Tag Archives: Niger

The forgotten victims of Boko Haram terrorism need our help with food aid

On World Refugee Day today, let’s remember the starving war victims from Boko Haram’s reign of terror.

Think of the farmers in Nigeria who have been forced from their land by Boko Haram’s attacks. Think of the malnourished children in Cameroon, internally displaced with their families because Boko Haram crosses the border from Nigeria with its terror.

Read the full article at Cleveland.com.

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Online game nets rice for schoolchildren in Africa

The online learning game FreeRice just donated US $53,325 worth of food for school meals in Niger. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced this latest FreeRice grant.

Read the full article at Examiner.com

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Why FreeRice is so important for Niger

FreeRice has two goals:  Provide education to everyone for free.  Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

FreeRice has two goals: Provide education to everyone for free. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

When you go online to play the award-winning game FreeRice you are currently helping feed school children in Niger. This is a country in the Sahel region of Africa where the UN  World Food Programme says, “2.5 million people are in a permanent state of food insecurity, unable to meet basic food requirements even under normal conditions.”

Millions of others also suffer from hunger during different periods of the year, between harvests for example. With such extreme hunger and poverty parents may withdraw their  children from school, unless there is the incentive of food.

Here is an excerpt of a report from the World Food Programme:

The school feeding programme successfully encourages enrollment and attendance of children,  and reduces drop-out rates, in primary schools in structurally  vulnerable areas of Niger through the provision of cooked meals. In  order to address the gender gap in enrollment and reduce drop-out rates,  WFP provides a dry, take-home family ration to girls enrolled and attending the final  years of primary school. At the request of the Government, WFP and UNICEF are working to expand in nomadic areas.”

By playing FreeRice you are helping children get food and education. With the SAT tests coming up in June, millions of high school students in the U.S. could actually prepare for this test and help Niger by using the FreeRice SAT prep section.

Start playing at FreeRice.com.

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Interview: Dr. Al Forsyth on Helping and Learning with FreeRice

When you answer questions correctly while playing FreeRice a bowl fills up with rice, which will be sent to hungry people around the world. (photo from author's collection)

When you answer questions correctly while playing FreeRice a bowl fills up with rice, which will be sent to hungry people around the world. (photo from author’s collection)

FreeRice is the amazing online game where you feed the hungry while answering questions in vocabulary and other subjects. Currently, FreeRice donations are going to Niger to help feed schoolchildren.

Last year I had the opportunity to collaborate with the FreeRice team at the UN World Food Programme (WFP). We were discussing a potential new history subject.

It was during those discussions that Dr. Al Forsyth, a retired Weber State University professor, came up with the idea of a world hunger section for the game. This week I interviewed him to learn more about how he took this idea and turned it into a subject now appearing on FreeRice.

How did you first get involved with FreeRice and creating the global hunger section?

I think the concept of FreeRice – learning and helping – is brilliant. As a retired professor of teacher education, [I thought] the concept was very appealing and I wanted to be involved. While contributing to a new FreeRice subject, History, it occurred to me that an important piece of FreeRice’s “curriculum” was missing. The existing subject area list offered players a standard selection of academic subjects, yet visiting the World Food Programme site opened one’s eyes to much new information about the organization’s focal issue, world hunger. Why not offer that as a FreeRice subject? A World Hunger subject would allow the player to not only contribute to reducing world hunger by correctly answering questions, but also to learn about this supremely important issue.

Perhaps a little new knowledge would lead to a desire for more, to exploring the World Food Programme website, and even to discovering new ways to contribute to solving the problem. Fun, learning, commitment, engagement – that’s the sequence that I thought a World Hunger subject area on FreeRice might lead to.

Fortunately the World Food Programme person overseeing FreeRice liked the idea as well, and after the idea traveled through the required channels at WFP, it was adopted. Using WFP’s site and related links for much of my content, I developed 340 multiple-choice questions. WFP then thoroughly reviewed these questions for relevance, appropriateness and accuracy, eventually reducing the list to the current 285 questions.

