Tag Archives: Hunger

Photo journal: The images that haunt me

Jon Warren recently spent nearly a month in Africa, documenting the ongoing food crisis and highlighting our work in the region. Upon returning home, he put this post together of some of his most memorable images that convey the tragic stories of people left at risk of starvation from an unrelenting drought and food crisis in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Victory in the war on hunger? Achievable.

Anybody who recalls the terrible images of starving children that were shown on television during the famine that struck Ethiopia in the mid-1980s might be forgiven for feeling despair at the current stream of bad news flowing out of the Horn of Africa.

That feeling will probably only be heightened by the realization that the current drought in the region is more severe and more widespread than the one that appalled us in the ’80s. Indeed, it’s the worst drought in the area in 60 years and more than 12.4 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Given this sort of challenge, it’s easy to throw up one’s hands in horror and give up. After all, what have all the billions of dollars worth of aid poured into Africa in recent decades realistically achieved? Aren’t things as bad as ever?

Bringing death in Africa to life in America [LINK UP]

“Can I have a snack?”

“I’m so hungry mom. Is it dinnertime yet?”

“I’m starving – what can I eat? No, I don’t want that. Do you have ____?”

So much of my day revolves around my children ruled by their bellies. They eat three meals and a snack. The youngest, with his medical condition that requires additional calories, eats two snacks and, if given the chance, would graze all day long.

They fill the air with misery if I dare suggest not eating right that instant. And the days I’m caught empty-handed when they decide they’re hungry? The wailing and gnashing of teeth makes me want to rip my hair out, don sackcloth and ashes, and carry a banner touting “Meanest mom alive.”

When I returned from visiting Bolivia, I could no longer smile indulgently at our obsession with food. After seeing true poverty, and meeting people so poor they could only eat two meals a day (no snacks!), I realized that none of us have any idea what being hungry really means.

Horn of Africa crisis: 14 strategies to make an impact

(Editor's note: In an international campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, World Vision offices around the world are coming together to tolerate #faminenomore. Will you join us?)

Why help? Why raise awareness? What could I possibly do to make an impact for the 12.4 million affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?

[From the photo above] When the maize crop failed yet again this year, Hadija Hassan Abdi, 28, took her children and hitched rides for 8 days and nights until she reached the safety of Burtinle camp in Somalia. Along the way she begged for food for her children from strangers. She has been in the camp only 4 days, just long enough to construct a tiny stick hut covered in cloth scraps. There is nothing on the floor and no cooking utensils. She and eldest daughter, Nurto, 10 (on right, wearing orange scarf) are able to earn a little by hauling garbage away for families in nearby Burtinle city. But mostly she still survives primarily by begging. I wonder how we'd react if she came to us for help?

This story from Jon Warren, World Vision photographer in Somalia, really struck me. If Hadija and Nurto were begging right outside my door, what would I do? I live in Seattle, where I see people begging a lot -- sometimes I respond by giving and sometimes I don't. Hadija and Nurto aren't outside my door, but I can't ignore their story, their need. They are as real as the people needing help right in front of me.

12.4 million people are affected by hunger, fighting for their lives -- that's a big problem to wrap our minds around. But I know this... together, we can make an impact. So what could you possibly do to help those in crisis in the Horn of Africa? Start here.


LIVE THE LIFE OF A FAMINE-VICTIM FOR 30 HOURS. The millions suffering in the Horn of Africa are part of the some 900 million hungry people worldwide. The 30 Hour Famine gives your group a chance to do something about it. Read about the Famine team's recent experience in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps.

TEXT. Get those texting thumbs ready... Text "FAMINE" to "20222" to text in your $10 donation to fight hunger and famine in the Horn of Africa

Photo journal: 24 hours in Somalia

August 15, 2011 -- Jon Warren, World Vision U.S. photo director, writes from Somalia during his 24-hour stay:

It would be easy to write about the flight from Nairobi to Somalia -- the hulk of 17,057' Mt Kenya looming beside the airplane, the transition from cool rain to blasting desert heat, the pleasure of meeting World Vision's dedicated Somali and Kenyan staff, and the seriousness of a security briefing that I listened very closely to. But a quick visit to nearby camps for drought and conflict refugees reminded why it's so important that I do this blog post. Those numbers we keep hearing about -- took on faces.

As we drove 8 hours today over bumpy, dusty roads, Somalia seems like it belongs in the American southwest. That didn't allow a lot of time to capture the reality of life in Somalia right now, especially when we had to honor security rules and be back by 5:30. But I didn't want to give up the chance to talk with families and see some of our staff at work, even if just for a short time.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 4: A world apart but the same at heart

The following was written last night, on day 4 of the Bolivia bloggers trip in Cochabamba.


Tonight I got an email from a colleague with a note from Charles Owubah, World Vision’s regional leader in East Africa. All I could thinks was this: my mind has been consumed with the people we’ve met here in Bolivia. Now I’m reminded of the 11.5 million people there affected by the drought.

Charles tells the story of one of them: Atabo.

“Yesterday I was in Lokori, Turkana East, in North Eastern Kenya where I met Atabo Ekaale.  Atabo is one-year-old but looks like six months old because he has almost nothing to eat. His mother, Lorenyi, is desperate because she wants her son to live and go to school. I saw many mothers like Lorenyi,” writes Charles.

I have a 15-month-old son. He’s loud and delightful and eats more than my three-year-old girl. I can’t imagine not being able to answer his cries for food.

Tipping points: First famine of the 21st century in Somalia, East Africa

Editor's note: Following yesterday's UN declaration of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, Tristan Clements, country program manager with World Vision's humanitarian emergency affairs team in Australia, comments on the complexities of drought and hunger, and their impact on vulnerable communities in East Africa.

We hear the word "famine" a lot, particularly in reference to Africa and food-related problems. In fact, the word is often overused.

Famine is a very specific event -- a really, really terrible one -- in which we see lots of people of all ages dying as a result of food shortages. For the United Nations, the word has a technical definition of two or more people out of 10,000 dying each day, and acute malnutrition among a third of young children.

In reality, famines don’t happen much anymore. There were a handful in the late 20th century, most notably in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, but it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen a real famine.

So it is with great significance that the United Nations is now using the word "famine" to describe the situation in parts of East Africa.

The 5 W's on drought and hunger in East Africa

The number of people affected by devastating drought and hunger in East Africa, also known as the Horn of Africa, has catapulted from 7 million in March to nearly 13 million now. Vulnerable children and families are subject to extreme and potentially deadly malnutrition as livestock perish, vital crops are destroyed, and diseases increase.

Informed by these disturbing statistics -- as well as reports from our field offices, international media, partner agencies, and the World Vision international partnership emergency response team -- we've compiled the following information, which answers the who, what, when, where, and why of the drought and food crisis in East Africa. Expect more posts to come concerning this crisis.

WHO is affected?
An estimated 13 million people in East Africa -- 2.7 million of whom live in World Vision's areas of operation.

Fast facts: Hunger

Editor's note: June is National Hunger Awareness Month. This weekend, more than 8,000 students across the country will participate in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. They'll experience hunger firsthand, while raising funds to care for children who face this stark reality every day -- going to bed hungry.

In the past half-decade, global food prices have reached historic highs. The grocery store -- and restaurants, when we can afford them -- account for greater portions of our paychecks. Eating in or eating out costs more now than it did even seven or eight years ago.

But where increasing food prices are merely a source of frustration for Americans, they can be devastating to people who live in poverty in other parts of the world.

In places like sub-Saharan Africa, where staple foods like grains account for nearly half of all calories consumed, rising food prices can cripple families and communities. The price of maize increased by 80 percent in just two years. Wheat prices shot up 70 percent, while the cost of rice increased by 25 percent.

News that matters

This is the first post in an ongoing, monthly series called “News that matters.” The purpose is to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

You'll find that I've selected three issues I think are worth paying attention to, and some recent news coverage that addresses those issues. While these selections are based on my personal judgment calls, I’m hopeful that these stories inspire you to learn more, challenge you to think about your own views of the world, and encourage you to join the conversations going on this blog and among your own circle of friends.

