LANCASTER, Ont.—Canadian Foodgrains Bank members are responding to the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where over half a million people have fled extreme violence in Myanmar in search of safety and freedom.
In addition, the Canadian government has approved $1 million to support this joint response that is being implemented through Foodgrains Bank members.
The CFGB is grateful for the response of the Canadian government and many individual Canadians, says executive director Jim Cornelius. The projects will meet the food needs of over 25,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are descendants of Muslims who came to Myanmar generations ago. They speak a different language and are of a different religion than the majority of Myanmar’s citizens, who are Buddhist. The Myanmar government considers them stateless and places restrictions on their rights as citizens.
Violence broke out in the northern Rakhine state in August when Rohingya militants attacked government forces. According to the United Nations, the Myanmar government responded against the Rohingya with disproportionate violence. Entire villages have been destroyed, and there has been widespread panic and flight.
“The Rohingya people have experienced incredible trauma in recent weeks as they flee from Myanmar,” says Ken Kim, CFGB’s board chair. “The accounts of those interviewed are harrowing….They are exhausted, hungry and in desperate need of basic support.”
“We are continuing to monitor the situation of the Rohingya refugees closely, to see if there is an additional response needed,” says Cornelius. To donate or to learn more, go to the CFGB’s website.
CANADA–Jane Fonda received lots of criticism in January for travelling to Alberta to criticize future pipeline construction.
Media outlets, including the Winnipeg Free Press, noted the apparent inconsistency between her comments about fossil-fuel extraction and how she flew to Alberta, used a helicopter to tour the oilsands, had her voice amplified by a microphone powered by electricity, and spoke in a building heated to keep out the cold of a Canadian winter.
On all those charges, Fonda can be found guilty. But so could everyone else concerned about climate change who flies, drives a car, lives in a heated house or uses electricity. That includes me.
Climate change is a significant issue. It threatens everyone on the planet, but modern life is pretty much impossible without the use of fossil fuels.
The conundrum of being concerned about climate change but being reliant on fossil fuels is especially troubling for international relief and development organizations, such as the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) where I work.
For example, every year we support programs that help poor farmers in the developing world deal with the effects of climate change, people who need to grow their own food to survive. These effects include unpredictable and dramatic weather events, erratic or non-existent rainfall or serious disasters brought on by droughts and floods.
At the same time, every year we need to travel thousands of kilometres to visit these programs, checking on progress, meeting the project participants, ensuring accountability and providing training—and generating the very CO2 emissions that cause climate change. It’s a serious and troubling contradiction.
There are two ways we are responding. First, we try to limit our travel and use other forms of communication. Second, we track the CO2 emissions generated by our various forms of travel, as well as other energy use, and make a contribution to our climate fund. At the end of each year, we tabulate the amount of carbon we have generated and make a contribution to the fund, at a rate of $25 per tonne of carbon.
Since 2013, when our climate fund was created, the CFGB has contributed more than $56,000. Together with money contributed by people and churches across Canada, a total of $77,000 has been raised for the fund.
Every year, we choose a project in the developing world to receive money from the fund. The money is used to help poor people adapt to the effects of climate change.
This year, the money is being used to support people such as Yvette Nicholas in Haiti. Across Haiti, rainfall patterns have become erratic over the past number of years; farmers say they can no longer predict when rain will come.
Through MCC Canada, the CFGB is assisting Yvette Nicholas and 150 others in her community with agriculture and reforestation training and other assistance—seeds, trees to hold soil on the steep hillsides, fencing to keep animals out of gardens and farming advice.
Yvette saw progress with her garden. “These peanuts that I planted, there wasn’t much rain, and I didn’t get as much as I wanted, but I bought two chickens with what I made from them,” she said.
Although the CFGB can’t make it rain for Yvette and the millions of other small-scale farmers in the developing world, we can do some things to help. This includes tracking our carbon emissions through our climate fund.
We invite others who are concerned about climate change to join us—individuals, churches, businesses and other groups.
Everyone is welcome, including Jane Fonda.
John Longhurst is the CFGB’s Resource and Public Engagement Coordinator. As part of his effort to combat climate change, he takes the bus to work. (This article originally appeared in the Jan. 18, 2017, edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.)
SOUTH SUDAN—Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, where about 100,000 people are facing starvation, says a United Nations release dated Feb. 20. In addition, a further one million people are on the brink of famine.
The ongoing civil war in South Sudan, now in its third year, has devastated the country’s economy, disrupting normal food transportation chains, and preventing countless small-scale farming households from growing their crops and tending their herds.
This is the most serious hunger crisis there has been in South Sudan since the conflict began. The UN news release notes that 4.9 million people—or about 40 percent of South Sudan’s population, are in need of urgent food, agriculture, and nutrition assistance.
“We are deeply troubled by what we are seeing in South Sudan, and responding as we are able,” says Canadian Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius. “That the food crisis has led to famine conditions for so many is devastating.”
Since the beginning of the recent civil conflict in December 2013, the CFGB has committed over $6 million dollars to providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to over 114,000 people.
Currently, the CFGB is providing emergency food assistance to conflict-affected people in and around the capital city of Juba, where many people have sought safety. That response is through CFGB member World Relief Canada.
In neighbouring Uganda, where roughly 700,000 South Sudanese have fled in search of safety, the CFGB is responding through its member ERDO to the needs of 2,500 pregnant and nursing mothers who have arrived in the country severely undernourished.