When you created the section did you learn some things that surprised you about global hunger?

The questions I developed were of four basic types: definitions of terms related to world hunger; geographic information (countries and regions vis-a-vis world hunger); numbers showing the breadth and depth of world hunger; and lists (e.g., 5 causes of hunger, 10 top causes of death by disease, #1 cause of mental retardation and brain damage worldwide). The content of the numbers questions was most surprising: I had no idea of the seriousness of the issue, the extent of world hunger. These numbers brought into sharp focus the close correlation between hunger and other factors such as poverty, population, infant mortality, life expectancy. In fact, these questions were very difficult to write, as the information was shocking – and I wanted the player answering the question to be shocked by their new learning, so the correct multiple choice answer was often the most outrageous one. These questions are easy to answer: just choose the most shocking answer.

How do you recommend teachers utilize the global hunger subject in their classes?

Obviously, there are few, if any, courses in World Hunger in pre-collegiate public education. It is not a subject in the standard curriculum. And yet it is an issue central to the human experience, and as such it touches many parts of that curriculum. Any subject relating to people and how they live relates to world hunger: social studies, of course, but also English, other languages (as they expose students to other cultures), science (biological, chemical and physical aspects of hunger). And math, as a tool for opening understanding via numbers, can certainly be applied to the topic of world hunger. So, the subject of world hunger can be a central theme that unites diverse curricular areas.

The teacher can choose the content upon which standard subject areas can focus: world hunger would be an excellent choice. It is knowledge that contributes to understanding how the world works and where each individual fits into the global picture. And applying knowledge about world hunger can lead to engagement with one of humankind’s most pressing problems, and to the personal satisfaction of making a positive difference in the world. In other words, the payoff for placing world hunger at the center of the curriculum and teaching English, social studies, languages, sciences and math using content related to world hunger can be tremendous, both educationally and personally.

Another question is how best to use FreeRice World Hunger questions in the classroom. It could be a required activity for students, to prepare them with a base of knowledge about the subject, gained in a rather haphazard way, before learning about world hunger in a more orderly, sequenced fashion. It could also be a review, after formal learning has taken place. Personally, I would recommend that teachers introduce students to FreeRice, then turn them loose. They are naturally competitive and eager for empowerment, for the chance to do something really important while also learning. Seeing that bowl fill with rice can be a powerful, powerful motivator for learning – and for doing good.

Article first published as Interview: Dr. Al Forsyth on Helping and Learning with FreeRice on Blogcritics.

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FreeRice Can Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving

FreeRice has two goals: Provide education to everyone for free. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

What if on Thanksgiving Day you could share food with a hungry person a world away? What if you could feed hundreds or thousands of “silent guests” on Thanksgiving? Actually you can, with FreeRice, the award-winning online game which helps feed the hungry.

When you play FreeRice you answer questions in many subjects including vocabulary, math, etc. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Programme, the largest food aid organization.

This year I had the opportunity to write some of the questions that appear in the new FreeRice section on world hunger. I have also been encouraged by the response to the game.

Recently, I wrote a story on the great work Ithaca College’s Food for Thought organization has done with FreeRice. This is part of their ongoing campaign against hunger which is highlighted by the Walk for Plumpy’nut.

A College of Mount St. Joseph student, Elizabeth Paff, has been promoting FreeRice as part of an upcoming campus walk event against hunger. The St. John’s Church in Delhi, Ohio told me they are playing FreeRice with some of their school programs.

FreeRice has raised money to feed schoolchildren in Haiti after the earthquake. Currently FreeRice donations are headed to Niger, a country in Western Africa that has suffered a severe drought this year. In addition, Niger is host to thousands of refugees from a conflict in the neighboring country of Mali.

We saw this year how tough drought is and how it can lead to higher food prices. In Niger, where farmers have less technology and means to cope, the consequences of drought multiply. We can throw this country a safety net by playing FreeRice.

