Tag Archives: Children’s hunger

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.

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Children: The Face of Hunger

By David Braughton

Introduction

 

Look into the eyes of someone who is hungry and one out of five times it will be a child under age five staring back at you. The child will probably bear little resemblance to the graphic images found on the internet of a little wizened skull with sunken eyes sitting atop an emaciated body that more resembles a skeleton than a small living being grasping for life. What you will see is an otherwise ordinary kid who appears stunted (too short for its age) and wasted (underweight for its age). Or, you may see a child who is both too short and, at the same time, obese, another seemingly paradoxical symptom of chronic malnutrition.

Stunting and wasting represent two key markers of child malnutrition.  In 2017, there were 151 million children who were abnormally short for their age.  There were also 51 million kids who were seriously underweight for their age and 38 million who were overweight.  What is particularly alarming is the growing number of children who are overweight and stunted, although no reliable statistics are available to determine the true scope of the problem (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank).

Obesity results when children are fed foods that are high in calories, but which offer little by way of nutrition—protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.  In many parts of the world, healthy and nutritious foods are both scarce and costly.  Highly processed foods, rich in calories, become an appealing substitute when the alternative is going hungry. As a result, children consume more calories than needed, resulting in overweight, a leading cause in the rise of Type II diabetes among children worldwide.

What you may not notice when you first see a hungry child is its flat affect or languid movement, the consequence of anemia and a deficit of essential nutrients. The child may cry often and seldom smile. It may be developmentally delayed, inattentive and unable to concentrate or learn, should he or she be lucky enough to go to school. The child may also suffer up to 161 days of illness per year (Glicken, MD, 2010).

An estimated 5.4 million children under age 5 died in 2017, and, of these, half died within their first month of life. In some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, children are 15 times more likely to die before age 5 than children in high income countries. The leading causes of death—diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria—are illnesses related to malnutrition. In fact, 45% of all deaths of children under five worldwide are directly linked to malnutrition  (World Health Organization).

The Cycle of Child Hunger

Health experts agree that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most critical for its development and long-term prospects. The number one risk factor in post-neonatal deaths is low birth weight; the second most prevalent risk factor is malnutrition. In developing countries, one out of six infants is born with a low birth weight (United Nations). Since women comprise sixty-percent of the world’s hungry, it comes as no surprise that the growing prevalence of anemia in women (a major predictor of low birth weight) is a serious red flag, affecting one in three women of reproductive age around the globe.

A fetus that is conceived by a malnourished woman seldom receives the micronutrients needed for healthy gestation, such as iodine, zinc, iron, folate, and vitamin D. After the child is born, she or he will continue to be deprived of the carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins essential for healthy growth and development, dooming that child to a life of poverty and hunger.

Almost all hungry people are extremely poor, living on less than $1.90 per day. Ninety-eight percent reside in developing countries, with Asia accounting for 62% of the total, Africa 31%, Latin America and the Caribbean 5%, and Oceania and the developed countries the rest. Fully 80% of these individuals live in rural areas, surviving only on the food they grow from their rain-dependent farms.

It is clear, then, why local or regional violence, droughts, floods, other natural disasters, or higher than normal temperatures take such a catastrophic and devastating toll. Any disruption to the tenuous existence of the poor guarantees that the cycle of hunger will continue to repeat itself. Malnourished mothers give birth to undernourished infants, who grow into malnourished children and adults, and so on from one generation to the next.

BGR’s Response to Child Hunger

Understanding the underpinnings and ramifications of the cycle of child hunger explains why Buddhist Global Relief invests so heavily in child nutrition, the education of girls, and improved agricultural techniques such as the System of Rice Intensification and crop diversification.  (More about the latter in our next article.)

BGR’s project in Côte d’IvoireImproving Nutrition among Children in Korhogo District focuses on the first 1000 days of a child’s life in a country where chronic malnutrition affects about 33% of children under five, where the mortality rate of children under five is close to 20%, and where life expectancy is just 54 years. With its partner, Helen Keller International, BGR is addressing vitamin A and iodine deficiency and educating women about nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, and feeding the sick child. By the end of the project we hope to reach 77,000 women and their children.

In Kenya, a similar BGR-HKI partnership seeks to improve access, delivery, and utilization of essential nutrition-related services for an estimated 255,000 children and adults.

In Jacmel, Haiti, BGR is involved with the Joan Rose Foundation—a U.S.-based nonprofit—to give impoverished children and their families the opportunity to succeed in life. For the past several years, BGR has sponsored the Foundation’s program that provides local children with two nutritious meals, breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday.

In Cambodia, BGR has partnered with Lotus Outreach over the past 9 years to help young women gain a primary, secondary, and college education. Historically, girls living in the impoverished rural areas of Cambodia were needed at home to help grow rice. This innovative program provides participating families with surplus rice to make up for any shortfalls resulting from the girl attending school rather than helping out in the fields.

These and other BGR programs are only possible through the generosity and support of our donors like you. Thank you for helping us to end child hunger and malnutrition.

