World hunger rises for the first time since 2003

The Probitas Foundation, along with several other entities, is backing projects in the territories most affected by the spike in food insecurity

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently published a report highlighting the increase in people around the world who do not get enough to eat each day, a figure that exceeded 815 million in 2016 – 17 times the population of Spain.

The study "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017" points out that for the first time since 2003 world hunger increased considerably, after years during which it did not see substantial changes.

One of the countries where hunger grew the most this year is South Sudan, where there are more than 250,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF data. It is not the only country, however, as Yemen, Somalia and northern Nicaragua, among others, as the report explains, are also suffering this humanitarian crisis. In addition, the FAO laments that the demand for food aid will intensify during the rest of the year.

The reasons for malnutrition
One of the main reasons for this food insecurity situation (the guarantee of sufficient calories) lies in the fact that these countries are at war. Hence, internal conflicts often erupt leading the population to live under conditions of severe poverty, in addition to being dry territories, or areas vulnerable to the impact of the climate. These conflicts trigger the displacement of many people to other regions where access to food and resources is more difficult. This makes the almost two million displaced people even more vulnerable, subjecting them to lives of poverty and malnutrition.

The second part of the report stresses how these conflicts affect food security and how food security, in itself, can lead to conflicts and additional problems. In order to improve conditions in these regions, the organisations involved in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – approved by the UN's 193 member states – are focusing on SDG number 2 and SDG number 16, which seek to put an end to conflict, ensure food security, and achieve peace. The report explains that focusing on improving food security and nutrition can help prevent conflicts in the territories and foster peace.

In addition, there are other factors that aggravate the food crisis, such as "the educational level of women, the resources that governments allocate to national nutrition policies and programmes for mothers, infants and young children; access to clean water, basic sanitation and quality health services, ways of life, the food environment, and culture," the report said.

The consequences of malnutrition
The impact of malnutrition stunts children's growth and exposes them to an increased risk of impaired cognitive ability, poorer performance at school and at work (for adults), and, in the worst cases, greater susceptibility to infections. Paradoxically, the report points out that in low-income countries there coexist "different forms of malnutrition", as there are, simultaneously, high rates of child malnutrition and obesity in children and adults.

Probitas is involved in reversing the situation in the most affected areas
The Probitas Foundation is also engaged in addressing the situation of vulnerability, malnutrition and poverty in these areas by supporting food projects that aim to provide a nutritious and healthy diet for the affected populations. These are efforts whose geographical scope encompasses South America (Bolivia and Peru), Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Tanzania), the Middle East (Lebanon), India (Mumbai) and southern Europe (Greece).

Projects in South America
The "Bolivia Alimentación" project, with a focus on local development, and carried out in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP), mainly focuses on contributing to the development of local food production chains and the reduction of food insecurity through the promotion of cultivated crops for school lunches. The direct beneficiaries are approximately 3,600 children in the area.

In Peru, the project "Anemia No" aims to contribute to the prevention and sustainable reduction of child undernutrition through family practices of prevention and control that are culturally relevant, capacity building in the health sector, and social programmes. In this way, more than 500 children will benefit. This is an initiative launched in concert with Action Against Hunger.

Projects in Central Africa
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the project "Improving Food Security for the Population of Kasando", launched in concert with the Fundación Internacional de Solidaridad de la Compañía de María, or International Solidarity Foundation of the Company of Mary Our Lady (FISC), aims to improve food security at the Kasando Health Center by enhancing its infrastructure and conducting training sessions for the personnel on nutrition and health. It is slated to benefit some 7,085 people.

In Ethiopia, the Probitas Foundation has supported a project, in collaboration with UNHCR, to Contribute to the international protection of refugees in Ethiopia, ensuring access to essential basic services at the camps. The project seeks to improve the nutritional status of children under age five, and pregnant and breastfeeding women in the country's five Somali and Eritrean refugee camps. Direct beneficiaries include over 10,046 Eritrean and Somali refugees, more than 8,270 children under age five, and 1,600 pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The third project carried out is in the district of Kilombero, in Tanzania, made possible thanks to assistance provided by the Ifakara Health Intitute (IHI). It focuses on supporting nutritional rehabilitation and improving maternal and child health in the area's population in order to reduce the mortality rates of undernourished children. More than 380 people are benefited.

Project in the Middle East
In order to support displaced persons and, specifically, children affected by the war in their countries of origin (especially Syria), Probitas has been providing financial support during the 2016/2017 academic year to a project that has made it possible to ensure school lunches for 550 Syrian and Lebanese children who participated in the school nutrition programme, carried out in concert with the World Food Program.

Project in India
In the Mumbai area the Probitas Foundation supports a project carried out with the organisation Proinfants based on providing outpatient and nutritional medical assistance in collaboration with Ankur Children's Home . The purpose of the initiative is to provide health and nutritional assistance to identified groups of children and mothers in two impoverished quarters of Mumbai, with an average of between 50 and 80 beneficiaries per day, for 24 months.

Project in Southern Europe
Probitas supported an initiative benefitting northern refugee camps in Greece, carried out in collaboration with Save The Children and Nutrition in Northern Greece, which aims to promote, protect and support breastfeeding practices and nutrition for infants and children in emergencies, as well as to respond to the dietary needs of mothers and newborns up to age 2. The direct beneficiaries of the project were 2,366 mothers and children.

In this way the Probitas Foundation provides knowledge and resources to improve the situations of those populations most affected by hunger, fight child malnutrition, and promote healthy eating habits for communities.

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The Probitas Foundation promotes new projects of the "RAI-Secundary!"

This year, it plans to open new programs at Santa Coloma and Vallès Occidental institutes

The 2016/2017 school year ended with a total of 304,548 students (148,004 girls and 156,544 boys) enrolled in Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) in Catalonia, according to the latest data recorded by the Department of Education of the Generalitat de Catalonia (regional government) in the month of July. Of all these students enrolled, some 5,000 ESO students received school meals stipends, according to Education Counsellor Meritxell Ruiz. This figure, however, represents less than 2% of Catalonia's Compulsory Secondary Education students who receive nutritional funding, compared to the 13.6% who receive it in Primary and Secondary education. Therefore, when passing from primary school to secondary, the number of students receiving funding drops 89%.

These stipends are subsidies paid for using public funds and intended for students of compulsory school age belonging to families in precarious socioeconomic situations, regardless of their nationality or origin. The entity responsible for handling the funding and setting their limits is the Department of Education, while regional councils are responsible for administrating the stipends, which partially or fully cover the cost of the service.

The source of the problem
In 2012 the Parliament of Catalonia implemented an abbreviated school schedule at the ESO level, which meant the closure of many school cafeterias at the region's public secondary schools, due to a lack of demand. Over the years the measure has meant that poorer families are not ensured a healthy lunch for their young people, who need it most, exposing them to the serious risk of malnutrition, which has serious consequences for their physical and cognitive development.

This is a currently a topic being debated in the Parliament, as there is an effort underway to replace the previous decree, approved in 1996, which is still in force today. The revision of the decree, according to government sources, speaking to the online newspaper, will reconsider criteria such as the ratio of supervisors at school cafeterias; and, for example, the maximum price of a complete lunch, currently set at €6.20, a figure that has been frozen for years. The development of the decree's new content is in a very early stage, and is being discussed by parents' associations and the companies that offer the services, with a view to its implementation for the upcoming 2018/2019 academic year.

The new decree – temporarily withdrawn due to a lack of consensus in the educational community – would put an end to the management of cafeteria services by some AMPAs (Students' Parents Associations).

The Federation of Students' Parents Associations of Catalonia (FAPAC) is asking the Generalitat (Catalonian government) to make these lunches free at public grade schools and high schools. Among the arguments advanced is that guaranteeing universal access to school lunches may be a first step to ensuring fairness and equal opportunities. In addition, proponents argue that the two hours between lunch and recess must be considered part of the school's educational programme.

Probitas's role
In this context the Probitas Foundation is strongly engaged in trying to improve the situation of many children who have difficulties affording school cafeteria costs, or who at age 12, when they begin ESO (Obligatory Secondary Education), no longer have the right to cafeteria funding.

As part of the Child Nutrition Reinforcement (RAI) project initiated in 2012, Probitas backed the "RAI-ESO ¡Comemos Juntos!" programme two years later, which aims to offer a healthy lunch and a protective space in which to offer socio-educational activities to young people ages 11 to 17 at the risk of social exclusion. In this case, the programme includes access to a healthy lunch and leisure, athletic and educational support activities between 2 and 5 pm. In addition to ensuring a nutritious meal each day and providing a protective space, the objectives of the programme include promoting healthy habits, publicising the need to open high school cafeterias, and working together as a network.

During the 2016/2017 academic year the "RAI-ESO Comemos Juntos!" programme had facilities fully operational in 6 municipalities in Catalonia, with 6 collaborating entities and 401 beneficiaries from 18 high schools. The areas where the programme is present are Hospitalet de Llobregat, Terrassa, Granollers, Sabadell, Montornès del Vallès and Salt.

New spheres of action this year
For this new 2017/2018 school year Probitas has started a "RAI-ESO ¡Comemos Juntos!" programme in Santa Coloma de Gramenet. Specifically, it was initiated on Monday 2, October at two secondary schools, where approximately 70 children between the ages of 12 and 14 will be beneficiaries of the "RAI-ESO ¡Comemos Juntos!" programme. In addition to offering a healthy meal, at the centre there will also be athletic, socio-educational and school reinforcement activities for adolescents at risk of social exclusion in the time slot spanning from 2:30 to 5:00 pm.

The two schools where the program is implemented are the city's Puig Castellar and Tierra Roja. The initiative has been possible thanks to the agreement signed between Probitas, the entities Casal de los Niños, Risas, and the City of Santa Coloma. The implementation of this programme will help to raise awareness of the need to open school cafeterias at secondary schools, and to promote the joint efforts being made by all the agents involved.

In addition to its collaboration with the two high schools in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Probitas also plans to launch the "RAI-ESO ¡Comemos Juntos!" project, of a socio-educational nature, to guarantee healthy food for secondary students in Vallès Occidental. The Regional Council of this territory laments that less than one student in every 100 there receives a cafeteria stipend, and that only 2.8% of all the stipends granted in the region are for secondary school students. This fact means that many boys and girls receive no aid after passing from grade school to high school. According to data from the Regional Council, during the 2016/2017 academic year 1,014 6th-grade students received school lunch funding, while in 2017/2018 only 204 first-year ESO (Obligatory Secondary Education) students benefited.

Hence, Probitas has established a collaboration framework with the Vallès Occidental Regional Council to guarantee the benefits of the "RAI-ESO ¡Comemos Juntos!" programme. For both parties this agreement promises to have an impact with a regional scope. The Foundation will also be promoting the RAI-ESO project at high schools in Cornellà (Baix Llobregat) and at schools in different cities in Vallès Occidental.

The strong reception given the programme by all the different educational agents (local councils, high schools, entities and families) has prompted Probitas to gradually expand its scope of action, as it increasingly meets the needs of more vulnerable children.

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The Probitas Foundation offers a course on modernising laboratory techniques for personnel at a hospital and two health centres in the Kigoma region of Tanzania

The program, in addition to addressing the main diseases in the region, seeks to improve the diagnosis of malaria, one of the prevalent diseases in the area

Over a year ago the Probitas Foundation initiated a project within the Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI) program in the Kigoma region of Tanzania. The objective is to bolster local health systems through laboratories by improving infrastructures, the acquisition of equipment, and the training of health personnel, with a special stress on the diagnosis of malaria, an endemic disease in the country that causes many deaths.

The project was initiated in collaboration with the Red Cross of both Spain and Tanzania, together with the country's Health Ministry. Likewise, and through a framework agreement signed with the Vall d'Hebrón Research Institute (VHIR) at the beginning of the year, it was possible to benefit from the contributions of a microbiologist for the course on the modernisation of diagnostic techniques. The purpose of this collaboration by the VHIR is to concretise and jointly promote, in concert with the Probitas Foundation, a series of actions spanning various areas, such as providing support for Microbiology courses forming part of GLI projects, in this specific case providing guidance on microbiology issues, helping to train laboratory personnel, and conducting telemedicine sessions via videoconferences, among other actions.

Actions undertaken by the programme
Specifically, GLI-Kigoma operates at the hospital in Kasulu and at the health centres in Makere and Kiganamo, reinforcing their infrastructures, providing them with lab equipment, reagents and work material and training personnel. In addition to these actions, the project also works to decentralise health care in rural and difficult-to-access areas, and to provide incentives for community work, with the aim of increasing the flow of patients to these health centres.

The visit to Kigoma
As part of the GLI programme, one of the pending actions this year was a course to update the staff's laboratory techniques at the different facilities. From July 10 to 21 the Project Manager of the GLI program, Mercè Claret, travelled to Kigoma in order to teach a refresher course in Haematology and Microbiology for medical staff at labs in Kasulu, Makere and Kiganamo. She was accompanied by a microbiologist from the Vall d'Hebrón Hospital in Barcelona, Zaira Moure, who also taught some of the classes.