So after turkey this year, make some time for FreeRice. By simply playing this game, you can invite a “silent guest” into your home on Thanksgiving, and help feed people a world away in Niger.

Visit FreeRice.com to start playing.

Article first published as FreeRice Can Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving on Blogcritics.

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This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life in Famine-Threatened West Africa

This Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones. It’s also a time when people can rally to save the lives of millions of people threatened by starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.

A severe drought has ruined food supplies in this part of West Africa, which includes Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and five other countries. Conflict in Mali has created a refugee crisis; small children have already starved to death as a result of the food shortages. Aid agencies do not have enough resources to defeat the famine.

West Africa Faces Food Crisis (Australian Broadcasting Corporation video)

How can someone help? Do exactly what General John J. Pershing did after World War I. That war, in which he commanded American forces, produced a massive food shortage that threatened millions with starvation in Europe and other areas. Pershing co-hosted a fundraising dinner along with Herbert Hoover who ran American relief efforts during and after the war.

Description: New York City, Children's Relief Fund, 12/29/1920, Invisible Guest Dinner (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

A chair was placed at the table signifying an “invisible guest,” one of the hungry and suffering. Funds were collected at the dinners through the cost of the plate and also additional contributions. The money funded the work of the American Relief Administration overseas, the agency that led the fight against the other enemy of the World War I- Hunger.

Description: CRB, American Relief Administration Food Distribution, Poland, CA 1919 (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

Today, Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people to have their own “invisible guest” event. If it leads to a donation of even the cost of one Memorial Day cookout meal, it can save a life.

The director of the UN World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, says, “Time is not on our side. If no new food or cash contributions are received immediately, the resulting inability to pre-position and distribute enough food at the peak of the lean season, from June to September, would be catastrophic for the most vulnerable, food insecure people – especially women and children.”

Children being screened for their nutrition status at a supplementary feeding centre in Mauritania. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)

The UN World Food Programme has started a relief fund where people can donate to the Sahel relief effort. Save the Children also has its own Sahel relief fund. Both offer great opportunities to feed an “invisible guest” this Memorial Day.

If the donations come in, children will be saved from starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.(WFP/Rein Skullerud)

Article first published as This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life In Famine-Threatened West Africa on Blogcritics.

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Famine in Niger: Silent Guest Donations Needed to Feed Starving Children

Children are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition in Niger. Many will lose their lives unless the world responds. (Save the Children UK photo.)

Iris Gabriel, who once aspired to be an actress, played her most important role as a humanitarian. She proposed an idea to Massachusetts Governor Robert Bradford for Thanksgiving of 1947. Why not ask everyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner to take in a “silent guest,” one of the world’s starving people?

People would then send a donation to feed the silent guest. The plan took off, with Bradford’s support, and it led to the purchase of thousands of CARE packages forwarded to the hungry in Europe. The program continued well past Thanksgiving too.

Today, the “silent guest” heroics are needed again as famine threatens. Children are starving to death in Niger and other countries in the Sahel region of West Africa. Severe drought and conflict have led to food shortages. If we respond now, we can save many lives. But aid agencies are lacking funding and the world is slow to turn its attention to this crisis.

If everyone will take the initiative, we can stop the tragedy. I just made a “silent guest” donation to Save the Children’s West Africa relief fund. If everyone did this at their next meal, it could help Save the Children’s relief work in Niger and the other Sahel countries.

Do not wait for the G8 to take action. Show them how to take action. Tonight at dinner imagine having one of the children in Niger as your guest. You could change a life by making a silent guest donation. Even a few dollars can buy a number of servings of the life-saving food Plumpy’nut.

Read this article by Annie Bodmer-Roy of Save the Children as she tell us about the tragedy taking place in Niger.

The Silent Guest reminds us of what is the right thing to do for humanity and building lasting peace. I think Americans can respond like this again and save lives.

