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Combating food poverty

Combating food poverty

Each day 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – mostly from common illnesses that their weak bodies can’t fight. About 850 million people are undernourished, while nearly one in three chronically hungry people will die early or develop disabilities. Here we highlight how SOS Children helps families to cope.

1. Emergency food relief

When starvation is an imminent threat, whether due to war, crop failure or natural disaster, we step in with emergency food relief to save lives and reduce suffering.

When food is scarce and price inflation high, we can negotiate deals with local stores to accept food vouchers in lieu of payment, an approach adopted in Somalia and Kenya. “We have seen a tremendous rise in prices,” said Ruth Okowa, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Kenya. “But the price situation is so bad that we can only fix prices for two weeks then make a new agreement with the stores.”

2. Promoting food sustainability

We ensure that short-term interventions are part of a long-term strategy that enables communities to become more self-reliant and able to meet their sustenance requirements.

The 2004 tsunami hit local fishermen in Sri Lanka extremely hard, affecting their ability to support their families. So we helped local people to form a cooperative and provided boats, nets and fishing equipment. The group has evolved into a strong community-based organisation that is encouraging a saving culture and investing in assets that can be managed by local people for community benefit.

3. Nurturing healthy nutrition

Tackling chronic undernourishment is the most effective investment to fight infant mortality, promote healthy development, keep children in education and improve life chances.

SOS health workers educate mothers with advice on breastfeeding, prevention of sicknesses such as diarrhoea and how to feed children a balanced diet. Around the world, in places like Indonesia, where nearly one in every five children is underweight, we work with government agencies and local health centres to deliver nutrition workshops and practical lessons in preparing affordable healthy meals for children.

Managing home economics

With rising food costs SOS mothers worldwide need to continually review their weekly food budgets while still providing nutritious meals.

One mother from SOS Children’s Village Bobo- Dioulasso in Burkina Faso said: “Every week I buy rice, sugar, milk, oil, pasta and eggs, sometimes meat and fish, but the cost of maize and sugar have increased by 45%. Now I need more money for my weekly food basket and have had to make changes. The price of eggs has increased by 65% so the children now have them four times a month instead of eight times not so long ago.”
Young man from Bangladesh VC with fish
To prepare them, SOS mothers attend nutritional science and food budgeting classes as part of their two-year training programme. They are also encouraged to share food production, for example, by using household gardens to grow crops.

Cultivating good food skills

Older children in SOS youth homes learn about a good diet and how to cook healthy meals so that they can cater for themselves when they leave our care.

Many SOS vocational training centres go a step further. At Bagerhat in Bangladesh, for example, young men are learning how to fish, milk cows, feed goats, plan the yearly crop cycle and repair their own farming tools as part of a four-year farming skills programme. Student, Imatz, aged 22, who grew up in SOS Children’s Village Bogra said: “I was a slow learner and didn’t want to pursue further studies.” Yet now he dreams of running his own dairy farm. Thus equipped, Imatz should always be able to provide food for his family in the future.