By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
When you think of human rights, what comes to mind? For many, the phrase means the rights of freedom, equality and security; protection from slavery, torture or arbitrary arrest.
I think of hunger. So do the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both recognize the fundamental human right to be free from hunger.
In June 2007, when I first arrived in Busia, Uganda, a district bordering Kenya and Lake Victoria, I marveled at its fertility. The corn, or maize as it’s called overseas, was higher than an elephant’s eye. Leafy mounds of soil lining the dirt paths that connect each household hid new tubers — potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and cassava.
Matooke, a plantain every Ugandan woman steams in banana leaf wrappers with crushed peanuts and chunks of smoked fish, was piled high in marketplaces. If a tomato spoiled before I could eat if, I tossed it outdoors; within a few weeks, a sturdy plant sprouted, its seeds warmed by the equatorial sun. Uganda had problems, but hunger was not one of them.
Yet when I left Busia six months later, we spoke nervously of food security. The rains had come, but not at the right times, duration, location or intensity. For centuries, rain fell reliably in certain parts of Uganda, so farmers traditionally settled and cultivated there. Then, suddenly, the rain swerved around Uganda’s arable land to spaces uninhabitable for water — forests, infested with deadly tsetse flies, and deserts, the preserve of nomadic herders. Uganda’s second harvest was not plentiful in 2007.
Global climate change infringes on the human right to adequate food.
Hunger kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Poor nutrition causes half of all deaths in children under age five. One of every six children in developing countries is underweight; one in three is stunted.
South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa form hunger’s center of gravity. In Africa alone, 23 million children attend school hungry.
Small farmers make up fully half of the world’s food-insecure population. Sadly, despite producing some food, they still lack the resources to meet their families’ nutritional needs. Another 30 percent of the chronically hungry are fishers, herders and people who live in rural regions but do not own land. Poor urban dwellers round out the hunger rolls. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization identifies four dimensions of food security: availability, access, utilization and stability. Failure of any one of these means hunger.
Worse, even when consuming sufficient calories, children can still suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. So-called hidden hunger — harder to diagnose, since it doesn’t present as a wasted body — is caused by an inadequate supply of vitamins, minerals or trace elements. And it impairs physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive development.
Of the 20 countries most affected by hunger, ChildFund works in eight: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Uganda and Vietnam.
According to UNICEF, Ethiopia, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are among the nations most successful in scaling up children’s nutrition and improving government policies. During the past decade, Ethiopia reduced stunting from 57 percent to 44 percent through a national nutrition program, provision of safety nets in the poorest areas and nutrition assistance at the community level.
by Virginia Sowers
Upholding the respect and value of the individual is a guiding principle for ChildFund International as we go about our work in 31 countries.
Respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the General Assembly affirmed in its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As the United Nations and other organizations and individuals around the world mark the Dec. 10 anniversary of Human Rights Day, I wanted to share an update from ChildFund Afghanistan. We are making progress with regard to child protection, elimination of gender-based violence and education, especially for girls.
ChildFund has worked in Afghanistan since 2001, initiating an emergency response just days after the ceasefire that followed the first U.S.-led military action.
During the past eight years, ChildFund Afghanistan has established services in 151 communities in the four provinces of Takhar, Kunduz, Badkhshan and Baghlan, reaching 277,000 children and family members.
Elimination of Gender-Based Violence
ChildFund Afghanistan’s program to eliminate gender-based violence was developed at the request of communities and government officials. The program works with both men and women in 60 communities within the Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar provinces.
By promoting awareness and response to early and forced marriage, domestic violence and sexual violence, circumstances for these individuals and their communities will improve.
The program includes public awareness campaigns and also benefits 900 individuals by providing vocational training and income-support activities for women. A police force and judicial system that addresses the violence also is improving conditions. And there is now a health system with improved capacity to help those who have been abused.
ChildFund plans to expand the program through outreach to schools, including teacher training and additional work with students on gender awareness.
Lots of Books!
ChildFund Afghanistan has constructed or rehabilitated 34 government schools and a teacher-training institute, as well as established and supplied 70 community libraries. We have provided nonformal educational services to more than 66,800 youth, including 32,000 girls. An additional 3,000 youth have participated in vocational training programs.
For the programs to succeed, the community and government officials need to value them. That’s why ChildFund Afghanistan works closely with the community and government officials to ensure community acceptance and use of the facilities and to underscore the importance of both girls and boys attending and profiting from educational opportunities.
Through efforts large and small, ChildFund Afghanistan is making a difference in human rights.