- Young people participating at the BigIf rally in Hyde Park.
As the leaders of the world’s economic powers gather to discuss the state of the global economy and find common ground on pressing international issues, nutrition is featuring as a main topic.
New research from the Lancet says that malnutrition is responsible the death of 3.1 million children a year. A number that represents just less than half of all deaths for children under five years old.
Advocates pressed on the UK, host of the G8 summit, to commit to end hunger. Continue reading
Tom Paulson reported this week on a disagreement between aid groups on the Obama administration’s proposed common-sense reforms to the country’s food aid. The US is the largest food aid supplier in the world, routinely sending food overseas to humanitarian hotspots. But it does so in a remarkably outdated and inefficient way.
For this week’s podcast, we invited two humanitarian heavyweights to weigh in: World Vision (based in Federal Way, WA), which opposes the food aid reforms, and Oxfam, a supporter of the measures. World Vision told us they wanted to participate but reversed themselves at the last moment. So Tom spoke at length with Eric Munoz, a senior policy advisor based in Oxfam’s Washington D.C. office, and Jonathan Scanlon from the group’s Seattle office, about the issues.
We’re curious: What exactly is wrong with food aid right now? (Spoiler: the system was designed in the 1950s.) The harder question is, what should be changed? Who are the political constituencies involved and why are groups like World Vision opposed? And what are the prospects, realistically, for the reforms being encated? These questions have enormous implications for places like Haiti, Somalia, and so many others around the globe where American food aid is delivered.
But first we discuss the headlines, including China’s startling rates of cancer and the multi-trillion dollar economic cost of malnutrition. Tune in below.
Editor’s note: Members of the humanitarian community say they just want to feed the hungry and do not wish to be characterized as fighting with each other over food aid.
Too bad. They are fighting with each other, over an effort to reform America’s long-standing approach to food aid – an approach that many experts agree is unequaled when it comes to being self-serving and wasteful. A look at two key players in the politics of fixing food aid.
- Flickr, pinehurst19475
Maybe you’ve heard of the nearly trillion-dollar U.S. Farm Bill.
News reports on this massive, quinquennial (every five years) piece of Congressional legislation often devolve into some inside-baseball rant over one particular item like farm subsidies or food stamps – or, conversely, seem as unwieldly and difficult to follow as a blimp in a tornado. That’s why most non-farmers or non-agribusiness types normally don’t pay much attention to this massive bill despite the fact that it affects every one of us. It’s about food, after all.
One of the many special interests embedded within the Farm Bill is international food aid. This is a $1.8 billion collection of programs with names like Food for Peace or Food for Progress nominally created by our country’s desire to feed the hungry and needy overseas. Nearly a billion people suffer from hunger worldwide and the U.S. is the world’s leading supplier of food aid.
Food aid is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contended issues in the frequently hotly contended Farm Bill. Continue reading
With millions to spend on aid projects on Afghanistan, the US has managed to provide funding for some rather strange projects. The New York Times reports on the range of grant recipients that have managed to succeed and fail.
One group, Young Women for Change, run by an Afghan woman attending college in the United States and two friends here, said it received American Embassy financing to put on a fashion show in February, which it described as a “female empowerment project.” The audience was largely foreigners and journalists.
“I think we should spend American money in more practical and lasting ways,” said Daoud Sultanzoy, a commentator for Tolo TV, an Afghan station that itself has received millions. “People come here with an idea and want to do it in this country, but they open us to critics and even attacks by the conservatives in this country, and there are many of them.”
Some bizarre-sounding aid groups have done very well. Skateistan, an Australian aid group that teaches skateboarding to Afghan children, would not seem to make much sense in a country where even the potholes have potholes. But it built a skate park and provided schooling and lunches for street children here, attracting support from several European governments.
Even the more straightforward projects have their problems. The article also mentions a USAID women empowerment project in Kandahar that would provide bikes for women. Problem is, says the article, that riding around in a bike while dressed in a full-body burqa is a bit challenging.
HT Glenna Gordon
After fifty years in the game, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) unveiled its first ever water and development strategy.
Some say it’s about time.
“For many years in development work, water, sanitation and hygiene have been a bit forgotten,” said Alanna Imbach, media officer with WaterAid America, to the Inter Press Service. ”Instead, significant focus has been placed on education, maternal health and nutrition, overlooking the fact that water and sanitation are foundational building blocks for all of those other elements.”
Though the announcement is appreciated by other NGO leaders, like Water for People CEO Ned Breslin.
“What’s great about this strategy is that it opens up space for creative programming in water development,” said Breslin to IPS. “It’s a huge step forward.”
The five-year water and development strategy is a sign from USAID that it sees water and sanitation as cross-cutting development issues. It is estimated that more than one in ten people (780 million) lack access to safe drinking water. On top of that 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation.
“This new U.S. Water and Development Strategy will help lift poor people around the world out of conflict and poverty. It is smart, strategic and builds on our past successes using new breakthroughs in science and technology,” said Senator Dick Durbin who joined other members of congress and USAID Administrator Raj Shah for the release. Continue reading
- US Supreme Court
- Rob Crawley
Free speech and global health advocates will see their causes converge today at the US Supreme Court.
The case – Alliance for Open Society International vs. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – is a challenge made by a number of aid organizations to USAID’s required anti-prostitution pledge.
The anti-prostitution pledge is part of the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush. It stipulates that not only are international organizations that receive PEPFAR funds prohibited from supporting prostitutes, they must also pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking.
Opponents say the rule violates first amendment rights and undermines efforts aimed at improving safety within the sex industry. Proponents say it’s needed if we are to make progress against human trafficking and exploitation of women. Continue reading
The Obama administration made good on its 2011 memorandum to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights with the announcement of a four year LGBT Global Development Partnership.
The collaborative effort between USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, gay rights groups and private sector actors will bring foreign assistance to support LGBT equality in developing countries.
“I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” said President Obama in December of 2011. Continue reading
Feed the Future is the Obama Administration’s answer to cyclical global hunger crises.
Rather than provide food in response to droughts or work around governments, Feed the Future represent’s a commitment to working with governments.
- Grain processors in Ethiopia
- Morgana Wingard/USAID
While the program took a few years to get off the ground, and is probably not all that well known to the public, it is a favorite of USAID Administrator Raj Shah – and also a go-to program budget hawks now want to cut back.
Agriculture programs have been losing federal funding over the past few years already. The House Budget Committee recommended to cut Feed the Future entirely last year. Budget negotiations come for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) come in the wake of sequestration. The House Budget Committee’s proposal involves a 7% cut to the International Affairs budget.
Yet Feed the Future has managed to survive.
So, while the Republican controlled house tries to rectify a budget with the Democrat controlled Senate that wants to add 9% more to the International Affairs budget, Feed the Future appears to have won a second life. But the uncertainty that looms over the budge cut discussion may cause harm. Continue reading