The Global Emergency Response Coalition Aims to Fight Extreme Hunger

Three years ago I was on a trip of a lifetime. I joined a global team of journalists for a two-week reporting fellowship in Ethiopia where we covered the progress Ethiopia has made in newborn and maternal health. The trip was life-changing in so many ways. It opened my eyes to extreme poverty and hunger. I realized how much I take for granted: Access to electricity, running water, safe drinking water, food, health care, education and opportunity. The basic necessities that people need to survive.

I made a promise to myself as a global citizen and humanitarian that I will never turn a blind eye. I will continue to advocate and use my voice on my blog to bring awareness to issues happening around the world especially ones that are not covered as much by the press. 

 

On July 18th, eight of the world’s leading U.S.-based international relief organizations joined forces for the first time to launch a joint fundraising appeal, the Hunger Relief Fund, to the American public to respond to an unprecedented hunger crisis and to save millions of lives. The Global Emergency Response Coalition (GERC) was formed in response to starvation threatening more than 20 million people in Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and neighboring countries.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition is comprised of CARE, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision. Partners including BlackRock, Google, PepsiCo, Twitter and Visa are working with the Global Emergency Response Coalition to help raise awareness and funds during the two-week appeal. The PepsiCo Foundation and BlackRock also will each generously match donations up to $1 million.

Children in Turkana County, Kenya dig for water in a dried up riverbed. Photo credit: Save the Children

Tragically, children are impacted even more by the crisis. Over 1.4 million children in these countries are severely malnourished and at risk of death without immediate help. In 2011, we faced a similar multi-country food shortage crisis and the international community failed to act in time. Over 258,000 people died in Somalia alone in which over half were children. We cannot let this happen again. Although there has been some media coverage, public awareness of this global crisis is low and there is simply not enough funding to meet the level of urgent need our organizations are facing on the ground.  

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Kurandza: One woman’s quest to #FeedMozambique

Meet Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder of Kurandza, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. I have featured her work and organization before on my blog and include their products under my Gifts that Give Back Guide. Kurandza uses education, entrepreneurship and sustainable development programs to help create opportunity and change for women and their communities. A devastating two-year drought in Mozambique has caused widespread hunger inspiring Elisabetta to shift gears and focus on hunger relief. Here is her heartwarming story. 

Percina and Elisabetta. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

Percina and Elisabetta, two wonderful friends who met in a village in Mozambique while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

“Kurandza: To Love”: Written by Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and Designer, Kurandza

I’d known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.

Prior to founding my non-profit organization, Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.

At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk were doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn’t taught them very well after all.

But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.

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#Nourishthefuture: Plumpy’Nut Nutritional Paste is Saving Lives

“Recognizing and addressing the world’s malnutrition problem as one of the major underlying impediments to eradicating global poverty and economic growth will not only save lives, it is critical to the success of the U.S. government’s ability to advance our global development objectives.” – Edesia

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A dear friend of mine and fellow social good blogger, Elizabeth Atalay (documama.org) is a mother of four, living in Rhode Island and is following her passion to help mothers and children around the world through advocacy and using her voice as a blogger. Elizabeth recently began working with local Rhode Island non-profit Edesia who produces a nutritional paste called Plumpy’Nut that is used globally by the World Food Programme, USAID and UNICEF to treat severe malnutrition.

Severe malnutrition impacts millions of children around the world and is highly preventable.

  • According to UNICEF, there are at least 51 million children in our world under the age of five suffering from acute malnutrition, a condition directly responsible for at least 1 million young child deaths each year.
  • Stunting occurs in children who have access to food but for whom nutrition and hygiene are inadequate; 165 million children are stunted and will experience lifelong cognitive and physical deficits that cannot be overcome. The irreversible stunting that occurs in children as a result of prolonged under nutrition, causes children to underperform in school and have lifelong health problems, furthering perpetuating economic loss and the cycle of poverty for families, communities, and countries.
  • Malnutrition contributes to an estimated 45% of all child deaths as it makes a child more susceptible to other life threatening diseases and illnesses. Malnourished children are 9 times more likely to die from diarrhea and 6 times more likely to die from pneumonia.
  • Malnutrition is called the silent killer because often it goes unnoticed until it is too late.
  • The economic toll of malnutrition costs countries millions of dollars each year.
  • Proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to two years of age – is critical to a child’s healthy development and future productivity in society.

