Feeling Hungry?

Food prices are going up. A weekly grocery shop is more expensive than it used to be, and most shoppers are more discerning in finding bargains than a few years ago. Purse strings have been pulled tighter and we are all counting the cost of the ongoing effects of the financial crisis.

But we are not starving. We are not facing a famine.

Unlike almost 10 million people in East Africa.

Along with food price hikes related to fuel prices rising and increasing occurrences of drought and unpredictable rains, countries in the Horn of Africa are facing a severe food crisis.

Not only is food scarce, drought is killing off livestock, a source of food and income for many pastoralist communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of Somalia, but the cost of food is going up and the value of selling livestock is going down. Some communities have lost land to tourism and large-scale agriculture, and now with impeding famine, will suffer greatly.

Imagine someone taking away your job, your only source of income, removing all the shops from your area and destroying any ability you have to grow your own food. Famine is a total lack of resources to feed yourself and your family, with the only option to depend and rely on others to provide for you.

These East African countries are facing this food crisis. We who have an abundance of food need to respond.

Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 7:25 am  Leave a Comment  

A kids-eye view of Haiti

Back in January, international development agency Tearfund gave fifty children in Haiti disposable cameras and asked them to take photos of their homes, families and life in Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010.

The resulting photos give a fascinating insight into the lives of Haitian communities and their lives after the devastating natural disaster that ripped apart their lives, livelihoods and loved ones.

Tomorrow is the official launch of the photo exhibition in Westminster, and the photos will be displayed for a further month in Methodist Central Hall. From donkeys to teddy-bears, the children’s photos document different aspects of the children’s daily lives, and provide some thought-provoking viewing.

These are children who have lost family members in the disaster; many are homeless and waiting for their homes to be rebuilt. They take delight in the small things; cuddling a cat, or watching their mother brush her hair. If you want an entirely different view of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, then it is well worth a visit.

Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Broken Promises?

As Obama waves farewell to the UK after his fleeting visit and heads to the Normandy coast for the G8 world leader’s summit, many are speculating what promises will be made at this meeting of the top world powers.

The agenda is jam-packed with issues, notably the financial crisis and the response to the Arab spring, but also with reference to emerging technologies and the effects of climate change.

Yet at this meeting of world leaders they appear reluctant to comment on the aid effectiveness agenda, not least because many of them have failed to deliver on the pledges made back in 2005, and have even been accused of ‘cooking the books’ in a recent report.

It appears that the conflict in Libya will dominate the agenda, and a summit once famed for focusing on global poverty and the plight of millions in the developing world is unsurprisingly concentrated on US and EU political interests.

Many are looking to the G20 now as a summit of truly influential world powers, and the hope is that the aid agenda there will be given adequate attention. For despite recent scepticism over aid, the recent financial crisis and recurring disasters causing damage in the developing world require urgent action and a committed response from the international community.

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why 0.7%?

Following the leaked letter from Liam Fox to David Cameron today outlining his concerns over enshrining the government’s commitment to overseas development aid (ODA) of 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) into law, questions have once again been raised over the necessity of aid.

The calls to ‘Keep the Promise’ from the opposition have determined to keep the issue of international aid on the agenda, but this has not served to quell the scepticism over international aid contributions.

The commitment to 0.7% is over 40 years old, with rich developed nations promising to spend 0.7% of GNP (Gross National Product) on ODA at the UN General Assembly in 1970.

To some this seems like an outdated and arbitrary figure, unsuitable for a time of austerity measures following the financial crisis. 

However, the government remains convinced that it is necessary. Arguments that ‘charity begins at home’ have been quashed by the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell: This is a time to reaffirm our promises to the world’s poor, not abandon them. We should never balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest people. It is true that charity begins at home, but it doesn’t end there.’ 

This is not to deny that there are problems with aid effectiveness and delivery, and with a history of conditionalities and tied aid, critics such as William Easterly say that it does more harm than good.

However the new government is committed to transparency and greater accountability over aid, and the recent bilateral and multilateral aid reviews have demonstrated progress towards these objectives. The comments from Liam Fox don’t appear to be representative of the government’s stated commitment to development.

Harriet Harman, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development outlined the importance of government development assistance: ‘By sending aid from our government we can, and do make a difference in reducing this toll of suffering.  When we know that people are dying unnecessarily and know that we can do something to prevent it – then surely that is what we should do.

Today’s story highlights the need for encourage continued commitment to overseas aid, for, despite its challenges, government aid provides life-saving support to the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

It looks like it’s going to rain…

Having enjoyed the beautiful sunshine that has blessedBritainover the past few weeks, it has been a welcome respite from the heat to see dark clouds hovering overhead, and hear the rain pattering against the windowpane as I drift off to sleep. Yet whilst it is celebrated by agriculturalists and gardeners, for others, the arrival of rain is not so well received.

I am not talking about spoilt picnics in the park, or getting caught in an April shower. For another community across the world, the arrival of rain spells disaster.

 The internally displaced people inSomalia have been forced from their homes following decades of violent conflict find themselves surviving in makeshift displacement camps. Crowded and isolated from humanitarian assistance, these camps are under the control of armed rebel groups.

 According to UN estimates, at least 2.4 million Somalis need help across the country 

The onset of the rainy season will bring further problems to this vulnerable community. Tents and tarpaulins that have been in place for several years are now leaking, offering little shelter and support to families that huddle beneath them. Living in cramped and close conditions, the rains are likely to fuel the spread of water-borne diseases in the already unsanitary conditions. Even the markets are bare, traders scared off by the insurgents, leaving no options for finding food supplies or better shelter.

So perhaps the next time you find yourself caught in a downpour, cursing the fact that you forgot your umbrella, spare a thought for the Somalis for whom rain carries more risks than respite.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good News Stories

The Royal Wedding brought a flurry of flags and excitement last Friday, as the nation joined together to celebrate the love and joy of a young couple. Even the normally brusque and abrupt Londoners were jovial and friendly, starting up conversations with total strangers. The atmosphere in the capital city was infectious and arriving  in Hyde Park, thousands of revellers adorned in Union Jack colours crowded in front of giant screens to catch a glimpse of the new royals. Whether a royalist or not, the day brought sunshine, a day off work, and a smile to people’s faces, boosting the morale of the nation during difficult times.

As street parties were in full swing, communities were drawn together, and neighbours welcomed one another into the celebrations. The day’s events took over the news channels, almost obscuring ongoing situations across the rest of the world, but at least it provided some good news stories for once.

I felt over the weekend that my spirits were lifted. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the lie-ins, but the sense of goodwill that emanated from the Royal Wedding celebrations was contagious.

As I reflected on this, my thoughts turned to the thousands of good news stories that are taking place around the world. Often obscured by disasters or political battles, these are the stories that should be heard, and should encourage us. Around the world communities are coming together (not just for royal weddings) to support and help each other, using their resources and capacity to build schools, dig wells and invest in each other and their collective future. They are proactively doing development without requiring the aid of external actors, and empowering themselves to find new ways to tackle poverty.

Tis the season for good news….

Published in: Uncategorized on May 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Courage

Strength in the face of pain or grief. (OED definition)

I heard someone talk on courage a few weeks ago, an inspiration and a challenge. It is not just the ability to face a challenge or an obstacle without fear, but it also requires confidence, a conviction that what you are about to go through is not beyond what you can bear.

When I lay in that hospital bed eighteen months ago, I did not know what lay ahead, or what the lasting consequences would be for my life. But I knew that I had a choice. I could let fear take over, and sink into anxiety, panic and depression. Or, I could acknowledge what happened, and try to make the most of it. I chose the latter.

That is not to say that I did not feel afraid, or panic, or have moments of real anxiety. Those first moments when I couldn’t move, and was told I faced spinal surgery were among some of the most frightening of my life. The unexpected events in our lives can challenge our innermost being, and reveal what we value the most.

I took courage in the fact that I was not alone, surrounded by family and friends and supported by many others. And even in the middle of the night staring at the stark white hospital ceiling, I knew I was not alone. I trusted in someone far greater than myself to be in control where I could not.

The key to courage is faith.

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Time for a faith lift…

I’m not sure if it’s too late in the year to be talking of New Year’s resolutions, but one of my resolutions is to finish writing a book. I began to write about a year ago, but encountered some obstacles on the way and have begun this New Year with a resolute determination to finish it this time.

Some of you already know the story, others will never have heard about it before. Yet I hope all of you who read this blog will join me on the journey I am about to embark upon in order to finish the book. I will share excerpts as I write, and invite you to take part in the adventure too. Many of you have been part of the adventure from the very start, being an encouragement and support over the past eighteen months. Thank you.

The event that sparked the desire to write, and inspired this blog in the first place, will form the basis of the book. A challenge of faith, of forgiveness, an experience of great pain yet filled with hope.

I hope that as I share my story with you, that it will encourage and uplift you too.

Published in: on January 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Ambivalent Anniversary

Anniversaries are funny things. They can offer a chance to reminisce about fond memories, or an opportunity to honour past events, the death or birth of a loved one.

Tomorrow marks a year since my accident. A year I very nearly didn’t have. A blessing, a second chance. A tough and difficult year.

It is with a mix of joy and trepidation that I will embark on a similar journey that I started last year but never finished. I am thankful that I can make the journey again, that I am able to return. Yet there is still some anxiety, some fear, some healing still to be done. The scars are not yet healed.

A year seems like a long time, and yet it passes so quickly. A year on, I am hopeful about what the next year will bring.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Comments (1)  

Fighting for the right to water

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution yesterday asserting the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right. For most of us, that seems to be common sense, something taken for granted.

So why is this UN resolution so important? The debate has been going for many years as in the original United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) there is no specific mention of water or sanitation. This is assumed to be because it was seen as a precondition for other human rights, and therefore did not need to be included.

However, it is evident that this is an issue that needs to be highlighted. With climate change, threats of wars over water and the fact that millions of people still lack access to clean water and sanitation, it is an issue that cannot be sidelined any longer.

The resolution passed yesterday was by no means unanimous. The abstention by some may seem unreasonable, but as a non-binding resolution it expressed the overwhelming support from countries across the world for water and sanitation to be seen as a basic human right. However, it is far from being set in stone as a formal human right, awaiting an independent report on the issue due to be presented to the  UN Human Rights Council next year.

I often take for granted the gift of clean running water, and forget how landmark resolutions like this symbolize a change in lifestyle and health for millions of people worldwide. I leave you with some thought-provoking statistics.

  • In 1998 the equivalent of $11 billion was spent on ice-cream in Europe. To provide universal access to clean water and sanitation would have cost $9 billion.
  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
  • 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre (but not in their house or yard) consume around 20 litres a day. In the UK, the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 litres a day).

Statistics taken from here.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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