"There are no magic bullets to the food crisis. Complex causes require multiple solutions," says Church World Service Executive Director and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough. "But now, more than ever, we must prioritize keenly."
CWS is calling for urgent action by world bodies, governments and aid agencies to attack hunger, malnutrition and the continued toll of high food prices in a direct and cost-conscious approach that deals at the same time with immediate crises and long-term, sustainable food security levels.
"It's not just about 'more food,' it's about better quality food, better nutrition," says McCullough.
CWS is urging support for increasing the climate change adaptation capacity of poor farmers, and expanding the provision of micronutrient supplements and ready-to-use food products to arrest the growing rate of malnutrition among some 178 million small children worldwide--20 million of whom are severely malnourished.
CWS supports sustainable agriculture programs in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Central Europe that stress soil conservation and composting techniques, water conservation and flood mitigation measures, and provision of open-pollinated seed stocks adapted to climate-stressed regions.
In 24 rural communities in the country's southwest, 996 families of sugar cane cutters are taking part in a three-year food security project in partnership with long-time CWS partner Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas.
The families are vulnerable to natural disasters such as drought, flooding, and hurricanes. Most of them are Haitian or of Haitian descent, making them the targets of discrimination in the Dominican Republic, and lacking civic, economic, and social rights.
Through the SSID project, the farmers are learning new farming and irrigation techniques to produce a variety of vegetables and fruits, through training at 45 demonstration vegetable farms and four greenhouses.
This year, the farm families have received financial support to prepare 360 acres of land for planting corn, yucca, and sweet potatoes. They pay up to 50 percent of the cost of renting government- or privately-owned tractors to prepare their fields.
Eighty-six of the families are also receiving small livestock--goats, pigs and rabbits. In addition, 38 families are being trained and equipped to manage aquaculture projects in three natural lagoons and family ponds, and 24 families have received small loans to start up or expand micro-businesses and agricultural production.
In addition to the food security portion of the project, 15 communities are benefiting from support to local schools and community-based literacy centers through provision of texts, supplies and small stipends for volunteer teachers.
"I am thankful to Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan for the free treatment and medicines," says 35-year-old Dilshad Bi Bi. Bi Bi recently gave birth to triplets at the Kaghan Civil Hospital, a CWS-run facility in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
She and her husband could not afford the other health facility in the area, so Bi Bi visited the CWS-run Kaghan hospital for pre-natal care, where she received vaccinations and nutritional supplements.
"The doctor and lady health visitor paid special attention to me," she reports.
After the birth, Bi Bi received training on breastfeeding and hygiene, along with advice on vaccinations for the children. She and the triplets--one boy and two girls--are in good health.
Says Bi Bi, "The CWS-P/A health team saved my babies and me."
CWS-Pakistan/Afghanistan established eight health facilities in the earthquake-affected areas of the North West Frontier Province. More than 141,000 people have received preventive and curative health services in the CWS facilities since the October 2005 quake.