[INTERVIEW] Korean rice helps a lot: WFP Kenya chief
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a double whammy for countries with food shortages.
According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report, published in July by five international organizations including the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), between 720 and 811 million people worldwide were undernourished in 2020.
This represents about 10% of the world’s population, and about 118 million more than in 2019.
Lauren Landis, country director for the WFP Kenya office, told Korea JoongAng Daily in an email interview that the Korean government’s rice donation has been of great help at a desperate time.
According to Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Korea has provided food aid to four countries – Yemen, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia – since joining the Committee. food aid in 2018.
In 2020, Korea was WFP’s 11th donor. This year, two other countries received aid, Syria and Laos.
The Korean government donates 50,000 tonnes of rice per year.
Kenya is one of the first two recipients.
Landis stressed the importance of rapid and strong support, including helping Kenya to become self-sufficient in agriculture.
The following are excerpts from the email interview with Landis ahead of World Food Day last Saturday.
Q. How is the food situation in Kenya?
A. The government of Kenya declared drought a national disaster on September 8th after two consecutive unsuccessful rainy seasons. Currently, an estimated 2.4 million Kenyans are at dire starvation levels, with more than 500,000 children under the age of five and nearly 100,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in urgent need of treatment. malnutrition.
Malnutrition causes children to be stunted or fail to grow and develop properly. Across Kenya, one in four children is stunted: and the impact in childhood is such that children may never recover.
The hardest hit areas are in the north and east of the country, the areas we call arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL). The UN is working to help an estimated 1.3 million people in the worst-affected communities, providing emergency food rations, animal feed and a range of other supports to help recovery . Without this support, people will adapt in ways that will not be good for them or their community in the long run. Families regularly skip meals. Pastoralists (breeders), who are almost always males, will have to travel further and further from their homes to find water and food for their animals. Animals can get sick and die – and people competing for increasingly scarce water supplies are more likely to engage in conflict.
Meanwhile, women, children and the elderly are left at home, often with too little to eat. Children are more likely to drop out of school because they have to work on farms or try to earn money for food. Girls are more likely to be married early during a crisis such as drought. It is a time of great concern for rural families in Kenya at this time.
Q. What are the main reasons for food insecurity in Kenya?
A. Kenya is an emerging middle income country, but inequality is a challenge here. Many families struggle to earn a living in marginal agricultural areas or move to big cities like Mombasa or Nairobi but find only irregular work.
The biggest challenge right now is the drought. The number of severely food insecure people is now three times higher than it was just a year ago. And the main driver of drought in Kenya is climate change. The country is expected to experience increasingly irregular and infrequent rainy seasons, and when the rains arrive they are likely to be unpredictable and possibly damaging in their intensity.
Q. What is the vaccination rate against Covid-19 in Kenya? How has Covid-19 impacted the food situation?
A. Covid-19 has obviously been a challenge everywhere. In urban areas, many people who made their living in informal service sectors, such as domestic workers, drivers and street vendors, lost their livelihoods when government restrictions were imposed to reduce the burden. epidemic. With support from the governments of the United States and Finland, WFP provided cash transfers to nearly 400,000 people in urban areas to help them purchase food to eat. This program was a useful addition to the Government of Kenya’s measures and represented the first time that WFP had assisted in urban areas, outside of school canteens. In Kenya today, the vaccination rate is lower than in many other countries, but it is increasing rapidly and moderate restrictions are in place.
Q. What is Korea’s contribution to the WFP Kenya operation? How many benefit from it?
A. WFP is extremely grateful for the support of the Korean government, our second largest donor to Kenya in 2021. The donated rice, valued at around 10.1 billion won ($ 8.5 million), feeds hundreds of people. thousands of people in refugee camps. This year. The beneficiaries we spoke to are school girls who eat yellow pea rice at lunchtime and mothers who say Korean rice reminds them of home or makes their children happy.
Q. What other type of media can you use from Korea? How Can Koreans Help?
A. In recent years, the generosity of the Korean government has also supported WFP’s life-changing resilience work. This is an exciting and evolving area of work for WFP: instead of distributing food aid, we are helping farming communities switch to drought-tolerant crops that are also highly nutritious. We support them with irrigation systems and equipment to safely harvest, store and process food. And we help them find customers for their products. People benefit from improved incomes, better nutrition and better health, and they are in a better position to weather the next drought. So far in Kenya in 2020-2021, we have helped 64,000 smallholder farmers with support to sell 29,000 tonnes of produce worth $ 8.6 million. We have helped protect over 2,000 hectares of cropland through soil and water conservation measures, and provided 7,100 tree seedlings to combat desertification and land degradation.
Korean readers can directly support WFP’s work by downloading the Share the Meal donation app. For just 950 won (80 cents), the World Food Program can feed a child for a day.
Q. The food crisis in East Africa can affect global food insecurity in the long term. What are the challenges if the international community does not engage quickly?
With hunger, early action saves lives and saves money. In some areas, agricultural production is down 70 to 90 percent. There are more and more signs that the next rainy season will be bad as well. When a child or pregnant woman goes from moderate malnutrition to acute malnutrition, the cost of their treatment increases three to four times. Helping people protect their livelihoods with water infrastructure is far more effective than waiting for disaster. Every dollar invested in preventative measures saves up to $ 2.80 in treatment and help costs down the road.
Q. It is not easy for people in developed countries to understand the link between food crises and climate change. Could you explain?
A. For an agriculture-based economy like Kenya, the connection is very simple: when it doesn’t rain, crops don’t grow and animals get sick or die. In the event of a flood, the crops are destroyed. Without enough to eat, people become dependent on food aid. WFP is committed to addressing the root causes of this type of hunger by helping farmers adopt climate-smart farming practices that provide both nutritious food and a drought insurance policy. Speaking of which, we also provide them with real crop insurance: farmers receive compensation after losing their crops that will help them replant once the drought is over.
Q. Any messages for Korean readers as head of all WFP operations in Kenya?
A. We cannot directly prevent drought in Kenya, but we can prevent it from causing widespread suffering. We really appreciate the interest of the Korean people in our work, especially at this time of World Food Day.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [[email protected]]