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The Real Hunger Games – 16 Apr 2012
It seems like every conversation I have lately, I get asked if I’ve read The Hunger Games. At work, at church, at dinner – eventually I realised I should probably find out what’s getting people so animated.
The dystopian fiction of The Hunger Games is set in a country named Panem, in what is left of North America after an unexplained apocalypse generations ago. Districts around its Capitol are starving and dying, children skipping school to find food and become head of families when their parents cannot care for them. Already this is striking a familiar chord; we know all too well that this isn’t a potential future scenario, but a daily reality for communities Tearfund works with from Bangladesh to Bolivia, right now.
The plot thickens. To punish the districts for their rebellion 74 years ago, the Capitol holds an annual televised event where they choose a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 at random from each district, and force them to fight to the death for prizes of food as the whole country watches. Immediately I’m getting flashbacks to the starving babies we saw fight for survival in East Africa on our TV screens not even a year ago. And we are in danger of seeing it again this year as 13 million are at risk in the Sahel, West Africa. Almost a third of people in Chad are in trouble. Some children are already dying from malnutrition and others are cutting their meals down to one a day and selling their precious livestock. The UN is calling for over $1bn to head off the food crisis in the Sahel.
I wish that was fictional.
The situation in the Sahel is depicted very well in this new illustration, inspired by the arena from the Hunger Games, which reminds us why hunger persists in the developing world in our day and age, despite there being enough food for everyone. Hunger rules this landscape – 1 billion people trying to make a living, whilst battling against climate change, high food and energy prices, conflict, inequality, trade barriers, land grabbing, and historically a minuscule investment in agriculture.
Hunger is no game for Agnes Anyabo, 37, from Omulala village, in Eastern Uganda. She is my heroine in the real world of hunger. Orphaned at 6 and later thrown out by her husband for not bearing a child, her tiny plot of land was washed away by floods. She started over again and planted more vegetables, but then a drought forced her to eat wild leaves. She had two more mouths to feed as guardian of her sister’s daughters Caro and Margaret. But she joined a women’s farming cooperative, set up by the local church, and started growing cassava and received cattle and goats. Now she is more resilient to face droughts and floods.
So how can we end the real hunger games, for good, so we can help more people like Agnes?
The international community and governments need to stop treating food crises as a series of unexpected disasters. They can no longer play with people’s lives or wait to act until we see starving African children on our TV screens, as if it were the televised Hunger Games. We need long term strategies to end chronic hunger, build resilience and prevent predictable food crises, like the one looming in the Sahel, right now.
We need to invest more in smallholder farmers and put female farmers at the very heart of strategies and increase their access to land, markets, extension services, loans and decision making. Shifting the focus to the demands faced by women in ensuring that her family eats enough nutritious food, today and tomorrow and benefits from economic gains, better captures the nature of day-to-day food security.
Governments must develop national food security strategies, including empowering women to ensure equal access to food. Food security needs to climb higher up the food chain in terms of political agenda and investment. We need visionary leadership to ensure that all countries, especially those prone to food crises, have sufficient resources to ensure food security effectively and to end the hunger games once and for all.
Matthew Frost is Chief Executive of international aid and development agency Tearfund UK
Food distributed as hunger worsens in Mali – 5 Apr 2012
A Tearfund partner is providing emergency food aid to people living around Timbuktu in Mali who are affected by the Sahel hunger crisis as well as in-country conflict. Supplies are being distributed by our partner TNT not only to locals in this remote area south of the Sahara but to people who have fled there following the recent Tuareg rebellion.
Sahel drought and crop failure
Like Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, Mali is badly affected by food shortages following the partial failure of rains and subsequent poor crops last year. With rising food prices too, around 3 million Malians are going hungry and Unicef estimates that between 175,000 and 200,000 people are suffering severe acute malnutrition. Donate today
There has been criticism of the Malian government’s lack of response to the food crisis and there is now more uncertainty following last week’s coup when soldiers ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure from power. The military’s move was prompted by anger over the president’s handling of the Tuareg uprising, which erupted in late January.
Around 195,000 people have been made homeless by the fighting between the Tuareg and Malian government forces, with some 100,000 Malians fleeing across the borders to Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. There are fears the conflict will exacerbate the hunger crisis as displaced people will not be able to return to their homes when the rains start in a few months’ time.
Every year Malians contend with a hunger gap, the period between when existing food stocks run out and the next harvest is ready. This normally runs from May to the first harvests in September, but this year, as in other very bad years, it started in February. Rains are expected in June and people tend to begin preparing the ground in May.
Cath Candish, Tearfund Programme Coordinator for Mali, said, ‘Mali is facing a volatile and uncertain situation. The conflagration of a food crisis with a Tuareg rebellion can only leave the poorest and most vulnerable even more so.’
Meanwhile, further south from Timbuktu, Tearfund partner AEDM has been funding community groups to diversify their crops and to use more sustainable techniques to grow them. Another partner ODES is improving access to water as well as teaching better agricultural practice, while partner JEM is helping communities develop market gardening.
