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Archives for Food Security

Keeping Global Nutrition on the Table

Jennifer Barbour is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Jennifer Barbour

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog.

When I was pregnant with my sons, I paid close attention to my diet. I cut out caffeine and the occasional alcoholic drink. I ate more spinach when my body needed more iron.

I continued to make adjustments to my diet when I breastfed my boys for the first several months of their lives. I thought about the food I put in my body for the health of my babies and for me.

I knew the importance of nutrition in those early stages of childhood, even before my kids were born. What I didn’t realize is that if a child isn’t given the proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to age 2, his growth could be stunted and his performance in school could be affected.

To think that pregnant women and children are lucky to even have a daily meal, let alone a nutritious one, never even crossed my mind when I was pregnant.

I was lucky to have the means to eat a healthy diet and access to the food my body needed.

I’m much more aware of what it means to be food insecure these days. My nonprofit work in Maine has opened my eyes to child poverty that I didn’t know existed in my own back yard. Nearly 1 in 4 children in Maine are food insecure.

I’ve written blog posts on food insecurity, hunger and global nutrition. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how my audience would react to such subjects. Hearing about 165 million malnourished children in the world isn’t exactly uplifting.

But I always try to show the good that can come out of such knowledge, whether it’s a local restaurant giving a meal to needy families for every meal sold or employees tending a garden to stock a food pantry. Telling the stories of those who are helping to solve these problems inspires action in others.

On a global level, there is much to be done. An initiative like the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future, led by USAID, is leading the way by showing how nutrition, poverty and food insecurity are all related.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Feed the Future is addressing undernutrition through country-owned programs. They are looking at agricultural development and addressing the most at-risk population, women and children. The investment in food security is seen as an investment in our own economy. I am elated to see that almost 12 million children under 5 have been reached by Feed the Future nutrition programs.

It’s encouraging to see our world leaders take on global malnutrition.

Together, we can keep them accountable.

About the author: Jennifer Barbour is a copywriter, blogger, aspiring author and new media consultant. She aims to inspire, to entertain and to make you think. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome family and bacon, though not necessarily in that order. You can find out more at anotherjennifer.com.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

SMART Training Enables Egyptian Woman to Educate Community on Nutrition, Healthy Behaviors

Gaz Mohamed Mohamed Hussein Al Masarah comes from Masrah, a small village on the Nile about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the governorate capital of Asyut, Upper Egypt. She is 25-years-old and delighted to be included in a group of 20 young women selected by the SMART Project (Community-based Initiatives for a Better Life, funded by USAID) to work as Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their own communities. This class of 20 future CHWs is part of a total cadre of 1,200 women who have been trained.

The SMART project—a USAID-funded MCHIP project that focuses on improving maternal and neonatal health and nutrition—works through community development associations in Upper and Lower Egypt to train physicians and CHWs to improve newborn care, nutrition, and the use of modern family planning methods. Providers and CHWs are trained to focus on the nutritional habits of pregnant and lactating women, implement perinatal practices (such as intensive care for preterm or low birth weight babies), and encourage exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

Gaz Mohamed, third from the left (in red scarf), attending the CHW training. Photo credit: MCHIP.

During a break in the training on infant nutrition, Gaz recounts how, as one of six children, her family was never able to afford to send her to school. Her older sister married young and her brothers attended primary school, but Gaz was kept at home to help her mother. However, when she was 10-years-old, a relative started a literacy class in the village, and persuaded Gaz’s father to allow her to attend.

Gaz laughs when she tells how happy she was to carry her books around like the other students she had seen. She worked hard at the literacy classes and was soon able to join Year 5 in Primary School. She finished with good results and, with the support of her father, went on to secondary school, where at graduation her marks were good enough for her to have entered the faculty of agriculture, education, or commerce. However, her father did not want her to move into Asyut to continue her studies.

Not wanting to stay in the house all day, Gaz began to look for something she could do in her village. At the beginning of 2012, she was nominated by a local community development association to participate in the SMART training course for CHWs. The Smart Project selects CHWs in every community in the targeted governorates to visit pregnant and breastfeeding women in order to disseminate messages about healthy nutritional habits and infant care. Gaz’s best friend from school, Manal, was also nominated, and they were very excited to join the training together.

