Category Archives: Food security

Improving Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in Kenya

By Randy Rosenthal

BGR has partnered with Helen Keller International to strengthen the health system and reduce maternal and child mortality in densely-populated Kakamega County, in western Kenya.

Malnutrition is a major problem in Kenya, where nearly half of the population lives in poverty. That’s why Buddhist Global Relief has partnered with Helen Keller International on a three-year project to improve access, delivery, and utilization of essential nutrition-related services in Kenya. HKI is working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and Action Against Hunger (AAH) to address Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and to combat poor nutrition outcomes in five Kenyan counties. BGR is supporting HKI’s ambitious effort to strengthen the health system and reduce maternal and child mortality in densely-populated Kakamega County, in western Kenya. The grant from BGR sustains HKI’s Kakamega program in its entirety.

The grant from BGR this past year—the second year of the project— enabled HKI to train 1,745 health workers and directly serve over 34,000 children (17,771 girls and 16,236 boys). This happened mainly through vitamin A screenings that detect early malnutrition. These screenings were part of the biannual “mother and child days” (Malezi Bora). These events sought to increase the number of children under five receiving vitamin A supplementation. Properly administered, vitamin A capsules can greatly decrease the risk of childhood mortality and blindness in areas where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent. Indirectly, through the support of the local health system, the project has served over 97,00 adult women and 64,00 children under the age of five.

Another positive result of the project is a large increase in the number of women receiving pre-natal and post-natal care. Iron folate supplementation was given to 40,603 women in June to December 2017, while 76,768 women received the supplements between January and July 2018. The project also enabled HKI to address the underlying structural and managerial weaknesses of the Kakamega health system that prevents mothers and their children from receiving the care they so desperately need.

Yet while these benefits are significant, the project was unable to meet the targeted numbers, mainly due to political unrest. For instance, there was a nationwide nurses’ strike from June to September 2017, as well as episodes of violence around the presidential elections from August 2017 through January 2018, both of which made it difficult for HKI teams to work. Cultural obstacles are also difficult to work around, specifically the traditional preference for home births and unskilled birth attendants. It was also reported that many pregnant women do not show up for appointments, and many pregnant teenagers hide their pregnancy, avoiding care.

To face these serious challenges, HKI works with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to develop a series of meetings and workshops with local communities, such as maternity open days, which raises awareness of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health by inviting community members to health centers and learn about the available reproductive health services.

In addition to the Mother and Child week screenings, another component of the project is the baby-friendly hospital initiative (BDHI), which has as a goal support for the early initiation of breastfeeding. Women that attend these sessions can then share what they learn with their communities. Such crucial information includes how to hold a baby while breastfeeding, and the importance of exclusively feeding a baby breastmilk at least during the first six months of life.

The project also supported HKI’s assessment for improving the health system, audits that have helped determine gaps in data. The project trained health workers in forty-two health facilities on topics that improved the workers’ knowledge specifically in the gaps the project identified, specifically with lack of performance of immunizations.

In sum, BGR’s partnership with HKI has been instrumental in improving children’s nutrition, lowering mortality rates, and strengthening the Kakamega County health system. Continued funding of this partnership will allow these accomplishments not only to persevere, but continue to improve.

Beneficiary stories

1.
Adelaide is a first-time mother who has directly benefited from the training from the newly trained health workers. She said: “My name is Adelaide Aliko, we are a family of three: myself, the baby’s dad, and our baby. My baby is one month, one week old. I normally go to Kakamega General Hospital, about two kilometers from here. When I visited the hospital after delivery I was taught how to breastfeed the baby, how to position him, how to support him, and I was told the baby should be exclusively breastfeeding for six months, without giving him any other food. Before I received the education at the hospital I knew my baby would need to be breastfed, but I didn’t know it should be exclusive up to six months without any other food. I also didn’t know how to position the baby while breastfeeding, which we were also taught. They also taught me that I should eat at least four meals per day so that I can make milk for the baby. I am thankful for the health workers who gave us this information because so far, my baby is doing well and I have also regained my health.”

