USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Food Security

Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food

For several years, aid organizations have used Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for the community-based treatment of severe malnutrition. The product’s effectiveness has been called nothing short of miraculous as emaciated children were nursed back to life in their own homes using this nutrient-dense, highly fortified paste. Instead of children being hospitalized for several weeks, RUTF provides an option for outpatient treatment of severe malnutrition, where the caregiver provides a child two, 92-gram packets of RUTF per day. The two packets provide about 1,000 calories, plus a very broad range of vitamins and minerals. As long as a severely malnourished child has enough appetite to consume them, the recuperative process will be complete in about six to ten weeks.

In the past, RUTF was not available as a USAID-donated commodity. Aid organizations had to buy the product using precious donor funds. But in response to the desperate need of victims of famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa, and recommendations of a recent USAID Food Aid Quality Review, USAID added RUTF to its list of commodities available to partners implementing humanitarian programs.

As a long-time food technologist for both USAID and the U.S. Army, I am very excited we have received the first shipments of RUTF from three valued suppliers: Edesia, Tabatchnick Fine Foods, and MANA Nutritive Aid Products. The product is able to bring many of those children back from the brink of starvation, and it is just one of many steps that will be taken to expand and improve the humanitarian foods provided by USAID.

I am acutely aware of the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, when providing the proper nutrition can positively impact the rest of a child’s life. As we commemorate another World Food Day, I am proud of USAID’s commitment to changing the future by changing the lives of those most vulnerable children, and I am honored to be a part of that effort.

Stephen Moody, Senior Advisor for Food Technology, Office of Food for Peace, USAID. Stephen provides USAID with advice on formulation, development, processing, and packaging technologies for new and existing food products for humanitarian assistance and emergency feeding programs. He received a MS in Food Science from Kansas State University in 2000. Stephen is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists, a senior member of the American Society for Quality, and holds dual certifications as an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor and ASQ Certified Quality Engineer. He retired from active duty in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps after 24 years of service. Among his many positions was that of Food Safety Officer for the US Army Central Command in the Persian Gulf where he was responsible for the inspection and approval of local sources for food and bottled water in East Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

The Important Role of Women in Feeding the World’s Population

In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses the importance of increasing food production around the world and notes the importance of equipping women with the right tools, training, and technology to see as much as a 30 percent increase in food production. Feed the Future is the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative.

Visit http://www.state.gov/video for more video and text transcript.

Scaling Up Nutrition: Supporting country-led efforts to promote healthier lives

Through Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. Government supports the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, which helps children in countries like Mozambique maximize their potential by staying healthy. Photo Credit: Kelly Ramundo/USAID.

Back in June, I posted here about the negative impacts of global undernutrition as my colleagues and I prepared for Feed the Future’s agriculture and food security Research Forum in Washington, D.C. This week, as I attend two meetings for the international Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement during U.N. General Assembly week in New York, I’m moved to reflect once again on the issue because, quite frankly, we can’t give it enough attention.

The numbers haven’t changed since my last post, nor should our sense of urgency. The fact remains that two billion people in the world do not consume enough nutrients to live healthy, productive lives; and nearly 200 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic undernutrition. To put that last number into perspective, that’s about 24 times the population of the densely inhabited city where these U.N. meetings are currently taking place. That’s 24 New York Cities full of little children who deserve a better future.

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This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

This Week at USAID – September 6, 2011

After a hiatus, we will be continuing the “This Week at USAID” series on the first day of the work week.

Thursday, September 8th is International Literacy Day. The Center for Universal Education at Brookings, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, and USAID will mark the day by hosting a series of panel discussions on how a range of education stakeholders are addressing the challenge of improving literacy, particularly at lower primary levels, to help fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

Stephen Haykin will be sworn-in as USAID Mission Director to Georgia.

Raja Jandhyala, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, will testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the long-term needs in East Africa.

Alex Their, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator and Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, will testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on development programs in Afghanistan.

