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Issue 3 number 10 Sept 2017

Eradicating Hunger by 2030? Andrew Coker

T The Editors

Andrew Colborne Alexandra Green Louise Heffernan Sheila Hills

Silvia Joinson David Pope

Carol Worthington

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he United Nation’s World Food Programme does what the title states. For the past 50 years it has been there with food aid at times of emergency. They have been ‘the cavalry’ riding in to avert starvation. Today they are working in

Syria, Sudan and northern Kenya to alleviate poverty and in another 90 countries where there is food insecurity.

At the end of last year I was invited to Rome to work on the organisation’s biggest change programme since its inception in the 1960s. Some communities have been living on food aid long after their emergency has ended. The UN wants to eradicate hunger by 2030, but to do that the World Food Programme has to change its opera- tions. In addition to food aid, WFP now wants to work with the host government and other organisations to enable communities to feed themselves in good times and bad. Emergencies will always follow drought, earthquakes and war and WFP will continue to parachute in aid and personnel, but they will also be working on building up the local agricultural structures.

Changing from one form of work to another is always an issue. No one really likes change, which is why I was asked to join the team bringing about this reorganisation. Not only did colleagues need to understand the rationale, but host governments, donor governments and the community which interacts with WFP. My role was making sure that people understood how the recipients they served would benefit from this.

I worked with the country management teams to develop their communications plans and to help them explain the changes. Eradicating hunger is a tall order, but working with many different organisations and helping people to help them should achieve it. There is much truth in the age-old saying repeated to me in Rome by a Chinese col- league, ‘It is better to teach someone to fish than to provide him with fish to eat.’ Religious leaders were also involved. In Sri Lanka church groups introduced nutrition education into prayer meetings helping to reduce stunting through poor diets.

It is not just about food though. The process of cooking can cause several issues. In countries with scarce fuel open wood fires in dwellings can be wasteful and hazard- ous. The smoke causes lung and eye irritation and the amount of fuel used can be excessive. By teaching people how to build rudimentary stoves, the quantity of fuel used is reduced and their health improved.

It is a massive task but by using all the resources, secular and religious, the develop- ment goal should be achieved. It should also mean that government and individual donations would build long-term resilience rather than constant fire-fighting. This is a task worth supporting as keeping communities in their homelands with secure economic development should make the world a safer place and one which is more equitable and stable.

Andrew Coker is a senior communications consultant and a churchwarden at St Nicolas.

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