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Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Hidden hunger" a major problem in developing countries despite gains made in reducing hunger

Great strides have been made in reducing hunger in the developing world over the past 2 decades, according to the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The state of hunger in developing countries, as a group, has fallen by 39 percent since 1990. Yet despite this progress, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they don’t get enough to eat.

Equally important, but harder to measure because it goes beyond simply counting calories, is the fact that a staggering 2 billion people within the 120 developing countries measured in the GHI consume so few essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat that they are undernourished, even though they consume enough calories per day to be considered free from hunger.

This type of undernourishment, referred to as “hidden hunger”, is an aspect of hunger often overlooked. The impact of hidden hunger on the poor is devastating. It weakens the immune system, impedes physical and intellectual growth, and often leads to death.

Eating the right food is as important as having enough to eat

In the developing countries where HOPE International Development Agency partners with families and communities, both hunger and hidden hunger must be addressed if families are to have any hope of moving beyond poverty.

Helping families and communities grow more food is just one part of the solution. Helping them grow the right kind of food - those rich in the essential vitamins and minerals people need in order to avoid chronic undernourishment - is equally important. One without the other simply leads to full stomachs but chronically undernourished bodies.

Ensuring families are free from hunger and undernourishment

Eliminating hunger and undernourishment is part of every effort made to help families lift themselves out of poverty.

For example, when working with communities to provide reliable sources of clean water, health education is also provided, ensuring that families, particularly mothers, know the kinds of foods that provide a high level of nutrition.

In addition to health education, families are provided with the training and resources needed to grow nutritious food in their home gardens made possible by having access to water, rather than just calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods.

Helping the 805 million and the hidden 2 billion

Regardless of the initiative, every HOPE International Development Agency partnership with communities and families in the developing world works to address hunger, both the obvious kind and the hidden kind, in an effort to help families become self-sufficient and healthy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hardship leads to harder choices in Cambodia

Huot (second from right) with her youngest son (right), her two daughters (immediate left and center), and two nieces (left) who came to help prepare the family garden. Missing: Huot’s husband and 2 sons.

For more than 20 years, HOPE International Development Agency has been working with families in Cambodia, enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty and become self-reliant.

In a previous post, “A Field of Possibilities”, we shared the story of Nara and Chek and their journey to freedom from poverty.

Today, we bring you Huot’s story as we continue a series focused on how poverty impacts families around the world.

Huot’s story demonstrates how poverty defines people’s choices, and that no choice, small or big, is ever easy when you are trapped in poverty.

Looking at the recent photo of Huot and her family (shown above) you would never know that poverty had once nearly tore them apart.

Today, thanks to friends of HOPE International Development Agency, Huot, her husband, and their five children are thriving. They have a well that provides them with clean water every day, and a lush vegetable garden that supplies them with nutrient-rich food to eat. They also earn additional income by selling surplus vegetables from their garden at the local market.

Yet just a year ago, life was completely different for Huot and her family. Poverty had them in its grasp.

Huot’s family. Due to a family debt, their eldest son (far left) worked for another family as a domestic helper.

Shortly before this photo was taken, Huot’s husband had fallen gravely ill. As a result, the family was forced to take out a loan to pay for his medical treatment.

At the time, Huot’s husband was supporting the entire family on his meagre wages as a day labourer. The income he earned was simply not enough to cover the debt, but nonetheless, the debt had to be paid.

Huot and her husband were left with a choice no parent would ever want to face.

As the eldest child, Huot’s son (shown on the far left in the above photo) would have to leave home to live with another family in another community, as a domestic helper to repay the family debt. In doing so, he was unable to attend school or see his family or friends. Huot’s family tried visiting her son when they could, but they were only allowed to see him sporadically and the trip was costly and difficult for everyone.

Thankfully, because of the support Huot and her family received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency, they no longer live in this devastating situation. Huot’s son has since returned home and the family has successfully paid off all of its debt.

Sadly, the situation Huot and her family found themselves in is not only heartbreaking, but far too common in the developing world. Families living in poverty are often torn apart.

When deeply impoverished families like Huot’s are faced with crisis – whether it be health-related like a sudden illness, accident, or death or environmental like a natural disaster, fire, or crop failure – choices are limited and painful. The savings or credit needed for families to manage unexpected events or emergencies simply do not exist because of the depths of poverty they face.

