Developing strategies to end hunger
 

85 posts categorized "Hunger Hotspots"

A Climate to End Hunger: Agriculture Is Part of the Problem and the Solution

Hunger Report Monday 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sectors

Editor’s note: Welcome to Bread for the World Institute’s blog series on A Climate to End Hunger. The other day when I realized that Earth Day was approaching, I winced at my conflation of Earth Day with climate change. But it makes sense. Climate change is the biggest threat yet to Earth’s environment – and increasingly widespread hunger is one of its most tragic potential consequences. In this series, we reflect on how we can help prevent such a catastrophe. 

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III published the third and final contribution, Mitigation of Climate Change, to the organization’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report. Working Group III, made up of hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, was tasked with surveying thousands of the latest peer-reviewed studies to gauge the current status of climate change, the hazards it poses to humanity, and, of course, what people can do to prevent and/or cope with those hazards. The Guardian’s Leo Hickman summed up the group’s findings best – and at Tweetable length:

Climate change is real. We are to blame. It will get worse if we fail to act. The solutions are available and affordable. But time is short.

The group’s findings support the warning – stronger than ever – of the threat posed by climate change not only to hungry and poor people, but to the entire global economy. Climate change is increasingly straining global food systems. The message to policymakers is that if all countries, rich and poor alike, do not act quickly and cooperatively, the hard-won global progress against hunger and extreme poverty of the past few decades could be rapidly undone.

More specifically, climate change threatens global food security by causing declining crop yields; disruptions in food access, utilization, and price stability; and significantly reduced access to water, food security, and agricultural incomes in rural communities.

As the report’s chart (above) shows, about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use” (AFOLU) sector — more than by the transport and building sectors combined. Sustainable agricultural practices will be crucial to reducing AFOLU emissions while still producing enough food for the growing population. Promising mitigation options include afforestation and sustainable forest management, improved cropland management, and restoration of organic soils.

At its core, responding effectively to climate change means building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food. It demands strong and organized political leadership, infrastructure, and resources at all levels — local, regional, national, and global. Strengthening local capacity to create and implement informed, effective adaptation strategies is vital to building resilience.

Chapter 5 of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, examines how agriculture has been part of the climate change problem, and more importantly, how it must be part of the solution. Visit www.hungerreport.org to read more.   Derek Schwabe

Data to End Hunger: Specialized Food Aid Products

Traditionally, food aid from the United States meant bagged cereals and pulses (such as dried peas and lentils), flour, a blended corn-soy product designed to be mixed with water to make porridge or gruel, or a combination of these. Purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the American Midwest, it was sent by rail or barge to U.S. ports and then continued its long journey by ship. Finally, food aid arrived in the places where it was needed, where it was distributed through emergency and development programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). For decades, this was the personification of the bounty of U.S. farmers and the generosity of the U.S. public toward hungry and vulnerable people.

Since the beginning of the main U.S. food aid program, Food for Peace, developments in food science and nutrition have taught us a lot about the effectiveness of food aid commodities. For example, while general distribution food aidBlog graph 040914such as that delivered in refugee camps in the Horn of Africa, provides the calories necessary to avert starvation, it is inadequate as a person’s sole source of sustenance for long periods of time. Studies by Tufts University and the Government Accountability Office found that there is a risk of malnutrition because the commodities are deficient in essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This is a significant problem because in recent years, more than 96 percent of all food aid recipient countries have received food aid for four or more years.

Also thanks to advances in food and nutrition science, new food aid products have been developed and are increasingly being used in programs to treat both moderate and severe malnutrition. Food aid products began to be targeted to the specific groups of people for whom they would be most effective. For example, micronutrient-fortified formulations of Corn Soy Blend and Wheat Soy Blend were made (from a blend of partially cooked cornmeal, soy flour, iodized salt, and vegetable oil). Other formulations that have been tested contain soy- or milk-based (whey) proteins, which have been shown to help the body absorb nutrients. This is most critical to malnourished children younger than 2 -- those in the 1,000 Days window of opportunity.

Other new types of food aid belong to the category “lipid-based nutritional supplements” (LNS). One of the first therapeutic LNS foods is a peanut-based product with a name that’s now widely recognized – Plumpy’nut. This and related products marketed by the Nutriset company show tremendous success in helping children with Severe Acute Malnutrition.

Blog pic 040914
Specialized food products like these are used with mothers and children in the highlands of Guatemala

A study in Niger found that giving Plumpy’nut to children younger than 2 with Severe Acute Malnutrition reduced mortality by about 50 percent – a result heralded as a significant change in the way food aid is used.