Navyn Salem began her journey in helping malnourished children in 2007 as a stay-at-home mom of four young girls. Horrified by the growing numbers of malnourished kids around the world Navyn decided to do something about it. She began with operations in her father’s homeland, Tanzania, and worked with the government and the French company Nutriset to produce Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods known as RUTFs. A factory was built in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital and today they provide RUTFs to nine neighboring African countries.

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The Children of Syria: Hunger in a War Zone

“The world has stood and watched as the children of Syria have been shot, shelled and traumatized by the horror of war. The conflict has already left thousands of children dead, and is now threatening their means of staying alive.

We understand there is a political debate over what to do next in Syria, but we believe everyone can agree on the critical need for safe humanitarian access across the entire country. There is no room for delay or argument: Syria’s children must not be allowed to go hungry.”

-Roger Hearn, Save the Children’s regional director for the Middle East.

Save the Children distributes bread to residents of Za'atari refugee camp

Save the Children distributes bread to residents of Za’atari refugee camp. Photo credit: Nicole Itano/Save the Children

Last week at the Social Good Summit in New York City, I attended a small panel discussion hosted by Save the Children, ONE and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  It was a rare opportunity to hear some of the top social advocates and leaders speak about some of the pressing developments in social good involving eliminating extreme poverty, using technology for activism, and the current crisis in Syria.

One of the most touching conversations at the roundtable that day was listening to the President and CEO of Save the Children Carolyn Miles discuss the growing crisis in Syria and its tragic impact on its children. A week after returning from New York, I am still reflecting hard on these children and wondering how on earth I can help spread the word and raise awareness of their plight.

The war in Syria is one of the largest humanitarian crisis of our time and sadly Syria’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, are paying the price.

On September 23rd, coinciding with the gathering of global leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York for UN Week, Save the Children released a startling report titled “Hunger in a War Zone: The Growing Crisis Behind the Syria Conflict“. I read the report and could not put it down. The images of Syria’s children still haunt me and I had to do something to spread the word about what is going on and how we can help.

Here is a summary of the key findings of the report. All information below as well as images being used with permission from Save the Children. To read the report in full, click here.

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Zeina *, two, at her home in a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. Zeina and her family are living in a small tent on the Syrian border. The father, Ahmad, has been part of Save the Children as Cash for Work programme, and used the money on food and water for the whole family. Thousands of children and their families continue to stream into neighbouring countries. Most of those who have escaped are living in makeshift shelters, unsuitable buildings or in overcrowded camps, amid growing shortages of food, medicine and water. * Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo Credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Pictures tell a story. They show the world the people who are really suffering in Syria. Its most innocent and vulnerable: Their children.

This is the photo that struck a chord in my heart. She could be my own daughter. Same age. Same love for stuffed animals. But no smile to greet the day.

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Refugee child in Iraq. Most of the refugees did not manage to bring any belongings with them when they fled Syria. Some children managed to save their favourite teddy bear or doll. Others have received new toys after moving to the camp. Photo Credit: Rob Holden/Save the Children

It is hard to look at these photographs and not feel some inherent urge to jump on a plane and save them. As a mother of two children, ages 6 and 8, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for these parents and their children.

In mid-September, it was estimated that there are over 4 million displaced families living inside of Syria’s borders in temporary housing with little access to food to feed their children and barely a drip of water. Another two million have fled the country pouring into neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt at a rate of nearly 6,000 day*.

Some families are living in abandoned industrial buildings while others in makeshift refuge camps. The World Health Organization has deemed the crisis in Syria “to be one of the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis on earth”. As the sun begins to turn cold and food becomes more and more scarce, what will these families feed their growing, hungry children?

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Zeina *, two, at her home in a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Per Save the Children, “More than four million Syrians — more than two million of them children — are unable to produce or buy enough food, with many thousands living under fire and with no access to all but the bare minimum foodstuffs needed to survive. Save the Children is already seeing reports that one in 20 children in rural Damascus is severely malnourished”.**

One of the biggest issues right now is the fact that most of Syria’s families are trapped in dangerous locations where they have little or no access to food. They are faced with making the unimaginable decision. To stay inside their homes and starve or to face bullets and death by leaving the safety of their homes to get food for their family. It is a choice no parent should have to make.

“A message to the World” 

“This is a message from the Syrian people to world leaders. I am 13 years old and I am Syrian. I am Ali. I want to talk about the tragedy that we have in Syria. In Syria, we have no good food and not enough water. We only have lentils. So we ate lentils every day. We would see wounded people and dead bodies every day in the street, and many children who did not have homes. They are living in schools. But now they don’t even have a school to live in. I am asking the leaders of the world to provide us safe shelter, food, water, medicine – this is all we ask. Please, please, please – help us”. 