Situations of utter desperation, like the one Huot and her family faced, force many families into extortionate financial arrangements that leave them with insurmountable debt and unthinkable choices.

With the gift of clean water and agricultural training, Huot and her family received, they are now much healthier and happier. Huot’s son and his siblings are able to regularly attend school with their friends and are eager to learn so that they have a chance at a better future.

Most importantly, Huot’s family is self-sufficient and able to save some of the income they earn through their gardening activities so that they are better prepared should they ever be faced with another family emergency.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poverty affects the mind as much as the body

New research from the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that people’s aspirations are closely tied to their present well-being. We need look no further than our own lives to know that this is true.

Our aspirations, or lack there of, influence the decisions we make on a daily basis, as well as those that shape our future.

If we constantly face extreme challenges, such as those faced by people who live in poverty, poor health, and uncertainty, it can be difficult to make good decisions, let alone seek out help or support, even if it is readily available.

The most vulnerable in our world – women, rural families, and those living in areas of instability caused by conflict or climate change – live in extremely challenging situations, and as a result, often believe that they have little control their own well-being.

In essence, poverty victimizes people not only in their daily lives, but in their minds as well, as it crushes any aspirations for a better life. Poverty is perpetuated when people lose hope.

Families, for example, often need help and encouragement in order to see the opportunities available to them. They need help with nurturing their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a better future.

It is not that these families do not aspire to a better life, it just that after so many years of disappointment and hardship it can be hard to look beyond trying to find the next meal.

In Cambodia, HOPE International Development Agency seeks out families living on the margins of society, literally at the edge of the jungle, visiting them week after week in an effort to convince them that a better life is possible.

In Ethiopia, part of our work is to show families and community leaders that we are committed to them, and will help them envision a better life and then make it happen, together.

Helping families and communities aspire to be free from poverty is as important as the work of helping them gain access to clean water, grow more food, receive an education, improve their health, and generate a sustainable income.

The goal is to free people from poverty, both in their everyday lives and in their minds. A body free from poverty is a healthy body. A mind free from poverty is a mind that can aspire to a way of life that remains free from poverty.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Poverty forces people to make unthinkable choices

The impact of poverty throughout the developing world is devastating.

Families in countries like Bangladesh endure chronic hunger, illness, and homelessness, to name just a few of the obvious challenges people live with every day. And without the ability to break the cycle of poverty, generations of families have few options and even less hope as each year passes.

Over the next several weeks a new series of stories will explore a few of the less obvious, but equally devastating challenges faced by the families living in poverty. Many of whom are forced to make unthinkable choices they would never otherwise consider – all because of poverty.

We begin the series with Sujon. In a recent story, we learned how Sujon and his family became hopeful and optimistic about their future thanks to the support they received from friends of HOPE International Development Agency. The road that led them to this point, however, was not without its challenges and heartbreak.

Sujon’s heartbreak came on a sunny afternoon when he was 4-years old.

Today, 13-years later, Sujon still vividly remembers his mother saying to him, “Babu, I am going to buy apples for you.” At the time, he had no idea that these words were the last he would hear from his mother. She never returned – it was the last time he saw her.

The level of poverty and deprivation Sujon and his family lived in was simply too overwhelming for his mother and forced her to make an unthinkable decision – a decision she would never otherwise consider had it not been for poverty. Sujon’s mother felt that in order to survive she would have to leave her children and husband behind.

The impact of poverty is often obvious. But as you can see, what it does to a person’s heart and mind can be less obvious, yet equally devastating, as was the case with Sujon’s mother.

The entire situation was and is tragic. And although what happened to Sujon is rare, many families around the world lose a parent to the destructive forces of poverty.

When families live in extreme poverty, life is difficult beyond anything we can imagine. This is why HOPE International Development Agency works to enable families throughout the developing world to gain access to life-changing things like clean water, livelihood training, medical care, and education.

Having clean water, income, medical care, and an education make it possible for families facing unthinkable choices to make much better decisions than they would if poverty was not overwhelming their lives. They are able to make different decisions, together, with much better outcomes.

It is not possible to replace what Sujon and his family lost because of poverty, but it is possible to enable them to create a much better life for themselves – a life that is free from poverty and the unthinkable choices it forces.