Thursday, September 29, 2011

India to Remove Food Entitlements from Poverty Line

Here's an interesting bit from The Hindu - a news website covering news in India.  Economists there have made a push to stop food entitlements being tied to the poverty line.  This is under the basis that malnutrition in India is far more widespread than current income definitions of 'Poverty.'

"In a significant move, prominent economists on Monday made a forceful plea to delink food entitlements from the “faulty” poverty measures put out by the Planning Commission."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jesse Jackson moving to reinstate Lyndon B Johnson's War on Poverty

This piece is from the Boston Herald - though many are covering the story - with a call to "expand the LBJ dream." 
This certainly has the potential to be the beginning of some needed change.
'"Johnson launched his war on poverty from this school and this is the place to re-ignite that war," Jackson said. "We have the capacity now to end malnutrition in this country."
No one since that president has put the focus on poverty that Johnson did, Jackson said.'

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Drought in Afghanistan threatens three million people with hunger

An already unstable country now faces the possibility of running out of food within three months. Afghanistan is now experiencing drought conditions and OXFAM is calling on donors to help. Rainfall has been sparse during last fall and spring rainy seasons. Last winter also brought little of any snowfall to Northern Afghanistan.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Maria Caspani relays the appeal from OXFAM.

“Governments need to wake up to the gravity of this crisis and ensure they are ready to respond before the situation gets worse,” Asuntha Charles, head of Oxfam in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Nearly three quarters of people living in the affected areas say they will run out of food in less than two months, Oxfam said.

“The drought has completely destroyed the wheat crop in some areas. People are reducing the amount of food they are eating and selling what little they have,” Charles said.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New partnership hopes to improve access to microcredit in South Africa

A great new partnership between a cosmetic business, an entrepreneurship organization and the website KIVA will work to improve access to microcredit loans for women in South Africa. The skincare product Dermalogica will begin donating a portion of each sale to Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. FITE will then use the money raised to start a microcredit fund concentrating on women in South Africa. They will also operate a website powered by KIVA, where people can donate additional funds to the women.

From the Inter Press Service, we find out more about the great new service.

Powered by global non-profit micro-lending organisation KIVA, FITE aims to empower women in developed and developing countries worldwide through the provision of micro-loans. Since its official launch in South Africa in February, 30 South African women have been recipients of loans through FITE.

Skincare brand Dermalogica is the founding partner of FITE. "Through the FITE initiative, Dermalogica aims to empower over 25,000 women in business around the world in developing and developed countries in the next two years," said Lauren Michlo, general manager of Dermalogica South Africa.

Each time a consumer buys a specially marked Dermalogica product and enters the code supplied on the packaging into the FITE website, the company makes a one-dollar donation towards the global FITE fund.

The initiative also enables consumers to become direct lenders by making donations in increments of 25 dollars through the FITE website. And the lenders have the power to choose which projects they would like to support by selecting from a list of candidates.

Once the loan has been awarded, lenders are kept up to date on the recipient's progress via e-mails from KIVA. Once a loan has been paid back, that money is put towards a loan for a new recipient. Loan amounts and repayment schedules vary depending on the business plan of individual candidates.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Fight Against Malaria - Successes, Failures

A story from Time Magazine - Malaria has been one of those diseases that has been fought against for a long time. Much $$ has been spent in apparent 'aid' to try to eradicate this disease in third world countries. This article takes a look at why most of those efforts are misguided, and how the latest attempts are succeeding.

"...There are other, more telling statistics, he says, like how in the worst weeks, his handful of staff members may treat 5,000 people. Or how from 2007 to '08, those treated included 70% of all children in Apac and nearly a third of the area's total population..."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nigeria's flood early warning messages not heeded

From IRIN, a story about the widespread flooding throughout Nigeria. The country's emergency management authority is passing the blame for the damage onto state governments.

Nigeria’s Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has accused state governments of overlooking early warning messages in the wake of flooding across the country that has killed an estimated 140 people and displaced tens of thousands.

In early 2011 the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) predicted heavy rainfall. Based on this, NEMA sent out early warning messages via radio in May 2011 to governments and citizens in seven states, including Kano in the north. “We advertised… for both government and people to start cleaning up drainage ditches, and we formally wrote to state governments, including Kano State, to prepare for the expected flooding this year,” said NEMA coordinator Musatafa Suleiman.

The Nigeria Red Cross also put out early warnings based on information it received from Africa’s climate prediction centre, African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development.

But according to Suleiman, “few states adhered to the early warning messages and started clearing their drainage systems or canals for easy passage of floodwater.”

NEMA is trying to improve its information-gathering and dissemination so it can play a stronger early warning role in future.

But local authorities need to shift from a reactive to a proactive role to fund and map out clearer emergency preparedness plans from now on, said Umar Maigari, disaster management coordinator for the Nigeria Red Cross in Bauchi State in northern Nigeria. Several states have no emergency preparedness measures at all, and those that do, are poorly funded.

Top preparedness priorities are to clear drainage ditches and move communities in flood-plains to new locations, according to NEMA. Particularly at risk in most states are densely populated, low-income areas of cities, where refuse dumping and inappropriate construction of roads and buildings have blocked drains, Charles Oji, a town planner in Warri (a major city in Delta State), told IRIN.

Abiola Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State in the southwest, gave a seven-day demolition notice on 1 September to house-owners living on drainage paths in the capital, Ibadan. Residents told IRIN they were not given enough notice of the move.

It is not too late to strategize preparedness activities for the 2012 rainy season, said NEMA’s Suleiman. Very little progress has been made in these areas since 2010, when heavy rains hit the north, displacing two million people after local authorities were forced to open flood-gates on swollen rivers.

NIMET head Anthony Anuforom anticipates parts of Bauchi, Oyo and Cross Rivers states may experience more flooding in the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Famine and Drought in Africa - Longer Term Solutions

While we are in the midst of focusing on drought and famine today, there are people looking to the future and considering how effects from climate change will exacerbate the situation. The solution may be in front of us, but unsurprisingly the shortsighted dollar may prevent what is necessary.

"Currently, only about 4 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land is irrigated; the rest is rain-fed, meaning it is susceptible to droughts and floods. Yet, irrigated land can haveyields that are up to five times those of rain-fed areas."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Other America is Larger Than Ever: 46.2 Million Americans in Poverty

We are outraged at the thought of children being forced to grow in poverty.

In 1962, Michael Harrington wrote about the Other America saying "The millions who are poor in the United States tend to become increasingly invisible. Here is a great mass of people, yet it takes an effort of the intellect and will even to see them."

Today, nearly 50 years later, the Census shows us the largest number of people living in poverty in America in the 52 year history of the Census.

The numbers are intolerable, inexplicable, incomprehensible, and they fill us with outrage.

At The Culture Zone we ask - what would Michael Harrington say? What would YOU say?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From Concern Worldwide: Keeping Moyale Out of Danger: Promise Amidst Disaster

By Kirk Prichard, Advocacy Officer for Concern Worldwide US  and currently based in Nairobi on emergency deployment

You see a lot of heartbreaking events unfold working in an emergency: malnourished children lying in “stabilization clinics”; once-proud pastoralists newly dependent on food assistance for their survival; scores of cattle carcasses littering the parched plains of northern Kenya; camels who have survived the harshest desert conditions for millennia uncharacteristically dying.

And though these images continue to upset me, it is the stories of success that move me the most. Stories like those that have emerged from the district of Moyale where Concern launched an early intervention in 2010 in response to the impending crisis it had been tracking for months.

Moyale is in the far north of Kenya, right on the border of Ethiopia and a few hundred kilometers from Somalia.  This is the exact region where the current drought has had its most devastating impact, killing up to 40 percent of cattle, which are the lifeblood of these pastoralist communities. Reports indicate that 80 percent of the surviving livestock have left the north entirely in search of pasture.  And it is now estimated that over 75 percent of the population in the northern areas is “food insecure” and in need of emergency rations.

Despite being located in the epicenter of the drought, Moyale tells a different story.   Statistics aren’t the best way to describe a very human tragedy, but they illustrate a compelling point.

For example, in Moyale, the rate of “global acute malnutrition” (GAM) among children under five is 13.7 percent: a threshold of 15 percent indicates a humanitarian emergency. In neighboring Marsabit and northwest Wajir, GAM rates are at 27 percent, almost double the international emergency threshold.

Simply put, children in Moyale are better nourished and thereby healthier and more resistant to illness and death than their neighbors.

What has made this difference in parts of Moyale, an area that has similar economic, agricultural and climate conditions as its neighbors?  Early indications suggest that it is in part due to disaster risk reduction programming and early interventions by Concern.

Almost a year ago (in October 2010), the first warning signs of a looming disaster in Moyale began to appear.  When these warnings were first issued, Concern’s nutrition team immediately got to work with a network of local partners to begin scaling up nutrition programs. They launched a large-scale “early intervention” to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a widespread catastrophe.

In other words, instead of waiting until large numbers of children became severely malnourished, Concern designed a program to prevent malnutrition levels from reaching emergency thresholds in the first place.
Here’s how it worked.

Concern worked with the Ministry of Health to hire and train over 120 Community Health Workers (CHWs): these CHWs traveled to the remote arid and semi-arid pastoral lands of Moyale to find and screen children at risk of severe acute malnutrition—children who showed signs of moderate malnutrition, but whose condition was not yet life-threatening.

The Concern-trained CHWs identified all moderately malnourished children that they found during the screenings and outreach, and admitted them into a supplementary feeding program, whereby they received rations of special highly nutritious food and were referred to health facilities for checkups. Concern also provided the families of these children with food rations. Concern’s intervention effectively prevented these children from becoming severely malnourished, and therefore more difficult—and expensive—to treat. Training these CHWs to screen and refer children for treatment cost just 25 USD per worker, and they are improving the lives of children in their communities every day.

