Rome – Hunger and famine will persist and there will be unequal recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic unless more women in rural and urban areas hold leadership positions with increased decision-making power, say the heads of the three United Nations’ food agencies ahead of their joint International Women’s Day event on March 8.

The event, co-organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), will focus global attention on the vital role that empowered female farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders need to play so that women can contribute on equal terms to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and in creating an environment to eliminate poverty, enhance productivity and improve food security and nutrition.

“The world is home to more than 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18, who have the potential of becoming the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers ever seen for the better future. Yet, women and girls continue to face persistent structural constraints that prevent them from fully developing their potential and hinder their efforts of improving their lives as well as their households and communities,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “Women and girls can play a crucial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in particular in transforming our agri-food systems. We all need to work together to spark the necessary changes to empower women and girls, particularly those in rural areas,” he added.

“It is essential that women are not only in more leadership positions, but that they are consulted and listened to, and integrated in all spheres and stages of pandemic response and recovery,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD. “Investing in rural women’s leadership and involving them more in creating our post-COVID-19 future is critical to ensure their perspectives and needs are adequately considered, so that we can build back better food systems where there is equal access to nutritious food and decent livelihoods.”

“Women and girls make up half of our global community and it’s time this was reflected in leadership positions at every level,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme. “We know from our work around the world that when women and girls have better access to information, resources and economic opportunities, and are free to make their own decisions, hunger rates fall and nutrition improves not only for themselves but also their families, communities and countries.”

Women’s leadership is particularly important in rural areas of developing countries, where the voices of the 1.7 billion women and girls who live there are often overlooked. 60 percent of women in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture – yet they have less access to resources and services than men, including land, finance, training, inputs and equipment. In addition to their agricultural work, women are overburdened with domestic chores and caring for their families – roles that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, women are more negatively affected by the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including losing livelihoods and experiencing decreases in their personal incomes.

Ensuring that women have a greater voice is not only a matter of gender equality. Women leaders can advocate for women to have better access to and control over assets and productive inputs, thus boosting their productivity and incomes, leading to food security and increasing their employment opportunities and real wages.

Research shows that if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output by 2.5 to 4 percent, lifting 100 to 150 million people out of hunger.

FAO works to strengthen rural women’s engagement and leadership in agri-food systems. FAO also engages with farmers’ organizations to ensure that rural women’s voices are heard and promotes gender-transformative approaches to challenge unfair socio-cultural norms in rural communities. Moreover, FAO supports governments to adopt policies and strategies addressing the needs and aspirations of rural women and girls, enabling them to participate in decision-making and assume leadership positions. This also implies enhancing women’s leadership skills and self-confidence and raising gender awareness within national and local institutions. Within the Organization, FAO has established a Women’s Committee providing an inclusive, safe space that reflects the diverse and energetic nature of FAO’s female workforce. The Organization also created incentives for career prospects for female staff and for achieving gender parity at all levels and across all job categories.

Since 2009, IFAD has implemented a ‘household methodologies’ approach to reinforce the equal role and decision-making capacity of women within households, groups and communities. Evidence from Uganda, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan and other countries has shown that women who take part in the program take up leadership roles in their organizations and communities, and have a greater voice in decision-making in their households. This has led to greater agricultural productivity.

Food security and gender inequality are closely linked with disadvantages beginning at a young age. In many countries boys and girls have very different childhoods. Boys eat first, are given more food than their sisters, do less housework and marry later. For girls, marriage and not school work can dominate their childhoods. The U.N. World Food Programme’s work in achieving gender equality begins at school where support or implementation of School Feeding programs in more than 70 countries contributes to increased school attendance of girls. This provides them greater access to education, reduces the risk of child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence, and increases future livelihood and leadership opportunities for girls.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Our goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide. We believe that everyone can play a part in ending hunger.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided $23.2 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached an estimated 518 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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NAIROBI – The dire socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may more than double the number of hungry people in East Africa and the Horn over the next three months, a report from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has found.

The most vulnerable and at risk are poor urban communities living hand-to-mouth in informal settlements, and millions of refugees located in densely populated camps across the region.

An estimated 20 million people already faced acute food insecurity in nine countries before COVID-19 arrived in East Africa and the Horn, with numerous food crises, a massive outbreak of desert locusts and extensive flooding threatening millions across the region, which includes Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.

WFP projects that the number of acutely food insecure people is likely to increase to between 34 and 43 million from May through July due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. If the number of hungry reaches 43 million, it would have more than doubled. Among the hungry may be 3.3 million refugees spread across the nine countries.

“A shortage of funding already means most refugees in the region are not receiving all the food they need, and they could face further cuts as scarce resources become even more over-stretched,” said UNHCR Regional Director Clementine Nkweta Salami.

“High levels of malnutrition in densely populated camps and settlements make refugees particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak,” she added. “Some refugees also live in urban areas, often in the poorest informal settlements, representing a significant proportion of the urban poor in many countries in the region.”

“COVID-19 is unprecedented as it affects not just one country or region, but the whole world. It is not just a supply side problem, such as drought, or a demand side issue such as a recession – it is both at the same time and on a global scale,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Brenda Behan.

“More people are expected to die from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” she said. “And refugees and the urban poor across the region are at greatest risk.”

Some half of the urban population in the region lives in informal urban settlements or slums, with 25 million people living hand-to-mouth each day. Millions have already lost their jobs as economies falter amid lockdowns and curfews to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Governments and humanitarian organizations are scrambling to address the loss of food security for many families in urban areas, or risk the destabilizing effects of urban unrest.

WFP has a funding shortfall of $103 million to provide full food rations or full cash transfers to more than 3 million refugees in the nine countries in the region through September.

With governments in the region imposing restrictions delaying cross-border trade because of fears that truck drivers are spreading COVID-19, WFP calls for cooperation to keep both commercial and humanitarian goods flowing so people receive the right food at the right time.

COVID-19 is spreading across the region at the same time as fears are increasing that new swarms of desert locusts, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and near Somalia may eat newly planted crops ahead of the main harvest from July to September. Floods during the current long rains are another additional threat to people and food supplies in much of the region.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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A link to the WFP report is here: https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000115462/download/

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi Tel. + 254 20 7622179, Mob. +254 707 722104

WASHINGTON, D.C./ March 8, 2020 — World Food Program USA is proud to announce two new grantees for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education.

Women and girls make up a majority of the world’s hungry people—mostly as a result of unequal access to education, resources, and tools for economic and personal success. By empowering women and girls with knowledge, training, and leadership skills, the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education is helping the world achieve zero hunger.

This Spring, the Fund awarded two organizations – Nurturing Minds and Girl Up Initiative Uganda – with grants to expand their programs and make an even greater impact on the lives of the women and girls they serve.

Nurturing Minds

Nurturing Minds is a nonprofit on a mission to educate Tanzanian girls who are poor, marginalized and at risk of becoming involved in exploitative forms of child labor. Since 2008, Nurturing Minds has provided financial and technical support to Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement (SEGA) for the development and operation of a high-quality secondary boarding school for vulnerable girls in Morogoro.

The purpose of the SEGA Girls’ Secondary School is to foster the development of girls’ academic excellence, strong values, healthy self-esteem and independent thinking, with an emphasis on leadership, social responsibility and environmental care. Half of SEGA’s students are orphans, and the majority were forced to drop out of other schools due to extreme poverty. Thanks to SEGA, these girls are now able to continue their studies.

“Nurturing Minds is profoundly grateful for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund’s grant to support the Msichana Kisasa (Modern Girl) Outreach Program in opening six new centers,” says Julie Bourgoin, Program Officer.

“Expanding this important program will have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of some of Tanzania’s most vulnerable girls, who are at risk of teen pregnancy and early marriage, as it teaches financial literacy and business skills and increases their knowledge of girls rights, sexual reproductive health, and hygiene, while learning communication skills to improve their self-confidence and be leaders in their own lives.”

Girl Up Initiative Uganda

Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) works to advance educational and economic opportunities for young women and adolescent girls in urban slum areas of Kampala. It’s currently building a vibrant movement of girls through transformative leadership, skills development, and sexual and reproductive health education. GUIU envisions a gender-equitable world where girls thrive and lead.

