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The hunger emergencies in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria continue, with 20 million people in famine-like situations. There is growing concern that conditions could worsen for up to 10 million additional people in other countries in the affected regions. Bread for the World Institute is closely tracking developments. It is heartbreaking to think that so many men, women, and children are going without essential calories and nutrients, when we know that today, the world produces enough food to go around.
Bread for the World joins with many other groups in calling for immediate humanitarian interventions — needed to save lives. Aid groups must have the resources required to supply people’s basic needs. As neutral parties, they must also be allowed access to malnourished people trapped in conflict zones.
Conflict is the main reason for today’s famine-like conditions — and it is also a major cause of the world’s remaining chronic hunger. Another factor that has emerged as a key barrier to ending hunger is climate change and the droughts, floods, and unpredictable weather patterns that prevent farmers from growing enough food. Still another problem is governmental and social structures that are not strong enough to protect their people and ensure that everyone has the essentials.
The 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World concurs. Announcing that hunger increased around the world in 2016 to 815 million people, the report summarized the reasons for the increase: “[The] surge in conflicts has affected African and Near East nations the most and led to food-crisis situations, especially where compounded by droughts or other weather-related events and fragile response capacities.”
For more on how these three factors contribute to hunger and what can be done, watch Bread’s three short videos featuring interviews with leading advocates for hungry people. There are also supplementary resources, such as memes and answers to frequently asked questions. (For FAQs, see resilience and hunger, conflict and hunger, climate change and hunger.)
Even beyond the innumerable human tragedies they are causing, this year’s emergencies also represent a frustrating step backward in the world’s decades of steady progress toward the end of hunger and malnutrition. It used to be that one in every three people in the world suffered from chronic hunger. Now, the hunger rate has been reduced to about one person in every nine. Strong economic growth, coupled with years of concerted global effort to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of cutting hunger in half by 2015, drove this progress.
When the Millennium Development Goals effort concluded in 2015, 194 countries, including the United States, adopted a new set of goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As this issue of Institute Insights was going to press (or more accurately, being coded to send as an email), several Institute staff have just returned from New York, where they participated in events associated with the U.N. General Assembly. Several dozen nations volunteered to prepare their first progress reports on meeting the SDGs for this year’s General Assembly — an encouraging step forward. More on all of this in our next issue.
In this issue, we take a closer look at how years of conflict, combined with an environment with few natural resources, affected people in Uganda’s far north, and at their efforts to rebuild now that the fighting has finally stopped. We give further details on global hunger in 2016. We also offer an update on food insecurity in the United States — both national statistics, and a more personal look at two specific populations of young people.
Asma Lateef is director of Bread for the World Institute.
By Cassie Davis
The first budget season under the Trump administration brings with it troubling proposals for cuts and policy changes in federal safety-net programs.
Both the White House and the House Budget Committee have proposed budgets that slash funding for programs supporting child health and welfare. The programs facing the most significant cuts include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. In addition, both budget proposals would deny refundable tax credits that support low-income working families, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC), to immigrant families with children.
The proposed cuts to SNAP are $140 billion from the House Budget Committee and $193 billion from the administration. SNAP is grocery money in a very direct way — benefits are loaded onto cards that families use as debit cards at the supermarket.
These budgets would increase hunger and deny health care among all children in low-income households. But cuts to SNAP and changes in Child Tax Credit eligibility would carry especially harsh consequences for immigrant children. Their effect would also be exacerbated by the administration’s harsh stance on immigration.
Undocumented immigrants are twice as likely to be food insecure and three times as likely to live in poverty as the overall U.S. population. SNAP provides support to more than 1.3 million U.S. citizen children who live in families of “mixed status,” meaning that some family members are citizens or documented immigrants, while other family members are undocumented.
The three states with the largest numbers of SNAP participants are Texas, California, and New York. Citizen children with an undocumented family member make up a significant portion of their participants — more than 20 percent.
These two FY2018 budget proposals target immigrant families in another key area: refundable tax credits. The Trump budget estimates that the government would “save” $40 billion by making immigrant parents ineligible for the CTC. It would do so by requiring that everyone in a household have a Social Security number in order to claim the CTC on their taxes. The House Budget Committee would have the same effect by making anyone who files their tax returns using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number ineligible to claim the CTC. It says that this will “save” the government about $20 billion.
If a budget is enacted with this provision, it will affect 5 million children in immigrant families, many of whom are U.S. citizens. Immigrant households stand to lose 8.5 percent of their household incomes, year after year, by being denied the CTC. It would make immigrant families poorer than ever and force them to make more “choices” between food and other basic necessities.
The budget proposals are not the only administration initiatives harmful to children with immigrant parents, particularly those who are undocumented. Anti-immigrant rhetoric and an intensified campaign of raids and deportation by U.S. immigration enforcement authorities are forcing many families to live in the shadows. Parents are unsure from day to day whether they will be home that evening or in custody awaiting deportation. Children worry that they will either be permanently separated from parents and sent into the troubled U.S. foster care system or sent to a country they do not know and may never have even visited.
