Category Archives: East Africa

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

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger

During 2009 the global hunger crisis escalated with the number of people suffering from hunger climbing over one billion. This great humanitarian crisis calls for action on the part of world leaders. In countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan hunger threatens hopes for peace. This book includes press releases, interviews and perspective on The Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation in Congress. This bill (H.R. 2817) was introduced during 2009 by U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). The legislation is based on the recommendations made by groups such as Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Friends of the World Food Program, World Vision and others. Inside you will hear from offiicials from these organizations as they discuss the Roadmap and its importance in fighting hunger. Also you will see how you can get involved to support the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. Also included in the book is a special historical perspective section on Fighting Hunger and World War II.

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger is available from:

Amazon.com

Google Ebookstore

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, global hunger, History, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, Sudan, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, West Africa, World Food Programme, World Vision, World War II, Yemen

Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World

The book Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World features over 50 interviews with officials from the United Nations World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, the Barefoot Foundation and ChildsLife International. Each interview shows the status of these critical child feeding programs and the potential for expanding them to achieve universal school feeding. The interviews also focus on the impact school meals have for children in developing countries as well as how people can help these programs. Some of the countries profiled are Afghanistan, Sudan, Colombia, Somalia and Pakistan. The interviews published in the book originally appeared online at Blogcritics magazine. The interviews were arranged by William Lambers in conjunction with the UN World Food Programme office in Washington DC.

Ending World Hunger is available at:

Amazon.com

Google Ebookstore

Barnes and Noble

View the short film Ending Child Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World from William Lambers on Vimeo.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Books, Catholic Relief Services, East Africa, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, School feeding, Somalia, Sudan, West Africa, World Food Programme, World Vision, Yemen

Somali Child: I Just Want to Go to School Again

Mindy Mizell of World Vision is traveling through the Horn of Africa to report on the relief efforts for famine and drought victims. Amid so much chaos and horror Mizell finds rays of hope, such as 13-year-old Abdillahi, a Somali refugee living in Dadaab, Kenya. His family was forced to flee Somalia to find food and escape the violence.

Here is a child confronted with war and famine and Mizell said he never uttered a single complaint or talked about how unfortunate he was. Instead, he remained positive and upbeat.

Mizell writes, “I guess I expected him to say that he wanted more food, more water, better clothes or maybe a soccer ball. Instead, Abdillahi told me he wanted to go to school again! Not only did Abdillahi believe he had a bright future, but he spent several minutes advocating on behalf of his Somali friends and telling me that they all needed to go to school in order to find good jobs someday.”


World Vision’s Mindy Mizell interviews Abdillahi, 13, in the Dadaab refugee camp. (World Vision photo)

Young Abdillahi just pointed the way to what can end hunger and build peace in the Horn of Africa: education and food.

In responding to the drought in East Africa, it’s vital to ensure that all children can receive school meals and an education. This is extremely challenging, especially in areas where there are refugees and host communities all with great needs.

Lisa Doherty of UNICEF explains, “In some cases there have been massive influxes of communities and school-aged children into urban areas where there aren’t school facilities to absorb them all.”

UNICEF states that “school feeding, provision of learning materials and teacher incentives and additional learning spaces are the top priorities in order to ensure that children can access learning opportunities, many for the first time.”

Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Somalia Representative says, “Education is a critical component of any emergency response. Schools can provide a place for children to come to learn, as well as access health care and other vital services. Providing learning opportunities in safe environments is critical to a child’s survival and development and for the longer term stability and growth of the country.”

This is similar to what the U.S. Army did after World War II. For example, in Vienna, Austria, the U.S. military government helped reopen schools and start a feeding program. They did not want children roaming the streets, and giving them food at school was a top priority with post-war malnutrition rates climbing. The Army and food ambassador Herbert Hoover recognized the such programs were critical and needed to be strengthened and expanded. School feeding provided by the Allies and others after the war was a key defense, as famine threatened to attack many nations at that time.

Today, school meals play an urgent role in providing for refugee children in East Africa. Sandra Bulling of CARE says, “we are currently planning to set up lunch programs for the accelerated learning program of newly arrived refugee children, many of whom have never been to school before.”

Aid agencies are mobilizing to help children through this crisis and open the door to a better life in the future. But will there be enough funding? Fighting hunger and building children’s education is an area of neglect in the foreign policy of many governments. How do you change this?  It’s up to the public to tell their representatives in government that it should be a top priority for all children to receive school meals and an education.

