In the past four decades, great progress has been made to reduce the percentage of people suffering from hunger in countries around the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the share of the world's people living in countries where average caloric intake falls short of general nutritional adequacy - less than 2,200 calories per person per day - has fallen from 57 percent to seven percent since 1960.
Despite the overall increase in food security, hunger still remains a life threatening concern for hundreds of millions of people around the world. In 1997-99, 36 countries - 24 in Africa, 11 in Asia, and one, Haiti, in Latin America - still had a per capita intake of less than 2,200 calories. Sadly, approximately 11,000 children die each day as a result of malnutrition and hunger-related diseases.
Mercy Corps is operating food assistance programs in many of the most vulnerable countries. The overarching goal of Mercy Corps' food programs is to work with communities and individuals to meet immediate food needs, and to develop and implement concrete actions that increase the overall food security
Perhaps the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world today is the hunger gripping communities across southern and eastern Africa. According to the United Nations, more than 30 million people in these regions are at risk for hunger. Mercy Corps is helping to provide immediate assistance to hungry families in Eritrea where a third of the country's population is believed to be at risk. The organization recently received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide monthly food rations to over 100,000 vulnerable people for the next year. This emergency food support program builds upon the successes Mercy Corps has had operating a nationwide Education Improvement Program (EIP) that feeds more than 40,000 Eritrean schoolchildren each day.
In Afghanistan, Mercy Corps' programs are transitioning from providing immediate food support to refugees and internally displaced persons to helping communities find long-term solutions to increase their food security. Mercy Corps is working in rural communities to improve crop production through seed distributions, agriculture extension services, and the development of nurseries and greenhouses. Cash for work programs are also helping to make infrastructural repairs to irrigation canals that also generate income opportunities that enable families to secure food.
In Indonesia, more than 5,000 people participate in Mercy Corps' food for work programs in Jakarta each month. Partnering with local community organizations and leaders, Mercy Corps provides training and strengthening activities that help families without adequate food or income. Mercy Corps has also used nutritional and socio-economic studies to ensure that food reaches those who need it the most - the truly destitute among the urban poor.
Mercy Corps' programming strategy in Kosovo has worked to transition all direct food aid to long-term economic recovery efforts. Since 1999, more than 200,000 people have been assisted by a Food for Peace program that has since evolved into local agricultural and microcredit projects. As the economic infrastructure stabilizes in Kosovo, Mercy Corps has been able to reduce direct food aid, distributing to only the most vulnerable populations, while focusing the majority of its efforts on providing microcredit to small businesses and multi-ethnic training programs for local farmers.
You can learn more about individual food programs by visiting the program pages on the Mercy Corps Web site.