Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

125 posts categorized "Millennium Development Goals"

Good News from Africa

'Africa in hearts' photo (c) 2008, futureatlas.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

What could have possibly caused the notoriously high-brow magazine, The Economist, to admit regret? Africa's economic growth.

In a Dec. 3, 2011, article, “Africa’s Hopeful Economies: The Sun Shines Bright,” The Economist noted that a decade ago, they had regrettably labeled Africa “the hopeless continent.” But today, signs of economic growth had The Economist telling a different story.

While reporting from Africa tends to focus on the dire circumstances of famine, poverty, war, and disease, The Economist is bringing attention to the good news about Africa: business in some parts of the continent is expanding, forming a small, increasingly stable middle class.

Of course, the signs of Africa’s economic growth need to be tempered with caveats that the continent still has a long way to go. But national economies are growing faster than any other region of the world. The article points to Ethiopia as an exemplar.

At least a dozen have expanded by more than 6 percent a year for six or more years. Ethiopia will grow by about 7.5 percent this year, without a drop of oil to export. Once a byword for famine, it is now the world’s tenth-largest producer of livestock. Nor is its wealth monopolized by a well-connected clique. Embezzlement is still common but income distribution has improved in the past decade.

Another hopeful sign is the decrease in Africa’s child mortality rate.

As for Africans below the poverty line – the majority of the continent’s billion people – disease and hunger are still a big problem. Out of 1,000 children 118 will die before their fifth birthday. Two decades ago the figure was 165. Such progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, a series of poverty-reduction milestones set by the United Nations, is slow and uneven. But it is not negligible.

Bread for the World is committed to advocating for policies that will help nations achieve the Millennium Development Goals precisely for the kind of progress that The Economist is reporting out of Africa. Famine, war, drought, and disease continue to plague African nations, but there are glimmers of hope. With a healthier generation of 20- to 30-year-olds, a bona fide economic boom that lifts all boats and draws more people out of poverty might not be far off.

Jeannie-choiJeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World.


In Congo, Many Can No Longer Afford to Eat Every Day

The New York Times reported today that many residents of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have adopted strict food rationing schedules—some family members eat one day, other family members eat the next.

Extreme measures such as this one, called délestage (French for “power cut”), have become necessary in poorer households in the DRC, a nation that, according to the report, is suffering from record-breaking food insecurity:

Ten years ago, even poor Congolese could expect to eat one substantial meal a day — perhaps cassava, a starchy root, with some palm oil, and a little of the imported frozen fish that is a staple here. But in the last three years, even that certainty has dropped away, said Dr. Eric Tollens, an expert on nutrition in Congo at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, where he is an emeritus professor at the Center for Agricultural and Food Economics.

Dr. Tollens blamed the “total neglect of agriculture by the government,” which is fixated on the lucrative extraction of valuable minerals like copper and cobalt. Less than 1 percent of the Congolese national budget, he said, goes to agriculture. Foreign donors finance “all agricultural projects,” he said, and “massive amounts of food” are imported in this rich land, so food is expensive.

In fact, as Bread for the World Institute reported in its 2011 Hunger Report, in the years since 1997, when longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was deposed, the country been suffering through a terrible cycle of violence and food insecurity:

Despite a large peacekeeping presence, sporadic violence continues to threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people in the DRC. Economic growth has been slow but positive since 2002, a welcome sign given the connections between conflict and growth rates. Yet enormous challenges remain. The country has the highest rate of hunger of any country in the world: Seventy percent of the population is undernourished. Violence against women, including rape, is pervasive.

Most disturbing is the effect of délestage on the children of the DRC, particulary because malnourished children under 2 years old suffer irreversible damage to their physical and cognitive development. Ghislaine Berbok, one of the parents interviewed for the Times story, demonstrates grim resolve when asked about how her children are coping with the food restrictions. “Yes, sure they ask for food, but we don’t have any … at night they will be weak … But there is nothing we can do.”

Jeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World.

Educating the Future, One Child at a Time

Picture 3
Screenshot from "Educate the Future" by the Global Campaign for Education.

“To get to school, I had to walk barefoot three miles, uphill both ways.”

