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.
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
“The New Faces of Hunger,” in National Geographic Magazine. Stories from Iowa, Texas, and New York explore food insecurity in America.
“Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island” by Tasneem Raja, Mother Jones. “An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday.”
Immigration Debate: 'Welcome the Stranger' or Punish 'the Wicked'? in Interfaith Voices. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition talk about the young migrants crossing the border and the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in a radio interview.
“Who's really stalling the reform of African food aid,” by Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner. “Food aid should be more about feeding hungry people and less about subsidizing U.S. business.”
“The Youth Unemployment Crisis Hits African-Americans Hardest,” NPR Morning Edition. “Though the national unemployment rate has fallen steadily in recent months, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, and the jobless rate is even higher among young minorities.”
“Honduran child migrants leave home because of poverty and violence,” by Joshua Partlow, Washington Post. “They are coming to America because a good job here means sewing underwear in a sweatshop for $47 a week.”
David Beckmann reads Pamela's story on June 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Screenshot from event video).
By Robin Stephenson
The unemployment crisis is not over – especially if you are one of the long-term unemployed. For Pamela the crisis is never-ending. The 61-year-old from Glenn Springs, S.C., lost her job in December of last year. She says the only silver lining is that her adult children, who live far away, are not there to witness to her downfall.
Rev. David Beckmann read Pamela’s story on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as part of the fifth Witness Wednesday this week. The events, scheduled throughout June and July, are an effort to keep a spotlight on long-term unemployed people by telling their stories. “I feel defeated,” says Beckmann, reading Pamela’s words. She has received no job offers or offers of help from Congress since she lost her job.
Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) in December, cutting off critical assistance to over a million job seekers out of work for more than 27 weeks. When unemployment rates are high, lawmakers have always made provisions to help Americans until the economy returns to full employment — namely, by passing EUC. Today, the number of long-term unemployed has ballooned to record levels of more than 3.3 million job seekers.
Job loss turns into a surprising reversal of fortune for many as they watch savings and homes disappear. Some are facing hunger for the first time in their lives and seek help from food banks and local charities. Many, like Pamela, are grateful for programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) that provide access to food that once was easily purchased with a reliable income.
“The fastest way to reduce hunger in America is to reduce the unemployment rate,” said Beckmann. Investing in jobs and people are strategies outlined in Ending Hunger in America, the 2014 Hunger Report. Investing in a strong safety net is also necessary to chart a path out of hunger by 2030. When hardship does hit, the climb back to security is faster when we activate programs like EUC, which afford job seekers resources so they can concentrate on finding work.
Buoyed by a national trend of improving unemployment rates, some members of Congress feel no pressure to act. The Senate passed a short-term extension in April, which has expired due to an absence of corresponding action in the House. In her July 15 report to the Senate Banking Committee on monetary policy, Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, recommends a cautioned approach when looking at unemployment data. Calling the recovery incomplete, she says, “Labor force participation appears weaker than one would expect based on the aging of the population and the level of unemployment.”
There are still two job seekers for every job opening. Never before in the history of EUC has a Congress failed to extend the emergency aid when unemployment is so high. Additionally, a slack job market hurts wage growth.
Ignoring the crisis of long-term unemployment won’t make it go away. As long as our government fails to act, persistent hunger will plague too many of our citizens and puts a drain on our economy. As long as advocates fail to force action, we must all share Pamela’s sense of defeat.
This is a new weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.
One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer (the campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
We will be following the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
We invite you to join Bread staff in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.
For the week of July 20-26, we will be praying for the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico:
Holy God, your love extends to all people, and your image is graven upon every soul. The whole world is filled with your glory. We turn our hearts and prayers this week to lift up in love and faith the men, women, and children who live in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. We ask that you would strengthen those who are weary, feed those who are hungry, and bring justice to those who are oppressed. We also ask that you would strengthen us to show compassion and mercy to the immigrants and refugees from these lands who we are privileged to welcome with hospitality and love within our own borders. We especially pray for the thousands of children who are pouring into our nation seeking a respite from their suffering and a relief from their distress, both from these nations, as well as from other places. May your grace empower us to welcome, serve, and protect these little children so that we might model your loving embrace to these, the least among us. In your Holy Name we pray. Amen.
Percentage of the population below the poverty line in these countries:
|Belize||41% (2013 est.) source: The World Factbook|
Source where not indicated above: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the 2014 Hunger Report
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. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Bianca Brown
When Angelica* was eight years old, she lived with her mother in a small village in Guatemala, where hunger and poverty were rampant. Angelica’s mother had heard of opportunities in America for better jobs and schools for her child. Gathering all of her savings, she paid a man to bring her family across the border to the United States.
Angelica and her mother were separated once they reached the States. Four years later, Angelica found herself abused, beaten, and prostituted by the man who had brought her across the border. Once, she managed to speak with a caseworker at an immigration assimilation office, where I heard her story.
Angelica is one of the many unaccompanied immigrant children who are victims of human trafficking as a result of hunger and poverty in their home countries. More than 60,000 children are in danger of becoming victims of abuse and trafficking. We can’t afford to ignore the root causes of this mass migration: hunger and poverty. Without addressing the causes of immigration from Latin America, U.S. immigration policy will be ineffective in stemming the flow of unauthorized immigrants.
Angelica’s account shares how constructive immigration reform is beneficial to those seeking citizenship—especially unaccompanied minors. Kept in the shadows, these people live on the margins of society hoping for change. Angelica’s caseworker begged her to tell them if she wanted help out of her situation, the law preventing action otherwise. Angelica replied, “No one will want to help me…who would want to help an alien?”
These families live in fear of their undocumented status, sometimes going hungry in the United States. The current system relegates unauthorized immigrants to the bottom of the U.S. socioeconomic system. U.S. immigration policy does not enable immigrants to break the cycle of poverty by allowing them opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families by advancing professionally, pursuing further education, and fully integrating into their communities.
Comprehensive immigration reform will allow families to make a better life for themselves and their children.
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.
*Child’s name changed to remain confidential.
Bianca Brown is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at Georgia's Wesleyan College.
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
"It’s easier to build a fence at the top of a cliff than drive an ambulance to the bottom." - Art Simon in Writing Hunger into History.
By Robin Stephenson
Tianna Gaines-Turner knows something about cliffs. The working mother of three children has been climbing and falling off the poverty cliff for years.
Gaines-Turner told her story to the House Budget Committee on July 9, during the fifth War on Poverty hearing – a series of hearings exploring how to better address poverty in America. Gaines-Turner, a member of Witness to Hunger, has been the first expert witness invited to testify who lives in poverty.
“We are always trying to climb up. There is a constant climb,” Gaines-Turner said of her and her husband’s struggle to make ends meet with a combined income of roughly $14,000 a year. Federal benefits, such as housing assistance, medical aid, and food stamps, fill in the income gaps so that the Gaines-Turners can care for their children. All three of their kids require daily doses of asthma medicine and their twins suffer from epilepsy.
Budgeting each month in the Gaines-Turner household is a balancing act. When circumstances change, she feels the “cliff effect.” A small increase in income can decrease the amount of food stamp benefits the family can receive. As she improves her circumstances, with each additional dollar earned she loses needed federal assistance. Yet, she cannot build assets and save for the future in case of hardship. “If you have savings,” she says, “your caseworker says you are not eligible for programs.” So when a crisis hits, like a reduction in working hours, the Gaines-Turner family slides back down the cliff, never making it to stable ground.
House Budget Committee members differ on their approach to ending poverty. There are those who believe the safety net creates dependency and those who see federal anti-poverty programs as a bridge out of poverty. Asked if she thought federal programs promoted dependency, Gaines-Turner said, “I don’t think anyone ever wants to rely on federal programs. I feel like people do want to go out and get a job.” Jobs, she noted, can be hard to come by depending on where you live. They also do not always pay a living wage. She went on to respond to notions that poverty was a condition of laziness. “There is not a lazy bone in my body,” she said. “People put that label on us to put up a smoke screen so they don’t see have to see what is really going on.”
Bread for the World Institute outlined its own plan for ending hunger in America in its 2014 Hunger Report. Bread for the World's strategy stresses policies to reduce unemployment and improve the quality of jobs. It also urges support of a strong safety net, investments in people, and partnerships between community organizations and government programs.
Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States – including cutting food stamps by $125 billion.
The Gaines-Turner family, and millions of working-poor people, need Congress to build a fence at the top of the cliff by funding a strong safety net. At the same time, Congress must also craft policies that lead to living-wage jobs so that families can walk into a better future.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer.
Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.
By Bianca Brown and Reina Villanueva
Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair….” Fresh off of the World Cup finals, we find this quote particularly applicable to “futbol.” Over the past month, the World Cup brought millions of people together on an international scale to share the experience of the winning goal.
The power of an international sporting event like the World Cup is that, for a moment, the entire world is watching. Every four years, people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and geographical locations are united, passionate and informed on a common topic.
Throughout this series, we highlighted how several countries are combating hunger and poverty while promoting gender equality, educational opportunities, and sustainable environment initiatives. What has made these countries shine is the support they have received from dedicated athletes who advocate for change. Many World Cup players have experienced the pain of hunger and used football as a way out of poverty.
As we mentioned in the first post of the series, hunger, poverty, and football have been common themes in host country Brazil since the announcement was made that it would be the backdrop for the 2014 World Cup. The irony of the massive influx of tourist money during the games amid widespread, ongoing hunger and poverty has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Protests turned violent outside the arena following Sunday night’s final, bringing global attention to the issue.
There were valid reasons for this unrest. The last host of the World Cup, South Africa, spent around $3,9 billion on the 2010 games, including $1.3 billion in stadium construction alone. South Africans felt great pride in being the first African country to host the tournament. But that spending did little to help people in poverty in a country with one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world.
The world will turn again to Brazil as it hosts the Olympics in 2016, yet another chance for the nations of the world to come together again and for this emerging economic power to be in the spotlight.
An international event can be an opportunity to foster greater global understanding. The World Cup helped to provide a platform to raise awareness of how hunger and poverty affect people all over the world. We hope you’ve found this series informative and useful, and will use what you’ve learned to help spark positive change.
Lott Carey Mission School in Brewerville, Liberia where student Catherine Jones, 14, wants to be a pediatrician. In many countries, gender inequality persists and and women continue to face discrimination in access to education. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
“We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”
- Malala Yousafzai quoted in The Washington Post article, “Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand,” July 13, 2014.
Malala Yousafzai was 15 years old when she was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education in Pakistan. Now a global education advocate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, she is spending her birthday in Nigeria this week to refocus attention on more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, who have yet to return to their families. Malala turned 17 years old on July 12.
Lack of access to education is a barrier to achieving women’s access to economic opportunity. Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals created a framework galvanizing support from around the world to cut hunger in half by 2015. The third goal in the framework identifies gender equality and economic empowerment of women as a critical step in the exodus from global hunger. To learn more about women as the missing link to ending hunger read “A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond,” a briefing paper by Faustine Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.
Hunger in the News: War on Poverty, Unaccompanied Minors, Hunger in South Sudan, and Overhauling Criminal Justice
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
“War on poverty’ remains incomplete after half century, say advocates,” by Robert Dilday, APB News/Herald. “Fifty years after the nation marshaled its forces to eradicate poverty, about 46 million Americans are still numbered among the poor. That has to change, say Christians engaged in the issue
“This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps,” by By Darlena Cunha, The Washington Post. “That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. “
“COMMENTARY: Christians worship a child who fled violence in his home country” by Gay Clark Jennings, Religion News Service. “The baby Jesus survived Herod’s massacre because his parents took him across a border to a land where he was safe. Just like parents in Central America who are sending their children away, Mary and Joseph took great risks so their son could survive.”
“Poverty, violence fuel exodus of youths from Honduras to U.S,” by Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News. “Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives. ‘It’s tough to live without hope,’ he said. ‘If it’s not there, you go look for it.”
“Misery stalks South Sudan refugees in camps,” by Jenny Vaughan, AFP. “Nyayoul Gach was first driven from her home in South Sudan because of violence, but escaped into Ethiopia because of hunger, unable to feed her five children who were rapidly wasting away.”
“US sending $22 million more to aid South Sudan,” by Deb Ricchmann, AP. “The U.S. announced on Thursday an additional $22 million in humanitarian assistance to refugees and people displaced by the violence in South Sudan.”
“Rand Paul, Cory Booker team up for justice,” by Seung Min Kim, Politico. “The duo of high-profile, first-term senators — one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 — will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system.”
“Strong June Jobs Report Masks Woes of Long-Term Unemployed,” by Rob Garver,The Fiscal Times. “There is one segment of the population, though, that has not been sharing equally in the gains: the long-term jobless. The share of the unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more fell to 32.8 percent, but remains extremely high by historic standards.”
“Global Poverty Levels Halved But More Africans In Extreme Poverty Than In 1990: UN Report,” by Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times. “While the world has managed to slash the number of poor people by half in the last 20 years, more people in sub-Saharan Africa now live in a state of extreme poverty and hunger than ever before, according to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals report published Monday.”
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