Top Ten of 2016

While most Americans were paying attention to politics, sports, or pop culture in 2016, they may have missed these major events that impacted the poor and hungry around the world and here in the United States:

1. Passage of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) – The legislation, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, allocates over $7 billion to initiatives focusing on small-scale agricultural producers and the nutrition of women and children worldwide. When he signed the legislation in July, President Obama noted that development spending is “one of the smartest investments we can make” for U.S. national security and shared prosperity. FEED supports the GFSA, and its passage was a major victory.

unnamed2. Collapse of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) – Not all hunger news in 2016 was good news. Hopes were high that the House and Senate could reconcile their respective versions of the CNR to replace the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which expired over a year ago. Although the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan CNR, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he was unable to find common ground with House colleagues and minority members of the Senate to advance the bill. A major stumbling block was a provision in the House bill that would have created a block-grant pilot program in three states. The program would cut funds for school meal programs and abolish critical federal mandates, such as eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price school lunches and nutrition standards. FEED strongly opposed these elements of the House bill.

3. Passage of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act – This long-sought piece of legislation was first introduced over five years ago, but was finally signed by President Obama in July. It requires government agencies to closely monitor and evaluate foreign-aid programs based on their outcomes, and to improve transparency by posting data about the effectiveness of programs on foreignassistance.gov. Its unanimous approval in both the House and Senate is credited to a committed group of bipartisan sponsors.

4. Hurricane Matthew and cholera outbreak in Haiti – Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti in October. Recovery efforts have been hampered by poor infrastructure that predated the hurricane, and by an ongoing cholera epidemic for which the UN has taken partial responsibility. The cholera epidemic, which was triggered after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake in 2010, has been further exacerbated by the poor conditions following Hurricane Matthew.

5. Endemic measles is eradicated from the Americas – The World Health Organization declared in September that no one had been infected with measles in the Americas for a full year, meaning the virus is no longer endemic in North and South America. Despite a measles outbreak last year that spread to 667 people in 27 U.S. states, the western hemisphere has not suffered an endemic case of measles since 2002.

6. War and refugees – Unfortunately, 2016 saw the continuation of violent conflicts that drove masses of refugees from Syria and Yemen. The U.S. reached its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, and has now accepted over 12,000 Syrian refugees since the civil war began in 2011. Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict in Yemen (between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition supporting the ousted government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi) has driven the largest food-security emergency in the world. Between 7 and 10 million people are in “Crisis” (IPC Phase 3 or worse), and require immediate humanitarian assistance. At least 2 million of this total are in “Emergency” (IPC Phase 4), and are at increased risk of mortality. FEED is part of a group of 18 concerned nongovernmental organizations providing food and supplies to 12,000 Syrian refugees, two-thirds of whom are women and children.

See here.

Women carry pails of water drawn from a borehole at Chimbuli Village, Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa District, Central Malawi, October 9, 2014. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA
Women carry pails of water drawn from a borehole at Chimbuli Village, Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa District, Central Malawi, October 9, 2014. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA

7. El Niño drives food insecurity in Southern Africa – The strongest El Niño weather event since 1982 caused an increase in drought and heat waves across much of the world, but especially in southern Africa. Over 50 million Africans are now considered food insecure. Pervasive drought conditions have devastated the agriculture sector, which employs 80 percent of the working population in Malawi. FEED delivers food aid to over 80,000 Malawian children in 847 centers each day, provides water-purification packages, awards scholarships to help students finish high school, and organizes village savings and loan programs to help impoverished rural communities save and invest in small businesses.

unnamed-28. Ebola outbreak ends – The World Health Organization declared the epidemic over in June 2016, representing a major victory for public health officials and the NGO community. FEED and its partners in Liberia and Kenya created networks of trained Care Group Volunteers to teach public health practices, including hand washing with soap, water purification, and avoiding sick or dead animals. The volunteers also assisted communities in recognizing symptoms of the virus, and dispelling false beliefs about how the virus spreads. See here.

9. The rise and fall of Zika – Zika was declared a global health emergency in February, which precipitated massive global action against the disease: 1) the World Bank committed $150 million to combat the virus; 2) the Bank also established the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to quickly mobilize funds to address global disease outbreaks; 3) the Obama Administration issued a “private sector call to action” to unlock vaccines, point-of- care diagnostics, and new mosquito-control options; and 4) a coalition of governments and philanthropies, most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed $18 million to widely implement a new form of vector control. Following such efforts, the crisis was declared over in November.

