Category Archives: Middle East

Senate Urged to Support Food for Peace Program

This week the Senate will be considering how much funding to give to the Food for Peace program, our main tool in the fight against global hunger. It’s vital the Senate give full support to Food for Peace.

For if you are looking to have a cost-efficient and effective foreign policy, then look no further than Food for Peace. We know this plan works.

Food for Peace was essentially born out of the World War II era where the famous motto was, “Food will win the war and write the peace.” Every CARE package, Friendship Train, or people taking in a silent guest at their home on Thanksgiving was food for peace in action.

The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe stood on a foundation of food. These post-war actions paved the way toward the official launch of Food for Peace (Public Law 480) in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower. President Kennedy continued and strengthened Food for Peace, showing the bipartisan support for the initiative.

But today there is a different tune. Amid all the talk of budget cuts, Food for Peace has been placed on the cutting block. Some members of the House have proposed eliminating all funding for the program. Others want to keep funding levels at 1.69 billion, which is relatively inexpensive compared to other foreign policy expenditures.

Hunger-fighting programs make up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. In short, Food for Peace is not the cause of our spending problems.

What Food for Peace does is it combats hunger and gives hope for peace and stability. Peace cannot be founded on empty stomachs. Whether it’s Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, or Haiti, they all share one thing in common: the need for food for healthy generations of children.

The Senate could cut Food for Peace and its partner program Mcgovern-Dole just to save a few dollars. But that would be ill-advised foreign policy.

What Eisenhower said in 1959 holds true today. Food is essential so that “our bodies may be fit for every task and duty and service; our minds free from the fear of hunger; our eyes undimmed by the tragedies of famine, searching out new horizons; our aspirations not frustrated by failure of crop or catastrophe of weather.”

The world’s nearly 1 billion hungry people wonder each day where their next meal will come from. We cannot just skip over this crisis because of tough times domestically, for withdrawing from the fight against hunger will pose grave consequences.

Reducing food aid will threaten millions of lives and will help create desperation among people that will lead to a dangerous instability. The chaos caused by hunger is powerful enough to topple governments.

The Senate needs to stand united and fight global hunger with Food for Peace.

See the World Food Program USA take action page for supporting Food for Peace.

See Food for Peace and the World Food Program.

See also Bringing Dems and Reps Together over Food (Bakersfield Californian 1/9/2011)

Article first published as Senate Urged to Support Food for Peace Program on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Africa, drought, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, malnutrition, Middle East, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, World Food Programme, Yemen

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

Enter Plumpy’nut: The Life-Saving Food So Desperately Needed in Yemen

Yemen is living in peril with dangerous political instability, and violence in the south between the government and suspected Al-Qaeda militants.

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Rajia Sharhan holds a young child at a therapeutic feeding centre in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. (UNICEF Yemen/2011/Halldorsson)

But for a newborn child in Yemen, the greatest danger lies in lack of nutrition, for their future hinges on whether they can receive it.

The first 1000 days of life are the critical window for children. If they do not receive the right foods, they can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. If this irreversible damage occurs, it will mean stunted growth, increased health problems, and an inability to learn. If you have this occurring in a country, you cannot progress.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reports: “Half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished and 1 out of 10 does not live to reach the age of five. Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition – or stunting – are second globally only to Afghanistan, the proportion of underweight children is the third highest in the world after India and Bangladesh.”

Enter Plumpy’nut. This is a special peanut paste that if given to children can rescue them from the potentially deadly malnutrition. It is desperately needed in Yemen. But not enough funding is provided to aid agencies for this to happen. Child hunger issues are often the victims of policy planning by the international community. Not enough emphasis is given.

If you want to help Yemen, send them Plumpy’nut. UNICEF is trying to provide “Plumpy” to as many malnourished Yemeni children as possible.

Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF says: “We are planning to reach 36,000 severely acute malnourished children” at a cost of US$ 4.6 million. But there are 90,000 such cases of severely malnourished children in the country. More funding and resources would be needed to reach all of them. These are the most severe cases. Many other children are suffering from malnutrition.”

There are 450,000 children under five suffering from acute malnutrition and another 360,000 suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. These are different levels of the basic threat of malnutrition.

In short, small children are desperately in need of life-saving and life-changing food in Yemen. This takes on even more urgency when you consider that food prices have gone up in recent months in Yemen. There is more displacement in the south due to fighting, so the numbers of small children at risk is likely to increase in the coming months.

Dr. Al-timimi explains: “Cases of malnutrition is piling up now and soon we’ll be in a real humanitarian crisis; the same is applied as that group of very young children (that cohort who is enduring the political turmoil and absorbing the shocks) are currently at different stages of malnutrition and at the same time not receiving their routine vaccines…… unvaccinated children and malnutrition is a ticking time bomb.”

The best way the international community can help Yemen is through nutrition/health. These are the foundations of peace and progress in Yemen. It starts with plumpynut and health care for the youngest of children. It means supporting underfunded food aid programs run by the World Food Programme. It continues with building longer-term food security so foods like Plumpy’nut will no longer be needed.

It means looking down the road in Yemen, and staying ahead of the disaster of hunger and malnutrition. Acting now will be relatively inexpensive as opposed to waiting for a massive disaster to occur.

Article first published as 1000 Days of Peril in Yemen: The Children Must Be Fed on Blogcritics.

Tune in to NBC Nightly News on September 1st at 6:30 to see a story on plumpy’nut producer Edesia.

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Filed under Edesia, malnutrition, Middle East, plumpy'nut, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen