Almost no one will dispute that food insecurity and starvation needs to be eradicated. But much scepticism and debate surrounds the issue of food aid.
In this issue of Voices for Change, we examine the role and effectiveness of food aid so that we can all come to an informed understanding of how best to help the poor.
Countries like Ethiopia have been receiving food aid for decades. Why are their people still hungry?
This is a common misconception that needs to be addressed. The facts show that in fact, food security in Ethiopia has improved drastically over the years and more people are able to hit the minimum level of food consumption.
Still, 1 out of every 3 people in Ethiopia still face food shortages. We need to keep up the momentum to attain a hunger-free world for future generations.
Is there a case for short-term food aid?
“Food aid can be an extremely effective means to saving lives and building sustainable livelihoods — but food aid is just one tool within a wider food security approach that focuses on economic development and improving agricultural productivity and practices.”
– Paul Macek, former Senior Director of Food Security and Livelihoods, World Vision
In places that are ravaged by civil war like South Sudan, it is estimated that 50% of the population will be severely food insecure in June-July (United Nations, 2017). Because of fighting or natural disasters, families can no longer work or farm and transport routes are disrupted, leaving them with no way of getting food. If nothing is done, children will die.
While food aid has it’s place under certain circumstances, World Vision always looks for opportunities to reduce dependency through the use of food-for-work or more long term interventions.
How does World Vision make food aid sustainable?
Food aid has to work alongside other interventions that, when taken as a whole, can improve food security holistically. Beneficiaries must be provided with avenues to move away from short-term hand-outs to longer term solutions such as:
Food for Work/Assets
World Vision works with communities to identify areas of need. This creates employment opportunities for community members, who are empowered to implement the solutions. In return for their work, they receive food assistance. Besides receiving food rations for today, participants learn skills and knowledge to support sustainable livelihoods like fish farming or setting up a small business for a hunger-free future.
Instead of standard food rations, World Vision allows beneficiaries to opt for the same value of cash vouchers instead. This empowers them to buy fresh local food and other items to diversify their diets, and they also have the flexibility of using the cash to invest in their own businesses. This allows them to generate income to support themselves in the long term and helps to stimulate the local economy.
School Feeding Programmes
By providing children with meals in school, it encourages them to attend school. This has proven to increase school enrolment rates. In addition to improving their nutrition, children gain knowledge that can help them break out of the poverty cycle.
In places where there is no war or conflict, World Vision builds up the food security of communities through Area Development Programmes (ADPs), which typically have a lifespan of 15 years and focuses on a large geographic area. In ADPs, we help families by introducing diversified farming practices, providing better quality seeds and tools and training them on better methods like post-harvest storage and processing techniques.
How does World Vision ensure that food aid reaches the intended beneficiaries?
Behind the scenes of food voucher distributions in Iraq:
Beneficiaries are selected beforehand and registered in our system. They are given an ID card for verification during the collection. It also details a family’s demographics and calculates the appropriate food ration to be collected.
While people queue, World Vision staff and volunteers take the opportunity to train them on better nutrition and health.
Besides being accountable to donors by ensuring food reaches the target beneficiaries, World Vision is also responsible for resolving any issues that might arise.
In hostile and dense populations, host-country or United Nations peacekeeping forces are called upon also to maintain crowd control so that distributions remain orderly and effective.
Making the Switch: From Food Aid to Empowerment
Our goal is to enable children and communities to graduate from receiving handouts to being able to stand on their own two feet. For those who have successfully made the transition, their lives have been impacted in very profound ways.
Empowering Disaster Victims through Cash Assistance
After intense fighting in South Sudan, Emmanuel, 18, his brother Frank, 16, and their sister Emma, 6, fled and became refugees in Uganda.
As they escaped, they got separated from their parents, found their way in a refugee settlement in West Nile region in northern Uganda and struggled to start a new life. When they first arrived, they received standard rations of maize and beans.
After attending a meeting on cash assistance, the two brothers made up their minds to switch from dry food rations to cash.
“We would still be getting the same cash equivalent of the monthly food rations. With cash, we now have the choice to decide what to eat,” Emmanuel adds. After seven months, both brothers affirm they made the right decision. “Our sister is happier. She is able to eat meat and rice at least twice a month. We also set up a small vegetable garden around our house. The assistance is not that sufficient but if you plan for it carefully, you can make both ends meet,” Emmanuel says.
He has also been able to enrol for secondary education using part of the family’s monthly cash ration.
Like Emmanuel and his siblings, majority of the beneficiaries of the cash assistance programme have established small businesses while others have ventured into backyard gardening. These are very encouraging stories of beneficiaries taking charge of their own future, despite the challenging circumstances they are under.
“Refugees can choose between cash or food. They pick what best suits them. During the meeting with families, we give them the advantages of both cash and food. We also encourage families to plan together how to spend their money,” says Ekra Komenan, World Vision’s Food Assistance Manager.
To maximise the efficiency of this programme, the amount of cash assistance is being reviewed periodically looking at the current market prices to ensure that it is able to address the basic needs of the recipients.
Our hope is that children all over the world can receive proper nutrition and grow up healthy and strong, being able to reach their fullest potential.
Just like how there are different methods of helping communities be food secure, there is so much diversity in food across cultures. Step into the shoes of children in developing countries and see if you can correctly guess the meals that are native to each country!
Engage with World Vision
SG Partners in Action
Join Dr Leslie Tay, Andie Chen, Jack & Rai, Belinda Lee and Mok Ying Rong at Race for Relief on 15 July! Race registration has ended but all are welcome for the carnival from 3pm to 7.30pm.
If you are interested to volunteer at this event instead, click here.
There will be an exciting line-up of activities including performances by local artistes, a hand-lettering workshop, a photojournalistic exhibition and experiential learning activities that will propel you into a deeper understanding of our work and the lives that we help.
News & Events
- Race for Relief – 15 July, 3pm to 7.30pm (find out more)
Volunteers are needed!
- Project HungerFree – 15 July, 9am to 4pm (register now)
- Introduction to Child Sponsorship – 22 July, 2pm to 4pm (sign up here)
- Child Sponsors’ Trip: Indonesia – 30 July to 4 August (register here)
- Visionfest 2017 – 13 August 2017, 2pm (book tickets)
- MONGOLIA: AFFINITY 缘 Art Exhibition – 14 August to 13 October (more information)
- Hike for Hope: Nepal – 25 November to 1 December (register here)
- Stay tuned for more information on upcoming trips to China (Yaozhou ADP), Mongolia, and Ethiopia!
Pray With Us
- For restoration in our broken world, that one day, there will be no more need for food aid for children in disaster situations
- For wisdom and good relationships with community members and leaders as we help communities transition from short term relief to long term empowerment and self-reliance
- That children around the world will have good quality nutrition so that they can grow up healthy and realise their fullest potential and give back to society