Rebuilding for Resilience

Asma Lateef talks with Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA, about how to end hunger among those left behind after a conflict or natural disaster. Photo by Josh Estey / CARE

By Michele Learner

Every so often, people are happy to learn they’ve been mistaken about something. One of these is the widespread perception in the United States that global hunger and poverty are getting worse. In fact, both hunger and poverty have been declining for decades.

The trouble with this perception is that “nobody wants to invest in something that’s not working,” explains Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the humanitarian organization CARE USA. “I think people need to be reminded that we’ve cut poverty in half over the last 25 years …. People are willing to invest in things that they believe will actually change lives.”

Americans generously support emergency food and supplies for survivors of natural disaster or families forced to flee fighting. It’s no small thing to save a person’s life or keep a child from sustaining life-long damage to her health and growth. But how can our tax dollars and charitable contributions actually change lives once the worst of the crisis has passed?

CARE USA, along with other humanitarian organizations, provides food, clean water, essential medicines, and shelter in humanitarian crises. But as Nunn explains in the latest video in The Hunger Reports series, “Rebuilding for Resilience,” this is not enough to end hunger. “We will have to operate in fragile states and we’ll have to ensure that we can deliver food,” she says. But to end hunger “we will also have to develop resilient systems that enable people to support themselves with a diversity of livelihood options.” 

Nearly all of CARE USA’s staff come from the communities they serve. This means villages and towns are better equipped to continue making progress after CARE’s support ends. Nunn says CARE’s goal is to enable people “to engage and support themselves from economic…, political…, and community-based perspectives.” Ultimately, not only will people be able to earn a living, but they will also have the skills and knowledge needed to press their government to provide basic services in a transparent manner.

Michele Learner is an associate editor with Bread for the World Institute.

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