Thu 26 Apr 2012
Globally, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night—45 percent of these concentrated in the slums of megacities. About three-quarters of them fall into the “chronic” category. They are not only undernourished but are likely to remain so, leading to irreversible physical and mental damage. Amongst the most vulnerable are infants. There is clear evidence that if a child is malnourished for the first three years, their brains are permanently damaged, impacting educational development and eventually their economic future.
As a huge number of families remain trapped in this hunger cycle, the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Since World War I, the people of the United States have been world leaders in the provision of aid to people in need around the world. Faith-based organizations have played a critical role in that work. Many of these agencies, including Samaritan’s Purse, have decades of practical experience in providing relief to suffering people. In addition, they have developed extensive networks of local church partners who bring knowledge, experience, and credibility to these efforts.
Today, there is a significant movement by private enterprise to address global poverty. This trend has led to more opportunities for the faith-based humanitarian community to partner with business leaders. These new efforts are merging the deep experience and wide reach of faith-based organizations with some of the most successful international entrepreneurs to create innovative programming that is taking humanitarian relief to a new level.
The direct and dynamic link between business and humanitarian relief is central to reversing the gloomy indicators of poverty that we see today, particularly in the realm of food security. Organizations such as the U.S. Soy Board have developed a real understanding of how to practically help impoverished people across the globe. In turn, their engagement in providing life-saving food to hungry people has given them access to emerging markets.
Traditionally, humanitarian organizations have seen business leaders as donors who provide funding only. For too many years, the aid community has neglected to tap into the creative thinking and technological expertise that is driving successful industries forward. For their part, many entrepreneurs were short-sighted in their view of humanitarian relief as the provision of charity. They failed to realize the benefits of addressing the challenges of global poverty as a mutually beneficial exercise. We are now seeing a significant shift in this thinking.
For example, billionaire investor Warren Buffet is now actively involved in the design process for UN agricultural initiatives. Wal-Mart is working through their Central American subsidiary to encourage small farmers to grow food for their supermarkets.
Samaritan’s Purse is currently working with the Alaska Fisheries Board to develop programs and products to address food insecurity and malnutrition. Working through field offices and local church partners, Samaritan’s Purse feeds one million men, women, and children each day. In March 2012, the Alaska Fisheries Board began partnering with us by providing 69,000 cans of herring for needy people in Liberia. This food is being distributed to orphanages, training centers for ex-combatants, and women living with HIV/AIDS.
We are now looking at a second phase of this partnership: the development of a fish-based nutritional supplement. This powder would be manufactured from fish products that are normally not used in the commercial market. This could have a significant impact on global malnourishment and provide the Alaska fishing industry with additional income.
Next year, Samaritans Purse plans to use 100 metric tons of this nutritional supplement powder to help malnourished children in refugee camps in South Sudan, urban slums in Mozambique, and drought-stricken communities throughout the Horn of Africa.
These new partnerships are cutting through the traditional paradigm of humanitarian aid. There are clearly defined economic and social results, and today’s business leaders are willing to actively engage in every step of the process. For them, this means giving more than just their loose change. Their deep involvement in the process translates to more innovative thinking and a deeper commitment to improving the lives of millions in need.
Written by: Ken Isaacs, Vice President, Programs and Government Relations, Samaritan’s Purse