The West Africa food crisis continues to intensify as drought tightens its grip on places like Mali. Could entire communities really be left without any food if action isn't taken? The story of Zama and his family suggests that, indeed, they could.
Imagine yourself in a dry, hot, dusty landscape, where water sources are scarce, and where parents don't know whether they have enough food for their children for the day -- or where tomorrow's food will even come from. This is a glimpse into the West African country of Mali, where the regional drought and food crisis is intensifying quickly.
In Africa, there is often a period of time between when a family’s stores from their last harvest runs out and when their new crop is ready to eat. These are known as the "hungry months."
Expensive, store-bought food is purchased and carefully rationed. Those who can’t buy food depend on neighbors, relatives, churches, and food distributions. And if there’s a drought, crops fail, or rains are late, those hungry months can turn into a hungry year.
This is the case for communities in the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Somalia), which is recovering from a historic drought and food crisis, and communities in West Africa (Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, and Senegal), where drought is just settling in.
Romanians are used to winter weather. But the record-breaking storms that have pounded Europe over the past several weeks haven’t been normal snow. They’ve left many communities isolated and without basic supplies, especially rural areas where people were just barely getting by before the storms.
Michael Arunga, a World Vision emergency communications advisor for Africa, is on assignment in South Sudan, which became the world's newest country last July after a referendum that established its independence from the rest of the country. In this report, he calls attention to a tragic situation that is taking shape as conflict continues.
What does clean water mean to you? How often do you think about it? In her fourth blog entry, World Vision's Lauren Fisher compares two communities in Niger -- one that has a safe source of water, and one that does not. Follow Lauren's trip here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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Lately, you could say water has become a major obsession of mine. In the past, I’ve taken it for granted. It’s the back-up beverage when I can’t find iced tea or soda; it's the bath I can count on at the end of a long day.
But as one colleague told me, in Zinder, water is precious. For me, that means there is no water at all, without warning, at any given time. At any given time, the shower stops working mid-shampoo, along with any other bathroom fixture. It’s made for some comical mornings, as you can well imagine.
Of course, I’m happy that the United Nations has declared an end to the famine in Somalia. This is encouraging news, considering that six regions of the country were designated as famine zones last July. However, an estimated 2 million people still face serious food shortages in Somalia. Our work in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa is nowhere near done.
Over the past several weeks, deep snow and intense cold have gripped Eastern Europe, isolating rural communities and families. In Romania, 6,000 people have been cut off for days, a result of major roads being closed and more than 300 trains cancelled. Here are some recent images of the conditions faced by families and communities amid the bone-chilling winter weather.
How would you respond if you heard a 13-year-old girl say that on some days, she simply doesn't eat? World Vision's Lauren Fisher, covering the drought and food crisis in Niger and across West Africa, writes her third blog post recounting stories of visits with people and communities affected by this emergency. Follow Lauren here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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“Someday, I want to be an NGO [non-governmental organization] worker.”
Shy 13-year-old Koubra Mamane’s answer surprises me. A bit hesitant in her speech, and a bit skeptical of the whole interview, she reminds me of your typical teenage girl. She tells us she loves mathematics and has to help her mom around the house. She shows us her school books carefully stowed in a bright yellow and red purse.
“I like calculations in school, but I also like the other subjects because I want to become intelligent and gain knowledge,” she adds.
But her dreams of the future wouldn’t be the only answer that gives me pause. In fact, the next one has been stuck in my head ever since it came out of her mouth. We ask Koubra about the food shortages in her village. She says that when there is no money, her family cannot buy food.
Those days, she and her family do not eat.
World Vision's Lauren Fisher is on the ground in Niger, where prolonged drought has resulted in weak harvests and a food crisis similar to what the Horn of Africa has suffered over the past year. Follow Lauren here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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It’s 3 p.m., and the school is alive with clapping, singing, and plenty of desperate hand-raising. We’re spending our afternoon with the children of the Toungouzou village at their school, built by World Vision.
It looks like most schools you’ve been in, complete with the light scent of chalk dust, the boards filled with maps and songs. The children, ranging in age from 6 to about 13, are excited to see the cameras and to have some new people to admire their recently learned skills. A beautiful young girl in red dress and scarf comes up to the front to show us the song she’s learned. She beams shyly at our applause. We find out later that she’s 12 years old and hopes to be a doctor someday.
But along with the hopes and dreams in this classroom, the reality of the food crisis in Niger is here as well. There are several empty spots in the classroom where pupils once sat.