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Reuben Coulter CEO will step down in August – 27 Mar 2012
Statement from the Chair of the Board
I am writing to let you know that Reuben Coulter will be stepping down as Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland in August. We will shortly start to recruit for a new Chief Executive. (Vacancy details here) I write with a feeling of sadness that Reuben is leaving, but also with a sense of anticipation, as we move into a new phase in our journey.
Reuben has been our first Chief Executive and we have travelled a long way under his inspirational leadership. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him publicly for all that he has invested, both personally and professionally.
I would also like to thank you for being part of this journey too. You have prayed and given sacrificially. In the past year, our income has increased to more than €800,000 which is a real miracle in such challenging times. This generous support has enabled us to provide emergency relief to people affected by the famine in East Africa and to support poverty-stricken people through churches in seven countries.
But there is so much more to be done. As Tearfund Ireland seeks to build on its achievements to date, we are looking for a new Chief Executive – a leader of vision and character. We would like to ask for your help. If you know anyone who might be suitable, please can you let them know about this vacancy .
Dr. David Weakliam
Chair of the Board
Gay Mitchell asked to Unearth the Truth – 16 Mar 2012
Exports of oil & minerals from Africa is $393 billion, that’s 9 times the value of international aid ($44b). Yet most countries get little or no tax from international mining companies. On Fri 16th March Reuben Coulter met with Gay Mitchell MEP to discuss new EU legislation on transparency of international mining companies.
Secrecy and corruption often results in natural resource wealth going missing and not benefiting the citizens of resource rich countries, especially the poorest. A handful of Members of the European Parliament have a vital role to play. They sit on the committees covering these issues, and it’s up to them to ensure that EU countries finally agree effective transparency legislation. Read the briefing paper that was submitted by Tearfund here.
Thanks to Irish Christians
Gay Mitchell thanked Reuben and the supporters of Tearfund for bringing the issue to his attention. Last week representatives from Irish mining companies had met with him to persuade him that the legislation was too stringent and would hurt their business. ‘I fail to believe that massive mining companies with revenues of hundreds of millions a year are unable to report transparently at a project level’, Gay said as he reflected on their requests, ‘As Joint Coordinator (leader) of the European Parliament’s Development Committee I want to ensure transparency and fairness in trading relationships with Africa’. Gay agreed to review the briefing paper and consult with his colleagues on Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee to ensure that rigorous legislation was implemented.
Gay Mitchell also said that he was encouraged that Irish Christians are speaking out on issues of justice.
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Fear of looming famine in Sahel – 17 Feb 2012
Food price hikes, erratic weather patterns and insecurity are compounding a serious food crisis unfolding in West Africa.
Millions of people don’t have enough to eat after inadequate rains and insect infestations led to poor harvests and livestock losses in the Sahel region. Niger and Chad are the worst affected but parts of Burkina Faso and Mali are also deteriorating. See BBC photos here
Gaston Slanwa, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Niger, said, ‘Staple food prices have shot up to almost 40 per cent higher than a year ago. One factor is the rise in violence in neighbouring northern Nigeria which has led to the closure of the border, restricting the movement of people and commodities. This is having a big impact on food security in the region.’
More than 200,000 children in Niger are acutely malnourished and dwindling food supplies are leading to ‘crisis levels’ in some areas of the country.
Following the recent harvest, the price of food, such as millet, should be falling but the reverse has happened. According to the World Food Programme, a 100 kg bag of millet that cost US$29 last October is now selling for more than US$41. Watch this short World Food Programme film clip
In Chad, access to food is also becoming critical as prices rocket with only one out of 56 areas having normal levels of rainfall.
Passiri Levourne, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Chad, said, ‘Everywhere around the country, insufficient food is available in local markets and prices continue to rise. Malnutrition rates are increasing and are now above ten per cent.’
Window of opportunity
In Mali, there are pockets of severe food shortages, with peanut and bean crops failing in many areas. In Burkina Faso, overall cereal production is expected to be significantly down on previous years. Here too food prices are also much higher than a year ago.
Tearfund continues to support national partners to improve access to food supplies, as well as working on longer term measures, such as agricultural training, providing drought-resistant seeds and repairing water sources, to strengthen communities to deal with food insecurity. Partners are stepping up their support for vulnerable communities to make sure they are best prepared for the difficult year ahead.
Robert Schofield, Tearfund’s Disaster Management Director, said, ‘There is a small window of opportunity over the next three months for communities to work on preventative measures to avert the type of full blown food crisis we saw in East Africa last summer.
‘Please stand with Tearfund and our partners and pray for concerted action across the Sahel region by governments, aid agencies and donors to support the most vulnerable through a tough time.’
Malawi HIV Fund – 30 Jan 2012
In Malawi, one in five children born to a HIV-positive mother is infected – a death sentence at birth. However, child and maternal mortality can be reduced dramatically with a number of low-cost interventions.
Tearfund and its local partners are mobilising church and communities in rural Malawi to stop AIDS together.Irish Aid, a department within the Irish government, has awarded Tearfund Ireland a grant in recognition of our expertise and accountability in this area. This covers 72 per cent of the cost of the HIV project in Malawi but the remaining 28 per cent (€30,000) is still needed to enable this vital work to go ahead.
One child is born with HIV every minute. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Could you help save a child’s life? Click here to give today