Tag Archives: Mali

Help Mariam Get School Lunches Again

It’s National School Lunch Week in the United States. But school lunches are important to kids everywhere around the world. So let’s visit with one of these children in a land far away, the African nation of Mali.

Mariam is a 12-year old from Yelimane village in Mali. She’s had a tough life, losing her parents at a young age. She lives now with her grandparents and sister. They are poor in a country ravaged by conflict in recent years.

Read my full commentary at The Huffington Post.

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U.S. Food for Peace donation saves refugees

The United Nations today announced a life-saving donation from the U.S. Food for Peace program. The US $ 2 million contribution will feed refugees in the African nation of Mauritania. The refugees had fled conflict in neighboring Mali.

Read the full article at Examiner:

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Peace plan for war-torn Mali needs school meals

As we try to build peace in the African nation of Mali, there is one area we cannot overlook: food for children. Mali has been devastated by the war in the northern part of the country.

Read more at Examiner.

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School Meals for Peace in Mali and Burkina Faso

School feeding in Mali provided by Catholic Relief Services (CRS photo)

School feeding in Mali provided by Catholic Relief Services (CRS photo)

As Congress gets back to work on the Farm Bill, it’s vital they support the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs. Both initiatives fund school meals around the world in partnership with charities like Catholic Relief Services.

From World War II to conflict and drought recovery today in West Africa, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been providing aid.

In Austria, after World War II, CRS teamed with the U.S. Army and UNICEF to give school meals to children. More recently CRS has been organizing school feeding in Mali and Burkina Faso, two nations suffering from extreme poverty in West Africa.

Mali has been struck by conflict in the North and a nationwide drought. Food production is reduced across the country. The UN World Food Programme says, “69 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and according to 2010 National Statistics, more than one-fifth of school-aged children do not attend school.”

A report from the Famine Early Warning System shows that “north of Kayes and in some parts of the Mopti, Koulikoro, Ségou, and Timbuktu regions, rain shortages have affected crop development, which will likely reduce yields at these locations.” Hunger is a growing problem in Mali and aid is desperately needed.

CRS provides school meals in the Mopti and Koulikoro regions to help families cope with the crushing strain of poverty. The meals are funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole program, named after former U.S. senators George McGovern and Bob Dole.

CRS is reaching around 80,000 children in Mali with this food. Children can count on a hot meal of rice, peas and vegetable oil every day at school. When your family is struggling for food, this is an absolute treasure.

Kristina Brayman of CRS Mali says,

Without that food, many students would not eat a square meal at all. It motivates parents to send their children to school, especially girls, and means the children are able to grow, develop, and maximize their learning potential. It really is essential.

In Mali, CRS also has an initiative where local farmers provide the school meals. This is key because the goal is for each country to be able to run its own school feeding. CRS helps form School Management Committees. Fairs are established where farmers can bring their crops, which are inspected to ensure quality. The School Management Committees then purchase foods from the farmers to use for the meals.

CRS says,

Students and parents were very pleased with the taste and content of the local school meals, and the School Management Committees’ capacity and sense of ownership increased significantly.

In Burkina Faso CRS is also providing school meals using McGovern-Dole funding. Anne Sellers of CRS says McGovern-Dole is “a huge help,” as Burkina Faso tries to develop a national school feeding program. They need help along this road.

McGovern-Dole and CRS are feeding 145,000 children in 688 schools and 28 preschools. Take-home rations and de-worming are also provided. Burkina Faso has suffered from drought and also the strain of hosting refugees from the war in Mali. The country has high poverty and very low literacy rates. Support for education is extremely vital.

The U.S. Food for Peace program is also funding CRS to feed another 40,000 children in primary school. There are also 700 children in preschool who receive meals. Take-home rations are given to 4500 girls with rates of attendance. The food is a powerful incentive for attending school. The Food for Peace plan is to help Burkina Faso as it develops more capacity to take over the school feeding.

Local production of food is also part of the Burkina Faso plan. CRS and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture combined on a local purchase project that fed 58,000 children. Cornell University helped with monitoring and evaluation.

The future of these school feeding projects will rely on funding that will be determined, in large extent, in the next Farm Bill. It’s important citizens let their representatives in Congress know about funding the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs.

Originally published at The Huffington Post

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The World Needs More School Meals

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

A child in the war-torn African nation of Mali just wrote a letter to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Emergency school meals are being provided by the WFP in Northern Mali.

“Our parents are poor and tired,” the child wrote. “Thank you WFP who gave us food so we could work hard in school. We always count on God and you. With WFP it’s okay. The school in Barize thanks you.”

This food is nutrition for their mind and body. But also for their spirit and soul. Food is hope. WFP’s plan is to feed children but at the same time get them back in school and learning. It’s a strategy that is proven to work.

They are going full steam ahead at providing these meals through the rest of this year. Right now 120,771 students in Northern Mali get two meals a day: an enriched breakfast and a lunch. Volunteer cooks also receive take home rations.

It’s common sense that school meals are important, especially for a nation trying to find that road to peace after a war. Tragically, that does not always translate into funding for school meals. When international relations is discussed it seldom revolves around humanitarianism, the very thing people around the world need most.

For Syrian refugee children school feeding is one of the few things they can count on during this time of upheaval in the Middle East. The WFP is providing 2,000 children right now with school feeding at refugee camps in Jordan. They hope to expand to 30,000 by the end of the year. In Iraq over 4500 refugee children have received high-energy biscuits at school and summer camps.

WFP needs funding to make sure school meals continue the rest of this year and into next year. The UN food agency relies entirely on voluntary donations. That means budget decisions by the U.S. Congress have a dramatic effect. If funding disappears so too will the school meals. That is a silent tragedy that goes unseen.

In Mali, WFP has a homegrown school feeding project in the Southern part of the country. By helping small farmers become the providers of the meals, it helps build the future of the country, one where they can sustain themselves.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also has a school feeding program in Mali which is set to resume in October. Kristina Brayman of CRS reports the program will operate in 310 schools with an end goal of feeding 80,000 children.

The U.S. McGovern-Dole school lunch program supports this CRS initiative in Mali. The Congress will be deciding in the coming weeks how much funding to give McGovern-Dole. This will have a big impact on the future of school meals in U.S. foreign policy.

Some members of Congress want these budgets made responsibly and are desperately trying to get the fight against hunger at the top of the foreign policy agenda. Representative Betty McCollum (MN) recently introduced the Global Food Security Act. This would create a White House level coordinator to improve the U.S. response to world hunger.

The Act quotes a U.S. Intelligence report which states, ”Growing food insecurity in weakly governed countries could lead to political violence and provide opportunities for existing insurgent groups to capitalize on poor conditions, exploit international food aid, and discredit governments for their inability to address basic needs.”

It’s in everyone’s interests that we fight hunger and provide school meals around the world. A child who received school meals in Germany wrote after World War II, “If every people will help the other, like you does, we should have a lasting peace soon.”

That is what the world needs most of all now.

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Catholic Relief Services Wants McGovern-Dole Expanded to Fight World Hunger

McGovern-Dole funding is allowing CRS to provide school meals in war-devastated Mali, where poverty rates are high. (Kristina Brayman/CRS)

McGovern-Dole funding is allowing CRS to provide school meals in war-devastated Mali, where poverty rates are high. (Kristina Brayman/CRS)

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a long history of supporting school meals around the world, dating back to the World War II era. Now CRS is calling on Congress to fund the McGovern-Dole global school meals program at $250 million this year. Previous funding levels are around $205 million.

School meals make foreign policy sense. Sean Callahan of CRS recently stated before Congress, “Education and nutrition are inextricably linked to future economic growth.”

That is why CRS wants to see the McGovern-Dole initiative expanded. Haiti, Afghanistan and many other countries need support for school feeding. In Mali, where conflict and drought have devastated the lives of millions, school meals are a big part of aiding children.

CRS received a McGovern-Dole grant for Mali and it’s making a difference. At last report, CRS is “currently serving 310 schools in two regions and approximately 58,000 beneficiaries.” CRS provides meals as well as vitamins and medications to the school children.

Callahan adds, “The program has helped to increase school enrollment for girls by 41% and for boys by 22%. On average, students attended school 95% of the days classes were held.”

The CRS Mali program also has elements of local food production for providing the meals. This is key. Where possible, the food for school meals needs to come from local sources. This helps communities and furthers the stability of the program so that continued aid is not needed.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) also is providing school meals in Mali. The UN food agency relies on voluntary funding but often struggles to receive it. Expanding McGovern-Dole, for instance, could allow an opportunity to support WFP and its school feeding in Mali.

The Congress will have an opportunity to increase the McGovern-Dole funding in the upcoming Farm Bill legislation.

Article first published as Catholic Relief Services Wants McGovern-Dole Expanded to Fight World Hunger on Blogcritics.

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Mali and Mauritania: War, Drought and School Meals

As the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says, “There has to be an African solution” to the crisis in Mali. The Malian government, backed by French forces, has been striking Al Qaeda-linked militants who had occupied the northern part of the country.

That solution, a lasting peace, will be hard to find if children are hungry, malnourished and not able to even attend school. Their future is being made in a country where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the war. There was also a severe drought last year which placed even more burden on already impoverished families.

No food, no school. That is the reality in Mali as described by a UN World Food Programme officer. Families are just looking for ways to survive. If you can provide food at school the children will come, and this holds the key to the country’s future.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is launching emergency school feeding in the northern part of Mali. This will feed close to 70,000 children throughout the conflict-affected area. WFP is already feeding 113,000 children in the southern part of the country.