Additional LNS products have been developed by U.S.-based companies.  Also, there have been pilot projects that base the therapeutic foods on locally-grown chickpeas, peanuts, cashews, sesame, corn, and soybeans. Using local crops will significantly reduce the cost, which can be a barrier to increasing the use of LNS products in donor-funded programs.

In addition to LNS-based foods, Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) and Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) products, micronutrient-fortified/enriched milled flours and blends, and meal replacement emergency foods have all been developed and are now in use. Meal replacement products include dairy and legume protein pastes as well as grain-based protein bars. 

Increased use of specialized products is an integral part of the food aid reforms in the recently passed U.S. farm bill. It is noteworthy that the farm bill contains specific language instructing USAID to explore ways in which these products can be stockpiled in food aid pre-positioning sites around the world.  Pre-positioning can make them immediately available in emergencies where children are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition. Better targeting of specialized foods to the most vulnerable populations will save lives.

Other food aid reforms currently under way include increasing the percentage of local and regional purchase of food, and allowing additional flexibility to provide help in the form of food vouchers or cash where appropriate, as opposed to shipping bagged food aid products from the United States. These reforms will reduce program costs and ultimately feed millions more people with the same resources.

This is critical, because according to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths, more than 3 million children per year. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that one in four children in the world is stunted (below the median height for age of a reference population), a condition related to chronic malnutrition with life-long social, health, education and economic consequences.

Research and data have enabled the development of specialized therapeutic food aid products.  Increasing the use of all forms and formulations of such products is our best weapon against acute malnutrition, particularly among severely malnourished children whose lives are at stake. This is one battle in the war against hunger that we can win.

Scott Bleggi

Starting the Chat on Women's Empowerment

Hunger Report Monday 2

This past Friday — the eve of International Women’s Day — Bread for the World and the Institute hosted a Twitter chat with senior policy analyst Faustine Wabwire on how women’s empowerment can help end hunger. Research continues to show that, in nations and communities all over the world, gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. In fact, 55% of the reduction in hunger from 1970-1995 can be attributed to improvements in the status of women.

Senior Hunger Report editor Todd Post, Faustine, and other members of the Institute are currently at work developing the 2015 Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014, which will propose policy changes to improve women’s economic, political, and social status. International Women’s Day offered a prime opportunity to expand the discussion to the Twitter-sphere, resulting in a fruitful dialogue that  touched on the varied dimensions of women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and gave us a chance to hear new perspectives.

Here’s a brief recap of where the chat went, with a smattering of sample tweets:

We had a lot of help getting the word out.  

We started by asking "Why women's empowerment?"

We examined the role of women in agriculture and the food system.

We looked back to the role of the Millennium Development Goals, and ahead to the threat of climate change. 

We pondered where hunger and poverty rates correspond — and where they don't. 

We acknowledged the influence of culture.

We heard from health experts on the role of good nutrition and access to health care. 

We shared resources with each other. 

We talked jobs and wages as next steps toward gender parity in the United States. 

We had many to thank for a rich online discussion. 

Derek Schwabe

Pakistan Joins the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement

This blog was submitted by Pirbhu Satyani, who is an intern in Bread for the World Institute.   He has a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship through American University and comes from Tharparkar/Sindh, Pakistan.    

  Pirbhu pic

Pakistan, a middle-income country, has taken the significant step of becoming the 46th member country of the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) Movement. An important role of SUN member countries is to collaborate with each other in making the issue of nutrition a top priority. SUN helps member countries design nutrition-focused policies and use resources efficiently to achieve improved nutrition, especially among women and children.  

In my country, malnutrition is a serious issue with many causes, including ineffective government policies, a poor health infrastructure system, food insecurity, and widespread poverty. In terms of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), Pakistan is still far behind in reducing its under-5 child mortality rate. Every year, 800,000 children die in Pakistan -- 35 percent due to malnutrition. The risk of death is nine times higher for a child suffering from malnutrition than for a child with a balanced diet. PS blog 1 Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey in 2011 indicated that 58.1 percent of households were food insecure. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working on small projects, but there is no comprehensive and focused long-term plan or strategy to address the situation, to scale up successful programs with a goal of reducing the child mortality rate. The provincial governments (there are four) have been trying to make changes in policies and practices to improve the health and nutrition system since the 2010 introduction of the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, which empowered provinces to take action.  