Gaz excitedly shares her knowledge from the training. She says she has learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and is convinced it will help mothers who traditionally start feeding their children different drinks and soup after only 40 days. She speaks confidently and enthusiastically about her new role in the community, saying how happy she is to be able to help her neighbors and friends in the village. Thankfully, her father has also accepted the idea that his daughter is working.

Gaz’s mother is proud of her daughter, too, especially for choosing to help other women. As the first woman in the family to have received an education and worked outside the home, Gaz contributes some of her monthly salary toward the family food bill. The rest she is saving for her marriage expenses. Although she is engaged, she is in no hurry to marry and insists she will continue working after she marries. She recognizes that the knowledge she has gained during the CHW training will be very useful for her when she has children of her own.

And reflecting back on her childhood desire to go to school, Gaz says she never would have imagined that she would one day have the information and confidence to go into women’s homes to discuss health and nutrition issues. “I just wanted to be educated like my brothers,” she says. “And that gave me the chance to be working and helping people. I wish that all the girls in Masrah could have an education. With education we could chase the ghost of malnutrition from Asyut!”

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Filling the Bellies of Hungry Kids

Julia Gibson is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Julia Gibson

Growing up as the kid of a car mechanic who worked on flat-rate, we did not have much money. On weeks my dad didn’t turn many hours, we survived on generic macaroni and powdered cheese (4 for $1!) and if we were lucky there was a can of tuna fish to mix in. While that might not have been the most nutritious dinner, I never went to bed hungry. I never went to bed with the gnawing of hunger pains from deep within.

But, millions of children are going to bed hungry around the world.

There are children who have that gnawing hunger pains every single day of their lives.

Hungry children can’t concentrate at school. They don’t care about math and science… they just want food in their bellies.

165 million children under five are under nourished. Poor nutrition can affect a child’s health and learning ability. Poor nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life – from pregnancy to their second birthday – can cause irreversible growth and mental issues. From hunger.

Through USAID and the Feed the Future program, investments are being made in agriculture, health and social protection. Programs like encouraging the growth of orange maize in Zambia, assisting in food security in Guatemala for women and children and other programs are helping teach women how to provide healthier food for themselves and their families.

These aren’t handouts, folks. These are programs to encourage the women of these countries to help themselves. They are given the information and training to grow better crops and to get the food from the plants to the table without any issues.  They are being given the potential to succeed. They are being given the knowledge to fill their children’s empty bellies.

Feed the Future is helping women and their families rise above poverty and under nutrition and provide for themselves and their families. These children are being given the chance to succeed at school and in life– because of better nutrition.  Last year, they were able to reach 12 million children. Twelve million children went to bed with full tummies because of USAID and Feed the Future.

Whether you love or hate the United States government… you have to be amazed at Feed the Future. The initiative, led by USAID, is comprised of eight other governmental agencies all working together to help others.  They are Feeding the Future.

Recently, I saw a sign that said “Childhood shouldn’t hurt.”  Childhood shouldn’t hurt– this includes hunger pains. A child should be given every opportunity to succeed. Thankfully, programs like Feed the Future are giving them that opportunity.

I encourage you to check out Feed the Future’s website to learn more.

Julia Gibson is the mom of boy/girl twins, wife, accountant, scrapbooker, card maker, and nap sneaker. Relatively new to the blogging scene, she recently became involved with social good and is proud to be a member of the Global Team of 200, part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in seventeen countries, who spread good news about the amazing work non-profit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world. You can read more of Julia’s blog posts at Mom on the Run x2.

 Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Video of the Week: Turning the Tide on Global Hunger

In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses efforts to turn the tide against global hunger and increase agricultural production around the world. The video was shown at the “Feed the Future: Partnering With Civil Society” event on September 27, 2012.

This morning, during a global nutrition-focused event co-hosted by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide, USAID announced its ongoing commitment to work with the U.S. Government’s leadership to reduce undernutrition around the world. The event followed the Nutrition for Growth event in London. During his trip and on behalf of the U.S. Government, Administrator Shah signed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact which commits donors and private partners to scale up nutrition programs specifically targeted to reduce undernutrition in women and children.

Also last week, Administrator Rajiv Shah and Tjada McKenna, deputy coordinator for Feed the Future, participated in a Google+ Hangout on the role of nutrition in child survival and food security nutrition with representatives from the ONE Campaign, GAIN and 1,000 Days, as well as Candice Kumai, who is a chef, food writer, Iron Chef Judge and nutrition champion for Future Fortified.

