Category Archives: East Africa drought

Norwegian Refugee Council providing aid in East Africa

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is taking action against the massive hunger crisis facing East Africa. Famine has been declared in parts of Somalia and severe drought has struck Kenya, Ethiopia and other areas of the region. Thousands of people have already perished and millions more are at risk of starvation.

In my article Thoughts on the Norway and the Famine in Somalia I highlighted the NRC airlift of emergency food rations into Mogadishu, Somalia. These rations were ready-to-eat biscuits for adults and children, a way to provide quick nutrients without special preparation or storage unavailable in disaster zones.

Kaja Haldorsen of NRC says another shipment of 28 tons of food rations arrived in Mogadishu in late August. In addition Norwegian citizens have donated 6.2 million (Norwegian dollars) to NRC. The government has donated 50 million to NRC relief efforts in East Africa.

NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson said earlier this summer, “What we have seen so far, is only the beginning of a large scale humanitarian catastrophe that will continue to unfold for at least six months ahead, given that the next harvest in January will be successful. Pending donor support, NRC is committed to do anything within its capacity to assist and prevent as many people as possible from starvation, death and displacement.”

You can donate to NRC’s East Africa relief mission at their web site.

Originally published at Examiner.com

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Filed under Africa, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, Kenya, malnutrition, Norway

College Class Takes on Hunger and Poverty at Home and Abroad

The College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio (College of Mount St. Joseph photo)

This week I spoke to the College of Mount St. Joseph’s (MSJ) UN Millennium Development Goals class. The MSJ class just returned from a trip to the United Nations in New York where they met with UN delegates. The students aim to take action on ending hunger and poverty, achieving universal education for children, and working on other development goals.

The class runs for the fall semester. Professor Elizabeth Barkley says, “Through their Service Learning with local agencies, students begin to make an impact in their world and realize that, although problems can seem overwhelming and unsolvable, young people can still make a difference.”

At the class I discussed ways you can take action to support the Millennium Development goals. One of the easiest ways is playing a game called Free Rice . In fact, MSJ has its own team . Playing Free Rice, you answer vocabulary questions and other subjects. For each correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Programme to fight hunger. The rice is paid for by advertisers on the site.

Currently, Free Rice is supporting school feeding in Cambodia. Earlier this year Free Rice proceeds supported school feeding in Haiti.

What better way to support the Millennium Development goals than through school feeding? The meal at school fights child hunger and malnutrition and improves class attendance and performance, giving children an opportunity to escape the poverty trap through an education. In many developing countries, school meals are the only meal children receive the entire day. Free Rice is a quick and easy way to take action and help children get these vital school meals.

Another idea we discussed in the class was advocacy, making your voice heard to your elected officials. Current budget proposals in the Congress threaten achievement of the Millennium Development goals. For instance, Congress is proposing reducing both domestic and international food aid.

One of the programs being threatened is The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) which supports food banks across the U.S. With demand for food banks fast rising, TEFAP takes on even more urgency. However, the program is below last year’s funding levels and Congress is planning more cuts to it in 2012. Unless citizens take action, this vital source of supply for food banks is at risk.

One of the handouts I gave at class was a guide for how to use Twitter and Facebook to take action to contact your representatives on these key issues.

Another area where Congress is proposing cuts is to the U.S. Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs. These are two major global hunger-fighting initiatives sponsored by the United States. If funding is reduced, it is a major blow in the struggle to fight hunger and poverty around the world. Food for Peace was started back in the Eisenhower administration with the idea of sending U.S. surplus food abroad to help countries fight hunger and build stability.

The McGovern-Dole program supports international school feeding. For just several billion a year, we could provide food for children at school around the world. Contrast that to the 52 billion (at least) price tag for supporting nuclear weapons programs, with the Cold War long in the rear view mirror–something to think about if want to talk social justice and an intelligent search for peace in today’s world.

One of the highlights of the class was our discussion of Plumpy’nut, a vital life-saving nutrient. Ironically, at that very moment on NBC Nightly News, a segment featuring the plumpy’nut producer Edesia was being aired. Edesia and plumpy’nut have been featured In many of my articles over the past year, such as the Silent Guest , and also in the Providence Journal .