From Emergency Aid to Economic Empowerment

Last week, I traveled with four of my USAID colleagues to a drought-stricken area of Ethiopia as part of a larger visit to the Horn of Africa region. The worst drought the region has seen in 60 years has put more than 12.4 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia in need of urgent assistance.

One purpose of our visit was to observe the drought emergency, but we were also there to determine how to better merge USAID’s drought recovery programs with long-term development programs like Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s multi-agency global food security initiative. It all seems simple enough, but the more we saw, the more we realized the complexities of our work.  As difficult as it is to feed people in the midst of a crisis, it is much harder to prepare them before a crisis so food aid will not be required in the first place.

The Bokko Health Center in Ethiopia’s East Hararghe Zone is a lone outpost in the battle against this drought. There we found 10 skeletal children clinging to their mothers, trying to take in as much therapeutic food as they could. I have seen many severely malnourished children over a career spanning 30 years, but it never gets any easier to see a child who is two years old but weighs only 10 pounds. You just can’t help but compare your own children’s robustness with the hard circumstance of these kids. Our job is to make sure these kids get the right foods to keep them alive and give them the chance to grow.

After three more stops to view a health center and two USAID-supported projects in topsoil restoration and pastoralist market support, we began to work our way back to Addis Ababa. We stopped at the small farm of Wozro (Mrs.) Terunesh.  A thin woman and a widow, with the distinctive neck tattoos of Oromia, Mrs. Terunesh is the quintessential entrepreneur. With help from a USAID-supported Land O’Lakes dairy livestock program, she now has two cows that give milk and help support her. But she hasn’t stopped there; she has moved on to raising chickens. She also formed a women’s group that uses drip irrigation to grow tomatoes and onions that bring in more income. Most importantly, she is the master farmer who teaches some 50 other local women how to be better farmers. She had the drive to improve her circumstances, and fortunately USAID could give her the training that she needed to go even further than she could have on her own. With women making up 70% of the agricultural workforce in many African countries, projects like the one helping Mrs. Terunesh are essential to lessening gaps in gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the welfare of women and girls.

Our trip took us from drought to terrace to land tenure to livestock to diversified smallholder. Seeing it all firsthand, we felt that we better understood how USAID is helping a very diverse set of actors improve their livelihoods. Ethiopia still faces the deepening pain of this drought, which continues to cause many children to struggle for their lives. But we are working to reach more and more of these children through our comprehensive programs, from therapeutic feeding to dairy, to make a lasting difference. Ultimately, we aim to help them develop the resources and capacity so that in the future, they are more resilient to the more frequent droughts plaguing the Horn of Africa.

A Mother’s Bond: My Visit to an Ethiopian Therapeutic Feeding Camp

I have a one-year-old little girl at home, just like Aisha, the mother I photographed during my visit to the drought-impacted region of Ethiopia. Just like this Aisha, I hope that I am nourishing my daughter’s body, mind, and spirit by providing her everything within my means. Unlike Aisha, my daughter weighs nearly three times more than her one-year-old little girl, and she has come to this therapeutic feeding camp because it is her best hope for food for her daughter and for herself.

A woman named Aisha holds her daughter at a therapeutic feeding camp in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Aysha House-Moshi/USAID

While visiting Ethiopia last week, I saw examples of how USAID is serving the entire food continuum – food aid projects for the hungry, resilience projects for those able to work for food, and food security projects to support smallholder farmers who are delivering prized harvests to markets. All of these projects are making a difference, but as I looked at the growing numbers of hungry, risking their lives to migrate to camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, I couldn’t help but to focus on my fellow mothers risking everything to feed their children and feed our future.

I visited the Bisle Nutrition Site, which serves at least 7,500 mothers and children just like Aisha and her daughter. The community, mainly pastoralists, is in dire straits. Eligible mothers stand in line, with babies in tow, patiently awaiting food and water rations; while swarms of mothers of hungry children outside of the targeted age group wait for anything that can be spared. The men sit aimless, while elders, particularly the elderly women, are left to rely on the community to care for them.

