Developing strategies to end hunger

6 posts from June 2009

Grim News We Already Knew: Hunger is Increasing

The FAO released new data today about the increase in hunger around the world. In 2009, 1.02 billion people will go hungry.

Number of Hungry People in the World

FAO Hunger Projection

While Asia and sub-Saharan Africa continue to have the largest number of hungry people, it is surprising that three areas that have had low or stable hunger numbers over the last decade or more saw sharp increases: the Near East/North Africa region, Latin America and the Caribbean and developed countries as a whole

Estimated Regional Distribution of Hunger in 2009 (mil.)
and Increase from 2008 Levels (%)

Regional breadkdown of increased hunger

The Benefits of Clean Water

Two article caught my attention today reminding me of the importance of clean water. The first describes eight recent deaths in coastal Kenya caused by Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD). My colleagues from PATH blogged about Diarrheal Disease last week. The deaths were attributed to "poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water following heavy rain in most parts of the province which has destroyed sewage pipes and swept away pit latrine." The sharp increase in AWD shows just how fragile access to clean water is in Kenya and many other developing countries.

The second story describes how relief donations to internally displaced people in Pakistan include infant formula. While formula can be good for infants, when it is mixed with unclean water the consequences can be severe and even deadly. The inclusion of formula in the relief packages being provided to internally displaced persons has raised significant concerns among health professionals who worry that it sends the wrong message about appropriate feeding practices (running counter to efforts to encourage breastfeeding for example) and will also undoubtedly lead to more sick children as basic sanitation has been compromised or does not exist at all in the camps.

Both these stories highlight just how important clean water is to health and nutrition. Over at the One Campaign, signatures are being collected for Petition asking Congress to support the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009. The Bill authorizes funding to create sustainable access to clean water for millions of people around the world. It is one part of what is needed in order to create an integrated strategy for addressing the needs of poor and hungry children around the world.

More on GMOs

In response to concerns voiced by many in the NGO and religious communities about government promotion of GMOs – Genetically Modified Organisms – in the draft Global Food Security (“Lugar-Casey”) legislation, Senator Lugar has issued a “dear colleague” clarifying letter. The letter notes that the legislation is supported by Bread for the World, among other organizations, and goes on to state, “Let me be clear.  The bill does not require the use of GM technology by any farmers, implementing partners, or government agencies.  It does not condition the receipt of food aid on a recipient country’s adoption of GM.  The use of any technology must ultimately be left to individual farmers based on their particular circumstances.”

He goes on to note that only one provision in the bill (Sec. 202) even mentions GM technology, and that provision would only highlight research on biotechnology, including GM, as eligible for U.S. assistance.  The research would include work on the appropriate uses of GM technologies in different environments. He also notes that, as pointed out in our Institute Notes of April 28, while much research has already been done on GM seeds for the U.S., there is a dearth of research on its potential and applicability in developing countries. 

Bread for the World is not a proponent of GMOs per se, but we also believe that no potentially productivity-enhancing technologies should be preemptively ruled out. Most importantly, developing countries should have the capacity to make their own informed decisions on the matter. While Senator Lugar’s letter will not alleviate all concerns or objections, it does constitute a welcome contribution to the discussion.

Congratulations to Gebisa Ejeta, Winner of the 2009 World Food Prize

Gebisa An Ethiopian who has worked tirelessly to improve sorghum varieties is the recipient of the 2009 World Food Prize. Much congratulations are in order for Dr. Gebisa Ejeta. The announcement is worth reading in full. It provides details of Dr. Ejeta's personal journey from rural Ethiopia to a Professor at Purdue University. Moreover, the announcement describes the kind of collaboration between donors, research institutions, private companies, NGOs and farners that is sorely needed in order to spur agricultural productivity.

In making the announcement, Secretary of State Clinton highlighted the US Government's commitment to fighting hunger, a commitment shared with Dr. Ejeta. Clinton outlined seven principles that will guide the U.S. effort including,

... support[ing] women and families. Seventy percent of the world’s farmers are women, but most programs that offer farmers credit and training target men. This is both unfair and impractical. An effective agricultural system must have incentives for those who do the work, and it must take into account the particular needs of children.

Given the substantial role agriculture can play in improving nutrition, it is exciting to see Secretary Clinton drawing this connection.

Further Support for More Flexible Food Aid

For some time Bread for the World and other groups have been calling for a more flexible, responsive approach to addressing both chronic and urgent hunger needs around the globe.  (See Bread for the World’s 2006 position paper, “Feeding a Hungry World.”) A key component of a reformed US food aid program is local and regional procurement (“LRP”) – the capability, currently denied under U.S. food aid law, to purchase needed food in or near the area of need, thus reducing cost and response time.   The U.S. Government Accountability Office – the GAO – in a just-released report, has made a significant and welcome contribution to the debate on this issue. The report’s subtitle – “Local and Regional Procurement can Enhance the Efficiency of U.S. Food Aid, but Challenges May Constrain Its Implementation” – is nothing if not cumbersome, but does accurately communicate the bottom line message.

Although the use of U.S. Government funds for LRP has, until very recently, been precluded, use of LRP by other donors, including U.S. NGOs with their own resources,  is widespread and on the increase. The World Food Program (WFP), the largest global food aid distributor, increased its purchases in developing countries from $171 million in 2001 to over $1 billion in 2008. Nearly 80 percent of WFP food aid is now sourced from developing countries. And even in the U.S. the idea of LRP is beginning to gain traction, with several studies completed or underway, and limited funds actually being made available for such procurement.

The most significant GAO finding is that local and regional procurement does unquestionably reduce costs and improve timeliness. LRP is more cost effective in almost every case: WFP’s costs for food procured in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Asia were lower by 34 and 29 percent, respectively, than the cost of comparable food shipped from the U.S. (For Latin America the cost differential was negligible.)
Further, LRP can significantly speed up response: Delivery time for international in-kind food aid donations for SSA countries averaged 147 days, while local and regional procurements averaged 35 and 41 days, respectively – a reduction of up to 75 percent.

Continue reading "Further Support for More Flexible Food Aid " »

Breaking the Cycle of Malnutrition and Diarrhea

A leader in efforts to address major challenges in global health, the NGO PATH recently launched a Call to Action on Diarrheal Disease, an effort which Bread for the World strongly supports. The Call to Action has caught the attention of other think tanks as well as demonstrated by this piece posted at the Center for Global Development. Janie Hayes from PATH and Altrena Mukuria from the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Project contributed the following to the Bread for the World Institute blog:

Last year on a June morning during a trip to Kenya’s Western Province, I sat with two mothers named Evalyne and Paula in a mud-wall home in the rural district of Bungoma. I was there to get their perspectives on the major health problems facing their children; when I posed the question, neither woman hesitated for a moment.

Malnutrition, Paula said. Diarrhea, Evalyne added, and her friend nodded in agreement.

Paula and her daughter  A couple of years earlier, Evalyne’s son Abel Juma died from diarrhea. Paula’s nephew was recently admitted to the hospital with diarrhea and nearly died from dehydration. Like most in the area, Evalyne and Paula each live on less than $1 a day, and I was curious about their diets, so I asked about what they could afford to feed their children each day. Evalyne rattled off the list of what her five- and two-year-old children eat, which varies little each day: some beans and rice, a bit of porridge, and tea.

In poor communities, like Evalyne and Paula’s, around the world, the relationship between malnutrition and diarrhea frequently leads to a vicious cycle—one that too often results in death or long-term physical or developmental delays in young children. Being malnourished makes a child more susceptible to diarrhea, causing more frequent and more severe diarrheal episodes. And when a child suffers a bout of diarrhea, the illness saps nutrients that young bodies desperately need. When it doesn’t kill, this cycle causes stunting and cognitive impairment. Diarrheal disease today is the second leading cause of child death, and undernutrition is an underlying cause of more than a third of child deaths from diarrhea and other childhood illnesses.

Continue reading "Breaking the Cycle of Malnutrition and Diarrhea" »

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