In addition to training and providing technical supervision of Community Health Workers, Concern partnered with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to set up and provide technical support for 25 health clinics and approximately 20 outreach sites to improve health and nutrition coverage in communities throughout Moyale District and prevent malnutrition.  To date, among an estimated total population in Moyale of more than 55,000, Concern-supported nutrition services have screened 7,000 children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, and treated 4,190 for moderate acute malnutrition. Of those treated, 89 percent of children under five and 85 percent of mothers recovered and were “cured,” and there were no deaths.

The Concern-supported outreach sites were particularly important in these pastoralist communities because the population is nomadic, moving from place to place many times a year with their herds in search of water and pasture. Communities may seek help at a health facility, but then move on and be unable to return. Outreach services ensure that assistance reaches those who may not be able to access services in the same facility multiple times.

Concern also worked with local partner organizations to assist families with little access to food and at high risk of hunger. Concern and partners provided vulnerable families with livelihoods support, agricultural training and support, and education to boost their income and food security. This early, integrated, multi-sector response helped prevent the most vulnerable from tipping over the edge into crisis.

Investments in scaling up nutrition, preventing hunger, and improving the capacity of the poorest to manage their natural resources and improve their access to food have huge potential. Recent studies on undernutrition published in the Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, and reinforced by the United Nations “Scaling up Nutrition” (SUN) Movement, provide clear evidence of the direct links between proper child nutrition and healthy physical and mental development. 

I am extremely proud of the work Concern has done in Moyale. But the fact that so many people in neighboring districts are facing extreme hunger is unacceptable: it highlights how much hard work remains to be done before we are able to scale up nutrition interventions to reach those at risk quickly and effectively. Investment in long-term development and emergency preparedness is a big part of the solution. We know that development and disaster risk reduction programs save lives—and cost much less than disaster relief. Early, integrated, multi-sector interventions that focus on preventing malnutrition rather than only on treating malnutrition are also vital. But despite their obvious impact and benefit, funding for these types of programs is quite scarce.

There is a saying that I’ve often heard here in Kenya: “Drought comes from God, but famine comes from man.”   The current crisis in the Horn of Africa has many underlying factors: dramatic spikes in food prices, extreme changes in weather patterns, severe drought, entrenched extreme poverty, lack of income opportunities, and poor water and health infrastructure. Regardless, in 2011, a regional food crisis affecting over 12 million people should not be happening. Preventing massive suffering from hunger and malnutrition is within our power—and it is our collective responsibility.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Armed Gangs take food aid in starving Somalia

In the almost government-less country of Somalia, the armed gangs that rule portions of the country are making a profit from the famine. Armed gangs step in to control makeshift refugee camps, in order to snatch up the food aid. The gangs then turnaround and sell the food on the open market. The food never reaches the starving that live within the camps. The armed gangs also prevent them from leaving, because then the food will stop arriving as well.

The Inter Press Service paints and drearier than usual picture of life within the refugee camps. Writer Abdurrahman Warsameh says that the people within these unoffical camps find no relief and no escape.

Since Mohamed Elmi, 69, and his family arrived at a camp for famine refugees in Mogadishu they have barely had enough to eat. Armed gunmen running the camp steal their food and prevent them from leaving to search for aid elsewhere, he says.

Elmi told IPS that this happens because aid agencies deliver food to the people running the camp for distribution and not to the famine victims themselves. And they are prevented from leaving because aid will no longer be delivered to the camps if they do.

"I don’t know who is running this, but we have said time and again that we are never, never given anything by the foremen running (the camp). Let them kill me if they want… We cannot leave here to find a better place," an emancipated Elmi told IPS. He asked IPS not to publish the name of his camp as he fears for his safety.

Tens of thousands of desperately hungry Somalis displaced from the drought-stricken south are not receiving the food aid meant for them. Gunmen have set up unathourised refugee camps in Mogadishu just to steal the food delivered by humanitarian agencies. It is believed the food is being sold on the local markets.

There are dozens of camps with thousands of families in the bullet-scarred Somali capital of Mogadishu. Not all are official camps. These are often run by men from the local clan militias who divert famine victims entering the city to the ‘camps’ they have set up in deserted buildings in Mogadishu.

This is what happened to Mahad Iyo, 54, who arrived in Mogadishu in search of aid in August.

Iyo said that he and other displaced people walked for days to reach Mogadishu. At the city’s entrances they were greeted by armed gangs and were directed to a disused government building. The building was filled with refugees who had constructed makeshift tents using sticks and old ragged cloth. "They want to use us for their own benefit," Iyo now says of the men who so eagerly offered him help when he first arrived. "We are not registered for the aid and neither are we given regular help. Food and other essentials are brought to the camp by the agencies but they are quickly taken away by the foremen," said Iyo.