The Bisle Nutrition Site, in the Shinile Zone, is located in the northeastern part of Somali Region of Ethiopia. It borders Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the east, and Oromia to the south and west. In normal times, the Shinile Zone receives rain during March to May and July to September. But during this drought, the area i

A view of the camps. Photo Credit: Aysha House- Moshi/USAID

s bone dry and the heat so abrasive that it hits you in the face, pounding your skin with every slight movement.

As I drove away, I thought of the mothers and children at Bisle. I hoped that peace, rain, and life would fill their immediate future. I wished that the hunger would pass and the land would awaken from the drought.

USAID knows how to respond to drought, and we know how to provide for the immediate and the long-term needs of the hungry. We are poised to do more, and the United States and the international community will continue to work together to make a difference for those in need.

Day Two: On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Earlier this week, I visited the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya, where thousands of exhausted and starving refugees have sought food, water and medical care after fleeing from famine-stricken lands in southern Somalia. The United States is providing life-saving help for millions of people across the eastern Horn of Africa, as the region experiences its worst drought in 60 years.

Although we will always provide aid in times of urgent need, emergency assistance is not a long-term solution. To address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, we need to invest in agriculture, build strong markets and harness advances in science and technology. Spearheaded by USAID, President Obama’s food security initiative—Feed the Future—is helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.

Together with Dr. Jill Biden and Senator Bill Frist, I had the opportunity to see some of the innovative work Kenyan scientists and researchers are doing to help transform agriculture in the region. At the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), we saw new drought-resistant seed varieties of sorghum, millet and beans, as well as a gigantic cassava root and the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Unlike other kinds of sweet potato common to the region, the orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in vitamin A and helps children build resistance to river blindness. We also saw irrigation systems in affordable greenhouses that are designed expressly for smallholder famers.

Since pastoralist communities throughout the region rely on livestock for their livelihoods, we are helping protect animal herds through vaccine programs and accessible veterinary care. In Ethiopia, we are supporting a government-led safety net program that builds boreholes for water, constructs health clinics and educates vulnerable communities about nutrition.

These programs are already making a difference.  That is why—even though this is the worst drought in 60 years—it is not the worst famine in 60 years.

The circumstances are still dire, however. In Kenya, I heard from families whose crops and livestock had withered in front of them and who themselves were barely surviving. I know that there is another way. Feed the Future is making smart, cost-effective investments in agriculture to ensure we address many of the root causes of today’s crisis.  Together, we can shape a better, safer future for the region’s families.

On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Eighty kilometers from Kenya’s border with Somalia, the Dadaab Refugee Complex—already the world’s largest refugee camp—has seen on average 1,500 exhausted and starving men, women and children arrive each day.  Fleeing from famine that is now gripping a large portion of southern Somalia largely inaccessible to aid workers, thousands of refugees have walked days—or even weeks—to reach help.  The United Nations estimates that over 12.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, including food, water and medical care, across the drought-stricken eastern Horn of Africa.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Dr. Jill Biden talking to a UNHCR worker in Dadaab. Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

Yesterday, I arrived in Dadaab with representatives from across the United States Government, including Dr. Jill Biden, Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith, Senator Bill Frist and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz.  The trip underscored the commitment of the U.S. Government—the single largest donor in the region—to respond to the immediate crisis with life-saving assistance and investments in long-term solutions to hunger. Ultimately, we know that it is smarter and cheaper to invest in food security than face the consequences of famine and food riots.

In Dadaab, we visited the Dagahaley camp’s reception center, where newly arriving refugees receive a medical screening and three weeks’ worth of food to tide them over until they complete a formal registration process. The USAID-funded rations include high energy biscuits, corn meal, vegetable oil, yellow split peas, salt and sugar.  Medical staff weigh the children and measure the circumference of their small arms to determine their nutrition status.  Today, the worst-affected regions in Somalia have the highest malnutrition level in the world, with nearly half the population malnourished.