10. Number of food-insecure households in the U.S. is decreasing – The USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its most recent “Household Food Security in the United States” report in September. The report found that as of 2015 there were 15.8 million food-insecure households in the U.S.—12.7% of all households. While an improvement from the 14% of food-insecure families in 2014, there are still many households that are unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Meanwhile, the number of people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as spending on the program, has been significantly reduced because of the reintroduction of certain restrictions for childless adults, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Choose handwashing, choose health — Global Handwashing Day 2014

Today marks Global Handwashing Day. Begun in 2008 by The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) with support from the United Nations, today over 200 million people in 100 different countries will commemorate the day with educational celebrations. Their goals are to:

  • Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap
  • Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country
  • Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap

Kenya - girls washing hands

Every year, 1.7 million children do not live to celebrate their 5th birthday because of the devastating affects of diarrhea and pneumonia.  Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.  This simple behavior can save lives, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost one-half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

Feed the Children is happy to join in these celebrations throughout the world so that even more kids can reach their 5th birthday and beyond!

These are some of our plans for celebration in Africa.

Kenya

In Kajiado County, Feed the Children will partner with teachers and school administrators at Kajiado Township Primary School in Kajiado County to talk to the children about the use of soap.

Children get handwashing lessons in the Dagoretti Center, Kenya

Children get handwashing lessons in the Dagoretti Center, Kenya

In Turkana County, Feed the Children will join partner at Lorugum sub-county headquarters to mark the day with handwashing demonstrations while in Nairobi County, personnel from government ministries and our staff will visit six schools under the school meals program to provide similar lessons on handwashing.

Our staff that serves at the Dagoretti Children Centre (DCC) in Nairobi will hear a presentation from our on-site nurses. The nurses will share tips with the childcare workers, not only for handwashing, but also how to prevent the Ebola virus.

If you would like to invest in educating more people about preventing Ebola, learn more here.

Malawi

In the Rumphi district in the northern region of Malawi, the district Council and other partners will join Feed the Children to commemorate the day through a Global Sanitation FUND project. Feed the Children is also contributing financial resources toward the events.

An outdoor handwashing station in Uganda

The Global Sanitation FUND project in Malawi is one of many that teaches children and families about the benefits of handwashing all year, not just on one day. In every one of the 847 communities we support in this country, we have installed handwashing stations and toilets. We are teaching the value of cleanliness and have installed handwashing facilities outside each of the toilets so that children learn from a young age the value of washing their hands.

Eliya washes his hands after using the toilet at his parents’ home in Central Malawi. Image Credit FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA, October 9, 2014
Eliya washes his hands after using the toilet at his parents’ home in Central Malawi. Image Credit FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA, October 9, 2014

Another way we make sure everyone learns how to wash their hands properly is through our Care Groups, a model originally developed in Mozambique by another organization and pioneered by our Chief Program Officer and others. Through Care Groups, the average improvement in handwashing behavior increases twice as fast as it does with any other approach.

The Care Groups model helps communities take on some of the responsibility for lifting themselves out of poverty, empowering people to contribute their own time and resources to the work. In this model, we work with communities to form a “Neighbor Circle” of 12 households, each of which selects a member to be their “Care Group Volunteer.” All of the Care Group Volunteers meet regularly for training from Feed the Children, and then in turn pass along the training to other households in their Neighbor Circle. In a Care Group program that one of our staff members supported, malnutrition dropped by 38% in less than two years and child deaths dropped 29%!

Kenya - boy shows clean hands after washing

Through these Care Groups we have educated communities on the importance of hand washing with soap at all critical times, including before and after eating or serving food, after changing a baby’s diaper, and after handling food.

We have seen an improvement in handwashing behavior in most of the communities we are working with. Handwashing with soap is still a challenge in some communities, but with repetitive teaching, we are making great progress and fewer kids are getting sick.

Happy Global Handwashing Day, everyone!

 

Influence for Good: Inside the Clinton Global Initiative

People ask me all the time about the well-known people I meet.

But the thing with me is I don’t really get awestruck about the famous anymore.

Maybe it is because I worked as a protocol officer while in graduate school during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where I met heads of state, movie stars, and athletes over and over during the course of the Olympic Games.

Or maybe it’s because I believe that celebrities are human beings like the rest of us.

Or because my parents raised me to speak to nearly anybody in the kindest way I know how.

But, if I were still to get awestruck, I would have last week while attending the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City.

Coming out of the steps of the Sheraton Times Square, I brushed shoulders with a who’s who of leaders in international development, business and politics—President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, President Obama, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Chelsea Clinton (a couple of days before her baby was born, I might add!), Katie Couric, heads of many foreign countries, countless CEOs of global corporations, news anchors galore… The list goes on and on.

It was wonderful to meet together with some of the most passionate and influential minds to discuss global change. I was honored to be Feed the Children’s delegate. And during the three days that I spent at the conference, it was good to be involved in the conversation with many of the world’s influencers.

I also heard what was on the minds of high-profile folks like these:Kevin Hagan at the Clinton Global Initiative

Hillary Clinton. She led sessions on education of women and girls saying to us: “We know when girls have equal access to quality education in both primary and secondary schools, cycles of poverty are broken, economies grow…”

Graca Machel (Nelson Mandela’s widow). She received the 2014 Clinton Global Citizen Award and shared with us about her passion saying: “Education should never fail because it gives a child a sense of normalcy.”

Matt Damon. As co-founder of Water.org he compelled all of us with stats about the importance of clean drinking water. I left his session thinking all day about how more people around the world have access to a cell phone than they do to a clean water source.

In hearing these inspiring words, I began thinking about the role of influencers in the work of bringing hope to those who need it most around the world.

One of the greatest life lessons my family taught me from our Christian faith tradition is that “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

This is why I believe that if I am given anything of value in this life, it is my responsibility to give back. Countless others, I know, share this sentiment.

It is our goal to offer people in positions of notoriety an opportunity to join in Feed the Children’s mission and to give back to society. We are not alone in our stance that no child should go to bed hungry, no matter where they live. We want to facilitate more champions in this great cause who desire to use their following for good.

As President Bill Clinton said in one of the breakout sessions: “We are creating a network of cooperators.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative this year. I look forward to future events with these new colleagues and to joining forces with other leaders, famous or not, who want to defeat hunger.

Shed Your Shoes with Us on April 29

Shoes are more than a fashion statement or an effort to appear taller. Shoes keep us healthy. On April 29, 2014, we are going without shoes to help more people understand just how important shoes are to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

Here’s the scoop: without shoes, kids can’t go to school and they can’t avoid water- and soil-borne illnesses. This traps them in a poverty cycle with their families and their communities.

Poverty is complex and can’t be solved any one single way. We all need to work together to help children get and stay healthy, go to school, and find opportunities for a better future. Wearing shoes is an important part of that.

One condition, called podoconiosis, is very debilitating, causing extremely painful swelling of the feet and legs. Podo affects more than 4 million people in at least 15 countries. (Source: WHO, 2013)

Podo can be prevented by wearing shoes and practicing good foot hygiene. Feed the Children gives shoes along with health education to children at risk of podo.

Feed the Children distributes TOMS to children in many of the schools where we work, enabling children to attend school regularly. Providing shoes with uniforms improves school attendance by 62%.

pair of bare feetOver 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted. They need treatment and preventive interventions.

When we go without shoes on April 29, we will write the name of one of the children in our programs on our feet. We hope people will ask why so we can share how important shoes are for helping children stay healthy, grow strong, and go to school. Shoes really do help create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

Will you join us? This video shows how.

Water Equals Life

The numbers are staggering. The UN talks about “the bottom billion” — that’s billion with a B. This is the segment of the world’s population that urgently needs access to clean water and sanitation services and electricity.

According to UNWater:

“Worldwide, 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources, and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation.”

world water day infographic

It can be difficult to wrap our minds around numbers as large as these. Hundreds of millions of people…a couple of billion people — this sounds impossible.

When a problem seems too big, we focus on the individuals, families, and communities where clean water and sanitation have changed (and saved) lives.

water line blog crop

In most of the communities served by Feed the Children in Central America, families do not have daily access to running water. They have to walk long distances to rivers or springs to get water to drink, cook, wash clothes, and bathe. Most of them do not have toilets; instead, they use latrines that they can’t clean with water.

water on heads blog crop

We can do something about this, one community at a time, one school at a time. We’re bringing clean water and sanitation to people who have suffered from parasites, diarrhea, and other water-borne illnesses their entire lives.

Jeimy in hospital crib blog

In the community of Jardines del Norte in Honduras, children used to become so malnourished from the parasites living in their bodies that they had to be admitted to the hospital for months at a time.

Jeimy is the youngest of seven children born to Karen and Juan. Her father has been unable to find a steady job, and her mother stays home to care for the children. When Jeimy was four months old, she became so desperately ill that she was admitted to a nutrition center. It took seven months for her to become stable. Today she is almost two years old and already has logged numerous visits to the hospital emergency room for treatment for multiple parasites.

hands and water blog

In addition to helping provide Jeimy the medication and nutrition she needs to remain stable, Feed the Children recently helped her community dig a well. The well is located at the perimeter wall of the community school, and the entire community is able to fill jugs and buckets of water to use for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

It is still a far cry from the indoor plumbing we take for granted in our own homes, but children and their families are grateful to have a secure, reliable, and safe source of water available.

girl water pitcher blog crop

Today, many other improvements are visible in this community. Men attend a carpentry school in a nearby community where they learn to build sturdy and beautiful furniture. The school provides hot meals five days a week to children who did not have a reliable source of food before. None of this could have happened without safe drinking water.