You might be used to hearing this joke, poking fun at our parents’ and grandparents’ views on how “kids today” have got it so easy, compared to what they had to endure in order to receive an education. But all over the world, there are millions of “kids today” who are actually living this reality every day.

Around the world, 69 million children don’t have easy access to education, if they have the opportunity to go to school at all, according to the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), an organization dedicated to promoting access to education as a human right. Nearly 250 million children have to work in order to help their families get by, and it’s hard enough to study for hours without having to worry about helping your family pay their day to day bills … especially when you’re a child.

The GCE is trying to change those figures, by organizing faith-based groups, NGOs, foundations, teachers unions, and other organizations to create a coalition to advocate for a greater emphasis on education as a priority in poverty-focused development assistance.

In a new video showcasing some of the group’s youngest activists, teenage students stand in front of the Capitol building, spelling out “Education for All” with a paper-chain of links decorated by other supporters of the initiative.

One girl emphatically states that she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, but that she thinks that’s the beauty of education — because it gives her the opportunity to choose from so many potential career paths. For many children around the world, the chance to simply have a career is more than they can ask for.

Hopefully someday, the parents worldwide who had to say, “I walked miles without shoes to get to school,” will have children who will  someday joke about it as well—because everyone will have easy access to quality education, and “those days” will just be a memory.  

To learn more about the Global Campaign for Education, watch the video below or check out their website at campaignforeducation.org

Emily-Warner Emily Warne is a communications intern at Bread for the World.


Moringa: The Miracle Nutrition Tree that Could Prevent Malnutrition

Moringa leaves are from very nutritious trees that grow in sub-tropical climates and are most prevalent in parts of the world with high malnutrition rates. Photo by Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World.

Most of us are familiar with the fictional story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack trades the family cow for some magical beans that grow overnight into a giant stalk. Jack climbs the stalk and discovers untold riches, such as a hen that lays golden eggs, and bags of gold.

Well, what if I told you that I know of a special tree that could prevent malnutrition and some diseases, and it’s not magic or fiction?

The tree I'm speaking of is the Moringa tree. Nutrition experts say the tiny Moringa leaves could help save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world. When I was in Malwai this past October, I saw women who live in the southern Malawi village of Jombo sprinkle powdered Moringa into their daily meals.

Women in Jombo grind Moringa into a powder and use it when they cook their meals. One-half cup of cooked Moringa leaves will satisfy the daily requirement for vitamins A and C. Photo by Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World.

The leaves are a few inches long, but their nutritional value puts a multivitamin to shame. Gram for gram, Moringa leaves have a whopping seven times the vitamin C of oranges; four times the vitamin A of carrots; four times the calcium of milk; three times the potassium of bananas; and twice the protein of yogurt. (Learn more here.) Furthermore, according to the organization Trees for Life, Moringa also contains two very important amino acids that help infants grow and develop.

Experts say Moringa could become a valuable food source and nutritional supplement for malnourished children and pregnant mothers in the developing world. A study conducted in Senegal by Church World Service and Alternative Action for African Development examined how successful Moringa leaf powder could be in preventing or curing malnutrition in pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children. The results showed that the children maintained or increased their weight, and the women were less anemic and gave birth to healthier babies.

While Moringa may not grow into a giant stalk that leads to riches, its tiny leaves could help save the lives of millions of children and ensure that, like Jack, they will live happily ever after.

Racine-Tucker-HamiltonRacine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager for Bread for the World.


Living in Hope: HIV/AIDS in Uganda and St. Francis Health Care Services

This red dirt road leads to St. Francis Health Care Services, an HIV/AIDS clinic in Jinja, Uganda, near the source of the Nile River.  (Video story at the end of this blog post.)

At the end of a red dirt road, near the source of the Nile River is St. Francis Health Care Services, an HIV/AIDS clinic serving some of the poorest people in Jinja District, Uganda. The power is out at the clinic, but no one is fazed.

The pharmacists continue to dispense medicine to their patients out of their small office, as sunlight streams through windows despite the drawn curtains. The medical assistants continue to diagnose patients, who wait their turn while sitting in blue plastic chairs in the hallway. And Faustine Ngarambe -- founder and executive director of St. Francis Health Care Services -- continues to work on plans to expand the clinic's programs, which serve about 600 people per week.