2.
Catherine is the County Immunization Coordinator, and she was part of the team carrying out the Data Quality Audits (DQAs). From the DQA exercise, she was able to assess the causes of poor immunization coverage in the county. She developed action items to address this issue, including staff trainings (“On Job Trainings”), the use of correct registers, and a recommendation for holding meetings to review data before submitting data reports. She said that the project gave her “an opportunity to look at how they [health workers] store, arrange and manage their vaccines when I visited the health facility. The vaccine arrangement was not proper; some temperatures were abnormally low because of lack of knowledge on adjusting the thermostat. I felt if we got an opportunity to go through a training it could increase the knowledge among the health workers. I appreciated SETH [System Enhancement for Transformative Health] for the idea of incorporating immunization into the nutrition activities for me to go down and see what was wrong. Before that I did not know what was wrong with immunization and why we were performing so poorly.”

Randy Rosenthal teaches writing at Harvard University, where he recently earned a Masters of Theological Studies, with a Buddhist Studies focus. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other publications. He edits at bestbookediting.com.

Advertisements

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

By David Braughton

In September, 2015, United Nations members participating in a summit on sustainable development adopted a bold and far-reaching agenda whose goal was nothing less than the promotion of prosperity and the elimination of global poverty and hunger by 2030.

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations Sustainability Summit, September 25, 2015)

This year, as last, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, issued a report documenting progress towards the 2030 goal.  This year’s report,  The State of Nutrition and Food Security in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, provides an overview of hunger and malnutrition from two perspectives: the prevalence of undernutrition (a statistical estimate of chronic hunger within a population) and a more subjective accounting of food insecurity using a survey called the Food Insecurity Scale.  The report goes on to examine the impact of global warming and climate change as a leading contributor of increased hunger, particularly in Africa and South America.

In this and future articles, we’ll share findings from the FOA report, examine hunger’s effect on kids and pregnant women, and delve further into how climate change is contributing to the reversal of a ten-year decline in the number of hungry people worldwide. Finally, we will look at some of the countries where BGR is sponsoring projects to see how their people are doing and why these projects are so essential. Continue reading

Joy at the Father Jeri School in Haiti

By BGR Staff

Two years ago, BGR received a generous donation from one of our supporters with a request that we use the funds to sponsor three three-year projects. One of the beneficiaries has been the Father Jeri School in the Ti Plas Kazo community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The school, constructed and operated under the auspices of our partner, the What If? Foundation, has been offering impoverished children in Port-au-Prince a wonderful opportunity to receive a quality, affordable education. BGR is close to completing its second year of support, and will soon begin its third year, the final year of the grant. The school was recently visited by Margaret Trost, founder of the What If Foundation, who sent the following report to the school’s supporters (including BGR):

A few weeks ago, I walked through the doors of the Father Jeri School for the first time since it opened. To say I felt overwhelmed with joy would be an understatement. It was everything I imagined and so much more.

Continue reading

Increasing Food Security for Families in South Darfur

By Tricia Brick

BGR’s partnership project with Oxfam Sudan, “Increasing Household Food Security in South Darfur,” provides needed seeds, agricultural tools, and field training to people in the South Darfur region of Sudan, who for over a decade have endured devastating violence and human rights violations as well as climate-related agricultural disruptions. In 2014, a rash of violence by government forces led to the displacement of more than 100,000 people across the Darfur region, as well as to the destruction of water sources, food stores, and other essential infrastructure.

A 2016 Buddhist Global Relief grant enabled Oxfam Sudan to provide groundnut and sorghum seeds and hand tools to 510 farming households in seven villages in Belail Locality, South Darfur. The project also trained 150 farmers in water-harvesting practices.

Oxfam Sudan reported that many farmers participating in the project faced climate-related difficulties, including a combination of some flooding during the rainy season and drought during the September period of crop maturity. Furthermore, land disputes at times resulted in threats of violence, and some farmers harvested crops prematurely to prevent the grazing animals of nomadic pastoralists from consuming the plants.

Despite these challenges, Oxfam Sudan estimates that farmers produced enough sorghum and groundnuts to meet 60 to 70 percent of their families’ annual food requirements, on average, with surplus groundnuts to be sold at market, providing funds to be used for food, education, health care, clothing, and other needs.

