Stories about how WFP is assisting people with HIV and tuberculosis.
ROME – Despite meticulous planning, Lionel Margueron and his travelling companion met a few unexpected challenges during their two-week ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok – a journey which took them through some of the remotest rural areas of the two countries.
Torrential rain in Cambodia meant that for a couple of days they had to repeatedly get off and push their bikes through knee-high water and the presence of unexploded landmines along the Cambodia-Thailand border made for at least one day of extremely nervous riding.
"While Cambodia taught us the joy of cycling in the rain, even in water, Thailand brought very hot days, where we systematically grilled like vegetables on skewers," the pair wrote on their blog. By the end of their adventure, the Swiss duo had raised more than US$10,000 in donations for WFP.
The journey through remote rural areas of Cambodia was punctuated by touching encounters with poor but smiling people whose generosity amazed them. After meeting WFP's country director at the start of their trip, they knew that these were the types of people WFP is helping in Cambodia, in part by providing school meals to vulnerable children and nutrition support to young mothers.
“Parents send their children to school because they know that their kids will receive the 2,000 calories needed for their proper development,” the pair say. “Nursing mothers are also supported. Nutritious food is extremely important for them.”
Lionel decided last year that he really wanted to “dive" into the fight against hunger. As European Sales & Reporting Manager for Yum! Brands, the restaurant company which is one of WFP’s corporate partners, he had participated in fund-raising and awareness raising events in 2007 and 2008.
Wanted to do more
In 2009 he wanted to do more. So he asked a friend, a fellow cyclist who works at a bank, to join him, and together they planned their journey. The two took a long hard look at WFP before deciding to go through with his World Hunger Relief odyssey. They read books about international aid organisations, looked into the malnutrition situation in Cambodia, learned about WFP. Eventually both of them were satisfied that WFP was the right organisation to support.
Their adventure is just one of many fundraising and awareness-raising initiatives undertaken by employees in the context of Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief campaign.
While it’s pop diva Christina Aguilera who is the public face of the campaign (see video above right), World Hunger Relief is carried on in momentum by the company’s 1.4 million employees all over the world, both with their own activities and with the enthusiasm they transmit to customers in restaurants.
Now in its third year, the campaign is the world’s largest private sector consumer outreach effort on the issue of hunger.In its first two years the campaign raised US$20 million for WFP’s greatest needs, making a life-saving difference for over 2.5 million people in 27 countries.
Undeterred by flooded roads, flat tyres and toothache, two 40-year-old WFP supporters from Switzerland recently completed a gruelling 1,056-km bicycle ride across Cambodia and Thailand to raise funds for WFP as part of YUM Brands’ World Hunger Relief campaign.
JOHANNESBURG – In arid and semi-arid parts of Mozambique, vulnerable families are struggling to cope with insufficient harvests and reduced relief rations.
In their sandy camp in central Namibia, refugees are surviving on monthly food supplies that no longer meet their basic nutritional needs.
And in flood-ravaged parts of Zambia, families are now receiving much less food from WFP as they struggle to rebuild their lives and their communities.
“We have already had to reduce rations to hundreds of thousands of people across southern Africa because of a lack of funds,” said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. “Without new donations, we will soon have to take even harder decisions and make even deeper cuts.”
In every country, WFP faces rapidly dwindling resources and the prospect of scaling back many of its planned operations substantially in the coming months – leaving hundreds of thousands more people without the food assistance they need.
The cuts will affect many of the most vulnerable people across the region. As early as October, WFP could be forced to:
- Provide smaller rations to 250,000 hungry people in drought-affected parts of southern Madagascar
- Reduce monthly rations to 16,000 refugees in Malawi and further reduce support to 6,500 refugees in Namibia
- Cut the amount of food provided to 215,000 vulnerable people in Mozambique, including people affected by HIV/AIDS, TB patients and orphans
All of them will end up weaker and more susceptible to disease.
And there will be longer term consequences too – with boys and girls dropping out of school and parents resorting to more desperate measures to feed their hungry children and malnourished women giving birth to underweight babies.
In a region with such high levels of acute poverty and chronic malnutrition as well as the world highest prevalence rates of HIV, any reduction in WFP assistance will undermine efforts to help countries reduce hunger and poverty and make real progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
“WFP’s projects are designed to help the most vulnerable people and families to survive and thrive – providing them with short-term health and longer term hope,” said Darboe. “But we need the money to do the job and we do not have enough – leaving us with no choice but to cut.”
And just as WFP is starting to scale back its operations, needs in southern Africa are beginning to rise even higher – as the global economic crisis slashes the value of remittances, swells the ranks of the unemployed and reduces the capacity of governments across the region to fund vital safety net programmes.
Food assistance enables millions of people in southern Africa to cope with the impact of HIV/AIDS, high food prices and natural disasters. But with WFP facing an unprecedented budget shortfall, many risk losing this critical support.