-Ali, 13 years old***

Maya * 11 months, at her home in a disused industrial building in Lebanon near the Syrian border *All names have been changed to protect identities. Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Maya * 11 months, at her home in a disused industrial building in Lebanon near the Syrian border *All names have been changed to protect identities. Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Another issue is that the war has destroyed Syria’s economy pulling a once relatively prosperous country into shambles. The United Nations “now estimates close to seven million inhabitants have been plunged into poverty since fighting began. In addition, Syria’s agriculture and infrastructure are collapsing, with grain production falling to less than half of what was typical before the war”**. Furthermore, “after two and a half years of war, the conflict has set Syria back 35 years and imposted an economic cost of more than $84 billion, equivalent to over 140 % of Syria’s pre-war GDP”. *** Once the war ends, rebuilding is going to be a long and painful journey.

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A child plays in the dirt at a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

What Save the Children is asking world leaders is to secure humanitarian access to the people per Save the Children’s Carolyn Miles. There are 7 million people in need of assistance and 5 million people stuck inside the country. Save the Children strongly believes that regardless of the political situation in Syria, we must do something about this enormous humanitarian crisis. We must act and we must act now. Time is running out for the millions of children and families who are suffering and facing extreme hunger and malnutrition. The world must listen and help.

Here is a link to what needs to be done. (See page 19)

Here is the latest response by global leaders: Press Release 10/02/13 Save the Children “UN Aid Access Agreement Could Save Thousands of Lives in Syria”.

The fight to save Syria’s children is far from over. We need to act now and spread the word. We need to voice our concern.

This is what is at stake: Children. 

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Suhad * six, lies on the floor of her home in a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. *Names have been changed to protect children’s identities. Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

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Nadia *, one and a half, is carried by her mother Roula * outside their home in a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo Credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

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Rami*, two, at her home in a tented refugee settlement in Lebanon, near the Syrian border. *Names have been changed to protect identity. Photo Credit: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

Related Posts and References:

*“Six Million Displaced by War in Syria” via the Atlantic

**Food Shortages Put Syria’s Children at Risk of Malnutrition

***Hunger in a War Zone: The Growing Crisis Behind the Syria Conflict

Highlights from the 2013 Social Good Summit

To keep in touch with the latest updates on Save the Children’s work in Syria and how you can help, click here.

About Save the Children

Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with programs in 120 countries, including the United States. We aim to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities. In times of acute crisis, we mobilize rapid assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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#Moms4MDGs: What it means to me

Do you know what the word MDG stands for? 

MDG stands for Millennium Development Goal. It may sound like some kind of fancy jargon however in my opinion MDGs are pretty amazing.  Established at the start of a brand new millennium in 2000 by world leaders at the United Nations, the 8 MDGs represent what we should strive for to make the world a better, more equitable place.  The MDGs build upon years of global teamwork and partnership in the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration and aim to achieve 8 major measurable targets by 2015. These 8 targets are shown in the infographic below.

The 8 UN MDGs (Source: www.un.org)

The 8 UN MDGs (Source: www.un.org)

“The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.” (Source: United Nations)

To learn more specifics about the MDGs please click here.

“In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals.” (UNDP)

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World Food Programme in Bolivia

Photo credit: World Food Programme

The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.

“Born in 1961, WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. We work towards that vision with our sister UN agencies in Rome — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) — as well as other government, UN and NGO partners.

On average, WFP aim to reach more than 90 million people with food assistance in more than 73 countries. Around 15,000 people work for the organization, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry poor.”

World Hunger is an enormous yet preventable problem. Per WFP, there are 870 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in eight people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The World Food Programme is working in Bolivia to provide nutritious meals for children in schools. You can ask a question for the children in Bolivia that will be translated and delivered by Ximena, WFP’s Communications Officer there.

Here is where you can direct your readers to ask a question. Simply click here and send your message.

I asked my question….will you?

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Feeding 7 billion: World Food Day October 16th, 2012

Photo taken of farmland in rural Guatemala.

Do you ever wonder how on earth we are going to feed the world? With a population of 7 billion and growing every day, how will the world come up with enough food to feed its population?

Per a recent alarming UN report on global sustainability, the forecast is frightening:

“As the world’s population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially.

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply.

And if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks condemning up to 3 billion people into poverty”.

The best produce in Guatemala is exported and the leftovers remain for the people.

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