Among the displaced persons who received support through the Oxfam–BGR partnership was Sumaiya Adam Ahamed, a farmer in Eshma village in South Darfur. With her family she spent two years in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs). “All people of my village [were] displaced to Kalma IDPs camp and stayed there for two years without farming, and our children missed two years of education, especially my elder daughter, Ishraga Hassan,” she told an Oxfam Sudan team member as she harvested groundnuts with two of her daughters. She wore her youngest child, an infant, in a cloth carrier as she worked. “My family was selected by the Oxfam team for support, and we were given groundnut and sorghum seeds in addition to two hand tools. This enabled us to cultivate one acre of groundnuts and one of sorghum.” She estimated that the crops would feed her family of seven for five months; she also supports her family by raising chickens and livestock.

Tricia Brick is a writer and editor in the New York metropolitan area and a volunteer staff writer for Buddhist Global Relief.

My Visit to Kenya’s Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center

By Daniel Blake

Woman trainee with her son

“Poverty starts with the stomach.” These words, spoken to me by Samuel Ndiritu, the co-founder and director of Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya (GBIACK), encapsulate the truth of BGR’s core mission. This past November, I was fortunate enough to make a remarkable visit to GBIACK, where I was hosted for an afternoon by Samuel and his wife and GBIACK co-founder, Peris Ndiritu. Their work is quietly transforming local agricultural practices in Kenya and beyond, one farmer and one acre at a time.

Built in 2009, GBIACK is situated about 50 kilometers east of Nairobi in the small but bustling village of Thika. Sitting upon the 1.5 acre farm is a dormitory for trainees, a front office, a seed bank, a kitchen and dining hall, a sewing classroom fully equipped with machines, a library, and a charming gift shop where crafts made by residents are sold to the public. The center serves as a model for the kinds of Grow Biointensive (GB) techniques that Samuel and Peris (with support from BGR through our partner, Ecology Action in California) hope to impart to program participants. The potential of the GB system to help local farmers lies in its being a “closed loop” system, where farmers preserve and bank the seeds yielded by crops, while carefully cultivating healthy compost to treat the soil. In this way farmers can become self-sufficient and can subsist without purchasing products such as genetically modified seeds or chemical fertilizers.
Continue reading

The World Reverses Progress on Global Hunger

By Charles W. Elliott

The newest U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (“FAO”) Annual Report on food security sends a “clear warning signal” of a troubling trend that reverses a long period of progress combating world hunger.

After A Prolonged Decline, World Hunger and Food Insecurity Worsen

FAO 2017 Food Security Report Cover

The 132-page data-rich report, The State of Food Security And Nutrition In The World 2017: Building Resilience For Peace And Food Security [1] notes that for the first time in many years the number of chronically malnourished people across the globe—as well as those suffering from acute hunger—has increased from the prior year, reversing a prolonged historic decline in world hunger. The number of undernourished people jumped from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. Every continent except Europe and North America has suffered an increase in prevalence of malnutrition. The report identifies a variety of causes for this reversal and highlights the interrelationships between global hunger, armed conflict, and climate change.

Emerging from the data is a stark picture of 44,000,000 more people now suffering from severe food insecurity than there were just two years ago. In fact, nearly one in ten people around the world, about 689 million people, now suffers from severe food insecurity. (see Report, Table 2). The people of Africa suffer the highest levels of severe food insecurity—27.4 percent of the population, four times that of any other continent.
Continue reading

Resilient Livelihoods in Northern India

By Patricia Brick

Jay Devi, a farmer in Pritampur village in Uttar Pradesh, India, struggled for years to earn enough from the sale of her crops to pay for the fertilizers and pesticides she needed for her fields. Like many other women farmers in the region, she was entirely dependent upon purchased chemical fertilizers and pesticides for her crops of beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, and pumpkins. But the high cost of these products cut sharply into her earnings. She dreamed of saving enough money to purchase a water pump for her home so that she would no longer have to walk to a communal well for drinking water. But her profits were never enough; some seasons she could not even afford to buy the chemicals she needed, and as a result her crop yields suffered further.
Continue reading