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642727
08/18/2014 - 22:24
Aid professionals

Mario Sibrian is the World Food Programme Regional Air Safety Officer in Nairobi, but he is currently based in Juba, the capital city of the youngest nation: South Sudan, a country ravaged by conflict and food insecurity, and one of the five largest WFP emergency operations in the world.

He is a retired Honduran Air Force Major and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of San Pedro Sula. He firmly believes that the combination of these professional areas have allowed him to carry out his duties in WFP’s large scale emergency operations. He was involved in humanitarian initiatives in Post-war Iraq (2003), the Mozambique Floods (2003 and 2008), the devastating tsunami that hit Asia (2005), the Pakistan Earthquake (2005), the Cyclones in Madagascar (2009 and 2010), the Haiti Earthquake (2010), the Pakistan Floods (2010) and the Haiyan Typhoon in the Philippines (2013).

“I met Mario for the first time during the Haiti operation in 2010,” said WFP Air Transportation Officer, German Puente, in Bentiu/Rubkona, South Sudan. “He worked very hard with us to instruct crews on how to operate in a hostile environment. On another occasion, in Pakistan, we were asked to facilitate the assembly of three helicopters to operate as soon as possible. Without his assistance and capacity, it would have taken much longer to start the air support.”

Working in the most high risk operations, delivering food in an extremely congested airspace and in the most difficult weather conditions, transporting the injured, managing air operations or working in the most dangerous airports in the world, has not stopped Mario to fulfill the mandate of the World Food Programme.

"Working with WFP is very rewarding and satisfying personally and professionally. I have been given the opportunity to contribute my knowledge and experience in the field of aviation and business administration, for the benefit of humanity," he said.

Mario thanks God for the opportunity, and is grateful to WFP and the donor community for supporting him and his colleagues with resources to carry out their humanitarian mission to deliver food and bring relief to communities in need.

To help those who are in need has been part of a legacy that his father, a physician, sewed in his heart when he was a child. Mario Sibrian, a Honduran national working in South Sudan for WFP Aviation, has been living up to his father's legacy for the last 14 years. That is his driving force behind his commitment to humanitarian assistance during the tsunami in Asia, the Haiti Earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

641715
06/06/2014 - 10:36
Aid professionals

One child in four in this world suffers from stunting caused by poor nutrition during the first thousand days of his or her life.  This translates into an estimated 165 million children who pay a high individual price by missing out on the opportunity to meet their full potential in growth and development. But there is another price paid and it is measurable in GDP . Do you know how much child undernutrition is costing economies in Africa? A groundbreaking study, the Cost of Hunger in Africa, is researching this issue.

More than 90 percent of the world’s stunted children live in Africa and Asia. While progress has been made in reducing the burden of stunting globally, child undernutrition continues to be a persistent challenge for Africa.  

Good nutrition, especially during the critical window of opportunity during the first 1,000 days of life, can make all the difference in ensuring good health and child development.  Undernutrition has lifelong consequences for individuals, including poor health and reduced performance in school. In addition, undernutrition also has wide-ranging impacts on communities and countries as a whole. Beyond the human costs, undernutrition has real implications on overall national development and global economies.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa study (COHA), a flagship initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC) implemented with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), estimates the economic cost of undernutrition to be between USD$77 million to USD$3.7 billion every year (2-16% of GDP) due to losses from optimum revenue from labour productivity and preventable increases in public and private costs related to health and education. In addition, there is the “opportunity cost” – the missed opportunity resulting from premature death due to undernutrition. The study further estimates that in Africa, countries can generate economic savings ranging between US$ 60 million to US$2 billion, in reduced morbidity, lower repetition in school and incremental productivity both in manual and non-manual sectors.

The study so far conducted in five countries in Africa – Egypt, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Swaziland and Uganda- strongly illustrates both the social and economic consequences of undernutrition.

Ensuring access to nutritious foods is an essential component in preventing the irreversible forms of child undernutrition, helping to break the intergeneration cycle of malnutrition. Yet, despite the availability of recognized and efficient interventions to address child undernutrition, the number of undernourished children in Africa has been on the rise. Sadly, today there are more stunted children in Africa than 20 years ago.

One year ago, the Lancet medical journal announced that 45% of child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition, helping to illustrate the urgent need for the scale-up of nutrition interventions. Responding to this need, government leaders, UN Agencies and private partners came together to sign the Nutrition for Growth compact.  

Now, the findings from the Cost of Hunger study further support the evidence base for prioritizing investments in child nutrition. Most importantly, the results from the study have served as a wakeup call for policy makers, raising awareness and action for nutrition at the highest level. In addition, the study further highlighted the multisectoral, interconnectedness of nutrition, hence calling for a renewed commitment and strong leadership at the highest political level with a concerted and coordinated approach.

It was against this background that African Ministers renewed their commitments by setting ambitious goals for reducing child stunting by as much as by half by the year 2025 at the recent AU joint Ministers of Agriculture, Rural Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture held at the African Union Commission in May 2014.  

A recent progress review study conducted in Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda revealed policy and programmatic level changes spurred as a result of the findings of the COHA study, including stimulating countries to joining the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. For instance, in Swaziland the national safety net programme has been revised to include children from birth instead of just school children from the age of six as per the initial proposal.

The time for Africa is now! The social and economic transformation agenda of the continent cannot be effectively achieved unless child undernutrition is addressed as a priority. Nutrition For Growth means giving children a better future and allowing people and countries reach their full potential.

 

The Nutrition for Growth compact signed a year ago in London by government leaders, UN agencies and private partners, put the fight against undernutrition in the spotlight.  WFP’s Ella Getahun looks at the link between childhood undernutrition and countries’ economic performance as highlighted in the Cost of Hunger in Africa study.

641299
05/07/2014 - 15:52
Aid professionals

As world leaders determine the goals and targets for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda over the coming months, we must make sure that both production – through sustainable improvements in agricultural productivity – and access – meaning that the poorest and most vulnerable people can obtain adequate food and have good nutrition – receive equal attention.

Even though there is enough food for everyone in the world today, about 842 million people continue to suffer from chronic hunger. 162 million children, or 1 in 4 worldwide, are stunted. If we are to make sustained progress towards eliminating poverty, hunger and malnutrition, the Post-2015 Development Agenda must recognize the critical importance of inclusive national food and nutrition systems that facilitate direct access to food for the most vulnerable.  

As highlighted by a recent report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Food Security and Nutrition and the Post-2015 Development Goals, increasing the availability of food can be achieved through improvements in agricultural productivity, nutrition-sensitive approaches to development policy, and greater levels of investment in smallholder farmers.

The World Food Programme (WFP) fully supports the report’s emphasis on women farmers and the critical role that women play in improving agricultural production, household income, and nutrition. Increasing household income and food availability at the national and sub-national level are essential elements of global efforts to eradicate hunger.

Adequate food at all times

At the same time, we believe that the Post-2015 Development Agenda must attach equal importance to ensuring that all people can obtain adequate food at all times. Consumption of adequate, nutritious food is critical to maintaining health and economic productivity.  A recent Cost of Hunger in Africa study , for example, found the economic cost of stunting to be between 1.9 and 16.5 percent of GDP.

Improving nutrition in adolescent girls and pregnant and nursing women is essential for long-term development. Good nutritional status during adolescence, conception, and throughout pregnancy plays a pivotal role in early child development and growth. Research published in the 2013 Lancet series shows that having access to nutritious food during the first 1,000 days - from conception to a child’s second birthday - makes a substantial contribution to reducing undernutrition, including the prevalence of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.  

What does access mean? Even when adequate food is available on domestic markets, poverty, inequality and social exclusion prevent the poorest people from getting enough food to live healthy and productive lives.  

Poor and vulnerable households, who spend as much as 80 percent of their income on food, are particularly at risk and are often in need of targeted measures to ensure access through safety nets and targeted nutritional programmes.

 When conflict or natural disasters strike, the most vulnerable can be pushed to the tipping point, requiring immediate humanitarian response and subsequent efforts to stabilize prices, rebuild markets and support livelihoods.  

Balanced approach to food security

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Zero Hunger Challenge takes a balanced and comprehensive approach to food security and malnutrition. It has five principal elements which recognize the interdependence and complementarity of availability and access to food.

These are: eliminating stunting in children under two years of age; guaranteeing universal access to adequate and nutritious food; ensuring that all food systems are sustainable; achieving a 100 percent increase in the productivity and income of smallholder farmers; and eradicating food waste and loss.

Based on this framework, WFP has worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to propose targets and indicators for a comprehensive approach to Food Security, Nutrition, and Sustainable Agriculture.  The targets proposed by the Rome-based Agencies of the United Nations are as follows:

1.    Access to food: All people have access to adequate (safe, affordable, diverse and nutritious) food all year round.

2.    Malnutrition: End malnutrition in all its forms (under-nutrition, micro-nutrient deficiencies and over-nutrition), with special attention to ending stunting.

3.    Sustainable food systems: All food production systems become more productive, sustainable, resilient and efficient - minimizing adverse environmental impact without compromising food and nutrition security.

4.    Smallholder productivity: All small food producers, especially women, have secure access to adequate inputs, knowledge, productive resources and services to increase their productivity sustainably and improve their income and resilience.

5.    Food loss and waste: More efficient post-production food systems (harvest, handling and storage, processing and packaging, transport and consumption) that reduce the global rate of food loss and waste by 50 percent.

As recognized in the Zero Hunger Challenge, these important objectives represent complementary aspects of the incredible effort that is required to eradicate world hunger in this generation.

 

A truly comprehensive approach is needed now to address food insecurity and malnutrition at a global level, writes Brian Bogart, programme policy advisor at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

641126
04/14/2014 - 18:39
Aid professionals, Food Security Analysis, Responding to Emergencies

ROME – Syrians are facing yet another challenge as a UN special report warns of a looming drought, which would have devastating consequences in a country already struggling in the midst of conflict.

WFP’s Syria coordinator, Muhannaad Hadi, says: “It has taken a massive effort from WFP and partners to scale up to reach 4 million people in March, but we fear now that a possible drought – if rainfall doesn’t pick up – could put the lives of millions more at risk.“

Low rainfall and poor crop development will have a huge impact on the next cereal harvest, while wheat production is already at an all-time low.  To make matters worse, the conflict has already damaged pumps and canals, caused power failures and destroyed tractors, making food production impossible.

The UN report  highlights how a potential drought would strain the country’s already fragile food security situation, stating: ‘The situation will not change while conflict lasts and its resolution will take considerable time if and when peace is restored to Syria.”

In recent few weeks, WFP has succeeded in reaching all 14 Syrian governorates for the first time in six months, although many areas still remain inaccessible as the conflict continues. In addition, WFP provides food and vouchers on a monthly basis for 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Funded entirely by voluntary contributions, WFP needs to raise around US$40 million a week to finance what is its biggest and most complex operation.

The ongoing conflict is making it almost impossible for Syrians to access food and now a looming drought threatens to put the lives of millions more at risk.

639846
01/28/2014 - 00:10
Aid professionals, Preventing Hunger

What do you do for the World Food Programme?

I work as a junior programme officer for WFP in Burkina Faso. The country has few natural resources and the climate is challenging, with frequent droughts and little rain. Additionally, thousands have recently fled across the border to escape the conflict in neighbouring Mali.

I work with nutrition projects targeting people who are particularly exposed to malnutrition and its serious health consequences. One of WFP’s projects provides food for people who are HIV-positive. In addition to the food rations, we also provide nutritional advice and cooking tips, and we organise courses and group conversations on how to live with HIV and how to protect oneself and others against HIV infection.

An important part of the project is the collaboration between WFP, the government of Burkina Faso and community-based organisations that promotes income generating activities for people living with HIV. This enables people living with HIV to make their own money and provide for themselves and their families.

What is the most challenging about your job?

WFP’s projects are exclusively dependent on funding from donors. The challenge is often to direct the attention and donations not only towards acute emergencies, but also towards long-term crises and development work.

Why did you decide to start working for WFP?

I wanted to work in an established and international institution, and the ideals of the UN appeal to me as a person. WFP is also one of the most operational UN organisations.

Have you experienced the effect of WFP’s presence in the country?

On one of my field trips I met an HIV-positive widow and single mother. Before she knew that she was infected, she became seriously ill and lost a lot of weight. When her husband died of AIDS shortly after, she was alone in providing for her family. With the help from WFP, she has been able to recover and today has her own business.

What kind of advice would you give to others who seek a career in humanitarian work?

Field work is an invaluable experience if you want to work with humanitarian development. Nothing can replace the closeness to the people you work for; or the exposure to other cultures than your own; or the joy of solving seemingly impossible tasks. For me, being part of WFP’s fight against hunger and poverty is a unique opportunity and privilege.

To learn more about the Junior Professional Officer programme, click here.

Peter Jourdan works for WFP in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. A Norwegian, he is part of a programme which provides work experience and training opportunities for young professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in international development or aid. In this article, Peter reflects on the joys and challenges of his work in West Africa.

636344
12/13/2013 - 11:30
Aid professionals, Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Much of the discussion at the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) has applauded the unprecedented results achieved in prevention and treatment of HIV. Also highlighted at the event held in Cape Town, South Africa, in December have been the additional steps needed to achieve the goal of zero new HIV infections.

As one of 11 co-sponsors of UNAIDS, the UN World Food Programme plays a lead role in providing food and nutrition support to affected populations.
Recent studies show that early access to anti-retoviral treatment (ART) not only prevents HIV-positive people from dying but helps curb the spread of the virus. Proper food and nutrition play an essential role in this equation by keeping people living with HIV (PLHIV) people healthy for longer and improving the effectiveness of their treatment.

However, populations affected by emergencies such as the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo face additional barriers to accessing life-saving ART and other HIV-related support services. In the DRC, where the medical services have been severely disrupted, 51% of PLHIV initiating ART are malnourished.
 
“A WFP survey found that PLHIV reported that they did not have enough to eat a third of the time,” explained WFP Programme Officer in DRC, Patrice Badibanga.
Delivering ART and nutrition support together is an essential response as it has been shown that mortality can be two to six times higher among malnourished patients in the first six months after beginning treatment.

That is why, under the triple burden of HIV, conflict and food insecurity, WFP is ensuring the people living with HIV have access to essential food and nutrition support.

WFP’s nutrition and HIV programmes in DRC help 93 percent of ART patients adhere to the recommended medical regimes – a significant increase over the 79 percent national average. Furthermore, a study has shown that after six months of WFP support, the nutritional status of assisted patients improves dramatically.

“Access to nutrition is limited in emergencies”, said Dr. Esterina Novello Nyilok, Chairperson of the South Sudan HIV and AIDS Commission.“Lack of nutrition can push people living with HIV into more complications with mal-adherence to ART and malnutrition and can result in a medical crisis.”
 
Dr. Novello Nyilok reminded those at the HIV in Emergencies session that when talking about vulnerable groups affected by HIV, “populations in emergency settings are the most neglected group.”

For people living with HIV in poor countries, there are already many barriers to accessing life-saving medication and also to the nutritional food that will help the treatment work. But for populations affected by emergencies, such as the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it's even harder. This was one of the messages that emerged at the ICASA conference in Cape Town this week. WFP's Natalie Aldern was there and shares her read-out here.

622040
11/29/2013 - 12:32
Aid professionals, Journalists, Fight Against HIV/AIDS

LILONGWE -- When the doctor told me, I thought: "I’m going to die." I was so scared. I couldn’t believe it. HIV-positive.

At the time, HIV/AIDS was so bad in Malawi. People were dying unnecessarily because they couldn’t access information and treatment. That was in 2000. Today, many do. And here I am in 2013, still working for WFP. Living healthily with HIV.

But getting here hasn’t been easy.

I had been sick for months, staying home from work. My weight dropped from 65 to 38 kilos. I checked into hospital for treatment.At first, I thought it was malaria. Then the doctor ordered tests. The results weren’t good.  My wife cried at the news.

Keeping the faith

The doctor urged me not to lose hope. But I lost hope. I’ve lost so many friends to AIDS.

Then came another challenge. The doctor advised anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, which is a life-saving, lifetime treatment for people living with HIV. But the drugs were so expensive. My relatives pooled their money. It was only enough for one-month’s supply.

That’s when WFP stepped in. I disclosed my status to the head of my office. He helped me buy the medication. Later, after he left, WFP Malawi fundraised to help HIV-positive national staff access ARVs. Now, WFP covers my treatment.

At the beginning, I was so afraid to return to work. Afraid of my colleagues’ reaction, because I was very thin. Not all of them were happy to see me. Some of them wouldn’t share a cup of tea – even though I hadn’t told them I had HIV. I talked to my boss, and he encouraged me to be strong.  

Speaking out

In 2005, I began to reveal my status to some of my colleagues and to management. Management gave me wonderful encouragement. I began speaking about my experience at staff meetings. I wanted to offer peer counselling to other HIV-positive staff. To give them comfort and tips about how to live.

In 2007, some colleagues and I launched the Malawi chapter of UN Plus, a UN-wide advocacy group of staff living with HIV. Today, our chapter has 18 members, including 12 from WFP. Through UN Plus, we want to offer encouragement and support to HIV-positive staff. We want zero discrimination at work. We want to break the silence. I would especially love it if more high-ranking people support UNPlus. It can boost both our advocacy and support activities – and encourage others to join our group.  

My colleagues and their families ask me for advice about the epidemic. I’m not a medical doctor, but I’ve been living with HIV for almost 13 years.

Last year, I went to a WFP distribution centre for people living with HIV in hospital. I told them not to lose hope. I told them to listen to the doctors and to take the WFP food supplements. I told them to look at me. I’m living a normal life. Being HIV-positive is not the end of the world.

WFP uses food assistance to protect the lives and livelihoods of people living with HIV. For more information, checkout these links::

(Photo above shows Josiah, on left, receiving an award for long service with the UN in Malawi. Copyright: WFP/ Dannie Phiri)

In 2000, long-time WFP Malawi office staffer Josiah Tepani found out he was HIV-positive. Instead of being the death sentence he feared, the virus transformed Tepani into a passionate champion -- a champion for ending fear and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in his country and throughout the UN system. This year, 52-year-old Tepani is marking World AIDS Day by sharing his story.

550978
09/25/2013 - 09:23
Aid professionals, ED - E.Cousin

Thursday, 26 September

The U.N. General Assembly continued its annual gathering on Thursday, and the World Food Programme was there to keep the issue of global hunger on the forefront of discussions. Among WFP’s activities this day:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin participated in a meeting on African Risk Capacity, an innovative insurance plan for disaster preparedness in African countries.
  • Cousin, Assistant Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson, and New York Office Head Thomas Yanga participated in a High Level Meeting on the Sahel, co-chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • Cousin, Rasmusson, and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi participated in various private meetings with representatives of donor countries and other agencies for humanitarian advocacy and effectiveness.
  • The third anniversary celebration of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was held, with a keynote speech by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. WFP is a key member of the Global Alliance, and WFP staff attended the anniversary reception.
  • Hadi was interviewed about the humanitarian crisis in Syria on the Al-Jazeera TV program Ma Wara al-Khabr (Behind the News in English).

 

Wednesday, 25 September

As the U.N. General Assembly continued its annual gathering, the World Food Programme used the opportunity to discuss the challenges, advances and risks of fighting food insecurity with the larger humanitarian community. Among WFP's activities this day:

Digital Food

Watch Ertharin Cousin explain what we mean by 'digital food' in this video posted on Mastercard's Morning Brewblog. Watch video

Digital food was one of the issues discussed at the Social Good Summit held at UNGA on 24 Sept. (see below)

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin participated in an Informal Ministerial Consultation on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria and Neighboring Countries, co-chaired by the European Union and Jordan.
  • Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson and New York Office Head Thomas Yanga participated in a ministerial meeting on humanitarian challenges in the Central African Republic. The event sought to raise the international profile of CAR’s humanitarian crisis, which was characterised by US Ambassador Samantha Power as “the worst crisis people have never heard of,” and to seek sustained engagement in its resolution by all relevant parties. It featured OCHA's Valerie Amos, ECHO's Kristalina Georgieva, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye.  
  • Yanga was also a speaker at a special meeting on the Millenium Development Goals. He highlighted the need to stay focused on eradicating hunger and undernutrition, while embracing transformational ideas and embracing science and technology. He said we must find the necessary political will and approach our work with both a short-term and a long-term perspective -- we must enhance the capacity of national governments to respond to crisis situations.
  • WFP Director of Nutrition Martin Bloem represented WFP at a special forum of the global "Every Woman, Every Child" partnership to spur improvement in women's and children's health.
  • Rasmusson spoke about opportunities for new partnerships in Africa at a forum on African Humanitarian Champions: The Face of African Humanitarian Partnerships. “Both in research and in implementation, partnershipsamong international organizations, regional institutions, governments and communities can help us to build the world and the Africa that we want," she told attendees.
  • Cousin, Rasmussion and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi held various private meetings with representatives of donor countries and other agencies to fuel even greater effectiveness.
  • Continuing her media advocacy for WFP, Cousin was interviewed on camera about Syria by Al-Jazeera television, and, separately, by Xinhua News Agency, the official news service of China, about achieving the MDGs, the post-2015 sustainable agenda, and Cousin's recent trip to Syria.  

 

Tuesday, 24 September

The U.N. General Assembly convened on 24 September, and the World Food Programme was there to keep the hunger issue on world leaders' radar.

Among our key activities on UNGA's first day:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson attended the opening session, ensuring WFP's participation in the U.N. process.
  • Cousin and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi participated in a discussion convened by UK's DFID on operational issues and gaps in assistance for Syria.
  • Cousin participated in a panel discussion at the Social Good Summit about innovation. She was joined by Lauren Bush Lauren, who is marketing a line of bags, clothing and accessories to help fight hunger and malnutrition, and by MasterCard's Gary Flood. MasterCard is using its financial services expertise to help WFP provide "digital food," using cash and voucher delivery systems. To meet the UN's Zero Hunger goal, Cousin said we must "not only feed stomachs but begin to build resilience . . . and we can't do that without innovation."
  • Rasmusson spoke at a special event on "China on the World Stage."
  • WFP co-hosted a special reception honoring leaders in nutrition with partners DSM and World Vision, where Cousin told guests that "partnerships are important -- partnerships matter," and declared, "Let's get it right until we get it done!" The Sight and Life Nutrition Leadership Award was presented to Bob Black, professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Attendees also celebrated the successes of Tanzania, which has reduced its child morality by two-thirds in 20 years.
  • Cousin, Rasmusson and Hadi held numerous private meetings with representatives of donor countries, talking about WFP's work and ongoing financial needs.
  • Cousin spoke about our issues with various media to help the public understand the importance of supporting anti-hunger activities in the developing world. These activities included a briefing for more than 20 journalists from major international outlets convened by the UN Foundation. Cousin spoke with them about Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Niger, Syria and more. She also talked about coordinating activities among the UN agencies. "A child who receives water instead of food, or food but not medicine when they need medicine -- we're not meeting their needs. They need the entire package."  

 

Monday, 23 September

Even before the U.N. General Assembly formally convened on 24 September, WFP was engaged in helping to keep hunger at the forefront of this annual gathering of world leaders.

Hunger and food security are critical issues that shape many other U.N. priorities, and the many related events and discussions on the eve of UNGA provided an opportunity to underline the urgency of WFP's work in seriously food-insecure areas. While discussions will focus on all parts of the globe, much of the debate in the lead-up to UNGA naturally have been about Syria, including efforts to secure access to areas closed off due to conflict.

ED with AP reporter Edie LedererAmong the actions taken by WFP in the day or so before UNGA opened:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin served as a judge at the prestigious Hult Prize competition, which awards US$1 million in seed money to an exceptional business concept for solving a global development problem. The competition is organized by the Clinton Global Initiative.
  • Cousin took part in a "high-level" meeting hosted by the Secretary-General on "Millenium Development Goals: Momentum Toward 2015 and Beyond"
  • Cousin participated in a roundtable discussion on nutrition co-chaired by Ghana's former President John Kufuor and Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • Cousin spoke at a special forum on protecting children in humanitarian emergencies and conflicts
  • Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson spoke at a UN Inter-Agency Meeting on "Inclusive Finance for Development"
  • Cousin and Rasmusson met privately with representatives of several countries that support WFP's work, to report on goals achieved and discuss future need.

(Photos in text: 24 Sept - Ertharin Cousin, Elisabeth Rasmusson and Lauren Bush Lauren at #2030Now, the Social Good Summit organized by tech and social media news website Mashable (Copyright: WFP/Cindy Kremer); 23 Sept - Ertharin Cousin being interviewed by AP's veteran UN reporter Edie Lederer on the Syria crisis (copyright WFP/Steve Taravella)

WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin is in New York this week, taking part in a range of hunger-related events in and around the UN General Assembly. Here are the day-by-day highlights:

495896
09/09/2013 - 13:07
Aid professionals

Allan Busiinge strides through the WFP distribution site in Pibor Town, seemingly oblivious to the sticky black cotton soil beneath his gumboots.

Busiinge is too busy to be held up by the mud. The needs of tens of thousands of people, who have been driven from their homes by a resurgence of fighting, are simply too great. Busiinge, a WFP logistics officer from Uganda, has a keen sense of the need for speed as the rainy season takes hold.

“The rain falls, the place gets flooded, then muddy, but we have to organize distributions for the people,” he said as porters hefted sacks of food and boxes of vegetable oil from the warehouse to groups of women eagerly waiting to bring supplies back to their children and relatives in the bush.

“Some of the women you see waiting have walked for days to get here … and have left hungry family members behind …we cannot delay them no matter the challenges,” Busiinge said.

Busiinge, who has worked with WFP since 2003, believes his job in Pibor Town is tough, but not the most challenging assignment he has had so far in a career that none could call run-of-the-mill.

Rewarded by smiles

In his mid-20s, as civil war raged across Sudan, Busiinge led convoys of food-laden trucks from Uganda to southern Sudan as part of Operation Lifeline Sudan

“In those days there was no telephone network here. Once you got into South Sudan your main companion was your HF radio, which you used to report your location and the status of the cargo. You would radio messages to the base, and these would be sent to your family so they knew you were alive and well.”

Busiinge was detained several times by armed groups.  In 2004, a drunk soldier stopped him at a checkpoint as he led a WFP convoy of 56 trucks from Uganda to Akop in Warrap State.

“The soldier told me I was too young to be leading such a big convoy. He asked all the drivers to hand over their documents and then he locked me in a cage made of thorns.  The soldiers shared fried groundnuts with us. On the last day they even slaughtered a goat and shared the barbecue with us. We were eventually released after (WFP) communicated with the commanders who confirmed that the soldier was drunk,” Busiinge remembers.

 Despite such incidents, Busiinge would not change a thing.

“The day a convoy transporting food reaches a community … there is so much joy around! The women and children come out ululating, singing and dancing. That is what motivates me. Nothing beats that feeling that you have participated in helping to save lives,” he said as he bent to distribute pulses and salt to the women in Pibor town.

“Being a humanitarian is a sacrifice. It is often about abandoning the comforts of your own life, being away from your family and helping people you never imagined you would meet. The reward for me comes when I see people smiling as they leave with their rations.”

Science Teacher to Aid Worker

In the shade of a tree, a group of men listen attentively as Francis Sarpong-Kumankuma discusses ration distributions for displaced people in Labrab, a hamlet in Pibor County.

Sarpong-Kumankuma’s measured tone and attention to detail as he briefs the WFP field assistants hint at his time as a high school teacher. Today he is nearing the end of his assignment as head of WFP’s sub-office in Bor, and the Ghanaian has brought the patience and clarity he used in the classroom to his work in one of Africa’s most complex humanitarian operations.

“I initially worked as a science teacher at a high school for two years, and then I moved into my professional field as a public health nutritionist with the Government Health Services in Ghana,” he said.

As a senior manager of nutrition services at a regional health directorate in one of Ghana’s most deprived states, Sarpong-Kumankuma often worked alongside WFP staff members to provide food assistance to vulnerable women and children. He soon decided to join WFP.

In 2012 he moved to South Sudan where he was sent first to Maban County before taking up his job in Bor. He was about to move to Unity State when a resurgence in fighting between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities and renewed clashes between government forces and insurgents  broke out in Jonglei, sending people fleeing into the bush. 

Reaching these people is incredibly challenging, especially as the rains have started, rendering many roads impassable. Despite this, WFP has managed to get food to more than 30,000 people since it started distributions in Pibor County in late July.

The Drive to Ease Suffering

Sarpong-Kumankuma says WFP tries to get as close as possible to the needy in areas where humanitarian actors can get safe access. Setting up in remote locations can carry unique challenges, he says, recalling one particularly cold night in Dorein, the site of another distribution centre.

“In the middle of the night, we heard the horrifying cries of a troop of hyenas close to our camp site. Most of us were awake but … we had nothing with us to scare them off. We remained silent. After about 30 minutes, the hyenas went away and we all returned to sleep thanking our stars for no mishap. I felt that there were God’s guardian angels protecting us.”

Sarpong-Kumankuma accepts this kind of danger as part of his commitment to bring comfort to those in need.

“At the very bottom of (a humanitarian’s) heart is the drive to lessen the suffering of others and this is what keeps them going until there is an improved situation. I see myself as a humanitarian.”

Story by George Fominyen, WFP South Sudan

In South Sudan, WFP is distributing urgent food assistance to tens of thousands of people who have fled their homes to escape a resurgence of fighting in Jonglei State. Here are the stories of two WFP staff members who make this complex operation possible.

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06/24/2013 - 15:57
Aid professionals, Logistics, Responding to Emergencies

DJIBOUTI -- WFP began preliminary construction on Sunday of the first ever logistics hub for humanitarian relief work in the Horn of Africa. The hub will enable WFP and its partners to coordinate more efficiently the assistance going to food insecure areas in the region.

Built near the Djibouti port, its strategic location is expected to shorten food assistance delivery times and costs. The port is also the main gateway for food entering Ethiopia, a nation housing over 1.8 million of WFP’s beneficiaries.

When construction ends in 2015, the facility will enable a smoother flow of assistance to the WFP’s Horn of Africa beneficiaries. People living in the Horn represent around one quarter of WFP’s total beneficiaries annually.  Operations in the region span Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia.

Develop local transport sector

The structure will also help the development of Djibouti’s transport sector; more than 120 truck and forklift drivers and 30 warehouse managers are being trained to meet new transport requirements in 2013 alone.  “This capacity development undertaking benefits Djibouti not only through the reinforcement of its transport infrastructure but more importantly by the transfer of knowledge and expertise to Djiboutian professionals," said Ramiro Lopes Da Silva, WFP Assistant Executive Director.

The Djibouti government is also actively supporting its development and made 50,000 square meters of land available to the WFP for its establishment.  The Government of Canada contributed US $ 18 million to build on this land and noted that the facility will enable them to reach a larger amount of food insecure people than ever before.  The US $1.3 million donation made by the Government of Finland will provide for silo storage capacity development which is expected to yield major savings to transport, handling and related costs.

In addition to government donations, construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., has provided six forklifts and two generators to the hub’s development through its global partnership with WFP.

WFP's Ethiopia operation is building and managing the hub. It already moves the majority of its food assistance through the Djibouti port in partnership with the WFP Djibouti office.

 

WFP has begun the construction of a humanitarian logistics hub for the Horn of Africa in Djibouti. When completed in 2015, the facility will strengthen the impact of food assistance and humanitarian partnerships, while lowering the cost of daily operations.