Because the high rates of acute malnutrition make children extremely susceptible to deadly diseases, we are also aggressively pursuing public health interventions, including therapeutic feeding and immunizations.

New arrival family getting initial 3 week distribution (before formal registration). Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

The Government of Kenya is working closely with the GAVI Alliance to administer pneumococcal vaccines to protect every child from pneumonia at the point of registration.

I met one Somali woman who traveled by donkey cart with her two children for 12 days looking for food. It is hard to believe that she counted among the lucky, as many families have lost children along the way.

It does not have to be this way.  With Feed the Future, President Obama’s initiative on food security, we are working with the Kenyan government and smallholder farmers to achieve sustainable, long-term and life-saving agriculture development.

Tomorrow, I will share with you some exciting innovations in agriculture that we saw on our visit to the Kenya Institute for Agriculture—innovations that could help ensure we never face another famine again.

Horn of Africa Drought: Immediate Crisis Requires Long-Term Solutions

Paul Weisenfeld, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Food Security

In the eastern Horn of Africa, a massive drought has left over 11 million people vulnerable to severe food insecurity and in need of emergency assistance. USAID is working with the international community to ensure that critical assistance is mobilized to support those in need. But emergency assistance alone cannot solve the underlying causes of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Severe food insecurity in this part of the world is driven by cyclical drought, poor land management practices, limited availability of animal health services, food inflation, conflict over land and water, poor hygiene practices, and lack of dietary diversity. This is why my colleagues and I are so passionate about supporting Feed the Future, the U.S. government initiative to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.

In July, I visited the region and areas in Kenya where Feed the Future is focusing investments to sustainably address these challenges in the long term. As I traveled though the North Eastern province of Kenya, I met with local families, farmers, and livestock dealers; it was clear that they are facing serious threats to their livelihoods.  One family from the Mwingi region reported that it has not rained since last year and that there has not been a harvest since 2009.  They fortunately have a water source so they aren’t extremely food insecure—yet.  If the drought continues, this region is in danger of becoming severely food insecure, with dire consequences for its people.

With the frequency of droughts increasing over the last decade, it’s become increasingly difficult for people to recover from one shock before another one strikes.  Such shocks drive conflict over land and water, disrupt economic activity, and leave young men vulnerable to unemployment and recruitment into extremist groups, like al-Shabaab.  In such volatile conditions, food insecurity looms as an ever-present threat.   Yet even under severe circumstances, there are clear signs of the population’s resilience and determination.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Asha Adan Khalif, a mango producer and one of several women serving on a leadership committee for a communal farm in the North Eastern province.  The farm consists mostly of former livestock herders (pastoralists) who were forced to “drop out” of pastoralism after their livestock perished in prior droughts.  Since then, they have successfully converted to farming, with many of them exporting produce to the Middle East.  A third of the households on this farm are headed by women (who are the ones most often acutely affected by food insecurity) and the community includes a broad mix of families from different ethnic groups.  It was heartening to see how women’s leadership on this communal farm has contributed to diversity, security, and productivity among those families most vulnerable to the drought.

Our efforts through Feed the Future will be critical in the coming years to achieve sustainable food security for families like those I met in Kenya. In particular, Feed the Future’s work on developing drought-tolerant crops and promoting more efficient water management in Kenya will directly and positively impact incomes in the region and help to build household resiliency.  Other long term efforts to strengthen Kenya’s livestock market, improve livestock management, expand economic access and alternative livelihoods for women, and improve nutrition are just some of the ways in which Feed the Future can contribute to regional stability and support sustainable food security.  Already there are key interventions taking place on the ground, such as the Kenya Drylands Livestock Development Program, which is enhancing productivity and market competitiveness of livestock in Kenya to increase production for local consumption and marketing, and export trade.

As these kinds of programs become increasingly effective over time, USAID and its partners are striving to bring such interventions to scale, to ensure that Feed the Future has the greatest possible impact and increases resilience among vulnerable populations.

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