I'm curious to know what you think about this post and these issues. Please share your comments, questions and ideas in the comments section. I’m eager to hear what you all think!

Foreign aid and the U.S. federal budget

There is much heated debate about how the U.S. government should prioritize its spending, given the increasing federal deficit.  World Vision has taken the position that the Federal government does have a role to play in funding poverty-reduction programs and that Congress should improve U.S. fiscal responsibility by cutting programs that don’t heavily affect the poor here or internationally. Agree? Disagree? What do YOU think and why?

Tai Anderson responds to comments on ONE’s budget petition
ONE.org (blog), Tai Anderson, 31 March 2011
“It’s not the government’s job to help the poor. It’s the Church’s.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it also comes as a terrible indictment to the Christian church. If we were doing our job as people of faith, there would be little need for our government to have to do anything. I agree. But, we’re not doing our job.... how many of our churches even take one sermon a year to focus on these issues? Again, just as my pastor challenged me about my family budget being a moral document, I would challenge American Evangelical churches the same way.

Why We’re Fasting
New York Times, Opinionator (blog), Mark Bittman, 29 March 2011
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry. By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor.

Doing aid right

As World Vision’s staff – and staff at other aid agencies will tell you – relief and development work is incredibly complex. World Vision is constantly working to improve the quality of the work we do. We’ve learned over decades of activity that there are ways to do aid and development well and there are ways to do it poorly. We’ve learned that when aid is done poorly, it can be very damaging for those who are most in need. The coverage below addresses some of the issues being discussed within the aid community about how to do humanitarian aid work better.

A Tragedy of the Commons in Selling Tragedy
Center for Global Development, Views from the Center (blog), Charles Kenny, 23 March 2011
If it is much easier to communicate tragedy than success, it clearly makes sense for each individual agency or NGO to get their message out by trumpeting catastrophe.  But there are real negatives to that approach. Rothmyer mentions that it skews policymaking towards disaster management, deters investment and is dispiriting to people in Africa working for change.

Fast facts: Child health

Today is World Health Day. World Vision joins the World Health Organization to draw attention to issues of global health, particularly the health of children. Part of this year's theme tagline is "no action today, no cure tomorrow." Consider this challenge as you read these facts.

  • Malnutrition contributes to more than half of all child deaths. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Every year, 8.1 million children die of poor health. That is ...

22,191 per day,
924 per hour,
15 per minute,
1 child dies every 4 seconds.

(Source: UNICEF, Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, September 2010)

  • 195 million children are stunted due to hunger (1 in 3 children in developing countries). (Source: UNICEF, "Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition," November 2009)

[caption id="attachment_3644" align="alignright" width="231" caption="In Kenya, a malnourished child is weighed at a World Vision health center. (Tim Freccia/WV)"][/caption]

  • In the time it takes you to brush your teeth in the morning (average of 45 seconds), another child dies of malaria in Africa. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Each year, 272 million school days are lost for children due to diarrhea. (Source: UNICEF)

Modern times, ancient stories

Editor's note: Abby Stalsbroten will be in Kenya with World Vision March 25-April 8.

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Right now I’m reading his classic, The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of farmers in the 1930s from the Midwest to California and the downward spiral of poverty they endured along the way. A central theme of the novel is hunger. It focuses around one family and their search for work and food in increasingly desperate conditions.

[caption id="attachment_3133" align="alignright" width="210"] In the Horn of Africa, this family has had to survive on only one meal a day. (Lucy Murunga/WV/2011)[/caption]

He writes, “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him — he has known a fear beyond every other.”

Over and over again as I read this book, I want to feel safe in the assumption that this happened in the wake of the Great Depression and be glad that all that is behind us now -- that the “fear beyond every other” is a distant and conquered one.

Celebrating 20 years with 30 Hour Famine

The 30 Hour Famine began in the 1970s when World Vision New Zealand and World Vision Australia sought ways to engage youth on global issues. World Vision U.S. adopted the Famine in 1992 through partnerships with churches, youth groups, and students who desired to fight global hunger. Some 20 years later....