GUIU implements several programs that work to achieve this, one of which is the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP), which expands access to female-focused education and empowers adolescent girls to be leaders, reach their full educational potential, and make healthy and informed choices. Another is Big Sisters Network, which ensures that AGP alumni continue to access female-focused education and stay involved and engaged after they have graduated from the AGP training program.

Funds from the Bertini grant will support a key part of this program – Big Sister Camp – an annual, multi-day overnight experience. Through trainings and education, the camp aims to equip girls with the social and personal competencies necessary to reach their full potential as leaders by increasing their self-esteem, self-awareness, assertiveness, and decision-making and communication skills.

“Girl Up Initiative Uganda is truly honored to receive a grant from the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund,” says Kimberly Wolf, the Deputy Executive Director and Co-Founder. “It means that we are now able to expand our four-day residential Big Sister Camp 2020 to 260 at-risk adolescent girls coming from urban slum areas of Kampala who will have the chance to learn, play and reflect on what it means to be a girl leader in today’s world.”

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About World Food Program USA 

World Food Program USA is a 501(c)(3) charity that proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the leading humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, WFP reaches nearly 90 million people with lifesaving food assistance in 83 countries across the globe. By mobilizing individuals, lawmakers and businesses in the U.S. to advance the global movement to end hunger, World Food Program USA bolsters an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world.

About the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education  

After winning the World Food Prize in 2003, Catherine Bertini, the former executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recognized an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for women’s empowerment. Bertini used her winnings to establish the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, a fund that supports innovative grassroots initiatives around the globe that boost access to training and educational opportunities for girls.

Joint statement by QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Mark Lowcock, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

East Africa is a region beset by climate- and conflict-related shocks. Millions of people are already acutely food insecure. Now they face another major hunger threat in the form of desert locusts.

The locust upsurge affecting East Africa is a graphic and shocking reminder of this region’s vulnerability. This is a scourge of biblical proportions. Yet as ancient as this scourge is, its scale today is unprecedented in modern times.

On January 20th, FAO called for $76 million to help combat this pest crisis. But the resources to control the outbreak have been too slow in coming.

Since FAO launched its first appeal to help what was then three affected countries, the locust swarms have moved rapidly across vast distances and the full extent of their massive scale has become clear. Since our last op-ed pleading for action on February 12th, swarms have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Each day, more countries are affected. Last week, a swarm crossed into one of Africa’s most food-insecure and fragile countries, South Sudan. Just this week, it was confirmed that one swarm reached the eastern boundaries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a country that has not seen a locust incursion since 1944. Needless to say, the potential impact of locusts on a country still grappling with complex conflict, Ebola and measles outbreaks, high levels of displacement, and chronic food insecurity would be devastating.

As the locusts continue their invasion throughout eastern Africa, and more details emerge about the scale of need in affected areas, the cost of action has already doubled to $138 million. FAO urgently needs this money to help Governments control these devastating pests, especially in the next four months.

This funding will ensure that activities to control the locusts can take place before new swarms emerge. It will also provide help for people whose crops or pastures are already affected, to protect their families and their livelihoods.

Desert locusts have a reproduction cycle of three months. Today, mature swarms are laying eggs within vast areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, many of which are already hatching. In just a few weeks, the next generation of the pests will transition from their juvenile stage and take wing in a renewed frenzy of destructive swarm activity. This will be just as farmers’ crops begin to sprout.

The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is at its most vulnerable.

But that doesn’t have to happen. The window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.

Anticipatory action to control and contain the locusts before the new swarms take flight and farmers crops first break soil is critical. At the same time, FAO needs more resources to immediately begin boosting the resilience of affected communities so they can better withstand some inevitable shocks. Acting now to avert a food crisis is a more humane, effective and cost-efficient approach than responding to the aftermath of disaster.

We welcome the response so far from many international donors. To date, $33 million has been received or committed. But the funding gaps are clear, and needs are growing too rapidly. We need to do more. WFP has estimated the cost of responding to the impact of locusts on food security alone to be at least 15 times higher than the cost of preventing the spread now.

It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more later.

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The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

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HUNGER CRISIS

The war in Ukraine is exacerbating hunger worldwide, including in South Sudan where extreme weather, high food prices and violence are driving millions into hunger. We URGENTLY need your support to scale up and send food today.

HUNGER CRISIS

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