News / Africa

Building Resilience Against Hunger

A Zimbabwean mother arrives to collect her monthly rations of food aid from Rutaura Primary School in the Rushinga district of Mt Darwin about 254km north of Harare, March 7, 2013. More than 6 million people across Angola, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe are at risk of severe food shortages because of repeated cycles of drought and flooding. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
A Zimbabwean mother arrives to collect her monthly rations of food aid from Rutaura Primary School in the Rushinga district of Mt Darwin about 254km north of Harare, March 7, 2013. More than 6 million people across Angola, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe are at risk of severe food shortages because of repeated cycles of drought and flooding. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo


Joe DeCapua
A new report said the developing world is taking a beating from climate change, extreme weather, conflict, environmental degradation and poor governance. It said to ensure food security under these conditions, emergency aid must be coupled with development assistance.

The Global Hunger Index, or GHI, for 2013 says while overall hunger is decreasing – it remains pretty bad in 19 countries. In fact, the index described hunger in those countries as ranging from alarming to extremely alarming.

Chris Bene of the Institute for Development Studies in London is one of the GHI authors. He said, “Sub-Saharan Africa is a part of the world where things are not as easy as they are probably in some other region. So indeed, some of the major concerns, that the report [stresses], are actually countries in sub-Saharan Africa - for different reasons. You still have some pockets or so in South Asia, but some of the major concerns are still in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The index lists Burundi, Eritrea and Comoros have the highest levels of hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 8th annual report is published by IFPRI - the International Food Policy Research Institute – Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide. It monitors 120 developing countries and countries in transition. Findings are based on the proportion of people who are undernourished; the proportion of children under five who are underweight; and the mortality rate of kids under five.

The GHI said more than two-and-a-half-billion people live on less than two dollars a day. So, a sick family member, a drought or the loss of a job is a major crisis. The report said they have no coping mechanisms left to deal with a crisis.

“A lot of people in the world are still very vulnerable to shock. When those people don’t have those ways to protect themselves – when they are hit by those shocks – they may make decisions which seem very rational at the short-term level, but may actually have very detrimental consequences in the longer term,” said Bene.

For example, if farmers lose their crops to drought or flood, they also lose their income and food supply. They may try to cope by cutting back on the amount of food their families eat.

“Which,” he said,“is what everybody will do in the short term. But one of his kids is still under three-years-old. The thing is that when kids in their very early age and very early stage of development don’t receive the appropriate amount of food -- appropriate amount of nutrition -- that can actually have [a] detrimental effect not simply in the next two months, but actually for their entire life.”

An undernourished child may have an under developed brain, damaging his or her ability to learn.

Bene agreed with a growing call from humanitarian groups that communities need to build resilience against shocks.

“Resilience will be the ability of people to prevent themselves from making [a] decision that can affect them detrimentally in the long term.”

But building resilience is not a one-size-fits-all policy. It has to be tailored to specific circumstances. For example, pastoralists in the Sahel depend on livestock for their livelihoods. But recurrent droughts may decimate their herds.

“So, their livestock is dying or they’re failing in terms of getting enough cash. So they will have the tendency to make a rational decision in the short term, which is I’m going to sell some of my livestock to get some cash to be able to buy food. In the short-term fine, but in the long-term that livestock is actually their bank. Getting milk. They get meat. But they also use it later to buy some assets,” he said.

But Bene said that in the long term they would struggle because they’re selling their livelihoods.

“One way to strengthen the resilience of those types of communities would be to put in place an intervention that helps those households or communities not to sell the livestock following a drought. You can put in place some form of insurance. If it’s proven that your community has been affected by a drought, you receive a certain amount of cash, which you use so that you are not forced to sell your own livestock. OK. That would be an example.”

Another example would be to establish early warning weather systems for those living in coastal communities. Knowing exactly when a major storm will hit would allow residents to take timely action.

He said, “It seems pretty simple, but for those people it may actually make the difference between leaving too late, not leaving at all or deciding in a proper way to protect yourself.”

Good governance at the local level can also build resilience through emergency response plans or the building of shelters.

The Global Hunger Index says building resilience “fundamentally transforms economic, social and ecological structures” to absorb both mild and severe shocks.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs