Tag Archives: hunger

Social protection crucial as children feel the heat

In a new report on the impact of climate change on children, Save the Children has identified social protection in the form of cash grants to poor and vulnerable people as a key way to help communities cope and adapt.

The report, called Feeling the Heat, was released on Thursday Nov 5 at the Barcelona Climate Change talks.

Feeling the heat

According to the report, up to 175 million children a year will be hit by natural disasters linked to climate change. The researchers warn that climate change will “exacerbate the leading causes of death of children, including diarrhea, maluntrition and malaria.”

Feeling the Heat argues that plans to adapt to climate change must take into account the specific needs of children. This includes the need to boost health, water and sanitation systems in the poorest countries. Early warning systems for disasters are also crucial, the report says.

Emergency safety needs and long-term social protection in the form of cash transfers, are named as critical measures to help people cope with shocks and to reduce child mortality. Such measures should be specifically aimed at assisting children under five and pregnant and lactating mothers, the report says, as these “have the potential to tackle malnutrition brought about by climate change.”

You can download the full report here.

Focus on women to fight hunger

In an article on NGO Pulse, Charlotte Sutherland argues that efforts to fight hunger should focus on women – and that we need to move away from food aid, to enabling poor and vulnerable people to produce more of their own food.

Sutherland, a research manager at Consultancy Africa Intelligence, argues that women are a good starting point for food production initiatives because they tend to put their families ahead of themselves.

Focusing on the role of women, Sutherland argues that communities need help with a range of measures to give communities the tools to “tackle disasters before they strike.” this includes building of wells, irrigation programmes, and stockpiles of food and medicine. Just as crucial, is ensuring that women have secure land and property rights. This in turn would help women to access credit, technical input, training and education.

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Keeping hunger on the agenda

In October the issue of hunger usually receives a lot of attention, since World Food Day falls on October 16th.  This year was no exception and there were many media reports highlighting the fact that  over 1 billion people are going hungry in 2009, as result of an ongoing food crisis, as well as the global economic crunch.

But while there’s always a lot of fanfare around World Food Day, if we are to begin reducing hunger, the challenge is to ensure that the issue gets attention all year round. The challenge then is for journalists to continue to ask questions, to find interesting stories, and innovative ways of covering hunger, poverty and vulnerability.

One valuable resource is the 2009 Global Hunger Index (GHI), released this month by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). course is to ensure that  hunger and poverty get attention all year round.

According to the GHI, while some parts of the world have been making strides in reducing hunger (such as Latin America and the Caribbean), there has been minimal progress in South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. See some key facts and findings for Sub-Saharan and East Africa at a glance, here.

What is interesting in Africa, is that according to the GHI, Ghana managed to make substantial progress (reducing its hunger index by 50%), and the situation in Malawi improved from ‘extremely alarming’ to merely ‘serious’. On the other hand, the situation in the DRC has deteriorated significantly, while hunger in countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya have also increased.

Journalists should be asking questions about why some countries have been doing well, while others have not. What policies in Ghana and Malawi have led to an improvement, and might they be implemented elsewhere? Why are policy makers not looking at these examples and learning lessons? Why and how did hunger increase in other places? How can we reverse this?

Gender Inequalities

One of the key findings of the GHI, is that hunger is strongly related to gender inequalities. As the report says: “The evidence shows that higher levels of hunger are associated with lower literacy rates and access to education for women. High rates of hunger are also linked to health and survival inequalities between men and women. Reducing gender disparities in key areas, particularly in education and health, is thus essential to reduce levels of hunger.”

Report Card

Another useful resource is ActionAid’s HungerFREE scorecard, also released this month. This publication also looks at who is fighting hunger, and asks the question, “Who’s Really Fighting Hunger?” In answering this question, it looks at issues such as sustainable agriculture, social protection, and climate change.

Again, it’s interesting to see Malawi in 5th place on ActionAid’s  chart, with a C grade. This country, one of the world’s poorest, and battling a devastating HIV/Aids epidemic, is managing to do better than far richer nations, such as South Africa (ranked 16th, with a D grade) and Zambia (also a D, and 21st out of 29).

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More food won’t necessarily wipe out hunger

The Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP) has appealed to the World Food Programme to reconsider a food aid appeal recently issued for Malawi. The WFP issued the appeal, saying although Malawi has an overall national food surplus, half a million poor and vulnerable people will not be get enough food in coming months.

RHVP does not deny that nearly half of Malawi’s population is vulnerable to hunger. But it argues that the WFP should be looking at giving these people cash transfers, rather than food. RHVP argues that there is enough food in Malawi, that markets are functioning well, and that WFP itself has adopted policies in favour of cash transfers in appropriate circumstances.

In its Comment, RHVP’s argues that research shows that giving people cash has many benefits over providing just food, and that conditions in Malawi are ideal for cash transfers to work.

Related to this issue, as well as to our previous post on fertiliser subsidies vs cash transfers, IPS has an interesting article describing how farmers in Malawi are struggling — because there is an oversupply of food on the market. They are unable to get good prices for their produce because there is too much food, and too few buyers. It would be interesting to look into what impact the provision of food aid versus cash might have on markets, and thus on farmers like those quoted in the article.

The current edition of the American publication, The Nation, carries a very interesting feature recently on hunger in Africa. The article, by Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Jimenez and Annie Shattuck of Food First, critiques some agricultural policies in Africa, and particularly those followed by donors such as the Gates Foundation. They question the logic that says that hunger is the result of a shortage of food, arguing that “hunger isn’t a problem of production so much as one of distribution.”  They take a detailed look at Malawi, quoting scholars who believe that “fertilizer subsidies are ‘masking food security problems for the long term'”. There is plenty of food for thought here, for journalists interested in investigating further.

The International Policy Centre has issued a One Pager looking at whether conditional cash transfers (CCTs) help lessen the impact of the current economic crisis on the poor. the paper, by Fabio Veras Soares, argues that CCTs can be useful, but must be part of a broader, long-term social protection strategy.


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Wahenga Reporter 1

This is the first edition of Wahenga Reporter, a digest of news and views on poverty, vulnerability and social protection. We will be posting updates regularly on our Wahenga blog at or on Wahenga.net. You may also subscribe to receive new posts via email by clicking here.

A ranger of further resources can be found at the Wahenga.net website. If you would like to get in touch with one of the experts on Social Protection, Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change working for the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme in southern Africa, please contact brett@rhvp.org.

Zimbabwe aid programmes should take remittances into account

On Wahenga.net, Lionel Cliffe argues that donors, NGOs and humanitarian aid groups working in Zimbabwe need to take account of remittances from abroad, when shaping programmes to assist the poor. According to figures Cliffe cites, around 200 000 Zimbabweans are living in the UK alone, and they send home an average of GBP300 each every month. Cliffe also says that the rapidly changing situation in Zimbabwe means planners of aid programmes need to reconsider how interventions are structured. For example, the dollarisation of the economy means that in many cases, cash transfers might now be preferable to food vouchers. See his comment here.

IFRC announces long term support to 600 000 in Zambezi River Basin

In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has announced the launch of a long-term, cross-border initiative to support hundreds of thousands of chronically vulnerable people living along the Zambezi river basin in seven countries. The Zambezi River Basin Initiative is a joint programme between the Angolan, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe Red Cross Societies. It aims to support more than 600,000 people living in villages and towns along the river basin over at least the next eight years. See the press release here.

RHVP study finds cash transfers in Zambia achieve positive impacts

A study of 3 social cash transfer pilot projects in Zambia has found that cash transfers to poor households in Chipata, Kalomo and Kazungula, succeeded in improving the welfare of the recipients. The study also found that aside from buying food, recipients used some of the cash to invest in livestock, micro-enterprises, and children’s education. In addition to this, the reserach made some important findings on how such transfers should be targeted. The study represents the first comprehensive investigation into the impact of social cash transfer programmes in southern Africa outside of South Africa. The brief on the study is available here.

Seasonal hunger finally getting attention

A new book on the neglected topic of seasonal hunger, is starting to refocus international attention on the issue. After 30 years of neglect, global experts are gathering at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex this week, to discuss the problem.

The renewed attention has been sparked by a new book: Seasonal Hunger – Fighting Cycles of Quiet Starvation Among the World’s Rural Poor, by Stephen Devereux, Bapu Vaitla of Tufts University and Samuel Hauenstein Swan of NGO Action Against Hunger.

As reported by IRIN, the book points out that most of the world’s 600 million hungry and under-nourished people suffer seasonal hunger rather than effects of conflict or natural disasters, but donors and governments often treat recurring nutritional problems as one-off emergencies and this weakens their response actions.

The authors are calling on donors, governments and NGOs to put in place measures such as community-based interventions with ready-to-use foods, cash transfers and other measures to boost social safety nets, and nutritional health promotion programmes for pre-school-age children.

The book was reviewed in January on Wahenga.net.

UN Deputy Secretary-General highlights need for social protection

The Deputy Secretary General of the UN has highlighted the need for social safety nets and other social protection measures, in order to reduce the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa and least developed countries. Dr Asha-Rose Migiro was speaking in New York at a General Assembly Conference side event. Her full speech can be found here.

Call for social safety nets to protect vulnerable children in Malawi

Community based organisations in Malawi are struggling to access funding which would help them support Malawi’s most vulnerable children, according to the Regional Network for Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET).

IRIN reports that EQUINET has recommended the widening of community social safety nets, introducing communal farming schemes, and income-generating projects to support OVC. It also called on the government directly to address the shortages in CBO funding, and improve social protection services.

Social protection needed as 1 billion go hungry

According to a report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in late June, more than a billion people — a sixth of the world’s population — are now hungry. According to the FAO’s Director-General, Jacques Diouf,  100 million more people are going hungry than last year.  Diouf said this was a result of the global economic crisis, and high food prices. He called for more comprehensive social protection programs to improve food access for those in need.

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