That is what can make a difference in the long term for children in East Africa and elsewhere who just want to go to school again.

See videos from the World Food Programme’s WeFeedback page.


Article first published as Somali Child: I Just Want to Go to School Again on Blogcritics.

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Filed under drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Kenya, malnutrition, School feeding, Somalia, Uncategorized, UNICEF, World Vision, World War II

Plumpy’nut in Somalia – An Update from CESVI

Elizabeth Stoltz of Plumpy’nut Press just interviewed Irene Moora, a Nutrition Specialist from CESVI, an Italian humanitarian organization, who just returned from Galkayo, Somalia. Learn about the use of the miracle food in the famine relief mission in Somalia.

Read the interview at Plumpy’nut Press.

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Filed under East Africa, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, Somalia

Ending Hunger: When You Feed a Child You Feed the Future

U.S. Air Force plane dropping food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1945 (National Archives)

U.S. Air Force plane dropping food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1945 (National Archives)

In May 2010, I published an article about the historical airlift of food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands at the end of World War II. Truck convoys of food for the hungry followed these missions which continued throughout the liberation.

Think of what the food meant to each individual child: an opportunity — a future. Take, as an example, one young girl living in the Netherlands at that time. Many children of her generation were lost because of the war and the food shortages that came with it. In the case of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, this became a tragedy known as the hunger winter of 1944-1945.

This girl was one of those suffering from malnutrition as the war was drawing to an end. Fortunately, she and many others would benefit from the food brought in by the Allies. Subsequent to this relief would come aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

The young girl, upon growing up, said, “A child is a child in any country, whatever the politics… there is no complicated diplomacy, when a child is starving. It’s simple. And we better do something about it. For our sakes too. That is if we want to continue to call ourselves human.”

Her name was Audrey Hepburn. The food made a great difference in her life, an example of the magic that can happen when a child is fed. Hepburn, late in her life, worked as an ambassador for UNICEF. This organization was created in the aftermath of World War II because of the crisis facing so many children. The Marshall Plan is known as the reconstruction of Europe. Well, UNICEF was a Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of children after the war, and forever changed those war-devastated countries.

There is a whole generation of children today who deserve the same opportunity to find what treasures they possess. Today, the cries of children are coming from East Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, and many other countries. This is why it is so imperative that universal child feeding programs be developed through an international alliance.

The goal would be for each country to have a self -sufficient national school meal and infant feeding program. No single initiative could do more to save lives, prevent disease, and build peace in today’s world.

A whole generation could be fed for a relatively minimal cost. A whole generation could write the history of their country through educational achievement, progress, and development, all because we decided today their bodies and minds should be fed.

Article originally published as When You Feed A Child You Feed the Future at Blogcritics

A message from UNICEF:
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn holds a severely malnourished child at a UNICEF-assisted feeding centre in Baidoa. “For many it’s too late, but for many, many more we can still be on time,” said Ms. Hepburn, after witnessing the impact of famine on Somalia’s children in 1992.Nineteen years later, famine is again spreading, and over a million children urgently require aid.The Horn of Africa’s children need our help. You can join UNICEF’s effort by visiting Horn of Africa Crisis Page.

You can receive more UNICEF photos from the Horn of Africa on your iPhone by visiting: http://www.unicef.org/phot​​​​ography


(photos courtesy of UNICEF)

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Filed under Afghanistan, drought, East Africa, History, School feeding, UNICEF, World War II

East Africa Famine: An Interview with Laura Sheahen and Sara A. Fajardo of Catholic Relief Services

At a GIZ hospital at a refugee camp in Kenya, a severely malnourished Somali refugee child receives treatment. (Photo by Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services)

The famine and drought striking East Africa have created one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of this generation. Thousands of children have starved to death and many more are in grave peril from malnutrition.

Somalis are desperately fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia in the search for food, only these countries are also suffering from food shortages. With the unrelenting drought, the crisis could get much worse. Children are suffering from severe malnutrition. Aid agencies are struggling to keep up.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one of the aid groups in a race to save lives. CRS officers Laura Sheahen, who just visited one of the refugee camps in Kenya, and Sara A. Fajardo, took time to discuss the massive relief effort underway.

How is Catholic Relief Services helping the victims of famine and drought in East Africa?

Sara A. Fajardo: To give just a few examples, we are currently helping to feed more than a million people in Ethiopia and have launched projects in Isiolo and Wajir, Kenya and about to launch projects in Mandera where the drought’s impact has been severe. Some of the pastoralist communities living there have lost 50-100 percent of their livestock. These projects include rehabilitating wells, assisting with school-feeding programs and working on conflict mitigation projects between different pastoralist communities who may be trying to access the same limited resources.

