Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

358 posts categorized "Global Hunger"

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)

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.

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."

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.

Africa Leaders Summit Coming to Washington, D.C. Aug 4-6

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A woman in Lusaka, Zambia, carries water from the well to her house. (Margaret W. Nea)

The White House will host a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week in Washington, D.C.  Bread for the World will urge the administration, Congress, and Africa's leaders to redouble their efforts to end hunger in Africa and around the world, encouraging support of three pieces of legislation that would make food aid more effective, enable farmers to grow more food, and open more trade options. 

“Progress in Africa shows that we can end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide in our time,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We celebrate the impressive progress by African nations but much more needs to be done to end hunger in Africa and worldwide."

 In a statement to the press, “Bread for the World Urges Redoubling of Efforts to End Hunger in Africa” released today, Beckmann outlined three key pieces of legislation for ending hunger in Africa:

S.2421, or the Corker-Coons bill, recently introduced in the Senate. It will be the first time that the U.S. food aid program will be extensively reformed and will make the program more effective.

The Feed the Future initiative.This program launched in 2010 and is already enabling smaller farmers in Africa to grow more food. Bread for the World urges Congress to pass legislation authorizing this successful program into law.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Passed in 2000, this act needs to be reauthorized next year. The next phase of AGOA should aim to increase, as it has, trade opportunities for African farmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

To participate in the events virtually, follow @bread4theworld on our Twitter feed and the event hashtags: #USAfricaSummit and #TheAfricaWeWant. Using social media, you can join the conversation and remind decision-makers that ending hunger in Africa and around the globe matters to people of faith.

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

To learn more, watch the video from Voice of America below. VOA’s Vincent Makori talks to Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Assistance Policy Analyst at Bread for the World, about the expectations of the U.S.-Africa Summit, feeding the future, and reaching the goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Smallholder Farmers Key to Ending Hunger—But They Need Support to Do It

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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.

African Faith Leaders Discuss Next Steps for the Millennium Development Goals

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Jane Sebbi, left, is a farmer with 12 acres of land in Kamuli, Uganda and a mother of seven children. In this photo she works in her field with her sister-in-law. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Kimberly Burge

In Africa, faith leaders are claiming a greater role in advocacy for people who are poor, based in the belief that “if one [part] body of the whole suffers, the whole body is unwell.” Partnerships are vital as we build on progress already made against global poverty and hunger. It’s also crucial that we hear from and include the voices of people in developing countries. 

Bread for the World President David Beckmann traveled to Uganda at the beginning of July to attend the African Faith Leaders’ Summit in Kampala. This unprecedented interfaith gathering brought together Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, and Hindu leaders from across the continent. Beckmann was one of only three faith representatives from outside Africa invited to attend the summit. He was invited to demonstrate to the African faith community that they have allies in the United States who stand in solidarity with them on development issues.

The group came together to discuss a development agenda that will follow up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Endorsed by 189 countries in 2000 the MDGs are an unprecedented global effort to achieve development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets—including cutting in half the proportion of people living in poverty. Every major region of the world made progress. The MDGs carry through December 2015. Bread for the World is an active participant in efforts to craft a post-2015 successor to the MDGs. The chair of the summit planning committee and secretary-general of the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), Rev. Nicta Lubaale, spoke at Bread’s National Gathering in June.

The African faith leaders developed and adopted a statement on the post-2015 goals. As they noted in a position paper that came out of the summit: “We recognize that the current global development framework, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), greatly improved coordination of global development priorities and have helped to shape thinking and action on the priorities for the well-being for a majority of developing countries. We also recognize that the MDGs were created through a top-down, closed door process with the consequence that they failed to engage and respond to the structural realities of people living in poverty. We are gratified that the process to define the post-2015 framework has been more participatory, inclusive, and attentive to the voices of those who live in poverty and are marginalized. This process is very important to us as it calls to conscience solidarity amongst our one human family, and challenges a growing peril in the globalization of indifference.”

Their concerns focused specifically on poverty and hunger; agriculture and nutrition; increased attention to women, youth, and people with disabilities; and governance issues and the need to fight corruption. The conference also stressed interfaith harmony at a time when violence in the name of Islam and Christian-Muslim conflict present major problems in several African countries.

Two heads of state addressed the summit: President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. The faith leaders were encouraged to become advocates on poverty and human need issues with their own governments. Conference organizers hope that this new network will encourage stronger faith-based advocacy on social justice issues over the years to come.

“It’s very gratifying to see the commitment and progress that OAIC and other faith partners are making,” Beckmann said. “For a long time in Africa, the church and faith community have focused mainly on charity. This unprecedented conference is a step toward increased efforts to shape policies that are important to poor and marginalized people.”

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

This is a Humanitarian Crisis

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Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

UPDATE: August 8, 2014

Before leaving for the August recess, House lawmakers passed a $694 million border bill, but failed to provide new funding to address the hunger, poverty, and violence causing the surge in unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. This debate is not over. Congress will revisit this issue when they return in September. In the meantime, your senators and representatives will be home throughout August. Take advantage of Bread's August recess resources, and raise this issue in town hall meetings, at the local district office, and other events.

By Eric Mitchell

Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.

A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.

A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.

Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.

There are two things you can do right now to help.

  1. Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
  2. 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.

The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.

Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.

While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.

If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.

The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Congress Recommends Cuts to Poverty-Focused Development Assistance Funding

FY15 Funding Recommendations No L.HHS

Recently, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their annual funding legislation for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other related agencies, known as the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill.  

Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet to determine funding levels for vital programs that affect hungry people here in the United States and abroad. On the international front, Bread for the World specifically follows the parts of the budget known as poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) accounts, which includes funding for various programs related to food and nutrition security, global health, basic education, water and sanitation, maternal and child care, refugee assistance, and emergency humanitarian response, to name just a few. 

While the House and Senate decided to recommend the same overall funding level for PFDA programs ($21.9 billion), this funding is slightly lower than current levels ($22.3 billion). Both the House and Senate made recommendations to cut global health programs, which includes funding for maternal and child health, nutrition, family planning, vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis, and tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

The Senate specifically approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future. In the House, a 21 percent cut to International Organizations and Programs was also made. Funding in this account is used to support U.S contributions to international organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Program.

Thanks in large part to Bread for the World members and their advocacy efforts, we have helped prevent even more severe cuts from being recommended, but we continue to call on Congress to provide additional funding for PFDA programs before finalizing funding levels for the next fiscal year.

Additional resources will help us support humanitarian aid efforts in places in conflict like Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Looking beyond emergency aid, we hope to not backtrack on the many investments we have made to long-term development programs over the years, such as with child survival.

These programs save lives. Due in part to American commitments, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past 12 years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.

As these children grow into adults, their survival has the potential to translate into even greater stories of improved economic and social well-being, with benefits felt far beyond their households and country borders—even back on American shores. Congress must continue its vital role in ensuring this becomes a reality by increasing PFDA funding levels in the upcoming fiscal year.  

 

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