David Braughton is the vice-chair of Buddhist Global Relief. During his professional career he led a number of nonprofit agencies involved with mental health, trauma, and child development. 

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.

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Hot Breakfasts for Schoolkids in Jamaica and Haiti

By BGR Staff

In Caribbean island nations like Jamaica and Haiti, it is not unusual for bright, eager kids to show up for school without having eaten breakfast; perhaps they have had only a cup of herb tea. It is hard, however, to learn on an empty belly! Determined to do something about this, over the past few years BGR has been partnering with the Trees That Feed Foundation, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to growing breadfruit trees and other trees that can be grown to feed people. TTFF also purchases breadfruit powder to provide breakfast cereal for schoolchildren.

TTFF used the grant provided by BGR for its 2016–17 funding cycle to purchase over 3,000 pounds of porridge mix from two vendors in Jamaica and one in Haiti. The dry mix ingredients include breadfruit flour, cornmeal, powdered cow’s milk or coconut milk, spices and sugar. The mix is packaged in one- or two-pound plastic bags, appropriately labeled. The near-instant powder is mixed with water, cooked for 5 to 10 minutes, and served as a hot breakfast cereal in the morning prior to the start of the school day. Needless to say, the young students learn much better after a good breakfast. Continue reading

School Lunch Program for Marma Girls in CHT

by BGR Staff

 In 2016, BGR provided a grant to the Jamyang Foundation to support the free school lunch program at the Visakha Girls’ School in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The grant covered the period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. This article, based on the final report from the Jamyang Foundation, describes the challenges faced by the school and the benefits of the project.

 

Visakha Girls’ School is located at Dhosri, a remote village in the district of Khagrachari in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. The school was founded in 2005 and began offering free education for girls with the generous support of the Jamyang Foundation, which is under the direction of the American bhikshuni, Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Initially, the Visakha Girls’ School offered classes to students in the 1st grade only. Later, more classes were gradually added. Now the school offers classes up to 5th grade.

The school still faces significant challenges. For decades the indigenous people throughout the Hill Tracts have been the subjects of genocide perpetrated by the Bangladesh military. The situation is critical and has required the UN and others to intervene several times, but for the most part the situation has received little or no international attention. Land grabs and aggression against the indigenous population occur continuously and any resistance to these injustices is met with extreme retaliation, including rape and murder by the Bangladesh army. The indigenous peoples of the CHT are victims of forced displacement and discrimination in all aspects of life in Bangladesh. The theft of their lands continues to have enormous social, economic, and political consequences for the people. Educating Marma girls is one of the only ways to protect them from exploitation and strengthen them to face the difficulties that lie ahead. Continue reading

BGR Provides Emergency Grants to the World Food Program USA

By BGR Staff

 This past week Buddhist Global Relief provided emergency grants totaling $12,000 to the World Food Program USA for three projects–in Yemen, South Sudan, and among the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh. The contribution is to be divided evenly among them, with $4,000 going to each project. While this is just a tiny fraction of the aid needed, given the dire conditions all of these peoples are facing, every little bit–as an expression of compassion and concern–will be welcome

Yemen

In Yemen two and a half years of violence and conflict have pushed two-thirds of the population to the brink of famine. Limited access to ports has hindered the ability of the World Food Programme to deliver aid and at present some 17 million people across the country do not know where their next meal is coming from. What’s worse, the collapse of government services and a shortage of potable water has led to a cholera epidemic. Despite the obstacles, WFP implements general food assistance in 19 of Yemen’s 22 districts, including some of Yemen’s most hard-to-reach areas. The program’s targeting strategy assists the districts with the highest levels of food insecurity and global acute malnutrition rates. To ensure that the programs are thoroughly monitored, WFP contracts third-party monitoring companies to conduct on-site distribution monitoring and post-distribution monitoring. 60 Minutes aired a segment on Yemen in November that featured WFP’s intervention there. The clip can be viewed here.

South Sudan

A second grant will go to South Sudan, where continued conflict is driving the country towards famine and leaving an estimated 6 million people with acute levels of hunger. Because of the ongoing fighting and the breakdown of virtually all infrastructure, WFP has turned to airdrops to deliver aid. Airdrops are generally more expensive and more time-consuming than ground level delivery, but they become necessary when there are no alternatives to providing life-saving food.

The Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar

A third grant will go assist the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, who have sought safety in neighboring Bangladesh. At present approximately 650,000 refugees have fled their homes in Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh; more than 80% of them need food assistance. WFP has been rapidly expanding its emergency nutrition programs there to stave off malnutrition in young children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Its funding shortfall for aid is currently at about $32 million.

Silke Buhr, a communications officer with the World Food Programme (WFP), describes the situation in the refugee camps thus: “The squalor of the camps around Cox’s Bazar is hard to imagine, the nervous energy, the pressing masses of people, the mud and the grit and the smell. Surely every form of human tragedy can be found here.”

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.
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