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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hunger: Over One Billion Under-Served

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Association, we have reached a sad milestone. Over one billion people living on the planet are now hungry, a new record for the scourge of malnutrition. Due to the global economic crisis and persistently high food prices, one in six people are subsisting on less than 1,800 calories per day.

When we enter ‘1,800 calories’ into an internet search engine, we produce just under one million hits. However, it takes more patience than we have on supply to comb through the links in order to find just website referencing this threshold figure for inadequate diet - instead, these links appear to be mainly meal plans for dieting Westerners. As freedieting.com helpfully states: ‘1800 calories per day is about the lowest a man should go when aiming for fat loss.’

Presumably, in most of the developing world, there is not a lot of fat to spare. According to a study by a USDA economist, the average sub-Saharan African is consuming around 2,176 calories per day, compared to an average American’s 3,654. Whereas the typical Western diet showed a distribution of calories from varied food sources (18% of an American’s calories might come from sugar alone), the African derives 70% of his or her energy from grains and starchy root vegetables. More nutritious food is not available or is simply too expensive.

This study was based on 1995-97 statistics. Likely the data would be different today, reflecting an even more pronounced gap between developed and developing worlds. While body-conscious Westerners work on their self-control, over one billion people are already on the 1,800 calorie diet through no choice of their own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Honduras: An Unprecedented Time of Disaster?

As we prepare to send a second shipment of emergency medications to the Swat Valley, Pakistan, we are asking ourselves whether we have ever received so many calls for help from so many quarters of the world in such a short period of time.

In Pakistan, an extraordinary refugee crisis (3 million displaced) in the troubled Swat Valley has compelled us to respond with emergency medical shipments. In Sri Lanka, the fallout from the Tamil-government conflagration is enormous; refugees there are in great need of supplies and shelters. In Bangladesh, we are helping to assist 4 million people who are injured or homeless in the wake of a cyclone and extensive flooding. In Honduras, an earthquake has destroyed homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, and we are working with survivors to heal and rebuild.

Each one of these disasters is extreme in its own right, but taken together, they amount to an overwhelming constituency of sufferers. Our own capacity to respond is pushed to the utmost.

For an organization that is geared towards finding long-term solutions to poverty, this congestion of emergency-based, short-term assistance is difficult. However, it is because we have a long-term commitment in each of these countries that we must help when their fortunes take such a nightmarish turn. We, like they, have no choice.

Through us, right now, people in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Honduras are depending on people who so often choose to invest in long-term solutions, like clean water and food security. Will they be generous in these exception circumstances? Experience has shown us that they will be. Still, it is a test for our supporters - just as it is a test for us.

We have sent out an emergency appeal for donations to each of these countries. We truly hope that our friends will help them to survive this terrible chapter in their struggle for development.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pakistan, the Swat Valley: 12 Medical Teams Equipped

The UN now reports that the mass exodus of people from Pakistan’s Swat valley is the largest refugee crisis since 1994’s Rwandan genocide. In three week’s time, almost 1.5 million people have fled the area, where government forces are fighting to eradicate Taliban strongholds.

Fortunately, we received word that our staff in Pakistan received our most recent medical shipment. We assembled this shipment specifically to equip the medical teams tending to the families stranded in camps across Mardan district. Twelve teams are treating refugees on a daily basis; they will ultimately administer life-saving medications to thousands. Special attention, as always, is given to expecting mothers and infants, who are very vulnerable to infections, especially in the severely hot weather that has made their displacement all the more terrible.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Abbotsford, BC: The Run for Water

The 2009 ‘Run for Water’, held on May 31st in Abbotsford, B.C., was an unqualified success. Thanks to the dedication of the Run for Water Society, and the 1,600 people who participated in the premiere running event, $81,000 was raised for clean water in southern Ethiopia. An endowment like this has a tremendously positive impact in the villages where HOPE International Development Agency is at work - especially when you consider that it costs only $35 to give a southern Ethiopian clean water for life.

It is wonderful when a good time and a good cause dovetail. But it isn’t lost on us that behind this fun, sunny, celebratory event, is a huge investment of time, energy, thought, planning, and labour on the part of the Society. We are incredibly grateful to this adventurous and kind-hearted group of friends for choosing to partner with HOPE International Development Agency.

Learn more about the Run for Water: