DAVIS, Calif. – Women in extreme poverty face insurmountable odds. Not only does a mother need to worry about her own health and nourishment, but the life of her children is at stake as well. The Freedom from Hunger organization’s mission is to give these unsung heroines the tools to elevate their social status and become self sustaining.
Clifford Clinton, the organization’s founder, made great strides against global hunger in 1944 by inventing Multi-Purpose Food (MPF). This high protein supplement provided essential nutrients for three cents per meal, and was mass produced by General Mills for famine stricken countries. 6.5 million pounds of the supplement would be distributed to 129 countries over the next ten years, and the formula is still used today by relief agencies. This success would spark the founding of the organization Meals for Millions, which would eventually merge with President Kennedy’s American Freedom from Hunger Foundation to form Freedom from Hunger.
Today, Freedom from Hunger specifically supports women to support familial health. While the organization’s website states they “don’t exclude men,” they note that resources provided to women tend to be used directly for the family’s health. Conversely, the same resources given to men usually become entrepreneurial investments.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Freedom from Hunger launched the Microfinance and Health Protection (MAHP) program in 2006. This program offers impoverished women microcredit loans: small loans around $100 or less with affordable financing options. The microcredit programs come with schooling in both money management and maternal education. These courses provide women opportunities to come together in a public forum that can span an entire community.
MAHP also provides health services that can preemptively counter diseases such as malaria. Research conducted by Freedom from Hunger shows up to 30% of a family’s income can be spent caring for their sick. Treating diseases early not only improves quality of life, but frees up finances as well. 1.9 million women in ten countries currently benefit from MAHP.
Cooperative with MAHP is Advancing Integrated Finance for Youth, or AIM Youth. Young people in poverty stricken household are often required to contribute to their families without receiving education in money management, which is what AIM Youth intends to resolve. Launched in 2009, the program currently serves 37,000 young people in Mali and Ecuador. If the youth of families are better able to offer support and sustain themselves, the mother will be less strained.
Numerous issues challenge impoverished nations that require specialized solutions in order to be resolved. By empowering the family unit, Freedom from Hunger’s initiatives are granting specific services which will have a ripple effect on the immediate local economies. If more women and children become self sustaining, the global economy will continue to grow.
– Timothy Monbleau
Sources: Freedom from Hunger, Meals for Millions, Small Fortunes
Photo: Freedom from Hunger