This type of support is exceptionally critical, as children who do not receive proper nutrition while in the womb or as infants can bear the effects for the rest of their lives, long after the initial crisis has long passed.
“The women, men and children in South Sudan are not forgotten, and they need urgent help,” says Cornelius, noting that further immediate assistance is needed to ensure the famine does not spread. “Please consider making a donation, and also praying for peace in South Sudan.”
After responding to prolonged drought conditions in parts of Africa last year, Canadian Foodgrains Bank is gearing up to help more people affected by erratic weather conditions in eastern Africa in 2017.
The erratic weather—too much rain in some places, not enough in others—is hitting countries such as Somalia, Malawi, and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya the hardest.
The weather conditions are part of a particularly harsh El Nino weather event that began in 2015. Through its members, the Foodgrains Bank has so far responded to the El Nino crisis with nine projects, totaling $4.4 million.
“Such erratic weather conditions could be disastrous for vulnerable communities struggling to recover,” says Barbara Macdonald, who directs International Programs for the Foodgrains Bank.
“We are deeply concerned about the situation,” she says. “That so many people are again being affected by erratic weather is very alarming.”
Currently, the Foodgrains Bank is responding through its member World Renew in south-eastern Kenya with an emergency food project for 1,500 drought-affected households.
The project, which totals $495,000, is providing rations of maize, beans, oil and salt for four months, as well as a seed distribution packet aimed at helping families regain their livelihoods.
In another project, through its member Presbyterian World Service & Development, with financial support from The United Church of Canada, the Foodgrains Bank is providing emergency food for 3,470 households in southern Malawi for five months.
The assistance, which totals $762,000, will provide relief for families already struggling due to drought-induced crop failure in 2016.
“Through all of these projects, we are continually hoping and praying the rain will come to drought-affected areas at its usual time, and people can return to their normal activities,” says Macdonald.
“We do know, however, that more help is urgently needed,” she adds, noting that drought across Africa is expected to continue in the coming months.
One example where drought may have extreme consequences in the coming months is in Somalia. According to a report from the Inter Agency Working Group on Disaster Preparedness for East and Central Africa, a coalition of large international humanitarian agencies, famine is a possibility in Somalia, where five million people currently need humanitarian assistance.
This isn’t the first time the region has been impacted by severe weather. In 2011, famine was declared in Somalia, where 260,000 people died as a result of a prolonged drought and subsequent hunger crisis.
A lot of progress has been made since then, but this current crisis has potential to set back some of the gains that have been made.
“One of the things we learned from the 2011 crisis is that responding earlier is more effective than responding later,” says Macdonald.
“When you wait too long to respond, people have already sold off their livestock in exchange for food, or have already been forced to eat seed they could have used to plant when the rains come again,” she says. “This makes it doubly hard for them to regain their livelihoods when the crisis is over.”
Editor’s Note: Recently the U. N. declared that parts of South Sudan are in a state of famine. CFGB and MCC, one of its partners, are responding and donations are sought. See the websites of CFGB and MCC for details.
Inmates walk almost 2,000 kms to raise funds for Africa drought victims
BOWDEN, Alta.—Almost 2,000 kilometres. That’s how far 297 inmates at the Bowden Institute collectively walked Sept. 10 to raise money to help people affected by drought in Ethiopia.
The walk-a-thon, organized by an inmates group with help from Chaplain Bud Sargent, raised as much as $15,000 for a project in that country supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and implementing member agency World Renew.(The pledges are still being tallied at this time.)
Altogether, the inmates, along with 20 outside volunteers, walked 3,694 laps around the prison’s exercise yard for a total of 1,981 kilometres.
Funds were raised through pledges from families and friends of the inmates, and from prison chapel volunteers and from local Christian Reformed churches in Lacombe—Woody Nook, Wolf Creek and Bethel. People across Canada also donated through the CFGB page.
World Renew will use funds raised by the inmates for its project in the Dugda region on Ethiopia, where it is assisting over 41,000 people with support from the CFGB. The Government of Canada will match the money on a 4:1 basis.
This is the fourth time Bowden inmates have done the walk-a-thon, including last year for CFGB member Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. They plan to do another walk-a-thon for the CFGB next year.
Has uneven impact on children, people with HIV/AIDS
SOUTHERN AFRICA—The impact of the El Nino-related drought on people living in southern Africa continues to be severe. That is the message being shared by Barbara Macdonald, who directs International Programs for Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).
Poor harvests and crop failures that have come as a result of the drought have left many people dependent on buying food from their local markets, where high food prices have put pressure on family incomes.
Over half a million children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition in seven countries in the region, and over three million have had their access to safe water reduced by the drought.
Also at high risk are people being treated for HIV/AIDS; southern Africa is home to one-third of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.
Meanwhile, a World Food Programme survey in the southern Africa country of Zimbabwe found that about 80 percent of households in some regions of the country had either reduced the number of meals they ate each day or the amount of food eaten. Around 6,000 children have dropped out of school due to hunger, or because they need to help their families either by working or by getting water.
The Foodgrains Bank is responding to needs in southern Africa through its member agencies. In Zambia, CFGB member World Renew is responding to the crisis by providing 4,500 families, with a total household population of 31,500, with seven months of emergency food in return for their labour on community projects. This emergency food is helping families survive until they can harvest a crop again. Households that depend on small-scale farming are also receiving seeds to help them re-start production.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference