Tag Archives: Sahel Food Crisis

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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Act Now and Avoid Summer Disaster of Hunger and Famine

Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. This map shows food security projections for July-September 2012. Without enough intervention the hunger crisis could quickly descend into the emergency and famine stages. Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. This map shows food security projections for July-September 2012. Without enough intervention the hunger crisis could quickly descend into the emergency and famine stages. Photo credit: USAID FEWSNET

Last summer the world was stunned by the famine in East Africa with thousands of children starving to death on the trek from Somalia to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.

We can prevent a similar disaster if we heed the warnings in front of us. The Sahel region of Africa is today suffering from drought and conflict.This part of Africa includes the countries of Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad. Poor rains have meant that food production has been lower than usual in these already impoverished countries.

Now the lean season between harvests is here and 10 million people are at risk of severe food shortages. July through September will be the most dangerous months. The UN World Food Programme warns that “food insecurity during the lean season leads to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality, taking it beyond critical levels.”

The World Food Programme (WFP), which relies on voluntary donations, lacks funding for this crisis. Denise Brown, the WFP director of Niger says, “We do not have enough resources, cash or food, to cover the lean season.” Without enough intervention the Sahel may fall victim to a famine.

South Sudan, which just gained independence last year, may likewise follow. Continued conflict with its northern neighbor Sudan as well as internal conflict between rival tribes is causing a massive movement of displaced persons. Farmers have been forced away from their fields which harms food production.

On top of conflict, a drought has hit South Sudan. WFP says nearly 5 million people are suffering from hunger. Should conflict continue, famine could strike the Sudan region. The U.S. and the international community need to support peace efforts to stop the violence. Diplomacy though must be accompanied by humanitarian aid. It is poor living standards that are a contributing cause behind violence taking place in the Sudan region.

Two countries high on the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities, Yemen and Afghanistan, also suffer from severe hunger. In Yemen 22 percent of the population is afflicted with severe hunger, weakening that society as it tries to fight off Al Qaeda. The White House said in 2010 that humanitarian relief in Yemen was “woefully underfunded” and this trend has continued into this year.

In Afghanistan, while donations from the U.S. and others have helped rescue the country from last year’s massive drought, a 362 million dollar relief and recovery operation by the WFP remains only 10 percent funded. Without food security, Afghanistan cannot develop and build peace, so it’s bewildering why food development initiatives do not get the support they need.

Food aid programs are also relatively inexpensive when you match them against other plans. So these are not wallet breakers especially when countries team up to fight hunger similar to Herbert Hoover’s coordinated relief as the food ambassador after World War II.

The U.S. announced last week that East Africa again suffered from low rains and aid will be needed to help Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, countries already weakened by last years’ drought and famine. Emergency aid, followed by programs to build up the resilience of the small farmer to drought, is the strategy that must be implemented. It’s a case of saving lives now but also planning ahead to feed the future.

If we act now, we can save millions of lives in these areas. But fighting hunger is not often given a top priority within U.S. foreign policy. The Food for Peace program has repeatedly been threatened with cuts by Congress. This plan, signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower, can play a very critical role in winning the peace today.

If Food for Peace funding were increased to 2 or 2.5 billion a year, quite small compared to a 52 billion a year nuclear weapons program, it could help bring much-needed stability to a starving, desperate and impoverished world.

Article first published in the Providence Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Article published as Act Now and Avoid Summer Disaster of Hunger and Famine on Blogcritics.

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Famine Warnings: Alarming Hunger Crisis Demands Quick Action

Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. This map shows food security projections for July-September 2012. Without enough intervention the hunger crisis could quickly descend into the emergency and famine stages. Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. This map shows food security projections for July-September 2012. Without enough intervention the hunger crisis could quickly descend into the emergency and famine stages. Photo credit: USAID FEWSNET

Drought and conflict are combining to potentially create another summer of famine threatening the lives of millions.

The United States warned last week that East Africa, which suffered from famine and drought last year, may be in for another crisis. Low rainfall amounts are harming food production by farmers in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. The U.S. Famine Early Warning System says, “Poor rains would likely negatively affect food security in a region still recovering from a devastating drought and famine in 2011.”

The U.S. just pledged 50 million dollars in aid for drought hit areas. It is clear though that more donations from the entire international community will be needed. The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest food aid agency, is currently experiencing huge funding shortages in East Africa. WFP said in a report last week that its 12 month shortfall for the region is $408 million.

WFP revealed this week that “assessment findings in Buhoodle, Somalia, indicate very high levels of food insecurity.” Somalia has been hardest hit by the hunger crisis since last year. But so too are its neighbors which have taken in many Somali refugees, as well as contending with hunger among its own population.

In Kenya, WFP warns of rising food prices and that over 2 million people will need aid. A WFP report said, “Vulnerability is still high in parts of Kenya after two to three successive failed seasons. For farmers in marginal agricultural areas, it is the fourth consecutive poor harvest.”

Refugee camps in Ethiopia, where many Somalis fled after famine struck last year, also revealed that about 24 percent of the population have borderline or poor food consumption.

A drought emergency has been taking place for months in the Sahel region of Africa. This region includes the countries of Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso.

The greatest danger lies ahead between the traditional harvests. The U.S. states, “In areas of the Sahel most affected by poor crop production, high cereal prices, or conflict, some very poor and poor households will require targeted emergency assistance during the peak lean season (July/Sep) to meet minimum food needs and prevent increases in already high background levels of acute malnutrition.”

If strong action is not taken now, famine looms. The World Food Programme is pleading for help to avoid such a disaster in the Sahel. The agency said in a report, “additional resources are urgently required, given long lead times and the upcoming rainy season hampering access. Significant shortfalls in cereals of approximately 124,900 mt could seriously constrain WFP’s crisis response in all affected countries.”

Following a U.S. donation late last month WFP needs about 300 million dollars for its relief activities throughout the Sahel.

In Afghanistan, the massive hunger crisis there has had severe repercussions. While U.S. Food for Peace donations have helped reduce the impact of a drought last year, a protracted relief and recovery operation to help Afghans remains only 10 percent funded. WFP says “a lack of resources is significantly hampering the organization’s ability to implement relief and recovery assistance.”

There are positive signs such as Canada and the U.S. making donations to help start a biscuit factory in Kabul. This helps increase food production in Afghanistan, benefiting farmers, schools and shops. The biscuits are a part of WFP’s nationwide school feeding programs.

More food security projects like this are needed within Afghanistan. Until hunger and malnutrition are dealt a significant blow, the country will not achieve peace or development.

In South Sudan, the World Food Programme “faces a significant financial shortfall of US$145 million.” The country is reeling from conflict with Sudan as well as internal fighting in the Jonglei state between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes. Drought has ruined crop production and around 4.7 million people are facing hunger. Should conflict escalate, famine could strike South Sudan.

In Yemen, the fight against hunger is key for the country to build internal stability and develop. The country has suffered the last two years through political unrest and fighting in the South between Al Qaeda and the government. The World Food Programme says that 22 percent of the population now suffers from severe hunger. WFP though is short nearly 50 percent of its funding requirement to help Yemen fight hunger.

The growing hunger crisis is going to require the U.S. to build up its Food for Peace program, which is critical for saving lives and improving global stability.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week, “the United States has provided almost $1 billion in humanitarian assistance that has saved countless lives from malnutrition, starvation, and disease. And our sustained commitment has demonstrated the best of America, helping to undermine the extremist narrative of terrorist groups like al-Shabaab in Somalia.”

Article first published as Famine Warnings: Alarming Hunger Crisis Demands Quick Action 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: An Interview with Célestine Ouédraogo of WFP in Burkina Faso

School feeding opens new opportunities for children in developing countries. (WFP/Anne Poulsen)

With the food crisis escalating in the Sahel region of Africa, it’s urgent that children be protected from hunger and kept in school.

In Burkina Faso, one of the affected Sahel countries, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides school feeding for impoverished children. These meals take on even more importance during the current hunger emergency.

When drought strikes, families are more likely to remove their kids from school and keep them home to work. However, If there is food available at the school then parents are more likely to keep their children enrolled.

In this interview Célestine Ouédraogo of WFP updates us on the status of school feeding in Burkina Faso as the Sahel food crisis unfolds.

How many children are receiving WFP school meals in Burkina Faso?

Each year 90,019 children enrolled in 691 schools in the Sahel Region benefit daily from a flour-based fortified breakfast and couscous-based lunch. In addition to the meals served in schools, 9,510 girls enrolled in the last two grades are receiving a take-home ration of 10 kg of cereals per month, which encourages parents to keep the girls in school and enable them to complete the primary school cycle.

Are these schools in the areas affected by the drought?

Yes, all these schools are in the areas affected by the drought.

The Sahel region is one of the most food-insecure regions, and has among the highest rates of malnutrition.

Does WFP intend to expand school feeding in Burkina Faso?

No.

Does WFP have enough resources to provide school meals for at
least the rest of the year?

YES, thanks to the generosity of 2/3 donors, we have been able to secure funding up to end of 2012, which is essential if we want to ensure that children can pursue their education despite the food insecurity that the country is facing this year.

For more information please visit the World Food Programme.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Calestine Ouedraogo of WFP in Burkina Faso on Blogcritics.

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