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Focus on Women

Women may be victims of hunger but they are also the most effective solution to combating and preventing hunger.

Women make up a little over half of the world's population but in many parts of the world, especially in Asia and South America, they are more likely to go hungry than men. This is because women often have unequal access to resources, education and income, and because they participate less in decision-making.

But women are also the most effective solution to combating and preventing hunger. In many countries, women make up the bulk of agricultural labourers and are the backbone of food production systems.

Women also play a key role in guaranteeing food security for the household. Experience shows that in the hands of women, food is far more likely to reach the mouths of needy children. Learn more

Focus on Women - Stories

1. The week begins with a series of talks done by different people from different institutions and companies.

Companies gather and share their experiences on the topic of “mothers and breastfeeding”. The goal of the talks is to work as an incentive for companies, to create safe spaces where mothers can breastfeed their children and places in the workplace where mothers can breast pump and store their milk. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

2. Then the Annual Family Fair called: La Gran Tetada (The Breastfeeding Fest) takes place

In this family fair, mothers from all over Panama bring their babies to Parque Omar to learn and share experiences of breastfeeding.  Mothers’ breastfeed their children together, while listening to educational talks on how to properly breastfeed children, effective techniques of breastfeeding, and the importance of breastfeeding. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

3. Mass Media Promotes Breastfeeding in TV and Radio

All media networks are connected this week to broadcast information about breastfeeding. Most interview people in the government, health institutions, or medical facilities. The objective is to reach as many persons possible, all over the country and in the most remote areas. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

4. Baby Care-packages are delivered!

Panama provides baby care-packages, which include baby shampoo, baby wipes, baby powder, baby everything! They deliver these in different facilities while providing mothers with educational pamphlets and talks about proper breastfeeding. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

5. Finally the Closing Ceremony Takes Place in a Hospital that Has a Breast Milk Bank

A Breast Milk Bank is a center where human milk, donated by selected mothers, is received, stored, and distributed to children that do not count with milk from their own mother. Because Panama only has a limited amount of these facilities. The goal of hosting the closing ceremony in the hospital is to promote Breast Milk Banks. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

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From the 1st to the 7th of August, Breastfeeding Week is all about promoting breastfeeding to teens, mothers, institutions, private sector, and organizations. Breastfeeding can change the course of a child’s life!
In Latin America, WFP in Panama is a big fan of breastfeeding because of its important effects on nutrition. Therefore they support the National Commission for Breastfeeding to raise as much awareness during this week.

Here is how Panama raises awareness on Breastfeeding:

 

BATOURI  -- Fatimatou and her children arrived in Cameroon in February. They are living in a small refugee camp at Yokadouma, just inside Cameroon’s eastern border.  Her husband died a few years ago but several members of her extended family are also in Yokadouma and assist her. She was happy to answer questions about her life.

What are the biggest changes in your life?

Having no money and very little to do. Back in our village in C.A.R., I had a stall at the local market. I used to sell tomatoes, onions, oil…things like that. So I was always busy.  And even though I wasn’t rich we were OK. I’d like to start up a small business like that here. It’s going to be hard because I spent all my money just getting here. But maybe I can find a way.

What else has changed?

Well my two girls aren’t going to school. It’s too far away for them to go on foot. We’d need someone to take them on a motorbike. And they couldn’t go alone. It’s a shame. School is a good thing, especially for girls. Another difference is how we sleep. Back home, there were six of us sleeping in the bedroom – me  and the children. Here there are 21 people in the same room.

Is it all bad?

No. At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that. And I have friends and family here to help me.

When did you come to Cameroon?

About five months ago. We left with a lot of other people from our village when the trouble started. There was a lot of tension and people were getting attacked. It was too dangerous to stay. To go faster, we paid for a car to come part of the way – that was very expensive.

What did you bring with you?

I managed to bring another dress, so I can change my clothes. Same for the children. We didn’t bring anything else. We had to leave everything behind.

Is there something you were especially sorry to leave? 