Malnutrition arises when people have little access to food and limited health services. In Pakistan, the majority of the population (around 63 percent) lives in rural areas, where health services are very limited. The main livelihood of most people is agriculture – even though it would seem that being a farmer and being malnourished contradict each other. In Pakistan it is lack of access to a diversified diet that causes malnutrition. PS blog2 An unprecedented natural disaster (flood) in 2010-2011 made poor communities even more vulnerable. An estimated 20 million people were displaced, millions of acres of land were damaged, and there was widespread damage to crops, mostly wheat and rice. Farmers were unable to feed their families and malnutrition increased rapidly.   

Malnutrition in Pakistan can only be addressed through collaborative efforts -- by engaging the international donor community and by initiating long–term, sustainable programs such as food security, women’s empowerment, agricultural safety nets, early childhood development programs, and quality health service at the grassroots level (meaning reaching to rural communities). Pakistan hopes that best practices and effective government policies around the world can be shared with and imitated in Pakistan as it seeks ways to scale up successful nutrition actions via the platform the SUN movement has provided.

The commitment of Pakistan’s government to join the SUN movement may open more opportunities for technical support and may mobilize resources by engaging international donors to invest more in improving policies and strategies in the health and agriculture sectors, and in building the capacity of human resources and systems. If that is achieved, effective implementation of services can be ensured at all levels to improve health and nutrition for all in my country.

Scott Bleggi

The State Of The World's Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF, released an important report that reminds us of progress being made and challenges still before us as we work to see every child grow to his or her full potential.

The State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers is appropriately subtitled “Every Child Counts,” and is an impressive accumulation of data, information and published tables updating this report that was first published 30 years ago. 

Report_eng

There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and while much has changed in those three decades, the need for credible data about their situation is more important than ever. It is being used by governments, donors, program implementers and policy makers across the globe as the basis for making decisions about investments and taking actions that are directed to children, especially those who are most vulnerable.

By itself, data changes nothing. But when it is accurate, transparent and widely available it can help decision makers identify needs, support advocacy efforts and measure progress toward stated goals.

What this data enables is a visit to the lives of children in any country you choose, behind the numbers. In an easy-to-view manner, the report provides info graphics that reveal the circumstances under which a child is born, their lives growing up, and the quality of their lives as they enter adulthood.

For example:

  • About 90 million children have beaten the odds against them according to 1990 predictions, and have in fact reached their fifth birthday
  • Improvements in nutrition have led to a 37% drop in stunting since 1990
  • Primary school enrollment has increased from 53% in 1990 to 81% in 2011.

But many challenges remain. Eleven percent of girls are married before their 15th birthday. Fifteen percent of children are engaged in labor practices that compromise their rights to protection from economic exploitation and their right to learn and play. And, some 6.6 million children under age 5 died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes.

Whether you are a policy analyst, a data geek who loves infographics, interested in international development, or just someone who wishes to see all children grow to their full potential, I suggest a look through this very interesting report by UNICEF.

Scott Bleggi

Rhode Island Becomes Third State to Mandate Paid Parental Leave

Hunger Report Monday 2

Last week, Rhode Island joined a small, but growing, group of states that have made paid parental leave a right for working parents. New Jersey and California are currently the only other states that have implemented laws mandating paid family leave. Washington is set to enact paid-leave legislation next year, and both New York and Massachusetts have bills pending. Several other states—including Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon—are also investigating similar measures. More state-level action on paid leave demonstrates waning patience with Congress’ prolonged inaction on the issue. 

The United States remains the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave (see infographic below). What is now a societal given for families in other developed nations is still a luxury in the United States—mostly available to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, about 40 percent of U.S. workers are not even guaranteed job-protected family leave that is unpaid.

We know that creating abundant, better-paying jobs is the first step to ending hunger in America. But wage rates are just one component of the economy that is out of balance. The changes in society over the past half-century—most prominently, the new norm that most women are in the paid workforce—have not been accompanied by policies that adequately reflect these realities and ensure that workers have the support they need to meet their responsibilities. 

Too many jobs do not pay enough, do not enable parents to balance work and family responsibilities, and do not provide workers with any bargaining power to negotiate higher pay or more flexible schedules. Government policies currently in place do not go far enough in addressing these problems. In the United States, where the expectation is that parents work outside the home, government has a role in protecting the welfare of children, elderly people, and people with disabilities by setting standards to ensure that all workers can fulfill their job and family commitments.