You can help Save the Children’s West Africa Emergency Fund.

Article first published as Famine in Niger: Silent Guest Donations Needed to Feed Starving Children on Blogcritics.

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Drought Afflicted Niger Receives Donation for School Feeding

WFP is providing school meals in Niger as part of its response to severe drought in the region. (WFP/Judith Sculer)

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Niger recently received funding from donors to provide school meals through May. Niger is one of the countries caught in the Sahel Food Crisis as drought and conflict have struck this region of Africa.

The school meals program is meant to keep kids fed and allow them to continue their education during a time of drought. Food prices in Niger have dramatically increased making these food safety nets programs imperative.

Denise Brown, head of WFP Niger, says the school feeding is for over 200,000 children and includes a breakfast and lunch ration. WFP in Niger needs much more help to prevent famine.

WFP is planning to feed 3.3 million people but is currently short 73.7 million dollars for the relief operation. WFP director Josette Sheeran says “We know what needs to be done and we have the lessons learned from the Horn of Africa. We can’t prevent drought, but we can prevent famine.”

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Sahel Food Crisis: Race Against Time to Save Lives

A mother attends to her severely malnourished child at an inpatient feeding centre in Mao, Chad. Credit: UNICEF Chad/2011/ Esteve

In the Sahel region of Africa millions of people are caught in a severe hunger crisis. Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali are primarily the countries affected right now.

Drought has reduced food production, and high prices reign over the existing food supply. For families living in poverty, food is out of reach. UNICEF says more than a million children under five years of age will need to be treated for severe malnutrition in the region.

If the international community does not act now, the situation will get much worse. Action has to be taken well before the lean season between harvests, which could start as early as February or March. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says, “food security problems in the lean season lead to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality, taking it beyond critical levels.”

It can take months for a donation to translate into food on the ground. So donors need to come forward quickly to help avert a disaster in the Sahel.

Navyn Salem of Edesia, whose organization produces plumpy’nut food aid, points out that if donors wait until the ultimate disaster strikes, it leads to very expensive airlifts of emergency food aid. That is money that could have been used to purchase more food and shipped at lower cost months earlier.

Right now WFP is facing a tough time funding its relief operations as hunger is on the rise in many parts of the globe. In Niger, WFP had to increase its funding requirements to feed over 3 million people, one million higher than previous estimates. So far, less than half of the required funding has been received to provide the food aid.

Denise Brown, WFP country director, warns “Unusually high food prices are affecting needy people who are facing growing difficulties as they struggle to feed themselves and their children. I am deeply worried about the food situation deteriorating in the coming months and we cannot sit back and wait for the worst to come.”

The US Food for Peace program, started by Dwight Eisenhower, has been able to send some funds for Niger relief. However, the US Congress has been threatening to reduce future funding for Food for Peace despite the massive global hunger crisis now unfolding.

In Chad, cereal production in 2011 decreased 50 percent compared to 2010, according to the Food and Agriculture organization. Who becomes the most vulnerable when such a food crisis hits? It’s the smallest children under five years of age.

A WFP report says, levels of acute malnutrition were at a “critical” level in 6 out of 11 regions surveyed in Chad. Other areas were categorized as having “Serious” levels of malnutrition. The smallest infants in this danger zone run the risk of lifetime physical and mental damage unless food aid can reach them in time.

UNICEF says, “What is going to be required to save lives is the sweet, peanut-based therapeutic food known as ‘Plumpy Nut’, enough nutrition professionals in the field to work the feeding centres, and a string of other interventions that bring more food into communities.”

The Sahel region is in need though of more than emergency food aid. There has to be a way to build up the resilience of the region to future droughts, and gradually reduce the need for outside assistance. When the current crisis stabilizes, investments in the small farmer will need to move forward. Only this food security investment can prevent another hunger crisis of this magnitude.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: Race Against Time to Save Lives on Blogcritics.

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