"HIV is not only a health issue; it’s economical, it is psychological, it is even a cultural taboo -- all of those things," said Ngarambe. He doesn't have a medical background, but in 2009, he won the Parliamentary HIV/AIDS Leadership Award from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

St. Francis offers its patients services that heal not only the body, but the mind as well: counseling, nutrition and agriculture education, financial assistance, support groups for young people and grandmothers, and more. It's this kind of holistic approach to HIV/AIDS care that has made Uganda an oft-cited role model for decreasing HIV/AIDS rates. HIV prevalence in Uganda is currently at 6 to 7 percent, according to a UNAIDS report released yesterday, down from about 14 percent in 1990, according to this UNAIDS study from 2010.

Ngarambe became interested in HIV/AIDS care in 1989 while working as a missionary in Kenya. A Ugandan friend was HIV positive, but wouldn't disclose his diagnosis; the stigma was too great.

"He was dying silently within himself," said Ngarambe. "And when he was brought back to Uganda for burial, even his parents did not even view the body."

When Ngarambe returned Uganda, he and four colleagues started St. Francis Health Care Services. The clinic has grown from just five staff members and no permanent facilities in 1998, to 37 staff members, 100 community volunteers, and two permanent treatment facilities in 2011.

In a grassy field near St. Francis's main building sits Ngarambe's latest project: A maternity ward -- half-finished and in need of more funding -- that will specialize in prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmision. The ward is a result of the United Nations designation of Uganda as one of 22 priority countries for eliminating mother-to-child transmission.

St. Francis receives financial support from local and international sources, including the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Nile Breweries, but finances -- as well as a lack of enough equipment, space, and staff -- are always a concern. In addition, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said last week it will cut funding to several countries, including Uganda. This could hurt the nationwide effort to fight AIDS.

Still, Ngarambe presses forward.

"The thing that motivates me very much," he said, "is because I've touched peoples' lives and restored -- as our slogan -- restoring hope and dignity of the people who have been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic."

Laura-elizabeth-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World.


While We Feast, Africa Prepares for Hunger Season

In early 2011, Desire came to Omoana House, a rehabiliation center in Njeru, Uganda, as a malnourished young girl. But with proper healthcare and feeding -- including nutrition supplements provided by USAID -- she has grown healthy. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, we have officially entered the holiday season! It seems as if there is a "season" for just about everything. Many of us are finding special ways to show our gratitude and preparing special meals during this Thanksgiving season. And then, just as soon as we've eaten the last turkey salad sandwich made from leftovers, we will have already shifted into high gear for the holiday shopping season. Preparing for these various seasons is usually a semi-exciting time filled with great anticipation. However, there is one season many families who live in African countries dread; nonetheless, they prepare for it even though the season may inevitably end with starvation.

I'm speaking of the "hunger season," which is a period when the old crop is gone and the new crop isn’t ready for harvest yet. The food stockpiles are near empty. I had never heard of the hunger season until I traveled to East Africa back in October. Everyone from doctors to business executives, and government officials to mothers spoke about the hunger season when some will die from starvation -- even children.

During the hunger season, the malnutrition ward at the University Training Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, is bursting with pediatric patients. The 60-bed unit usually has two children to each bed, and each child is being treated for acute malnutrition. These children are the lucky ones; many will never make it to hospital and will become victims of the hunger season.

This Thanksgiving, take time to remember our brothers and sisters in Africa who are enduring the hunger season, and please join me as I pray with hope that one day there will no longer be a hunger season on this earth.

Racine-Tucker-HamiltonRacine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager at Bread for the World.


Second Lady Jill Biden Lends Her Voice to End Hunger

Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden spoke at Bread for the World's annual New York gala on Nov. 17 in New York City. Photo by Mark Abramson for Bread for the World.

This past Sunday, Nov. 20, marked the fourth month since famine was declared in Somalia and people are still dying from hunger, many of them children.  More than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa are affected and that number will surely increase.

Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden told a group gathered for Bread for the World's annual New York gala last week that she asked herself what she could do to help.  A few days after asking herself this question, she arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where she met desperate mothers who had walked for days hoping to find food for their starving children.

“I spent time with a mother who had walked for 15 days with her four malnourished children. Her baby was sick with diarrhea, an ailment which seems minor to us, but in this circumstance is often fatal,” said Biden. “Like many of the women in the camps, this mother had walked day and night, through very dangerous conditions to try to save her children.”

She told the group of 200 attendees that for nearly 40 years, Bread for the World has viewed ending global hunger as a "moral imperative."

“Our faith tells us that we must give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and shelter to the poor.  That commitment to the most vulnerable among us is grounded in our belief that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity,” said Biden. “The crucially important work of Bread for the World recognizes that dignity and strives to preserve it – especially in the most dire situations.”

We must urge the U.S. government to continue to support humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa. According to the Famine Early Warning System Network, Somalia can expect another month of famine. That’s another month when children will die needlessly.

Racine-Tucker-HamiltonRacine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager at Bread for the World.


The 2012 Hunger Report is Here!

111117-hungerreportRebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, the 2012 edition of Bread for the World Institute's annual Hunger Report, was released today, November 21. This is the Institute's 22nd annual report. Few of them have been as timely, considering the looming budget cuts Congress is negotiating.

The report argues that U.S. farm policies need to shift toward production of healthy foods. We say bluntly that current farm policies are doing a poor job of contributing to a healthy food system. There is too much support for ingredients used to produce cheap junk foods, and not enough support for foods that promote good health.

The greater share of government support to the farm sector goes to the biggest producers. Smaller producers and producers of healthy foods — i.e., fruits and vegetables — get little or no support. It's been this way for decades, but Americans are expressing more concern than ever about what we're eating and what we're getting for our tax dollars to the farm sector. The local food movement, with its emphasis on "smaller is better," is helping to reshape the farm policy debate. Farm policies are not solely to blame for Americans' low consumption of fruits and vegetables — but U.S. farms don't even produce enough healthy foods for our population to get its recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals. We need to ask, what are farm policies really trying to accomplish?

The report is not a diatribe against large-scale farming. We recognize the value of production agriculture in lowering food costs. The biggest beneficiaries of low food prices are low-income people – the people most vulnerable to hunger, who are therefore Bread for the World's main concern. Food production could also be a key component of the country's economic recovery strategy, a potential source of jobs. In tough times with so many people out of work, the hobbling U.S. economy simply can't afford to ignore these possibilities. 

The greatest economic challenge facing the United States, bar none, is the rising cost of health care. Obesity as a contributor to these costs is getting more attention as the problem affects more and more Americans. Hunger, on the other hand, is often overlooked as a health issue—but hungry people are by definition in poor health. Together, the costs of obesity and hunger run into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This calls for a much stronger tie between the foods government encourages farmers to produce and the foods government should be encouraging people to eat.

We need bolder, more determined thinking about how policies can better meet the needs that the world is now facing. The 2012 Hunger Report has plenty of ideas to move us in the right direction.

 +View or order the 2012 Hunger Report at www.bread.org/hungerreport.

Todd-postTodd Post is senior editor with Bread for the World Institute.



Project Peanut Butter: A Miracle Food for Malnourished Children

Chiponde is a nutritional supplement that helps malnourished children recover their health. Each packet contains 500 calories; the USDA estimates young children need between 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day while older children and adolescents need between 1,400 to 3,200 calories per day. (Photo by Racine Tucker-Hamilton)

Peanut butter is comfort food for many American children and has been known to provide fairy princesses the right amount of sustenance to decorate a castle, and tiny knights enough energy to slay imaginary dragons.  But one would be hard-pressed to say that peanut butter has actually saved an American child’s life.

That's why it's fascinating to learn that in many African countries and the developing world, a peanut butter-based product is saving the lives of severely malnourished children. While in Africa last month, I had the opportunity to visit “Project Peanut Butter,” a Blantyre, Malawi factory where it is produced. The brand name is Plumpy’Nut but Project Peanut Butter’s version is called Chiponde.

The small, unassuming package of Chiponde is about the size of a three-by-five index card and weighs a meager three ounces, but packs a whopping 500 calories. The ready-to-use therapeutic food product is made from peanut butter, sugar, oil, milk powder and is chock-full of micronutrients.  I had an opportunity to taste it and I see why kids gobble it up.  It reminded me of the filling inside of a peanut butter cookie.  While taste may be important to the children who use it, accessibility, effectiveness, and cost are why it’s being touted by scientists and food policy experts as the newest weapon in the fight against childhood hunger.

Children who are suffering from acute malnutrition eat Chiponde for several weeks. Because of its convenience, mothers are able to treat their children at home instead of at a medical facility.  This is important because Project Peanut Butter officials say the home treatment option carries a 95 percent recovery rate, compared with just 40 percent for children who are treated in hospitals or clinics.

Project Peanut Butter helps  support Blantyre by purchasing its main ingredients from local farmers and hiring employees from the community. The factory opened in 2004, and with a small amount of U.S. government funding for machinery, they have steadily increased production each year. The company employs nearly two dozen workers and recently expanded its outreach beyond its borders.  Last summer Project Peanut Butter sent 4,000 boxes of Chiponde to the Horn of Africa to assist famine victims. The request was for 7,000 boxes, but the company was unable to fulfill the order due to Malawi’s pending "hunger season," – the season when the old crop is gone and the new crop isn’t ready for harvest – and the hospitals and clinics will begin admitting severely malnourished children.

The Project Peanut Butter factory in Blantayre, Malawi, produces Chiponde with financial assistance from USAID. Most malnourished kids will eat the nutritional supplement for six weeks.

Chiponde is used to treat malnourished children so that they can grow up to be healthy, like these kids posing with Bread for the World's Racine Tucker-Hamilton in the Jombo village in southern Malawi.

Racine-Tucker-HamiltonRacine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager at Bread for the World.


Mission1: How the UCC Plans to Tackle Global Hunger by 11.11.11

These days there is a buzz throughout the United Church of Christ and it has to do with a program called Mission1. There has been growing excitement about the launch of this new coordinated effort to address the needs of hungry people in the United States and abroad. From 11.1.11 (Nov. 1, 2011)  to 11.11.11 (Nov. 11, 2011), we are working together as one United Church of Christ to collect more than 1 million food items for local food banks; raise $111,111 in online donations for Neighbors in Need and $111,111 for East Africa famine relief; and write 11,111 letters to Congress.

Mission 1 is an opportunity for us to live an answer to Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one.” All settings of the United Church of Christ –– local churches, conferences, associations, and various national settings, as well as UCC-related colleges, seminaries and social service agencies –– have been invited to participate in what is a unified endeavor within a designated time frame.

This missional effort is grounded in one of our core values. That value is changing lives. We believe that our engagement in Mission1 will change the lives of those who are served with direct food aid, program grants, and improvements in governmental policy regarding foreign aid. We also hold that we will be changed in the process -- as our awareness of the issue of poverty-related hunger increases and our resolve to advocate for change in government policy grows ever stronger.

By setting measurable goals and establishing an accessible means for everyone to monitor those goals, we are challenging ourselves to do more and to do better. Local churches and other organizations participating in Mission1 can go to our website, ucc.org, and report their food and letter contributions and make online gifts to Mission1. Each day during Mission1, we are able to measure our progress toward achieving our goals.

Because we are well aware that hunger is a reality that far exceeds the giving capacity of all churches and nonprofit relief agencies, Mission1 is also about public policy advocacy. Changes in government food policy are essential if we are to see meaningful and sustained change in basic nutrition, which of course is an essential aspect of human life.

Of course, historically, advocacy has been a component to our approach to this issue. Public policy advocacy is integral to addressing the needs of hungry people at home and abroad, who are children of God and our sisters and brothers. Our Justice and Witness Ministries and our Wider Church Ministries staff and volunteer advocates have set the stage for Mission1 over the years. Now, with Mission1, we expect to expand that understanding by getting more people and new people involved in writing letters to elected officials.

A special aspect of Mission1 is that we are not alone in this effort, especially as we engage in public policy advocacy. For years we have partnered with Bread for the World in this work and again with the letter-writing component of Mission1, we join with Bread for the World and its 2011 Offering of Letters campaign. We believe that our partnership with Bread for the World enhances what we are able to accomplish with Misssion1. We are thankful for this partnership and we celebrate all that this partnership will accomplish in serving the very real needs of real people.

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.

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