I talked about how critical Plumpy’nut is for rescuing children from dangerous malnutrition, and its easy storage and distribution. Plumpy’nut is a key part of the famine relief effort ongoing in East Africa, but is also critical to many other areas.

The problem with plumpy though is that low funding prevents aid agencies like the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF from having enough supply on hand. Therefore, many children needlessly suffer the effects of malnutrition. One of the students pointed out the need for establishing plumpy facilities in many countries. This creates jobs for the people in the country and provides a plumpy supply for faster and cheaper distribution.

I tried to talk the class into having a plumpy’nut mascot appear on campus for an event. Am waiting for word on this. I also learned that there was concern about the MSJ football team’s season. However, the team has compiled an outstanding record over the past decade with a number of conference titles. So history would suggest the team will do well.

And the class will do well also in working toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Professor Jim Bodle says a main purpose of the class is for students “to become aware of how our actions have an impact on the rest of the world.”

And that sums it up in a nutshell. Actions you take today can make a difference. Whether it’s service to a charity in your community, playing Free Rice, writing a representative, or even promoting Plumpy’nut using a mascot, all are ways you can take action to end hunger and poverty.

Article first published as College Class Takes on Hunger and Poverty at Home and Abroad on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Africa, Books, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Edesia, global hunger, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, Mercy Corps, Middle East, plumpy'nut, West Africa

Obama, Congress, Global Hunger and Plumpy’nut

Refugees about 200 meters from the Somali Border Refugees at the pre-registration center, about 200 m from the Somali Border, wait to enter into the transit center in Ethiopia Credit: WFP/Judith Schuler

President Obama and Congress need to work together in an area where bipartisan cooperation has been present before : fighting hunger.

With high unemployment at home, the demand for food banks is increasing. Child hunger rates in the U.S. are alarming. A recent Feeding America report says, “There are 314 counties in the U.S. where approximately one-third of children are struggling with food insecurity.” Is your county one of them?

Children are struggling to access food. Nothing threatens America’s future more than hungry and malnourished children.

Catherine D’Amato, president of the Greater Boston Food Bank, states, “These new statistics are staggering. Children suffer disproportionately from hunger. Not only are they more likely to experience hunger than adults, the impact on their young and growing bodies can leave lasting damage in the form of developmental delays that affect their health and school performance.”

While hunger is growing in the U.S., support from the federal government is down. Food banks around the country face the prospect of empty shelves, unless action is taken.

The Federal Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) needs to be fully funded for the rest of 2011, and also be assured of congressional support for next year. TEFAP provides supplies for emergency food banks around the country. Even with the increased demand for food aid, TEFAP is currently about 37 percent below last year’s funding level of 655 million. Food banks are facing supply shortages because of this. In addition, Congress has proposed reducing next year’s TEFAP funding level.

Vicki Escarra, the president of Feeding America, says “With the holiday season approaching and with food banks still facing the very real possibility that federal funding for food programs could be cut in FY2012, more help is still needed.”

On the global scene, hunger is so powerful a force that, if unchecked, will devastate America’s foreign policy. There is a famine taking place in East Africa, and tens of thousands of children have perished.

There are many other hunger crisis points where lack of food threatens lives, stability and development. Take the country where peace has remained elusive for years: Afghanistan. Fighting hunger is an essential part of the solution to the problem of peace in Afghanistan. Yet they too are experiencing drought. We can hear the warnings of a hunger storm there.

Silke Buhr of the UN World Food Programme says, “WFP is concerned that drought conditions in the country have had a significant impact on crop production and will lead to more people needing food assistance. These new needs come at a time when we are already facing major resource shortfalls and have already had to make some really tough decisions to priorities how we use our resources.”

WFP relies on voluntary funding for its hunger relief missions. Yet funding has been so low it has been forced to reduce the number of children who will receive school meals. What could be more inexpensive and basic to a country’s reconstruction than a school lunch? Yet right now almost 500,000 children are not able to get them. In developing countries, meals at school are often the only one children receive all day.

In Yemen, hunger and malnutrition threaten our effort to help bring stability to the Middle Eastern country. Special foods like plumpy’nut are needed by UNICEF to treat cases of child malnutrition in Yemen. This special peanut paste is produced by Providence-based Edesia and other factories around the globe. However, low funding prevents Yemen from obtaining the supply of plumpy’nut they need.

Plumpy’nut requires no special storage or preparation which is critical for a country in turmoil like Yemen. The constant power outages there can make food unsafe for children which leads to sickness and more malnutrition. Foods like plumpy’nut are safe for the children.

In Haiti we have to follow through and support the national school lunch program and agricultural reconstruction projects.

The focus also has to go beyond reacting to hunger crisis points to establishing conditions where these emergencies are less likely to occur. At least, their impact can be minimized. This means a year-round commitment to fighting and preventing hunger. The U.S. needs to be the leader.

If Congress goes through with proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole school lunch program, we place millions of lives in peril. Our own national security will be at risk too.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “people who are hungry are weak allies for freedom.” Hunger and suffering overseas create another generation of children stunted in growth and mind. American’s simply cannot afford to let that happen.

Article first published as Obama, Congress, Global Hunger and Plumpy’nut on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Africa, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Edesia, global hunger, Ivory Coast, Josette Sheeran, Kenya, malnutrition, Middle East, plumpy'nut, School feeding, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, West Africa, World Food Programme

Thoughts On Norway and the Famine in Somalia

How will history remember the summer of 2011? You could make a long list of events. Certainly at the top are the famine in East Africa and the mass shootings that took place in Norway.

These two tragedies intertwined when representatives from Norway attended an East Africa donor conference in July, right after the shootings.

Arvinn E. Gadgil of Norway’s foreign ministry said, “It was an astonishing moment. In a meeting about the potential death of 12 million people, Norway got a standing ovation for a full minute. I asked our UN ambassador who said that he had not seen anything like it during his 30 years in the UN system. People all around the world were clearly shocked by the events in Oslo.”

Norway could have turned inwards in the wake of their own tragedy. They could have put aside areas of international concern. They could have stopped reaching out, for at least the time being. That did not happen.

Instead, Norway went to work to save lives in East Africa. At the end of July, two planes from Norway touched down in Somalia to distribute emergency rations for 50,000 hungry Somalis. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) distributed the food in the Mogadishu area.

On Saturday July 31, two AN-12 planes from Norway landed in Mogadishu loaded with almost 28 tons emergency rations. Credits: Gunhild Forselv/NRC

Marianne Alfsen of NRC wrote, “People are dying as we speak. The quicker we act, the more lives can be saved. More shipments by plane are being planned, while emergency food is also on its way by sea.”

The Norwegian government continued its donations to UN agencies to help them fight hunger. Dena Gudaitis of the UN World Food Programme says, “WFP is incredibly grateful to Norway for providing a generous and flexible contribution to WFP on a yearly basis for our overall relief operations. This year, WFP has allocated US$ 5 million from Norway funding to operations in Kenya and Ethiopia.”

This outpouring of generosity is a way of life for Norway. It can be seen in the actions of the government and charitable agencies. It’s also seen in the acts of individuals.

When Hanna Helmersen penned her memoir War and Innocence, she characterized the generosity of her home country during the Nazi German occupation. Children reached out to the hungry. Helmresen and her classmates gave some of their food, which was in short supply, to Russian prisoners being held by the German army in a camp near their home.

After the war, the Norwegian government showed this same spirit working with Herbert Hoover, America’s food ambassador. Hoover sought to organize relief to defeat the post-war famine. Norway was very cooperative in this effort, doing what it could even though the country had great needs of its own.

The charity American Relief for Norway typified the same spirit too. This agency, which was led by Norwegian Americans, did not forget the suffering in other countries. American relief for Norway helped to buy CARE packages for their hungry neighbors. That same generosity carries on today.

Gadgil said in July, “The question of whether I should travel to Rome when so many people have lost so much in the terrorist actions in Norway was a difficult one. But, as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said, we will respond to these atrocities with more humanity. Norway’s fight against poverty, for development and humanitarian compassion are what define us as a nation.”

Article first published as Thoughts On Norway and the Famine in Somalia on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Africa, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, Kenya, malnutrition, Norway, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger

Twitter, Facebook and Fighting Global Hunger

Twitter and Facebook are everywhere! But can these powerful social media tools help defeat man’s ancient enemy– hunger? Can they support relief operations for famine and drought-ravaged East Africa? Jen Hardy of the charity Catholic Relief Services recently took time to discuss Twitter, Facebook and fighting global hunger.

Can someone use Twitter to mobilize support for famine relief in East Africa and other areas suffering from hunger?

Absolutely! Twitter is a great way for people who share common interests to share information. It’s also a wonderful resource for searches about a particular topic. I suggest doing a few searches on Twitter to find out what people are saying about the drought and food security in East Africa. That way, your advocacy messages will be informed by the conversation that’s already happening.

Go to the Twitter homepage (even if you don’t have an account!) and try searching a few of these terms: drought, famine, East Africa, the name of a specific country (like Kenya or Somalia), and Horn of Africa.

Are there ways to make tweets about global hunger stand out?

Tweets with a link for more detailed information are great. You can share the most interesting tidbit in the text of the tweet, and then add a shortened url that provides further context.

It’s also a good practice to use hashtags when crafting a tweet about a specific topic, such as hunger. A hashtag is simply the “#” sign in front of a search term. On the Twitter platform, using a hashtag creates a clickable link to search for other posts with that same hashtag. It’s also a way to sort information quickly at an event, such as during a local fundraiser for famine relief.

Here are a few tips for using hashtags:

  • Don’t litter each tweet with multiple hashtags. Two or three is plenty.
  • Don’t leave spaces between a multi-word hashtag. For example, use “#HornofAfrica,” not “#Horn of Africa.”
  • Do use What the Trend or another site devoted to explaining hashtags if you’re not sure what something means and to find the best hashtag for a specific topic.

Can Facebook also be used for helping to feed the hungry?

Not only can Facebook help fight global hunger, I think it’s vital for raising awareness of the issue and sharing ways to get involved. A crisis that’s half a world away and slow moving, like the drought in East Africa, is so much more real when we feel a personal connection to the people living through it. Media coverage and advocacy by organizations are just parts of the puzzle in getting people to care. A few of my friends, for example, posted about how sad the pictures coming out of East Africa were, but they didn’t actually make a donation to hunger relief until I reached out through a personal message with a list of several of the most efficient organizations working in East Africa. That personal contact helped them take the final step from empathy to action.

There are so many ways to get involved in hunger relief on Facebook. “Like” a few organizations working in East Africa to get updates right to your Facebook feed. Recruit your friends to “Like” those organizations. Donate to an organization you trust through Facebook Causes. And share your own links to useful information as the East Africa crisis continues. Catholic Relief Services has a good collection of resources if you need a starting point.

Can sites like Blogger, WordPress and others be used to help hunger relief missions overseas?

Any blogging platform can be a wonderful way to share both the need in East Africa and resources for how to get involved. Blogs are a public way to share personal commitment to a cause like hunger relief, and most bloggers are savvy with search engine optimization. Many organizations working in East Africa either have a downloadable button for bloggers or can provide one on request. Blogs are also good platforms for discussing the politics of food aid and budget cuts. Calls to political action should include a link to find elected officials’ contact information .

There’s also a robust community of international aid and development bloggers who offer suggestions and critiques for how development can work better.

What are some other social media sites that can be used to help end hunger worldwide?

Social media facilitates connections between people, so any social media platform can build on existing relationships to help others. YouTube is perfect for those supporters who react to a more visual medium and it integrates well with Facebook in terms of sharing videos. If you’re an early adopter on Google+, search “Sparks” for drought and hunger topics. Post photos of a local awareness event on Instagram, Picasa or Flickr. If you sell your art or handicrafts on Etsy, donate a percentage of your sales to hunger relief, and link to your preferred organization. There are too many possibilities to list, and I’m sure there are many more that haven’t occurred to aid organizations yet (please add your ideas to the comments!).

Congress is proposing cuts to international food aid in the budget. Can Facebook, Twitter and other sites be used to get Congress to support international food aid programs?

Gritty details about the inner-workings of Congress make most people’s eyes glaze over. If you’re going to share anything about an upcoming vote or appropriation process, break it down for your friends and followers. Explain exactly what’s happening in simple terms, provide a clear ask for how they can get involved, and then provide instructions for next steps. If you want a shortcut to this whole process, sign up for the Catholic Relief Services/USCCB joint effort Catholics Confront Global Poverty . The CCGP action alerts break everything down into plain language and clear instructions (plus, we won’t bombard your inbox!).

Twitter is especially useful for contacting representatives. If your representative uses Twitter, send him or her @replies (beginning a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle directs a public message to their attention). It’s a nice way to break through the clutter of emails and phone calls, and the staffer assigned to the account will bring highlights back to the representative.

How can someone contact Catholic Relief Services with questions?

Besides our normal contact information , find us on Facebook , Twitter , LinkedIn and YouTube . Our Twitter feed for journalists is @CRSNews . And if you have any ideas for using social media to fight hunger, find me on Twitter ( @JenHardy ).

Article first published as Twitter, Facebook and Fighting Global Hunger on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, malnutrition, social media, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, West Africa

Josette Sheeran of WFP Ranked 30th Most Powerful Woman by Forbes

Josette Sheeran, the director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has been ranked by Forbes as the 30th most powerful woman in the world. The Forbes rankings were just released this week. Others on the list include Angela Merkel (1), Hillary Clinton (2), Oprah Winfrey (14) and Queen Rania Al Abdullah (54). You can view the complete list at Forbes Magazine .

Sheeran has emerged in recent years as the lead “food ambassador” in the struggle to fight global hunger. As the head of WFP, Sheeran runs the largest agency fighting the hunger that afflicts nearly one billion people worldwide. WFP relies on voluntary donations from governments and the public to fund its relief activities in over 70 countries. The agency constantly seeks to elevate the issue of global hunger in the public consciousness and in the halls of government.

During Sheeran’s tenure numerous challenges have emerged, including the “silent tsunami” of high food prices, the earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Pakistan, unrest and hunger in the Middle East, and this summer’s massive drought and famine in East Africa. Sheeran has rallied support for life-saving missions in each of these disasters, while also pressing for long-term solutions to hunger and poverty.

WFP, for instance, has programs aimed at boosting the production of small farmers in developing countries. WFP’s Fill the Cup campaign calls for school meals for every child. Food for children at school wards off malnutrition and increases class attendance and performance.

Sheeran’s accomplishments continue a family tradition. Her father James, a paratrooper during World War II, organized food aid for a town in France after World War II.

The coming months will be extremely challenging for Sheeran and WFP. Food aid is needed for over 11 million people in East Africa. There is also drought in Afghanistan putting millions more at risk of hunger and malnutrition. Unrest in the Middle East is escalating the hunger crisis in Yemen and other countries. Focus must also be kept on building food security in Haiti.

WFP faces funding shortages for these operations and will need to rally enough support to meet the massive, escalating global hunger crisis.

You can learn more about the World Food Programme and how you can get involved on their website .

Article first published as Josette Sheeran Ranked 30th Most Powerful Woman by Forbes on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Afghanistan, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, Josette Sheeran, malnutrition, School feeding, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, World Food Programme

A New Friendship Train to Fight Global Hunger

When hunger ravaged Europe after World War II how did Americans respond? They started a Friendship Train to feed the hungry and help win the peace after the war.

Let’s start a New Friendship Train today to reach the hungry overseas starting first with East Africa which is suffering from famine and a severe drought. Then the train will move to provide relief to drought afflicted Afghanistan. Yemen, Haiti, the Ivory Coast and many other countries also need support.

Start the New Friendship Train. You can donate at these aid agencies……
 

First Destination: East Africa…To Feed the Hungry and Malnourished…..

Train images courtesy of Shortlines of Chicago Historical Society. Crossing lights image courtesy of Amazing Animations.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Vision