Bread for the World rejects these budget proposals and anti-immigrant actions along with all other initiatives that exacerbate hunger, particularly those that target children.
Cassie Davis was a summer 2017 Crook Fellow with Bread for the World Institute.
By Cynthia Woodside
A new school year began a few weeks ago, and our thoughts turn to … hunger. Why hunger?
For many children in K-12 education we don’t think of hunger, but the alleviation of hunger. Students who receive free- or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches during the school year often face hunger during the summer months when those meals are not available. For elementary and secondary students, the beginning of a new school year often means a reprieve from hunger and a return to more regular meals and better nutrition.
It’s a different story for students in higher education. One might think that if students can afford to pay the high costs of college, they can also afford to buy food or pay for a campus meal plan. But it’s time to change that way of thinking.
For the first time, a new report by the Urban Institute, Assessing Food Insecurity on Campus, uses nationally-representative samples from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to assess food insecurity among college students. Earlier studies identified some warning signs but often focused on only one school and/or suffered from low response rates. The results also vary widely from study to study.
The Urban Institute study found that, overall, the level of food insecurity on college campuses is nearly as high or higher than that of the general population. For the general population, the food insecurity level in 2016 was 12.3 percent. In 2015 (latest data available), for students enrolled in four-year colleges, the rate was 11.2 percent; for students enrolled in two-year colleges, 13.3 percent; and for students in vocational education, 13.5 percent.
We can and need to do better. Food insecurity for college students does not mean simply a rumbling stomach during an exam or having to pass on going out for pizza with friends--it can have lifelong consequences. A body of research has found that food insecurity among college students is associated with poorer health, poorer academic performance, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Poor grades, and poor physical and mental health, can erase many of the expected social and economic benefits of a higher education.
More than half of the students in two- and four-year colleges live with a parent or in a dormitory, but at least 30 percent are their own heads of household. More than 20 percent of students in two-year colleges have children, and almost a third are older than 25. In vocational education, 35 percent are parents and about 70 percent are older than 25. Students in four-year colleges are mostly younger and without children.
Particularly worrisome, based on long-term studies of food insecurity in children, the food insecurity rates for students with children ranged from 16 percent for those enrolled in vocational education, to 18 percent for those in four-year colleges, to 20 percent for those in two-year colleges.
As with the food insecurity levels for the general population, the study found that college students of color were more likely to be food insecure than their white counterparts. Food insecurity was generally the highest among African American students (including 28 percent of those in two-year colleges), followed by Hispanic students, then Native American and Native Alaskan students.
Most college students are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helped to put food on the table for more than 44 million people and lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016. College students rarely meet enough of the criteria, some of which are: being enrolled in college at least part-time, working at least 20 hours a week or participating in work-study, caring for a dependent child under 6 or having difficulty finding child care for a child under 12, receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), being unable to work because of a physical or mental disability, or being enrolled in an employment-related program.
Congress could make changes in SNAP to make it more accessible to students struggling with food insecurity. States could also use the program’s flexibility to expand eligibility. Kristin Blagg, one of the authors of the Urban Institute report, says that Massachusetts was able to expand eligibility for SNAP to cover a third of all students enrolled in the state’s community colleges.
The United States has endorsed a goal, one of the Sustainable Development Goals, to end hunger by 2030. To do this, we must ferret out and address hunger wherever it hides, including on our college campuses.
Cynthia Woodside is senior domestic policy advisor with Bread for the World Institute.
By Jordan Teague
I recently spent a week in Uganda’s Karamoja region, where I saw firsthand the impact of conflict on the nutrition and food security of families and children. Fighting in this remote region, and the fear and disruption that accompany it, has destroyed livelihoods, agriculture, and the well-being of entire communities.
Karamoja was among the areas of northern Uganda destabilized by the violent terror group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and related fighting. The LRA did not have a political agenda, but simply killed people, abducted children, and destroyed farms and infrastructure across a wide area, beginning in the late 1980s and continuing, albeit in a much smaller area, until at least 2013. It took decades and the combined military initiatives of several countries to weaken the LRA’s grip on the area; as of 2017, the LRA is not in Uganda and estimates are that it has fewer than 100 fighters.
Even as peace has been restored to most regions of northern Uganda, the Karamoja region continues to experience conflict. Poverty is one main driver. The region is far less developed than most areas of Uganda. The climate is arid, making agriculture very difficult to sustain. Residents are nomadic over most of the year, earning a living primarily as pastoralists with herds of cattle, goats, and other livestock. Lack of natural resources, including clean drinking water for people and animals and grasses for livestock to eat, make pastoralism difficult as well. All of this contributes to continuing conflict.
Karamoja residents also face a history of violence and instability that makes it more difficult for residents to build a lasting peace. Large-scale cattle raiding has been part of the traditional way of life, but it also contributes to insecurity, particularly since 1979, when the fall of the Idi Amin dictatorship brought large supplies of arms into the region. Easy access to arms and continued cattle raiding damaged pastoralism as a viable livelihood as well as the food security and nutrition of families. Pastoralists were no longer able to move their livestock around as needed, and veterinary care for livestock was inaccessible, resulting in poor livestock health and more deaths. Livestock needed to be kept close to the home, which made many homes unhygienic and contributed to child illnesses. Women and children, and men too, were not able to go to the markets as easily, so people had less access to a variety of foods. Over the years, much of the livestock, and thus the livelihood and source of income, was lost due to continuing conflict in the region.
Compounding the issues facing the Karamoja region until recent years has been a context of neglect by the Ugandan national government. In many ways, Karamoja was “off the map” and the government of Uganda undertook few or no programs to support the population. However, many aid groups worked closely with organizations such as the World Food Program to provide life-saving humanitarian aid, especially to women and children. The Ugandan government has now instituted the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Program, and other actors, such as the international nonprofits ACDI/VOCA, Concern Worldwide, and Mercy Corps with funding from USAID, have begun the transition to supporting development programs in the Karamoja region – not just emergency response.
But many of Karamoja’s people are starting from scratch. With the pastoralist livelihood nearly destroyed, much of the livestock has been lost and the detailed knowledge that should be handed down from older generations is gone. Income is hard to come by, with markets and trade still recovering. Lack of income, combined with unpredictable weather patterns that mean smaller or even failed harvests, decrease access to food in general and especially to a diverse and nutritious diet.
Karamoja is not alone in its post-conflict difficulties. Conflict, as Bread for the World Institute discusses in our 2017 Hunger Report: Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities, is a major cause of hunger and malnutrition around the world. The Karamoja example shows that ending hunger and malnutrition among people affected by conflict requires humanitarian support during the conflict, a sustainable peace agreement, and post-conflict support aimed at enabling them to rebuild their livelihoods.
Jordan Teague is international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute. For more on Jordan’s visit to Karamoja and other areas to learn more about how U.S. assistance supports stronger livelihoods and nutrition, see Tackling malnutrition on all fronts in Uganda.
By Michele Learner
The numbers are in. In mid-September, both the U.S. government and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released reports that analyze hunger and malnutrition data from 2016.
The FAO reports in The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 that there was an increase in global hunger to 815 million people — an additional 38 million people. This, while of course distressing, is unlikely to come as a great surprise to Institute Insights readers. What happened last year led to this year — and this year, unprecedented numbers of people, at least 20 million at last report, face famine-like conditions.
Bread for the World and our partner organizations have been working for months to draw attention to the current famine and near-famine conditions. Those at risk of starvation live primarily in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria. We continue to urge our government to help save as many lives as possible. For more on these hunger emergencies, see "New Report by World Food Program Connects Hunger and Conflict" in the September 2017 issue of Institute Insights.
We don’t know how many have already died in this year’s hunger crises. We do know that during the world’s last famine, in 2011 in Somalia, about 250,000 lives were lost. About 150,000 of those who died were children younger than 5. This was out of a population of less than 10 million. We also know that many of those deaths took place before famine was declared. The situation was deteriorating rapidly in areas that suffered from extreme poverty to begin with, but the technical criteria for famine (e.g., the percentage of children with acute malnutrition; the death rate) were not met until it was too late for many.
Clearly, the best time to help is before people are desperate. Or as The State of Food Security and Nutrition puts it, “A declaration of famine means that the international community have failed to prevent it.”
That is why the detailed information in the report is so important. It’s a guide to who should be the focus of anti-hunger efforts and where they live. For example, stunting — a problem we frequently mention at Bread for the World Institute. Stunting means irreversible damage caused by malnutrition before age 2. The report not only adds up the global total of stunted children younger than 5 (155 million), but it tells us where most of them live — 122 million live in countries affected by conflict.
The report tells communities, countries, and the global community where to direct our efforts against deadly forms of malnutrition: about one-third of all women of reproductive age are anemic. That is 613 million women known to be at greater risk of death in childbirth. And it indicates where many of them are: people living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere.
As “From the Director” earlier in this issue indicates, The State of Food Security and Nutrition reports that the increase in hunger is due largely to violent conflict and climate-related shocks. It also notes that ending hunger will involve “collaborating more effectively across the humanitarian — development — peace community.” For more on how to do this, please see our recent briefing paper, Mind the Gap: Nutrition to Bridge Humanitarian and Development Efforts.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) report Household Food Security in the United States in 2016, the country’s overall food insecurity rate is 12.3 percent, meaning that at some point during 2016, 12.3 percent of all households, home to 41.2 million people, were unsure as to how they would provide for their next meal.
Children were at significantly higher risk than adults. Households with children had a 2016 food insecurity rate of 16.5 percent, compared to 10.5 percent of households without children. The total number of children living in food-insecure households remains at nearly 13 million.
People of color also remain at higher risk than the overall population. More than 22.5 percent of African American households and 18.5 percent of Latino households faced food insecurity. Food insecurity among female-headed households was also disproportionately high, particularly in households headed by women of color.
Ending hunger, food insecurity, and poor nutrition in the United States will require placing a higher priority on solving these problems. It starts with identifying who is affected and how, and proceeds through developing and then carrying out effective approaches to resolving the root causes.
Michele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.
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