In the Dadaab Refugee area we will be working through partners to distribute around 10,000 hygiene kits to arriving refugees. As part of our “do no harm” approach to humanitarian aid, we will also be providing assistance to the host communities surrounding the Dadaab refugee camps. These communities have also been severely impacted by the drought but are often overlooked because of the seemingly more pressing needs of the incoming refugees. Tensions can often flare up when one community perceives another as receiving assistance while they are left to fend for themselves. We will provide them with water and food aid and work with them to help weather the difficult months ahead.

Even before this drought hit, Catholic Relief Services was on the ground working to help communities prepare for this current emergency. In Kenya our staff has been working over the past three years alone to provide 91 water points to local communities, helped to create tree nurseries with more than 3.7 million seedlings, worked to get more than 2,500 miles of agricultural terraces built, and provided more than 108,000 female goats to our beneficiaries.

In Ethiopia we’ve worked over the past eight years to fight the effects of recurrent drought by drilling wells 1,000 feet into the earth. In much of Ethiopia, water runs below the surface in underground caverns as deep as 1,000 feet. This water is difficult, but not impossible to access. A recent visit to the field revealed that 95 percent of 28 wells CRS has constructed are still operational. The difference between communities with water sources and those without is remarkable. The livestock are plumper and produce more milk, which in turn means that the people themselves are nourished better. People in these areas rely less on food aid and more on their own means.

Somali refugees at Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Following a severe drought, many families faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Thousands of refugees are flooding into Dadaab every week. (Photo by Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services)

You met some of the refugees escaping from Somalia, what are some of the stories they told you about what they have faced?

Laura Sheahen: Almost every refugee I spoke to had a horror story about the long walk from Somalia to Kenya. Armed bandits are a huge problem, and the vast majority of refugees I spoke to had been robbed at gunpoint. There has been an appalling number of rapes as well.

Some of the refugees were robbed not just of the little food and clothing they carried, but the actual clothes they were wearing; they are walking naked. People fleeing the famine and war in Somalia are also fighting off lions and hyenas in the night.

And of course, walking for weeks in the bush, under a baking sun and with no food, is bringing refugees to the brink of collapse even when they don’t meet bandits or wild animals.

What do you see is the greatest risk to refugees at these camps? Is it spread of disease, malnutrition?

Laura Sheahen: Right now, just keeping up with the food and water needs is a gargantuan task. The refugee camps in Kenya near the border have existed for years because Somalia has been troubled and dangerous for so long. But because of the drought, the camps are overflowing now and it’s hard to get food to everyone quickly enough. Waterborne diseases will be a problem if sanitation for the newcomers isn’t worked out fast. Any contagious diseases–anything that spreads when too many weak, hungry people are crowded together–could be an issue. For example, there was a recent outbreak of measles.

How many more refugees potentially could arrive?

Sara A. Fajardo: It’s hard to say. Currently the United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that between 1300-1500 new refugees are arriving daily. Aid agencies of course would prefer to help Somalis stay in their own countries. Whenever people are forced to migrate, it places them at undue risk for rape, theft, or other forms of exploitation. There is also the very real possibility of families becoming separated. In the measure that is possible the humanitarian aid community would like to provide direct assistance in the towns in villages most affected by the drought in order to avoid anyone having to make this often life-threatening trek.

How long do you think the refugees, as well as the host communities, will require extensive international assistance?

Sara A. Fajardo: This is a problem that will not be resolved over night. Droughts are cyclical in eastern Africa and their frequency (due to a variety of factors) is on the rise. Even if it rains tomorrow and the crops start growing, it will be quite awhile before things stabilize to the point where people can harvest enough food to sustain a family. It’s also important to remember that many of the drought-affected communities are pastoralists and rely on livestock for their survival. The UN estimates that it can take up to 5 years for herds of livestock to regenerate to a point that they can be relied as a consistent source of food. This emergency will require short, medium and long-term solutions, but of course the eventual goal of all concerned is to help people become self-reliant and not aid reliant.

Article first published as East Africa Famine: An Interview with Laura Sheahen and Sara A. Fajardo of Catholic Relief Services on Blogcritics.

You can donate to the Catholic Relief Services East Africa Emergency Fund.

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Filed under Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Kenya, Somalia, Uncategorized