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According to the United Nations, the number of hungry people increased by 50 million in the last year – that’s the combined populations of Florida, New York and Illinois. Soaring food prices and fuel costs are sure to raise that number this year. While the global food crisis has gained much media attention in the U.S. over the past few months, the world’s poorest countries have been struggling with food shortages and chronic malnutrition for years. Two countries where AmeriCares is making a difference are El Salvador and Haiti.In El Salvador, 20% of children under age five who live in rural areas suffer from chronic malnutrition. Since 2002 AmeriCares has been working with our partner, Fundacion Salvadorena para la Salud y el Desarrollo Humano (FUSAL), which runs an innovative program called Libras de Amor (Pounds of Love). Pounds of Love combats malnutrition through a wide variety of activities including doctors’ visits, nutritional education and training, access to healthy food, and job creation so parents can afford to better feed their families. Donated medicines are one way in which AmeriCares supports this program, allowing FUSAL’s doctors to give medications to people in need, free of charge. AmeriCares has also supported Pounds of Love with a $52,000 cash grant in 2006.This year, AmeriCares is doubling its financial support for the program. A cash grant to FUSAL will bring Pounds of Love into 14 communities that comprise El Salvador’s Volcan de Santa Ana region, an area afflicted with extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition rates above 36 percent. With AmeriCares help, this program will benefit nearly 7,000 people, improving the health status of young children and ensuring better outcomes for pregnant women, new mothers and their babies. Haiti is another country in the spotlight this year due to food shortages, but AmeriCares partners there say this is a long-standing issue, not a new crisis. “Hunger is not a new phenomenon in Haiti. It has existed for decades in a chronic way,” said Dr. Bernes Chalumeau, medical director of Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti. “In the northern region, where food prices are highest and we are most affected by the situation, 10 percent of children between two and four years old suffer from severe malnutrition, and 61 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 5 years are anemic.”AmeriCares is aiding in the fight against hunger and disease in Haiti through the delivery of nutritional supplements to the Center for the Rural Development of Milot. AmeriCares includes these supplements in relief shipments sent to Haiti twice a year. In addition, AmeriCares provides similar nutritional supplements to Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, Vietnam and Uzbekistan.
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