The absence of a federal provision for paid parental leave is an anachronism, but it’s sadly not the only one. “In virtually every area of work-family policy, provisions in the United States tend to be less well-developed and less equitably distributed than those in most peer countries,” write Jane Waldfogel and Sarah McLanahan in the journal The Future of Children,published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. More than four in 10 private sector workers—and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers—do not have paid sick days. In other high-income countries, the law specifically permits workers to request flexible scheduling, while in the United States, many workers worry that even giving the impression of any sort of work-family conflict could get them fired. 

The stark economic conditions (especially high unemployment rates) facing many families today are aggravated by the inadequate response of policymakers. States like Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California have set a good example by choosing fair national labor standards that foster supportive work environments and a more stable economy—which will result in lower rates of hunger and poverty.

Read more about the role of work-family policy in ending hunger in chapter two of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America

Derek Schwabe

Infographic: Four Steps to Ending Hunger in America

Hunger Report Monday 2

A fresh Hunger Report always comes with a new weekly blog series to break it down -- a space to examine the recommendations more closely and consider their ramifications in the context of recent events. This is that space. Welcome to week one. 

To start the 2014 Hunger Report Monday series, we're recapping -- through visuals -- the report's central recommendation: to put an end to hunger in the United States by 2030. Our research confirms that: 1) hunger is a significant, long-ignored problem in America; 2) the U.S. government and population are fully capable of solving the problem; and 3), ending hunger will take decisive leadership, firm political will, and a clear national plan. This infographic sums up our vision of what that plan should look like in four steps:

We will not achieve a lasting end to hunger without a commitment to all four parts of this plan. Because problems like hunger are multifaceted, their solutions must be as well. Policies tend to address social problems in isolation from each other. Instead we should be thinking holistically, which makes it possible to see the relationships between various causes of the problem.

Right now, Bread for the World members around the country are urging the president and Congress to recognize the reality of America's broken social contract and set a clear course for solutions by adopting a plan to end hunger. President Obama took a promising first step last week with his speech on the problem of widening income and wealth inequality in the United States, with mentions of such contributing factors as the stagnant minimum wage, which continues to hold low-wage workers and their families below the poverty line. Inequality and the policies that perpetuate it are top concerns of this year’s Hunger Report.

You can sift through the specifics of the four-step plan to end hunger by starting with the 2014 Hunger Report Executive Summary, available for download in PDF or ebook formats in both English and Spanish. Next week, we'll continue our visual survey of the report's top messages with other new infographics.

Derek Schwabe

2014 World Development Report Champions Future Preparedness

Visual representation of the World Bank's 2014 World Development Report (source: The World Bank)

The World Bank released its 2014 World Development Report (WDR) last week. Previously, “risk management” was not a commonly-heard phrase in global development, but the WDR makes a good case for why it should be. As the world — developing regions especially — anticipates economic crises and more frequent natural disasters in the context of a rapidly rising population, the World Bank argues that people now more than ever need to be better prepared to cope with whatever the future may bring.

Over the past 25 years, there has been unprecedented progress in improving livelihoods in developing countries. Driven by global efforts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), national and international leaders have joined with partners across civil society, the private sector, and local communities to identify and carry out effective strategies. The world has met the MDG target of cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half. Other measurements of the eight MDGs also reveal considerable progress. But the World Bank warns that these advancements could easily be lost if national governments do not take decisive steps to identify and prepare to mitigate both existing and emerging risks. New risks are, however, accompanied by a host of new opportunities. Inaction may be the riskiest option of all.

WDR $1.25 per day

Even after the unprecedented efforts of the past few years, more than half of the population of the developing world lives on less than $2.50 a day. And as we mentioned in Institute Notes last week, there are still 842 million people who are chronically hungry. All are vulnerable to falling deeper into poverty, hunger, and poor health when confronted with economic and environmental shocks or armed conflict.

The focus of this year’s WDR is on reliable information and sound planning. In its own words:

The WDR 2014’s value added resides in its emphasis on managing risks in a proactive, systemic, and integrated way. These characteristics underscore the importance of forward-looking planning and preparation in a context of uncertainty.

Other major players in global development concur with the WDR assessment. For example, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just released its Global Hunger Index, which argues that greater resilience in international agricultural and economic systems is critical to boosting food and nutrition security.

In her recently launched briefing paper, Bread for the World Institute’s Faustine Wabwire also stresses the importance of resilience in whatever post-2015 plan emergesto replace the MDGs. Preparing more effectively for the future – whether in the United States or in developing countries – is (not coincidentally) a major emphasis of our 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, to be released on November 25. Keep a lookout for upcoming Institute Notes posts with more details on this exciting new report as that date approaches!  

