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WFP Indonesia Food Insecurity and Food Aid in Urban Context

WFP Indonesia Food Insecurity and Food Aid in Urban Context

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Published by Jeffrey Marzilli
This article explores WFP's experience programming food assistance in urban areas of Indonesia.
This article explores WFP's experience programming food assistance in urban areas of Indonesia.

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Published by: Jeffrey Marzilli on Apr 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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FOOD INSECURITYAND FOOD AID IN THE URBAN CONTEXTBishow ParajuliDeputy Country Director, WFP IndonesiaAbstract
With increasing urban populations and concerns over malnutrition and social problems,more attention is now being paid to assist the poor in urban centres. A major challenge for the urban poor is securing an adequate quantity of staple food with the necessary dailyrequirements of protein, calories and micro-nutrition. A major portion of their income is spent on food. These issues also impact upon education and health. Any support to the urban poor should therefore aim at increasing total family income to help them escape the cycle of  poverty. Food security for the urban poor is seldom seen as a priority. This needs changing, and food aid via donors and multilateral agencies such as WFP can play an important role in thisrespect. The choice of activities will depend on the situation, the target population and theresources available. Civil society can also play an important role in targeting and delivery. . Effective targeting needs planning from the early stages. Women and children are likely tobe those most affected and therefore providing food assistance to these groups should be a priority.Various options exist for channelling food assistance to the urban poor. These include: food- for-work involving individual and community efforts or public works; school feeding (on-site feeding as well as take-home rations) to provide incentives for school attendance as well asnutritional support; and "Vulnerable Groups Development" to provide food as an incentiveto support human development, enhancing opportunities for the poor to increase their income through self-employment and external job opportunities. Access to food at reduced  prices would encourage increased consumption, complement income and assist in the provision of basic necessities including health and education.The Indonesian experience has been very positive. It has helped to increase consumption,reduce malnutrition and support people in times of hardship. WFP's partnership with NGOshas been highly successful in supporting targeting and ensuring accountability and efficient management.
The general trend in food aid has been to limit food assistance to the rural sector, in the belief that the urban poor are better off than those in rural areas. Conventional wisdom heldthat assisting the urban poor would increase rural-to-urban migration; that only a limitednumber of the poor live in urban areas; that they are widely dispersed, making targeting
difficult; and that urban inhabitants are often better privileged with access to governmentsupport. Some of these notions may have had some truth but the present situation is differentand rapidly evolving. With increasing urban poverty, high levels of malnutrition, increasingsocial problems and growing urban populations estimated to represent 60% of the global population in the next 25-30 years, the doctrine of limiting assistance to the rural poor needsmodification.This paper highlights emerging concerns for the urban poor and discusses several key issuesin the formulation, management and implementation of food aid programmes. It elaboratesupon the merits of a specific type of food-assisted activity, making extensive use of theIndonesian example as a possible model for urban food aid programme for other countries.
Emerging concerns
Every day more than 800 million people worldwide go hungry to bed and malnutritioncontributes to the deaths of 11,000 children. With urban populations reaching one third of the global population and a significant proportion unable to meet their minimum food needsand secure other basic services, the problem of food insecurity and the need to improve thelivelihoods of the urban poor have become a serious concern.The lack of employment opportunities and the general hardship in rural areas, as well as themagnet of and attraction from better health and education services and favourable work opportunities in urban centres, will continue to encourage migration to urban centres.Insecurity in rural areas due to civil insurgencies may also continue to force thousands tolook for safe havens in urban centres.As a consequence there will be further overcrowding and expansion of cities, deterioration of food security and sanitary and living conditions; provision of basic services will eventually be beyond the normal capabilities of any city and generally out of reach of the poor.It is estimated that nearly 98% of global population growth over the next two decades willoccur in developing countries, with the urban population of these countries doubling over thenext 30 years. By 2007, the proportion of urban inhabitants worldwide will surpass those inrural areas. Given their dependency on employment, their limited alternative livelihoodstrategies and reduced links with their rural kin, the urban poor will be highly vulnerable toeconomic shocks and subsequent changes in prices of basic foods and services. For poor families, entire incomes will be spent on meeting the cost of basic food needs and they will be required to use all their earning power, including that of their children, to raise householdincome for food. Illness, loss of employment and any unforeseen misfortune would bringlong-term distress.Seven out of ten of the world's poorest are women and young children. Ignoring the plight of the urban poor means ignoring the basic needs and the rights for vast number of women andchildren.
Many of the poor in urban centres live in typically densely populated corridor areasalong riverbanks and railways. Others live in smaller clusters inside solid wastedumpsites. Many are illegal squatters who have occupied government- or private-owned land for a long period of time. Living conditions are extremely inadequate;many houses are in a pitiful condition, with limited space and no daylight. Some mayhave private toilets, while many use public toilets (which often have no runningwater).Poor households alter their eating habits by reducing consumption of more expensive foodssuch as milk, eggs, meat and vegetables or by decreasing the number of meals eaten per day.Children often bear an increasing burden, having to drop out of school and participate ingenerating household income. The poor often suffer higher levels of micronutrientdeficiencies and malnutrition, underweight childbirth and poor mental development amongchildren. There is often deterioration in personal security, with an expansion of the sex trade,child prostitution, HIV and other poverty-related illnesses.The factors influencing urban food insecurity are often consistent with urban problemseverywhere: 
A large proportion of the population is dependent on wage labour to meet food needs. Asthese wage-earning opportunities disappear, huge competition is created in the informal job sector.
Often, formal safety nets are not available for the poorest, leaving large numbers of  people without assistance.
Informal community safety nets may be weak in urban neighbourhoods.
Legal obstacles prevent the poorest from participating in the formal safety nets createdfor them.
Return to rural areas is not an option for many as they are from landless families;The major food aid donors and the UN/WFP can play a crucial role in addressing emerging problems for the urban poor by attending to food insecurity through food aid and byengaging in advocacy to raise concern for the urban hungry poor.
Policy implications
Food security of the urban poor is rooted in the political economy of the city, the socialstructure in which they live, the labour market and other factors. Poverty and food insecurityare inextricably bound together. and government spending - or lack of it - on health, nutritionand education can have major consequences .Households increasingly depend on total family income, with women under pressure to seek employment or participate in informal trading activities. This will also change the provisionof attention to childcare with ngatative implications for the health and nutritional status of children.External assistance is not confronting the underlying causes of poverty and food insecurity.Programmes and policies that enhance skills to match market opportunities and schemes thatcreate employment would be appropriate policy options in addressing urban poverty andfood insecurity issues.

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