Will there be funding? That is a big question, because WFP relies on voluntary funding from governments and the public. Right now this operation is only 20 percent funded.

The neighboring country of Mauritania is also feeling the impact of the war, having taken in over 70,000 Malian refugees. This creates a great strain on communities that were already suffering in poverty and drought.

The World Food Programme has a school feeding operation in Mauritania to help both the host communities and refugees. The problem is again funding. Last year, WFP was forced to reduce the number of feeding days as well as the size of the food rations. Sophie Ndong, of WFP in Mauritania, says that last year “primary school children were assisted during 80 days only instead of the 160 days planned.”

The funding woes continue for Mauritania as 2013 gets underway. WFP wants to feed 149,128 children school meals but no funding has arrived except for a donation from the University of Guelph of 318,916 emergency meals for primary school children.

WFP also plans to provide school meals to 18,000 refugee children at the Mbera camp and 28,290 children from the surrounding host community. The program costs about $612,000 but no funding has come in.

The plans are there but the resources are not. Catholic Relief Services has school feeding in Mali, making use of a grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. An expansion of this program’s reach could help fund the WFP programs as well and feed hundreds of thousands more children.

Children suffer the most in a crisis because hunger causes them to become stunted in growth and mind. Feeding the children becomes so vital, and if done at school it becomes food for education, and food for hope.

Article first published as Mali and Mauritania: War, Drought and School Meals on Blogcritics.

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War, Drought, and Hunger in Mali

WFP/Jane Howard

WFP/Jane Howard

As conflict in Mali escalates so too does hunger and displacement in the African nation. The UN Refugee Agency warns “that stepped up aid was vital to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian situation.”

Mali’s government, backed by French forces, has launched an offensive against rebels associated with Al-Qaeda in the northern part of the country. Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department says, “it’s absolutely critical to stop the offensive of terrorist groups toward southern Mali, to prevent the collapse of the government.”

There are reports of rebel forces carrying out executions and amputations of civilians. In the conflict-affected areas food and fuel are in short supply.

Over 230,000 have been displaced inside Mali while over 140,000 people have fled to other countries in the Sahel region of Africa. Mali and its neighbors have suffered recently from drought so these are countries already in a weakened state. Critical to war and drought relief is feeding programs, especially those for children who are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

The UN World Food Programme is running an emergency operation which provides “food assistance, nutritional support and emergency school feeding to 564,000 vulnerable people affected by the crisis.” This includes Plumpy’Sup, a peanut paste used to prevent deadly malnutrition in children under the age of five.

WFP is in desperate need of funding close to US $ 200 million dollars for both its operation inside Mali as well as relief for refugees who have fled to other countries.

The McGovern-Dole program, named after former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, is also funding school meals for children in Mali. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) received the funding and provides the food.

Helen Blakesley of CRS says the program is feeding more than 75,000 children at primary and secondary schools in the Mopti and Koulikoro areas.

Kristina Brayman, who runs the CRS school feeding in Mali says, “It means children receive a hot, nutritious meal each day, using US donated food complemented by both local foods from school gardens and purchased through funds collected by the community. Without that food, many students would not eat a square meal at all. It motivates parents to send their children to school, especially girls, and means the children are able to grow, develop, and maximize their learning potential. It really is essential.”

The McGovern-Dole program will have its future funding decided in the US Congress soon. The program in Mali is an example of what a difference this humanitarian aid can make.

As the conflict and hunger persist in Mali the international community will need to support aid agencies.

Article first published as War, Drought, and Hunger in Mali on Blogcritics.

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Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa

A drought-ravaged field in the Keyes region of southwestern Mali. Already impoverished families lost their food supply and source of income because of the drought. Credits: WFP/ Daouda Guirou

There is a struggle for survival ongoing for millions of people suffering from hunger in the Sahel region of Africa. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that “one child in five in the Sahel dies before the age of five – malnutrition is an associated cause of more than 30% of these deaths.”

The Sahel includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Gambia, and Senegal.

Drought and conflict have caused food shortages, and families can survive only with humanitarian aid as they await the next harvest. There have been some good rains recently to encourage the growing of food. These same rains have also produced flooding that has impacted over a million people in the Sahel.

Refugee Crisis from Mali Conflict

The Sahel food crisis is also complicated because of a massive flow of refugees from Mali. In Northern Mali there has been fighting between the government and armed extremist groups. As one victim told the director of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), “Fear pushed me to leave my home. I saw people being killed in front of me when Gossi was taken over by armed groups at the end of June. I did not want to wait for my turn.”