Lauren Fisher, emergency communications manager with World Vision, has been deployed to Niger for five weeks. Throughout West Africa, as many as 23 million people may be affected by the hunger crisis there in the coming months, including 13 million in World Vision's program areas. Follow Lauren here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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It was the best moment of the day. Not the warm smiles and waves of the villagers, not the sound and sight of sparkling, precious water hitting the waiting buckets, not even the laughs of children seeing how my camera worked.
Instead, the moment that brought us all to laughs, clapping, and even near tears came from one little wail from a tiny 2-year-old.
The nurse had tried to change the angle of the Plumpy’Nut™ little Hassane was clutching so tightly. Moments before, he was all but motionless in his mother’s arms, reacting only with shrieks as the nurse at the child nutrition clinic tried to weigh him.
We didn’t need the red marker of the band measuring his arm circumference to tell that he was severely malnourished. With tiny arms and legs, little Hassane looked to me much more like a small infant than a boy who was nearly a toddler. He weighed just 16 pounds.
Recent bone-chilling cold and snow across Eastern Europe is leaving many families struggling to survive. Laura Reinhardt is on the ground in Romania, reporting on World Vision's efforts to help those in need amid the harsh conditions.
You are in a small health clinic in southern Chad. It is 9 a.m. The air is hot, dry, and filled with cries.
You are amidst 40 mothers sitting on the ground or on the clinic’s porch, babies in their laps. Under brightly colored headscarves, their faces look tired, drawn, sad. You catch glimpses of the babies. Their skin is stretched over their chests like paper over wire frames. Their legs are long and thin. Their bellies are protruding. Four of the mothers, clearly malnourished themselves but still trying to breastfeed their babies, are sitting on a wooden bench. In front of them is a row of tall, yellow roses.
You have never seen so much color and sadness in the same place. The contrast is unbearable. But you try to cope.
Then, your name is called out. You look up. But it’s not you who is being called. It is one of the mothers. She struggles to get onto her feet. She walks with her baby into the consultation room. Tears flow down the baby’s face as he is measured, weighed, and the nutrition-monitoring band is wrapped around his arm. You don’t need to wait to hear the results to know that he is severely malnourished.
Last time I flew into Haiti, I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea." I finished it just as the plane hit the tarmac of the broken-down Port-au-Prince airport. As I closed the book, I looked up and realized why it had resonated. The protagonist and his struggles at sea reminded me of this fascinating and broken place I’d come to call home -- a country where work happens, struggles continue, and yet "success" or any kind of respite seem so often out of reach.
It’s now been two years since the largest earthquake to hit the country in 200 years shook the life out of Port-au-Prince, causing chaos, destruction, death, and leaving more people homeless than the wrecked city could cope with. Journalists have come and gone, and the visiting groups of beaming, t-shirted volunteers have become less and less frequent. The work of aid agencies, the private sector, and the government has continued, with varying levels of success amid swathes of challenges, for 24 long months, and will continue for as long as there is the will, funding, and available resources.
This week marks the two-year anniversary of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. It was the most powerful quake to hit the nation in more than 200 years. The impact was devastating, triggering an international relief and recovery response. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even before the 2010 quake.
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There are many goals we have for the future that help define our work as an organization: reducing global poverty, ending preventable child deaths, eradicating malaria, and so on.
But just for today, we have another goal: to inspire 13.3 million Americans to FWD the facts about the drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, spreading awareness to ensure that the tragedy no longer goes overlooked.
In partnership with USAID and the FWD (Famine, War, Drought Relief) campaign, World Vision is asking supporters to participate in today's FWD>Day of Action for the Horn of Africa.
How? It's as simple as this: FWD the facts.
Over the weekend, I read a memoir of the life of Ahmed Ali Haile, a great Somali whom I was blessed to meet earlier at Daystar University in Kenya, where I attended my undergraduate studies. Haile taught a course I took on understanding Islam -- a course that would positively influence my relations with the Somalis with whom I work.
In his memoir, Haile narrates his experience of famine in 1965, as a 12-year-old boy in central Somalia. His family and community had coping mechanisms that they practiced. But the continued conflict there has clearly cut off this pattern -- and the consequences are devastating.
Since I started working for World Vision three years ago, I have met many malnourished children in Somalia. On few occasions, our teams were not able to save these children.
But I have witnessed just as many success stories of children who literally came back to life after staring death in the eyes.