this effort. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

 I want to talk about AGOA in the context of the world’s remarkable progress against hunger and poverty.

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world in 2015 will be roughly half what it was in 1990. This progress against material misery is unprecedented.   I’m a preacher, so I see this great liberation as an exodus—an example of our loving God moving in our history.

Africa’s economic and political progress is an important part of this story.  The percentage of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa in extreme poverty has dropped from about 60 percent in 1990 to less than 50 percent today. The fraction of the African population that suffers from hunger has dropped from one-third to one-quarter.

Africans are often surprised to learn that many people in the United States still struggle with poverty and hunger.  It’s not nearly as severe as poverty and hunger in Africa. But ironically, we have not managed to reduce poverty and hunger in the United States since 1990.  So shifting from an aid-dominated relationship to a mutually advantageous business relationship is not only good for Africa. It is also politically important in this country that our relationship with Africa is visibly good for workers and consumers here. 

Let me suggest that Africa’s progress can also be an inspiration for the United States.  Many Americans have become discouraged about the possibility of reducing hunger and poverty. They are willing to help out at a local soup kitchen, but they no longer believe that it is possible to change laws and systems in ways that will dramatically reduce poverty.

What you have done in much of Africa to overcome huge problems demonstrates the feasibility of economic progress for the rest of the world.  Indeed, the nations of the world are converging around the goal of ending extreme poverty and hunger in all countries, including this country, by the year 2030.

The launch of AGOA 15 years ago was a significant step forward in Africa’s development, and 15 years from now we’ll look back the new partnership between Africa and the United States as another step forward toward the end of extreme poverty and hunger in both Africa and the United States.

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