Bryan drinking water blog

We are repeating the same story all over the region. Feed the Children–El Salvador has installed running water in the community of El Guayabo, improving the status of an entire school of 600 children. In the community of La Labor,  Feed the Children–El Salvador installed a water filter to provide access to potable water for 150 children and their families.

This World Water Day, take a moment to consider how you could help bring water and change the life of one of the “bottom billion.”

What’s in the Water? 4 Facts That Will Shock You

Today’s post is the second in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Our Four Pillars—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—comprise a 8- to 10-year, integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Health & Water pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by expanding access to clean, safe water and improving health.

***

1. Water Kills 3,000 Children Every Day – Unsafe Water, That Is

Water is life-giving—or at least it’s supposed to be. But for children and families in impoverished communities, it is a death threat.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation causes a myriad of waterborne illnesses, including dysentery, diarrhea, and parasites. Diarrhea, which is little more than an inconvenience in the developed world, kills 3,000 children around the world every day, making it the second deadliest illness for children.

Because children’s bodies often aren’t strong enough to fight these waterborne illnesses, they are especially vulnerable to the threats of unclean water. Even when it doesn’t kill outright, dirty, diseased water ultimately destroys long-term health, educational opportunity, economic sufficiency, and, consequently, children’s futures.

So, coupled with Food & Nutrition, the Health & Water pillar is foundational to our mission of providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials.

We help communities secure consistent access to clean water by building rain catchment systems, water wells, and filtration systems, and by creating access to municipal water systems. Once a water system is in place, protecting that water supply is the next vital step to continuing health. So we teach communities about water management and conservation as well as proper sanitation, and we help them implement these life-saving systems.

2. Without Toilets, a Community’s Waste Goes Where?

Here in the U.S., we take restroom facilities for granted. But so often, the communities we work in do not have this basic necessity… anywhere. When members of Feed the Children’s U.S. staff and volunteers visited the community we serve in Hambongan, Philippines, they couldn’t wait to sink their toes into the sand at the beautiful beaches there. But they were quickly cautioned away—the beaches were contaminated with human waste. This community, like so many, had no toilets.

IMG_9108
This is the only water source in San Juan, Honduras.

Properly built and maintained latrines are essential to protecting the water supply and improving the overall health of a community. So, through our sanitation project, we implemented a latrine system and taught the people of Hambongan how to dispose of waste so it wouldn’t go into the water. Every household in the community now has a toilet.

Disease is declining, and quality of life is improving. Instead of staying home seriously ill, more children are attending our school and feeding center. And, now better educated and equipped to bolster their own community, their parents are part of the savings and loan program we helped establish there, with 10% of their profits going directly back to the school and feeding center.

As health increases, so does hope.

3. Carrying Water Traps Many Women and Children in Poverty

At a water station in Kenya
A water station in Kenya
In the Maparasha community of Kenya, our water project is making a dramatic difference in the lives of children and families. Up until just a couple of years ago, the women and children spent most of their daylight hours carrying water the three kilometers from the mountain source to their village. The children had no time for school, and the women had no time to support their families. But everything changed when we built a water line to cover the distance.

Since then, the children have been filling their school seats instead of their water buckets, and the women have embarked on small business enterprises—supporting their families and the local economy—now that water transportation isn’t their full-time job. And for so many like the Maparasha community, easier access to clean water means better-watered fields, more reliable food sources, and improved health.

4. It Only Takes $10 Per Citizen to Provide an Entire Community with Access to Safe Drinking Water

Access to clean water produces gradual, powerful changes that break the cycle of poverty and improve—even save—lives. It’s energizing to see the difference it makes.

And we need to be energized—we in communities who flip faucets on without a thought, we who have hope and resources to share. We need to be energized about the difference access to clean water makes—because we need to be the ones to expand that access to children and families around the world.

We need to make sure children like six-year-old Daniela and two-year-old Jason in San Juan, Honduras get to have clean drinking water just like our own children do. The siblings live in a dilapidated shack with six other family members and no clean water. And the problem goes beyond their own home.

Daniela and Jason's main water source has been the dirty river running behind their shack.
Daniela and Jason get their water from the dirty river behind their shack.

There is no clean water source at all in the community of 10,000—just a dirty river that runs beside Daniela and Jason’s shack. As long as their community’s water problem remains, the children’s health and safety are in danger every day.

Feed the Children has established two feeding centers in San Juan, and now we would love to provide access to clean water for the whole community. It would cost $100,000 to set up a community water source—that means that for just $10 per citizen, the water problem in San Juan could be solved.

Most of us don’t have $100,000 to spare. But some of us have $1000 or $100. Nearly everyone has $10. With your help, water could cease to be a hazard for Daniela and Jason—it could be health and hope.

Join us or learn more about our clean water projects here.