Tag Archives: Sahel Food Crisis

School Meals Vital to Recovery in Burkina Faso

During the Sahel drought of 2012 children at the Tin-Ediar school in Burkina Faso line up for meals provided by the World Food Programme. The children are provided breakfast and lunch at school. (WFP/Anne Poulsen)

During the Sahel drought of 2012 children at the Tin-Ediar school in Burkina Faso line up for meals provided by the World Food Programme. The children are provided breakfast and lunch at school. (WFP/Anne Poulsen)

Many of us have seen drought at one time or another. Last summer a severe one scorched across much of the United States. The impact is hard, but imagine if you are a poor family in a developing country, dependent on crops for income and food. When drought strikes it destroys your food supply and you have almost nothing to fall back on.

This is what happened in the Sahel region of Africa last year when massive drought struck. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Burkina Faso says this caused many families to move to mining zones to find work. Their children would have to work too, meaning they would have to drop out of school.

WFP, though, had a school feeding plan to help families deal with the shock of drought and to keep the children in class. Last year in Burkina Faso, one of the Sahel countries, WFP fed 91,783 children breakfast and lunch at school and some girls received take-home rations. When food becomes scarce and high-priced as it did in the Sahel last year, food at school becomes a life-changer.

Burkina Faso had another emergency besides drought. The war in Mali created a number of refugees, some of whom fled to Burkina Faso. Ariane Waldvogel, the WFP deputy country director for Burkina Faso, says, “Malian refugee children were absorbed into local schools and received school meals…This assistance was key in not only improving the food security of the refugee children but also played a role in keeping relations between refugee and Burkinabé host communities peaceful.”

As 2013 unfolds school meals are still vital in Burkina Faso and throughout the region. School attendance in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region as a whole is low. WFP wants to expand its program to reach 100,000 children this year as it continues to help Burkina Faso recover. In time this program can help build a national school meals program, such as we have here in the United States.

WFP depends on voluntary donations, though. They need about U.S. $4.1 million to provide the meals this year. Some funding has been received from Switzerland and the United States.

Waldvogel says, “The additional US $1.7 million are urgently required to enable WFP to purchase and deliver food in time to ensure that school children resume school in October and continue to receive their two meals a day. Multi-year funding would be ideal for this programme, providing a steady funding stream, which would allow WFP to provide constant school feeding assistance throughout the academic year.”

The U.S. McGovern-Dole program, which funds school meals in developing countries, would be a great resource for Burkina Faso. It’s important that the U.S. Congress not reduce funding for this program as stipulated by the Sequester. School meals play a critical role bring stability throughout the world in areas impacted by drought and conflict. There is no better example of this than in the Sahel region of Africa.

Article first published as School Meals Vital to Recovery in Burkina Faso 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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Families in Mali Running Out of Food

An archive picture of a little girl receiving food assistance at one of the WFP projects around the city of Timbuktu in northern Mali. (WFP/Shannon Hayes)

Families in Mali are running out of food with some reportedly eating meals “only made of cooked leaves” according to the UN World Food Programme. Mali, located in West Africa’s Sahel region, is one of the countries caught in a severe food crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali. Drought has struck the country but so too has internal strife with a military coup earlier this year followed by increased rebellion in the Northern part of the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, “Mali was, by most indicators, on the right path until a cadre of soldiers seized power a little more than a month before national elections were scheduled to be held. By some estimates, this could set back Mali’s economic progress by nearly a decade. It certainly created a vacuum in the North in which rebellion and extremism have spread, threatening not only people’s lives and the treasures of the past, but the stability of the region.”

The conflict has displaced 174,000 people within Mali and they need humanitarian aid. Even more Malians have been displaced to neighboring countries including Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres says, “We have now 257,000 refugees from Mali who are going through an enormous level of suffering and deprivation. They had to cross the borders of very poor countries that have very dramatic food security problems: Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.”

WFP says it needs 55 million dollars to fund its relief work for those displaced inside Mali and the surrounding countries.

Within Mali, WFP has reached over 100,000 children with nutritional help including the food Plumpy’Sup. This peanut paste keeps small children from suffering devastating physical and mental damage from malnutrition.

Katie Seaborne of Save the Children says the charity is providing nutritional support in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, where child malnutrition rates have increased this year, Save the Children is using both Plumpy’Sup and Plumpy’Nut, the latter generally used to treat the most severe cases of malnutrition.

Throughout the entire Sahel region of Africa, WFP is reporting a shortage of $320 million dollars in funding to provide food aid.

Where you can donate to hunger relief in the Sahel:

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

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UN, Save the Children Start Famine Relief Funds for West Africa

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency, has started a relief fund for the famine-threatened Sahel region of West Africa. Unless humanitarian aid is rushed in, eight countries which make up the Sahel region are at risk of mass starvation.

The charity Save the Children has likewise started a relief fund for West Africa, urging the world to respond before mass famine takes hold. Save the Children warns, “The greatest tragedy is that the world sees disasters such as this coming but fails to prevent them.”

Map of the Sahel region of West Africa. Shaded areas can quickly descend into famine if humanitarian aid does not arrive. (map courtesy USAID Famine Early Warning System)

Individuals can donate to these funds and help save lives in the eight Sahel countries which have suffered a massive drought: Niger, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad, and Cameroon.

Mothers and their babies wait in line in a maternal health care centre in Niamey, Niger, where WFP provides supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children under three years of age. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)

Niamey, Niger, maternal health care center: a child eats his ration of Supplementary Plumpy – a nutritious peanut-based product packed with vitamins, minerals, and milk proteins. If children receive this food, they will survive the crisis. Aid agencies are low on funding to provide the food. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)

Already children in West Africa have perished from malnutrition. The World Food Programme has warned for months that the hunger crisis in West Africa could reach epic proportions during the summer. WFP says, “Malnutrition rates, particularly affecting children under two, are generally high in the Sahel, and usually rise during the lean season, leading to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality.”

The lean season, or period between harvests, runs through September. Severe drought, though, has drastically reduced the amount of food farmers can produce, leading to shortages and high prices for any available supply. Conflict in Northern Mali has created a refugee crisis which is adding to the disaster in the region.WFP is pleading for funds as it plans to feed over nine million people in the Sahel. The smallest children are most at risk because they need nutrients at this early age or they will suffer lasting physical and mental damage. When the malnutrition reaches its severest, children will die, as is already happening in the Sahel.

Special foods like plumpy’nut can save children’s lives, but low funding for humanitarian aid often prevents enough supplies from being deployed quickly enough into the field. If the world would act faster, and more consistently, famines could be prevented.

Country Director Vitoria Ginja speaking to a beneficiary at Janjanbureh distribution point in the Central River Region, The Gambia. (WFP photo)

Last year the world waited too long before responding to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Massive drought struck Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, but it was not until summer was well underway that the world’s attention shifted significantly to the disaster.

Save the Children says, “Early signs of an oncoming food crisis were clear many months before the Horn of Africa emergency reached its peak. Yet it was not until the situation had reached crisis point that the international system started to respond at scale.”

This year a similar tragedy awaits West Africa unless the world responds now.

You can donate to the relief funds at the World Food Programme and Save the Children.

See a series of articles on the Sahel Food Crisis.

Article first published as UN, Save the Children Start Famine Relief Funds for West Africa 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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President Obama to Make Speech About Global Hunger Crisis

Food aid is desperately needed by refugees from the conflict in Mali. While some refugees were able to bring a few animals with them, most of the camp’s inhabitants were forced to leave their livestock at home in Mali. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)

With hunger emergencies ongoing in the Sahel region of Africa, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries, President Barack Obama faces one of his most daunting foreign policy challenges. The President will be making a speech about the global hunger crisis this Friday, May 18th, at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington D.C.

Obama’s speech will be pivotal in rallying support to fight off famine on multiple fronts. In the Sahel region of Africa massive drought and a conflict in Northern Mali have placed over 16 million people at risk of starvation. The Sahel hunger crisis, which impacts Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and at least five other nations, is expected to peak this summer. Aid agencies are short on funding to meet the challenge. Annie Bodmer-Roy, of Save the Children, posted on Twitter today about the tragedy aid workers are witnessing in Niger: “Hear[t]breaking news this aft: 7mnth-old boy I met yesterday, badly malnourished, did not make it through the day. We need to stop this.”

The UN World Food Programme’s director Ertharin Cousin and UNHCR director Antonio Guterres said in a joint statement, “The window of opportunity to save lives is narrowing by the day. Today we appeal to the international community on behalf of the most vulnerable people in Niger and Sahelian countries. The time to act is now.”

The Sahel though is not the only area in crisis. East Africa is still recovering from last year’s drought and famine.

In Sudan, as conflict escalates so does hunger. Farmers have been forced away from their land. Drought also has hit, leveling another blow at food production. As peace efforts go forward by the U.S. and allies, so too must humanitarian aid to the displaced. There must be a special effort at food for malnourished children under five years of age, and also feeding programs for school age children.

In Afghanistan, hunger and malnutrition have severely damaged hopes for peace and development within the country. Low funding for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has limited its ability to carry out hunger relief missions. The UN agency is warning that funding shortages will mean more cuts to programs helping the hungry. Even school feeding programs of high energy biscuits and take-home rations will face cuts again as they did last year unless support comes from the international community.

Yemen, a country high on the U.S. national security priorities, is deeply mired in hunger and malnutrition. The World Food Programme says that 22 percent of the population suffers from severe hunger.

A report from the UN says, there are almost one million children under the age of five in Yemen who are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition, with 267,000 children at risk of dying without food aid. Children who suffer from malnutrition in the first years of life suffer lasting physical and mental damage. The key is to intervene quickly.

About 60 percent of Yemen’s children suffer from stunting. Child malnutrition in parts of Yemen rivals that of famine-ravaged Somalia. The United Nations says that the humanitarian response plan in Yemen remains $265 million dollars underfunded.

The challenge facing President Obama, as was the case with some of his predecessors, is to rally support for fighting global hunger, an issue often off the radar of politicians and media.

President Harry Truman was able to do so after World War II when hunger threatened the recovery of the World War II devastated countries. Truman worked closely with former President Herbert Hoover to build support at home and abroad. Dwight Eisenhower was also among those speaking out of the need for fighting hunger in order to win the peace. When Eisenhower later became president he started the Food for Peace program which today needs a funding boost to meet the growing humanitarian challenge.

Food for Peace is the primary tool of the US when it comes to fighting global hunger. The program makes donations to countries suffering from hunger. For instance Food for Peace donations came to the aid of East Africa last year when a severe drought hit. The World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services and other organizations distribute the food.

The Food for Peace program though is only as strong as how much funding Congress allows when it makes the foreign policy budget. The funding range right now for Food for Peace is around $1.5 billion dollars a year, whereas the annual cost to the nuclear weapons program is at least $52 billion dollars a year.

Today, there clearly is a need to boost the funding for Food for Peace and other aid programs given the size of the humanitarian disaster facing the globe. Increased emphasis to Food for Peace may be starting to take hold. So far this year U.S. Food for Peace donations to Yemen have increased over 2011. The most recent US Food for Peace donations totaling $47 million dollars will help feed Yemenis displaced by the ongoing conflict.

President Obama’s focus needs to be on the ongoing humanitarian emergencies and also how to prevent them from recurring. This means peace efforts to end the conflicts causing so much hunger and displacement, and food aid to reinforce the peace. The key is to build up food production in impoverished countries. Increasing the resilience of the small farmer to drought, will be a key topic of discussion at the symposium along with how the governments and business leaders can work together to make this happen.

Article first published as President Obama to Make Speech About Global Hunger Crisis on Blogcritics.

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Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding

WFP is providing aid to refugees who fled the conflict in Mali and have been arriving daily in Mauritania and other neighboring countries including Niger.WFP though is facing a funding shortage for its refugee relief mission.
Photo credit: WFP/Alan Mouton

As the hunger crisis deepens in eight countries of the Sahel region of Africa, humanitarian aid should be increasing. This is not the case though in parts of the drought-stricken area.

In Mauritania school meals for children have been reduced by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) due to low funding. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations.

WFP’s March distribution of food to schools in Mauritania was supposed to provide 54 days of meals to the students. With the low funding WFP had to reduce the number of days children could receive meals from 54 to 40.

WFP runs the school feeding for around 150,000 students in nine rural areas where there is malnutrition and poverty. The meals are meant to keep the children in school especially at a time when drought and high prices have made it much harder for families to get food. WFP has struggled to find funding for the school meals program, leaving it constantly vulnerable to reduced rations.

No summer feeding program is available for the school children at present. So these children and their families will be headed into the peak period of the Sahel hunger crisis with one less source of food.

A program of summer take-home rations would provide a much-needed safety net for the 150,000 students, plus their families. This would be a crucial addition to ongoing WFP relief operations such as the provision of plumpy’sup, a special food to help combat potentially life threatening malnutrition in infants.

One of the areas in Mauritania where WFP provides school meals is called Hodh ech Chargui. There are 120,000 Mauritanians in this area, 37 percent of the population, who suffer from hunger.

The severe drought conditions is hard enough to cope with. There are even more challenges. Hodh ech Chargui is also hosting more than 63,000 refugees from a conflict in the neighboring country of Mali. WFP is facing an 86 percent shortage of funds to feed these refugees.

Mauritania, and other neighboring countries, are seeing a daily influx of refugees from Mali. The UN World Food Programme’s director Ertharin Cousin, who just visited the Sahel region, said she met a refugee who said, “everybody wants to leave Mali.” The stream of refugees from Mali is expected to continue. The funding for humanitarian aid has to start flowing more rapidly too.

The international community has to act now to fund all relief operations and be prepared for an increasing number of refugees. If the world acts now, it can help prevent a famine in the Sahel this summer.

Article first published as Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding on Blogcritics.

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