The US State Department is alarmed by the increasing violence in Northern Mali and is urging a resolution to the conflict, stating, “We repeat the call on armed groups in northern Mali to renounce any connection with terrorist groups and enter into legitimate political negotiations on the basis of Mali’s territorial integrity.” There is significant fear of what may lie ahead should the chaos and hunger continue to proliferate in Mali and throughout the region.

The World Food Programme says it is feeding over 200,000 refugees in the surrounding countries. This includes Mauritania which is hosting over 100,000 refugees while struggling with its own hunger crisis.

The charity Save the Children is urging support for the refugees to prevent malnutrition in the camps. The children need food aid and also psychological and educational support to help them deal with the trauma.

Nutrition for Small Children Critical

Nutritional support for the smallest children is crucial in this crisis The lack of food for children under five years of age causes severe and irreversible physical and mental damage. Surveys being conducted right now by aid workers show high acute malnutrition rates in Senegal, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania.

Save the Children says that throughout the Sahel over one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. A special food called Plumpy’Nut can save the children from the lifetime damage of malnutrition. Save the Children estimates that 1.5 million cartons of Plumpy’Nut are needed in the Sahel but funding is the issue. Aid agencies are voluntarily funded.

School Feeding to Help Communities

Providing food for children at school is a way to boost recovery for entire communities. The food offers an incentive for parents to send children back to school so it accomplishes both nutritional and educational objectives.

The World Food Programme hopes to resume school meals in the coming weeks in several Sahel nations. But will the funding and food supplies be there to allow these important programs to be carried out? In Mauritania, WFP is reporting a slight delay in its school feeding program due to food supply difficulties.

WFP is planning a major expansion of its school feeding in Mali. Aboubacar Guindo of WFP says the expansion will mean doubling the number of students it feeds in the Southern part of the country. He adds that the funding has yet to be secured.

Funding a Key Issue

Aid agencies need support from both governments and the public. What could be more devastating than not enough resources being dedicated to saving lives? WFP reports “a funding shortfall of US$ 300 million” for the region. Also a special operation for logistics in Mauritania remains completely underfunded, which could harm the delivery of aid.

WFP provides not only food but also logistical and technological support to improved aid delivery. The WFP Emergency Telecommunications cluster, for instance, has developed a radio system which will be implemented in Northern Mali to help improve coordination for the relief effort.

Recovery from one major drought is difficult enough. In the Sahel there have been a succession of droughts and the low resistance levels of the communities involved is a major reason for the crisis. Aid agencies are trying to find a way to provide emergency aid but also plant the seed for future food security.

Relief Funds for the Sahel Food Crisis:

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – World Food Programme

Mali Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

West Africa/ Sahel Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – Catholic Relief Services

Article first published as Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa on Blogcritics

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Charities Low on Funding to Help Suffering Children in Mali

 

Drought and conflict have caused massive displacement in Mali as families search for pasture. (photo courtesy WFP/ Daouda Guirou)

UNICEF says it’s only received 28 percent of its 58 million dollar emergency appeal to help conflict-torn Mali. The charity is providing nutrition, water, vaccinations and medicine to children suffering from the conflict and poverty.

A coup followed by a rebellion in Northern Mali has caused hunger and displacement for many thousands of families. Drought has also struck throughout Mali intensifying hunger and poverty.

UNICEF states, “Across the northern part of Mali, the global malnutrition rate is among the highest in the country. Schools have been closed for much of the year. Tens of thousands of families have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to violence and distress. Cholera has surfaced along the Niger River. Community coping mechanisms are being stretched to the extreme and risk failure, with negative consequences for children and women.”

The chaos has also placed children at risk of recruitment into rebel forces. UNICEF says it “calls on all parties to the conflict, leaders and community members to ensure that children are protected from the harmful impact of armed conflict and do not participate in hostilities.”

Families in Mali normally rely on stocks of food to help them through the summer lean season between harvests. These stocks would come from previous harvests. The drought though has meant far less food reserves to draw upon. Some reports show that families are resorting to eating cooked leaves. When drought hits families who are already living in poverty the impact is devastating.

Save the Children is working to rescue the most vulnerable in this hunger crisis. The charity is facing low funding having not achieved 50 percent of the fundraising goal for Mali.

Meanwhile the peak of the “lean season” is here with farmers and their families struggling to get food. Katie Seaborne, a Save the Children officer in Mali says, “I met with a woman called Mamou Traore in Diema of Kayes region in Southern Mali just on Thursday who explained how her husband’s crops lasted just one month. They have been trying to eke out a living ever since. Her four month old baby girl, Aissaita is now malnourished.”

Save the Children is supporting health centres which are treating these malnutrition cases including Aissaita. Without funding it will be difficult for Save the Children to carry on this work.

To donate to Save the Children visit their West Africa Hunger Crisis Fund.

For more information on UNICEF in Mali visit their web site.

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