Derek Schwabe

Canada Measures Progress on Nutrition, Calls for Renewed Global Efforts

At the launch of the global Muskoka Initiative during the 2010 Group of 8 (G-8) summit, the government of Canada promised to “make a significant, tangible difference in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.” The Muskoka Initiative, signed by all G-8 member countries, focuses on articulating principles, developing measures, and promoting transparency and accountability in health outcomes.

Canada and the other Muskoka signatories have contributed to impressive progress in the past two years. According to the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (CAN-MNCH), in 2012, an extra 700,000 children reached their fifth birthday as compared to 2010. In more than 125 countries, maternal death rates have fallen sharply in the past five years.

Three years into the initiative, Canada is on track to meet its five-year commitment of Can$2.85 billion (the Canadian and U.S. dollars are currently close in value; Canada’s pledge is about U.S. $2.76 billion). It has already disbursed 60 percent of the total. Moreover, encouraged by the results associated with its investment, Canada recently committed an additional Can$203.5 million to support the Muskoka principles. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently hosted a United Nations event on the health of pregnant women and young children, where he made the announcement.

Impact 2025
A symposium, IMPACT 2025: Working Together for Global Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, was held last month in Ottawa by the Canadian government and CAN-MNCH. According to reporting from the event, “…despite some remarkable progress, improvements in [maternal, newborn, and child health, MNCH] have been uneven across and within countries.” Participants came together to make a series of recommendations to the Canadian government to support current investments by:

·         Maintaining political momentum

·         Leveraging global leadership in MNCH to reach the Millennium Development Goals

·         Strengthening accountability frameworks

·         Promoting private sector engagement

·         Collaborating through a “Whole-of-Canada” approach

These efforts by our neighbor to the north remind those of us in the United States that there is global political momentum behind efforts to improve health and nutrition outcomes for women and children. This global nutrition momentum confronts the “massive unfinished agenda” in nutrition that I wrote about previously. Global efforts must respond to these unmet needs through new collaborations that leverage available resources and emphasize best practices.

Such collaborations will help build an evidence base of what has produced successful results—an important tool for moving forward, as emphasized in the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition. Advocacy groups such as Bread for the World need these successes to help make the case to the U.S. Congress that sustaining robust funding for nutrition is a smart investment of taxpayer resources—prevention efforts that will be leveraged by other donors and by national governments to make a “significant, tangible difference” in the lives of millions. 

Scott Bleggi


SOFI Puts Number of Hungry People at 842 Million -- An Improvement

This morning with the release of its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced a continued drop in the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. The new figure is 842 million, which is 26 million fewer people than last year’s report of 868 million.

This improvement offers additional evidence that the global response to the 2007-2008 food price crisis – a response that included a U.S. pledge of $3.5 billion for food security, agriculture, and nutrition and led to the establishment of Feed the Future – helped prevent a longer-term reversal of global progress against hunger and is contributing to current progress on hunger. The food price crisis, during which the costs of staple grains such as rice and maize suddenly doubled or tripled, is believed to have driven an additional 100 million people into poverty. 

Undernourishment in the developing regions

 FAO reports that if the average progress of the past 21 years continues through 2015, malnutrition in developing regions will reach a level close to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing hunger by half, but “considerable and immediate additional efforts” will be necessary to fully meet the goal. The report recommends that food security and agriculture remain targeted priorities on the post-MDG, post-2015 development agenda in order to sustain progress.

The SOFI report also notes:

  • In some countries, there are many more stunted children than the data on how many people lack sufficient calories would suggest. Because stunting is evidence of chronic malnutrition in early childhood and is accompanied by irreversible damage to a child’s physical and cognitive development, “nutrition-enhancing interventions are crucial” and require a range of food security and nutrition actions in areas such as agriculture, health, hygiene, and water supply.
  • The most signi­ficant decreases in hunger have occurred in East and Southeast Asia and in Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest hunger rates. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and North Africa made only modest progress over the past year, while West Asia recorded no progress.
  • Though economic growth is a key driver of progress against hunger and poverty, it is not always equitably shared. In many countries, particularly middle-income countries, people who are among the “poorest of the poor” are in danger of being left behind.

You can access the full SOFI report, the executive summary, and the most recent country-level data for every indicator here at the SOFI webpage on FAO’s website.

Derek Schwabe

 

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