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID, @USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Winning the Battle Against Undernutrition and Stunting

Most people have never heard of stunting. It’s one of the least reported, least recognized, least understood issues facing humanity, yet tackling it should be seen as an opportunity both for personal health and national development.

Stunting, caused by chronic undernutrition in children, does not only affect a person’s growth or height. The damage that undernutrition causes to a brain’s cognitive capacity is permanent. It cannot be reversed.

As UNICEF documented in its 2013 report, ‘Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress’, chronic undernutrition scars the lives of some 165 million children around the world. Undernutrition contributes to half of all child deaths and around one fifth of maternal deaths.

Two children in Zambia. Photo credit: Nazo Kureshy, USAID

Stunting traps people into a lifelong cycle of poor nutrition, illness, poverty and inequity. Children’s poorer school performance results in future income reductions of up to 22 per cent on average. As adults, they are also at increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Despite the challenges, we can and must win the battle against stunting and other forms of undernutrition – and investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life shapes the future of nations.

Experts have consistently confirmed that taking action on undernutrition is the single most important, cost-effective means of advancing human well-being. This would accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, would save lives and should be a top global priority.

We know what works and what needs to be done to radically reduce stunting and undernutrition: from micronutrient and vitamin supplements to awareness raising, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and treating severe and acute malnutrition. Efforts should also be linked to improving access to education and safe water, promoting hygiene, preventing and treating diseases, and strengthening social safety nets.

Over the past 20 years alone, the number of stunted children under the age of five in the world has fallen by 88 million – from 40 to 26 per cent, or a one-third reduction.

However, a brand new Lancet series on nutrition from 6 June 2013 shows that progress is not fast enough. What is needed now is strong, global commitment and leadership to accelerate efforts.

UNICEF is a proud partner in the major global initiative called the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which is bringing much needed focus and investment for nutrition in a number of countries. Through the SUN country network, government focal points from each of the 40 countries involved share experiences, seek advice and provide each other with assistance, analyses of progress and lessons learned.

Broader efforts to address child survival are also galvanizing partnerships. Governments including those of Ethiopia, India and the U.S. have thrown their weight behind the A Promise Renewed movement, which –  with supported by UNICEF – is uniting governments, civil society, faith based leaders and private sector around the clear and compelling goal: to end preventable child deaths and give every last child the best possible start in life.

No child, no mother, no country should ever have to suffer the injustice of a lack of nutrition in the 21st century. We cannot stand by and allow a child to be condemned to a life of deprivation – especially when we know how to prevent it.

For updates on what the United States is doing to improve nutrition, follow the hashtags #Nutrition4Growth and #GHmatters on Twitter. 

Building a More Nutritious Future for All

A silent crisis is happening right now. It affects 165 million children globally, robbing them of the future they deserve and leading to more child deaths every year than any other disease. In a world of plentiful, nutritious foods and advanced science, this is unacceptable.

We can do better. And we can do it together.

At a landmark event in London this weekend, global government, business, and civil society leaders will join together to commit to a different future — one in which every child benefits from the nutrition needed to grow and thrive.

Administrator Shah at the Nutrition for Growth event in London. Photo credit: USAID

As the head of USAID – and as a parent of young children – I am privileged to show the United States’ support for global nutrition at the Nutrition for Growth event today. This event’s global reach reflects growing recognition that the challenge of undernutrition is solvable, but requires a new approach.

To proactively address the root causes of hunger and undernutrition and get the most out of every development dollar invested, we cannot treat nutrition, global health, and food security as isolated priorities. We must integrate our approach across sectors, forging high-impact partnerships and driving game-changing innovation from farms to markets to tables.

Feed the Future is doing just that, working with businesses, local communities, farmers’ organizations, and country leaders to not only reduce poverty and hunger but undernutrition too. Last year, we reached 12 million children through nutrition programs that reduced anemia, supported community gardens, and treated malnutrition.                                                                                          

This focus reflects the United States’ long history as the global leader in nutrition, from providing emergency food aid during crises to helping farmers and their families grow and consume more nutritious foods.

In fact, we have nearly doubled nutrition-specific funding through our global health programs and we have tripled agriculture funding since 2008, targeting our investments where we can deliver meaningful impact. We’ve also been a strong supporter of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which funds country priorities in agricultural development and nutrition.