KENYA: WFP has tripled its 2009 assistance to reach nearly four million people struggling with high food prices and food shortages from four consecutive failed harvests due to drought. At a time when school children are being sent to work to help buy family meals, WFP has expanded its school meals programme to ensure youngsters don’t miss out on an education in order to eat. WFP is also focusing on drought-resistant and irrigated crops in its Purchase for Progress (P4P) project targeting small farmers.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: WFP delivers food assistance monthly to more than 1.1 million extremely vulnerable people, most of them displaced in the east. WFP also provides food assistance to local and international NGOs to complement the physical and psychological treatment of survivors of sexual violence and former child soldiers. In eastern North Kivu province, WFP is developing joint interventions with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to work towards long term food security solutions for those receiving food assistance. WFP also assists other UN agencies and NGOs transport humanitarian supplies to remote areas.
LIBERIA: WFP is helping hundreds of thousands of Liberians – including refugees, displaced people and people living with HIV/AIDS -- rebuild their lives after the country’s 1989-2003 war. WFP works to connect farmers to markets through its Purchase-for-Progress (P4P) initiative and assists in the rehabilitation of ex-fighters through food-for-work projects. WFP collaborates with other UN agencies and the Liberian government on feeding programmes targeting children, pregnant and nursing women, orphans and the disabled. WFP’s school meals programme has reached almost 400,000 children since it began in 2003.
CAPE VERDE: WFP provides nutritious meals to tens of thousands of school children in this chronically food-deficit island nation. WFP is currently helping Cape Verde’s government take over the school meals programme and mobilize donor support in a gradual handover that ends in July 2010.
ROME – During her tour of Africa, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited four countries – Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Cape Verde -- where the World Food Programme is working to address urgent hunger needs and improve the lives of people struggling to meet their daily nutritional requirements.
Below is a brief summary of WFP’s activities in each of these four nations:
MBABANE -- Dressed in his smartest suit, Vusie Maphalala waits patiently in the tiny health clinic in Mpolonjeni to collect his life-saving anti-retrovirals. He knows that they are the key to survival – to living long enough to help his three small children grow up.
But he also knows that drugs alone are not enough.
Two years ago, he watched his wife die. She was on treatment but was too weak and too malnourished to cope. So Vusie comes each month not just to pick up his drugs but also his monthly food ration.
Nutrition, a critical part of care
Nutrition and food security are critical components of care and support for many people living with HIV particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
WFP implements HIV/AIDS programmes in over 50 countries addressing treatment, care and support, and impact mitigation.
Health started improving
“I was malnourished and virtually bedridden when I started getting food from WFP,” said 44-year-old Vusie, who had been battling to take the drugs on an empty stomach. “But within two months, my health and strength started improving.”
Every month, Vusie receives more than 7 kg of nutritious corn-soya blend – known locally as ‘sidonono’ – under a joint project run by WFP and Swaziland’s Ministry of Health.
There is no doubt, in Vusie’s mind, how important this food has been. “This area has often been hit by drought and sometimes there was no food, which made it very difficult to keep on taking my medication,” said Vusie, who knows people who have been too hungry to continue their treatment. “But I don’t miss a single dose any more.”
Support to others
Now he is healthy enough to do manual work and to look after his sons – as well as providing much-needed support to other HIV positive people in his community who receive antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“As a volunteer, I help people who have recently enrolled in ART to plan their drug schedule,” said Vusie. “I also teach them the importance of nutrition and explain that they will only be able to stick to their schedule if they eat their corn-soya blend.”
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Vusie Maphalala knows very well that without regular nutritious food people receiving treatment for AIDS cannot benefit from the drugs. Two years ago his wife died for this very reason. Vusie, who also has AIDS, receives food from WFP and so is able to support his family.
NAAGA, Ghana - We're in the Naaga community market, in the northern Kassena/Nankana District. A woman walks from person to person,pleading for a sale. And what she’s selling is, potentially, a significant part of her potential livelihood, her egg-laying mother hen.
WFP Food Monitor Prosper Dakurah narrates the scene:
On market days, Dakurah says, community members to trade farm produce and commodities. People bring whatever they have to sell and purchase items they need for the following week.
The picture we get here, though, is of a distress sale under way as the population, already poor, feels the squeeze of challenging economic times on the global scale.
Video footage by WFP’s Marco Frattini.
“I guess I knew what the result was going to be because I’d seen the same thing happen to so many people in our community but it still came as a real shock to learn that I was HIV positive,” said 44-year-old Ntsonyama.
“All I could think of were my four children and how they would grow up without a father,” he said.
Like every other community in Lesotho, Morija, a town to the south of the capital Maseru, has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS. According to the latest estimates, around 22 percent of adults across Lesotho are infected – the third highest prevalence rate in the world.
Along with 1,000 other HIV positive people around Morija, Ntsonyama now receives both anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and food assistance under a joint project, involving the government, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF ) and WFP.
While the drugs have been primarily responsible for getting Ntsonyama back on his feet, food assistance has played a crucial supporting role.
Not only does the WFP ration provide him with the nutrition needed to take the ARVs but it also acts as a powerful incentive for him to return to Scott Hospital to get his next essential dose of drugs.
“The drugs saved my life but the food also made a huge difference – not just to me but to my whole family,” said Ntsonyama.
Knowing that his family will have enough to eat has removed a heavy burden from Ntsonyama’s shoulders and given him a real psychological boost.
Three years ago, Ntsonyama Sekoai finally summoned up the courage to take an HIV test. For months he had been feeling sick and losing weight. Too weak to work, all he could do was watch as his family grew ever more impoverished and desperate.