[quote:At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that]Yes, my set of new white dinner plates. I had enough for 20 people. I had just bought them and they were so beautiful. Who knows what’s happened to them now.

Are you going to return to CAR? 

What for? What am I going to do there with all the fighting that’s happening? If the fighting stops and things settle down…maybe, I don’t know. It depends on what the rest of my family does. They will decide. I just want to be where they are.

What would you say to anyone reading about you?

[story:642294,642039]We all used to live together in CAR, Muslims and Christians. There was no problem.  Now we’re all fighting each other. It's stupid. Now people like us have had to leave everything behind. And come here, where we have to start all over again. War is bad. People should be able to live together.

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic.  She and her three children receive food from WFP every month. In this interview, she explains some of the changes that life as a refugee brings.

Anjuara Begum, her husband and three children live in Gaibandha, northern Bangladesh – a land of mighty rivers. Every year, during the rainy season, the rivers swell and take with them blocks of land – agricultural fields, roads, even small settlements. In 2003, Anjuara and her family lost their home to the floods.

 

"The ground started breaking away during the night. In the dark, we had to move our house and everything we owned,” Anjuara recalls with a deep sigh. The family still lives close to the river on government land just next to an embankment, the only space landless families can occupy without objections.

After the move the family struggled: “My husband became a day labourer, but it was tough to get a job every day. When he didn’t find work, we sometimes had no food for us and the kids,” Anjuara recalls. But her face lights up as she remembers the day, almost three years ago now, when her life took a turn for the better: "I was sitting on the embankment along with some of my neighbours, those who are jobless like me. Suddenly a stranger walked up and asked us if there are any poor people living in the area. Later we learned the man was from WFP.”

“He offered us to sit together with other locals, including the upazila chairman and other leaders. During the meeting, we wrote down the names of all local people in three categories: rich, poor and ultra-poor. Everyone agreed on the list, and then we, the ultra-poor people, got a chance to work on projects that protect our community.”

Like her, thousands of people living in north-western flood prone areas and along the southern coast of Bangladesh are particularly vulnerable to natural calamities. Under the Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change programme, the Government of Bangladesh’s Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and WFP, with support from NGOs, engages 80,000 ultra-poor rural women and men in cash and food for work and training to increase their resilience to future disasters. Together, they repair and reinforce embankments, raise roads, excavate canals and ponds and elevate the ground around their houses in order to protect their communities from flooding, water-logging and increasing salinity, and to boost agricultural production.

From 2011 to 2012, Anjuara and her ultra-poor neighbours repaired and raised a road in their neighbourhood as part of a cash/food for work project. Now this road not only improves access to schools, markets and health centres in the area but also serves as a dam, protecting their community and fields from flooding.

During the rainy season, when earthworks are too difficult, Anjuara and her neighbours participated in training sessions on disaster preparedness and response, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. In exchange for their time and labour, they received nutritious food rations from WFP and the equivalent in cash from the Government of Bangladesh.

In 2013, Anjuara and 18,000 women across Bangladesh became the first participants to start a third programme year. In order to further strengthen families’ resilience to natural disaster, WFP used lessons learned from the successful Food Security for the Ultra Poor project which helped 30,000 women and their families rise out of extreme poverty.

Through NGO partners, WFP organized trainings to help the women identify activities that match their skills and local demand, and develop a business plan. They then received a cash grant to invest, and a monthly allowance to help support their families while they focused on making their businesses successful.

In the trainings, Anjuara also learned to invest in diverse assets to ensure her family still has some income even if one of them is damaged. She applied these lessons immediately, using her 12,000 taka cash grant, combined with savings from the cash/food for work project she participated in, to purchase a bull and a rickshaw.

For six months, a monthly allowance of 500 taka helps Anjuara take care of her family’s needs while she fattens the bull to sell at a profit, and her husband builds up a rickshaw transport service. The animal is already paying dividends as the dung can be sold as fuel.

The older two of Anjuara’s three children are now studying in primary school. “I am so happy that I can send my children to school and that I can buy them the school clothing and study materials they need” says Anjuara. “And they always eat three meals a day now,” she adds proudly.

Her new-found financial security even encouraged Anjuara to make big plans for the future: “With the revenues I make from bull fattening, I think I will be able to buy a small piece of homestead land – then we can finally move away from the river.”

 

Resilience to natural disasters has many aspects – a home safe from flooding, the knowledge and skills to prepare for and cope with disasters, and the financial security to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of a shock. In Bangladesh, WFP tackles all these issues with a comprehensive programme.

GUATEMALA CITY -- Iliana Miranda Alvarez lives in the community of La Conquista, Department of San Marcos, with her five children, the youngest of which is only 17 months old. Just like her neighbours, her family’s main source of income is coffee. Iliana and her husband own a small piece of land on which they grow coffee and bananas. Yields are low and in order to cover the family´s basic expenses, Iliana’s husband has to find work over the border in Mexico. 

Coffee Rust - a silent plague
Since 2012, a plague of Coffee Rust has swept through coffee-growing communities in many parts of Central America. Coffee crop yields fell drastically during the 2012-2013 season and no change is expected for the current season. Families like Iliana's have taken a major hit. 

Initially, independent farmers were forced to find jobs in nearby coffee plantations, but these have also been hit by the plague. For a time, Iliana’s husband worked for “La Union” plantation, which was also the source of income for many other locals.

But when Coffee Rust arrived there too, Iliana’s husband was forced to go to Mexico in search of work. He found a job, but it means the family now has additional expenses, such as transportation and living away from home. This has sliced 10 percent off the family’s income compared to the previous year. At best the family income is 450 Quetzals (US$58), which doesn’t even cover a quarter of the cost of Guatemala’s Basic Food Basket- nutritional necessities, which is around 2,900 Quetzals (US$376) a month.

Bananas can’t replace coffee

Despite their efforts to earn a living from alternative crops, such as bananas and plantains, the women of La Conquista are struggling. The production and market prices of bananas and plantains are simply not enough to replace coffee. So money has to be saved somewhere.
In order to cope, Iliana this year decided not to enroll her eldest daughter in school. The family cannot afford the cost of uniforms and books. But even this saving may not be enough. Money is expected to be even tighter come May, which is the beginning of the Lean Season. Prices of staple foods such as maize rise in the local market. It will be harder for Coffee-Rust affected families to get nutritious foods.

Help for La Conquista 
Fortunately La Conquista will receive food and technical assistance from WFP and the Government of Guatemala. In exchange for work on community projects, families will receive food to supplement their incomes during the critical Lean Season. The most vulnerable families will receive food rations with maize, beans, and vegetable oil to cover 50 percent of their food needs for the next six months. WFP is working with the Ministry of Agriculture on this programme, which involves joint projects to improve soil conservation and raise crop yields. Iliana and other women in the community have already started to plant trees and bushes on their plots to prevent soil erosion. This will help to improve soil quality ahead of the technical assistance on increasing crop yields.

16,000 families receiving assistance
Besides the families in La Conquista, WFP currently supports 16,000 families affected by the Coffee Rust. They are spread over six administrative areas: Guatemala, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, El Quiche, and San Marcos. The families to receive assistance are selected according to criteria defined by WFP. The idea is to guarantee that the neediest households get help. The criteria are:

1. High vulnerability.
2. Own a small land plot with damaged crops caused by the 2012-2013 dry season, 50% of the crops were affected during the last crop cycle, or the family does not own land at all.
3. No food stocks.
4. Children under 5 years old live in the household.
5. Women as head of the household.
6. Members with special needs, elderly people, etc.

 

  • For more information on Food Insecurity in Guatemala click here
  • For more information on WFP's Emergency Operations click here
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The Coffee Rust Crisis is hitting families hard in the village of La Conquista. Take Iliana’s. They have switched from growing coffee to bananas. But the fruit sells for less, so the family is noticeably poorer. Iliana's husband has gone to Mexico to find work. Meanwhile, to save money, she has pulled her eldest daughter out of school. Times are tough. But support from WFP and the Government is making a difference.