Today, I was pleased to announce that the U.S. Government is providing more than $1 billion for nutrition-specific interventions and nearly $9 billion on nutrition-sensitive activities over fiscal years 2012-2014.

These investments support and accelerate trends in stunting reduction; ultimately to reduce stunting by 20 percent over five years in the areas where we work through Feed the Future, translating into 2 million fewer stunted children.

Today we also signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, endorsing high-level goals for improving nutrition.

Integrating and expanding nutrition activities into our agricultural development programs makes good sense and is effective, as many of our civil society partners demonstrate every day in the field. And a growing body of research and knowledge, including the recently released The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, provides strong evidence that improving nutrition is one of the best ways to achieve lasting progress in development.

Ensuring that a child receives adequate nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday, can yield dividends for a lifetime as a well-nourished child will perform better in school, more effectively fight off disease, and even earn more as an adult. Nutrition is central to ending preventable child death.

The evidence is also clear that governments can’t do this alone.

Momentum for improving nutrition is strong, in large part thanks to our civil society partners who have worked tirelessly to mobilize support around the world behind the evidence that nutrition matters. Just today a coalition of U.S. NGOs pledged $750 million over five years in private, nongovernment funds for nutrition.

In a world where private sector investment flows vastly outpace official assistance, nations will only achieve development in partnership with a vibrant and transparent private sector as well. That is the mission behind the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

In just one year, the New Alliance has grown into a $3.75 billion public-private partnership that builds on country investment plans developed by African countries through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and works to integrate the principles of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, which recognizes the meaningful impact of nutrition on all aspects of society—from health to agriculture to long-term growth and stability.

During its presidency of the G-8 this year, the United Kingdom has worked hard to carry the New Alliance forward, keeping momentum strong for this groundbreaking partnership.

Ending extreme poverty by advancing nutrition from farms to markets to tables is the vision that brings business, development, and civil society representatives together this weekend.

It’s also what inspires us to work together to ensure that every child has a healthy start and every nation a brighter future.

For updates on the Nutrition for Growth event this weekend and what the United States is doing to improve nutrition, follow the hashtags #Nutrition4Growth and #GHmatters on Twitter. 

FrontLines Releases May/June 2013 Issue

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to get updates about how the Agency is implementing the Feed the Future initiative. Some highlights:

  • Convincing poachers to leave behind that life for farming is winning converts in Zambia.

    Paul Jean Marc, a member of one of Haiti’s flower growers associations, shows one of the association’s greenhouses filled with chrysanthemums. Photo credit: Feed the Future

  • One of Tajikistan’s newest land rights activists says that she “can’t sit around and watch women being disrespected and mistreated because they don’t know their legal rights or are afraid to fight.” When her farm was nearly stolen from her, USAID helped her fight back.
  • Good grains are translating into good health and good business for a growing number of Senegalese women’s groups.
  • With the recent introduction of greenhouses in Haiti, harvests of broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, beets, carrots and flowers stand a fighting chance against the region’s punishing weather.

If you want an e-mail reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

Maryan’s Milk Mustache

During the first week of June, IMPACT will be highlighting the key role of nutrition in Global Health

Three-year-old Maryan is wearing a pretty blue headscarf and a milk mustache.

She is drinking one of the 30 cups of milk that Save the Children provides monthly to each of the nearly 11,000 women and children enrolled in its milk voucher program.

Successive droughts in the country have taken their toll on Wajir, in the northeast region of Kenya. As water sources dried up and crops failed, the livestock that the people have always depended on for their livelihoods perished. Milk became increasingly rare and children began to show signs of hunger.

Three-year-old Maryan drinks milk. Her mother Habiba (left) enrolled her in Save the Children’s milk voucher program when she showed signs of malnutrition. Photo credit: Susan Warner. February 2013

A survey taken in October 2012, found one in four children to be malnourished. To address this, Save the Children launched a nutrition project funded by USAID, which gives the local dairy industry a boost by issuing milk vouchers to those who need it the most. The vouchers, coupled with nutritional supplements, are distributed to malnourished pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of five. The vouchers can be traded for milk at the market, which traders and pastoralists can redeem for money. The cash infusion is slowly rehabilitating the pastoral economy as investments in livestock, fodder and veterinary services increase.

Today Maryan’s milk mustache is framed by cheeks that are round and full, but this wasn’t always so. When she first enrolled in the program a few months ago she was weaker and thinner than her peers. Her upper arm circumference, one of the measures used to determine nutritional status, had shown her to be moderately undernourished. After three months in the program her weight increased by 10%, an astonishing gain, when one factors in an illness that set her back slightly in February.

“The program has helped my child. She is more playful and happier and even though she is not fat, she is quite strong.” says Habiba Osman, Maryan’s mother.

Though Maryan remains somewhat slender, “she has shown great progress in terms of her weight gain,” says Saadia Ibrahim Musa, the community health worker who first treated Maryan at the local health clinic, where Habiba brought her for a screening in October last year.

Habiba and Maryan see Saadia regularly now, since they walk to the health clinic, where the supplements and vouchers are distributed, twice weekly. There, Habiba also attends nutrition classes with other Wajir mothers. “We discuss the dangers of malnutrition to a child’s development, the importance of feeding a child a balanced diet, and the importance of handling food in a hygienic manner,” says Saadia.

“Saadia has taught me a lot of things,” says Habina, “I now know to take Maryan to the hospital as soon as I notice something is wrong and how important it is not to share Maryan’s [nutritional] supplements with anyone else in the household as this makes her recovery more difficult.

The changes are visible throughout the community. “The children are happier and more playful now. The mothers are happy as their children now get the milk they couldn’t afford before the project. The traders involved in the project have increased their incomes and their lives are better. Everyone is happy,” says Habiba. “And Maryan loves the milk!”

Learn more about USAID’s efforts to improve nutrition.

Follow USAID (@USAID) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including nutrition.

Photo of the Week: Nutrient-Rich Crops for Kenyan Children

During the first week of June, IMPACT will be highlighting the role of nutrition in Global Health

In Kenya, the U.S. Government, through Feed the Future, is working with whole families to improve food security and childhood nutrition by helping farmers introduce nutrient-rich crops to their farms and teaching families new recipes full of vitamins and minerals needed to ensure healthy growth. Photo Credit: Fintrac Inc.

Learn more about USAID’s efforts to improve nutrition.

Follow USAID (@USAID) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including nutrition.

Proof that the U.S. Government, NGOs and Activists are Working Together on Nutrition

During the first week of June, IMPACT will be highlighting the role of nutrition in Global Health

This originally appeared on the ONE Campaign blog

This morning, USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined a Google+ Hangout – a group video chat – with ONE’s U.S. Executive Director Tom Hart and a group of ONE members and agriculture policy experts from Feed the Future, GAIN, Thousand Days and Future Fortified.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah with ONE’s U.S. Executive Director Tom Hart. Photo credit: ONE.org

Tom gave Administrator Shah a fat stack of 100,336 petition signatures from ONE members across the US. Their ask? End chronic malnutrition for 25 million children by 2016. Administrator Shah heard them loud and clear, with two ONE members, George Houk and Vanessa Avila, as witnesses and representatives of our U.S. membership.

One of the highlights of the Hangout was hearing Administrator Shah talk about how global food security is in fact in America’s best interest.

“We know that this [nutrition] is an issue that touches on the economic prospects of countries that will be our trading partners in the future, it touches on our national security in places ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia, where far too many children die of core underlying malnutrition, and most importantly, we know it just touches on our moral consciouness because we cannot live in 2013 knowing that hundreds of millions of children go hungry and that that hunger prevents them from learning in school, from fighting disease, from surviving a simple bout of diarrhea or pneumonia and of building a better future for themselves,” he said.

After handing off the petition signatures, the conversation turned to our agriculture policy experts, Tjada McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development at Feed the Future, and Lucy Sullivan, Executive Director of 1,000 Days, and guest foodie activist, Chef Candice Kumai, a nutrition champion for Future Fortified. Adrianna Logalbo from GAIN moderated a lively discussion on the importance of agriculture, some of the successes and progress the world has made on nutrition, and how everyday citizens can get more involved.

Watch the full Google+ Hangout here:

Administrator Shah will be off to the pre-G8 Summit event, Nutrition for Growth, next week, with your petition signatures in hand. Stay tuned to ONE.org for updates on this important and critical event.

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow USAID (@USAID) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

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