The course lasted for two weeks and was attended by 18 students from the three health centres in Kigoma. Classroom sessions were combined with laboratory practice.

The course was taught in English and Swahili (local language). The course also featured a teacher from Tanzania's Ministry of Health, who provided his knowledge, taught some sessions, helped with translations of the classes into Swahili, and provided support where needed.

Project assessment
The training phase of GLIs is very important because it is essential that the health personnel know how to use the laboratory equipment provided by the Foundation, and that they be up to date on basic laboratory diagnosis techniques and management.

After the visit, the next step to be taken by Probitas is to install software in the laboratories at the hospital in Kasulu and health centres in Kiganamo centres in order to facilitate the data management process. The project will be monitored over the coming months to evaluate its progress and stress will be placed on community issues that may improve health in the local populations.

The GLI-Kigoma programme, according to the latest follow-up report, is directly benefiting 180,042 people and indirectly serving 685,470.

Through the implementation of projects like this one, the Probitas Foundation helps to improve the medical resources and well-being of the people in different regions around the world who suffer from a lack of resources and/or knowledge in the field of health. Along this line, Probitas seeks to transfer experience, resources and knowledge in the health field to the most vulnerable populations, as an instrument for change and social transformation.

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Probitas Foundation funds projects on prevention, diagnosis and comprehensive care of HIV in Peru and Central America

The increase in antiretroviral resistance to certain drugs against HIV can be a halt in the fight against HIV/AIDS

Resistance to certain drugs against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) -causing AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) - has increased, according to the latest report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2017.

A Report on HIV drug resistance in 2017 warned that in 6 out of 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America, more than 10% of patients who started antiretroviral treatment had a strain resistant to any of the drugs that are used to fight HIV. The countries that WHO is more concerned about are: Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. This increase identified in drug resistance, according to WHO, could lead to the death of 135,000 people and cause 105,000 new infections. The increase is attributed to the fact that infected people do not respond adequately to antiretroviral - drugs that can control the replication of the virus and avoid the infection progress to AIDS - and, therefore, resistant viruses are still transmitted to other people.

From the World Health Organization, they recommend an urgent and accurate revision of the virus treatment programs that are applied against the disease, since this discovery could be a halt to the achievement of one of the Sustainable Development Goals of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.

According to WHO by the end of 2015 there were 36.7 million people affected by the virus worldwide and only 18.2 million received antiretroviral treatment in the middle of 2016. In addition, more than two million new infections are reported every year -it would be equivalent to have an infection every 15 seconds- and it is estimated that 25% of infected people do not know it. WHO warns that currently only 60% of people with HIV know their serological status.

The World Health Organization highlights the importance of standard anti-retroviral treatment (TAR), which consist in combining at least three antiretroviral drugs (ARV) to suppress HIV as much as possible and curb the progression of the disease. The organization notes that huge reductions in mortality and suffering rates have been observed in response to a highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), especially in the early stages of the disease. On the other hand, the WHO indicates that the extension of the access to the HAART can also be a prevention strategy by reducing the transmission of HIV at population scale and reduce the number of orphans thus preserving the families.

Currently, there are only three possible ways of transmitting HIV. On the one hand, through sexual transmission (maintaining unprotected sex). On the other, blood route (transfusion of contaminated blood or share contaminated sharp objects such as needles or syringes. And thirdly, maternal to child transmission route (during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding). Despite community-based and worldwide efforts to combat the disease, no cure or vaccine has yet been found to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

In this context, Probitas Foundation is also sensitive to the worrying situation that stems from the HIV virus. Therefore, following the philosophy that seeks to transfer experience, knowledge and resources in the field of health in the most vulnerable areas of the world, there are three on-going projects aimed at improving the detection and care of the HIV virus.

One of them is the program "GLI-Peru" in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health. Through this project, it was created the first "Comprehensive HIV/AIDS care model for indigenous populations", by adapting the National protocol to the context of indigenous population areas, which not only lack resources, but they are also sharing beliefs and values according to their ethnic and different from other areas of the country. The project, which began in 2014, is already in the last stage of execution in which an analysis of the efficiency and impact that has been carried out.

The final figures of the project estimate that in Peru there are 72,000 people living with HIV, but only 64% of them have the diagnosis, around 55% have achieved retention in the program, only 46% of people living with HIV has received highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and roughly 37% have achieved viral suppression.

Finally, the results of the project were focused on improving the capacity of health services, including the laboratory capacity of Condocanqui and Datem del Marañón for the diagnosis and timely treatment of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, which affect children and adolescents, pregnant mothers and the general population of the indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin. The execution of the project has allowed us to improve the capacities of the health personnel in the region, so that during 2016 has facilitated the registry of 134 new cases of HIV infection in the Condorcanqui network.

Cooperative project in Central America
Also Probitas promotes since 2015 a project called "Improved diagnosis of patients with HIV-Tuberculosis co-infection in Central America", particularly in Guatemala. The main goal of this project is to implement a Point-of-care (POC) test for Tuberculosis diagnosis (TB) in patients with HIV co-infection. It is intended that the results of this initiative serve to guide subsequent validation studies of the test with the potential to improve the diagnosis of tuberculosis in HIV patients.

This project, which is being carried out by Ohio University in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and IDEI with the Probitas Foundation support; has been shown that the co-infected population of HIV-TB presents an important delay in the diagnosis and a higher morbidity and mortality rates due to the difficulty and cost of diagnosis and treatment. Many HIV-TB patients do not have access to correct treatment and monitoring due to from the lack of infrastructure and equipment in public hospitals systems. As a result, they suffer stigma and discrimination associated with both illnesses that exacerbates the negative social and economic consequences of the diseases.

Precisely, this is one of the reasons that led us to set one of the main objectives of the study: to reduce the time of diagnosis of tuberculosis in HIV patients and thus improve the control of follow-up of patients for improving the prognosis and reduce transmissibility. The indirect beneficiaries of the program are approximately 620,000 people infected with HIV and who live in the Central American region.

Cooperative project for vulnerable populations of the Department of Escuintla, Guatemala
The third project supported by the Foundation financially is called "Prevention, diagnosis and comprehensive care for sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV and opportunistic infections in vulnerable populations Escuintla, Guatemala". The main objective of the initiative is to improve the prevention, detection and care of HIV/AIDS and STI patients by improving the coordination of the different Hospital's services in Escuintla. The expected results are to have adequate space for the diagnosis of STI, HIV and other infections, as well as obtaining an improved system for data management and registry of cases.

In a context starring of 87.252 people affected by HIV -which represents 0.08% of the adult population- it is estimated that there are 8,908 new infections annually. The main activities of the project focus on improving the attention and coordination of the different services of the Escuintla National Hospital through the training of healthcare providers of the Comprehensive Attention Unit, the Barcelona Clinic and the AIDS Foundation and Society (FSIS) in communication and integrated coordination, among other actions. The direct beneficiaries of the project are 1,210 people living with the HIV/AIDS.

With the implementation of these projects, Probitas Foundation brings together its values and mission in those areas with difficulty access to social and health services, thus contributing to the improvement of the living conditions of the most vulnerable populations. 

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World Refugee Day

On June 20 this Day is observed in recognition of the courage and strength of people fleeing their countries

Every June 20 World Refugee Day is held to raise awareness of the millions of people who are forced to flee their countries due to war, violence, persecution, conflicts and human rights violations. It has been celebrated since the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, when the United Nations General Assembly designated June 20 as World Refugee Day as an expression of solidarity with and sensitivity towards all people who flee their countries.

There are now 65.6 million displaced people worldwide - almost 1% of the world's population, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a figure that represents an increase of 300,000 people over the previous year and marks a "historic high." The refugee population - made up of those outside their countries – was up in 2016 compared to the previous year, rising from 21.3 million people to 22.5 million.

For the third consecutive year Turkey took in the largest number of refugees in the world, with a total of 2.9 million people, according to the UNHCR. It was followed by Pakistan, with 1.4 million, and Lebanon, with 1 million. The flow of refugees on a global scale from 2000 to 2015 was illustrated on an interactive map - created by the publication Fast Company - that reflects the movements of people leaving their countries. The map shows, for example, how in 2007 many Colombians fled to Venezuela when conditions in their country deteriorated. Also, in 2009 Germany welcomed a large number of refugees from Iraq displaced by the worsening conflict in the latter country.

Moreover, UNHCR laments the loss of the 5,000 refugees who have perished in the Mediterranean, including hundreds of children, a situation which, as UNHCR points out, indicts Europe's mismanagement of this humanitarian crisis coming out of Syria, with international repercussions. Some of the proposals that the organisation is calling for are include implementation of resettlement programs, humanitarian visas, more flexible family reunification terms, and study visas, among others.
At refugee camps the UNHCR provides shelter, nutrition, water, sanitation and health. It also distributes materials like drums of water, cooking utensils, and solar lamps to cover basic needs with regards to the refugees' nutrition, health and education. Finally, it provides them with the means to attend school, in the case of children, or vocational training courses, such as tailoring, in the case of adults.

In this regard the Probitas Foundation is also sensitive to the plight of refugees, which is why it backs the Health Protection Programme, providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for Sudanese refugees in Chad, in collaboration with the UNHCR. Through this project the two entities aim to improve the living conditions of Sudanese refugees and allow for uninterrupted access to drinking water and adequate sanitation services for the 170,726 Sudanese refugees, in accordance with international standards.

Currently the Sudanese refugee population living in the camps of Djabal and Farchana, among others, is made up of 92,758 women and 77,968 men, 57% under of them under the age of 18.

The results expected from the project are to ensure the quality of the drinking water supply systems at the six refugee camps where the project is implemented, to expand sanitation infrastructures, and to raise awareness in beneficiary communities regarding the responsible use of water, as well as to bolster the capacities of water management committees at the camps.

Humanitarian Action Programme in Greece
Another of the programmes that Probitas carries out is one of humanitarian action, tackling the Refugee Crisis. The project's geographical scope is Greece and Lebanon. The activities undertaken by Probitas in Greece, specifically in the Attica Region, at the Ritson and Skaramaga camps, and on the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos, focus on providing basic health services and psychosocial support. In addition, there is a medical response, delivering primary care for pregnant women and newborns through Emergency Response Units (ERUs) and the health services of the Hellenic Red Cross. Psychological support is facilitated by safe spaces for young people and attention to families, and also through educational efforts and direct psychosocial support by humanitarian workers and volunteers. The actions are carried out in concert with the Spanish Red Cross and the Hellenic Red Cross.

The actions carried out in the Northern Region (Thessaloniki) and the West (Katsikas), and at the Andravida and Kara Tepe (Lesvos) camps focus on bolstering the resilience of the immigrant refugee population through access to Primary Health Care (PHC) services, sexual and reproductive health, specialised care, and psychosocial support through mobile clinics. In these areas of Greece Probitas has worked together with Médicos del Mundo.

Finally, Probitas is also supporting projects with Save the Children in northern Greece and on the islands. In these areas the aim is to provide adequate food for children up to 2 years of age through a programme specialised in breastfeeding, offered at "Mother/Baby Areas", spaces providing protection and counsel for mothers and at which children also receive nutritional supplements and therapeutic feeding. This effort will make it possible to improve the nutritional status of children and mothers, and reduce high morbidity and mortality rates from acute respiratory infections, malnutrition and diarrhoea.

Humanitarian Action Programme in Lebanon
The Probitas Foundation also funds an Oxfam-Intermon project at seven municipalities located north of Bekaa, Lebanon. In these territories there is a community intervention to improve water, sanitation and hygiene for Syrian refugees living in unofficial camps located in rural areas. The objective is to create technical committees in the communities, identifying refugees with skills so that they can be trained in the maintenance of new infrastructures, thereby augmenting their self-sufficiency and enhancing their resilience, so that they depend less on humanitarian organisations. The project is complementary to a European Union ECHO programme and is carried out in collaboration with Oxfam Intermón.

In Lebanon Probitas works in the country's public hospitals along with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) with the aim of improving access by the Palestinian population displaced by the Syrian conflict to hospital care, to treat very chronic diseases, until now a possibility precluded by the emergency.

Finally, in the public school of El-Hilo (Beirut), in collaboration with the Wold Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Education, nutritional support is provided through balanced meals in schools for young refugees  and Lebanese children, with a three-fold objective: improving the diets and nutritional status of the children, encouraging and improving the enrolment rates at primary schools, and promoting social cohesion amongst children and families in Lebanon and the families of Syrian refugees arriving in the country.

In this way in 2016-2017 Probitas supported water, sanitation, nutrition and physical and mental health projects with the aim of improving the living conditions of the refugees who arrived in Greece and Lebanon during the last year.

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The Probitas Foundation promotes a laboratory improvement project at the Nossa Senhora da Paz Hospital in Cubal, Angola

The programme aims to increase the quality of the diagnoses of the most prevalent diseases in the area

The Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI), one of the Probitas Foundation's own programs, aimed at bolstering the capacities of clinical diagnostic laboratories in the world's most vulnerable regions, reaches Cubal, a city in the province of Benguela (Angola) to improve the conditions of the municipal hospital in terms of access to diagnoses.

The region's limited resources in terms of health and hygiene render the area very vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease.

Precisely for this reason, the Probitas Foundation is backing a project, GLI-Cubal, to improve the laboratory at the Nossa Senhora da Paz Hospital, in order to furnish it with water, electricity and laboratory equipment. A staff training program will also be implemented.

This step forward also entails the improvement of health professionals' working conditions at the hospital in Cubal and, consequently, improvements in approaches to diseases such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria.

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Crònica de la jornada Accés a l'alimentació dins i fora de l'escola: del llunyà al proper

La Fundació Probitas i el Programa Mundial d'Aliments han celebrat un acte en què han assistit entitats del tercer sector per debatre la realitat actual sobre l'alimentació infantil, a escala local i internacional

La Jornada d'Accés a l'alimentació dins i fora de l'escola, organitzada per la Fundació Probitas i el World Food Programme (WFP), celebrada el 9 de juny a l'Ateneu Barcelonès ha servit perquè fundacions, voluntaris, famílies i institucions abordessin junts assumptes vinculats a la pobresa infantil, com la salut, l'educació i l'alimentació. La cita, que ha comptat amb convidats de luxe, s'ha revelat com a magnífic altaveu de les preocupacions socials que existeixen al voltant dels nens més vulnerables a escala local.

L'acte ha girat al voltant d'una qüestió central: com mitigar els efectes de la crisi en una infància d'entorns socioeconòmics menys afavorits els drets dels quals mereixen una especial protecció pública i com aquesta situació influeix en les famílies i en les comunitats.

Precisament sobre aquest aspecte ha parlat el primer dels ponents, Rafael Ribó, Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya. Ribó ha inaugurat l'acte recordant els informes de la Sindicatura sobre segregació escolar, malnutrició infantil i menjadors escolars. I ha llançat una xifra preocupant: si el 2013 eren 50.000 els nens a Catalunya que patien privacions alimentàries, ara en són 70.000, ha assegurat.

El Síndic ha afirmat, així mateix, que les prestacions a la infància són molt reduïdes i tenen baixos nivells de cobertura. "S'han suprimit les ajudes per a material escolar i les beques menjador arriben a l'estiu", ha dit en al·lusió als retards i mancances en la concessió de les ajudes públiques.

Ribó ha retret l'enfocament de les mesures públiques i ha insistit que la via no pot ser només l'assistencialista -que ha jutjat d'insuficient- sinó que ha d'anar acompanyada de prevenció. També s'ha referit al model de gestió de les beques menjador per part dels Consells Comarcals dient que "crea desigualtats territorials", ja que els criteris d'adjudicació són diferents segons la comarca. El Síndic ha denunciat la falta de garanties per a un mínim d'un àpat diari durant el curs escolar.

Que no hi hagi estigmatització de la població que rep les ajudes ha estat una altra de les idees que ha deixat anar el responsable de la Sindicatura de Greuges. Pel que fa a les propostes de l'organisme, aquestes passen, entre d'altres, per pagar les beques a l'inici del curs escolar, garantir l'ús dels menjadors en col·legis d'infantil i primària i instituts de secundària els cinc dies de la setmana o crear protocols en cas de malnutrició infantil.

En segon lloc ha intervingut Antonio Salort-Pons, cap de l'oficina del World Food Programme (Programa Mundial d'Aliments, PMA) a Espanya.  Amb un pressupost de 5.900 milions de dòlars, ha precisat Salort-Pons, l'agència de les Nacions Unides dóna aliment cada any a més de 90 milions de persones -16,4 milions d'elles, nens- en més de 80 països, entre els quals es troben Síria, Sudan del Sud, l'Iraq i el Iemen. "Tenim un doble mandat: les respostes humanitàries, en zones de conflicte o en situacions de catàstrofe i el desenvolupament de comunitats", ha apuntat.

D'aquests 5.900 milions de dòlars, el Programa Mundial d'Aliments destina 321 milions a menjars escolars repartits en col·legis de tot el món i en assistir de manera tècnica als governs perquè aquests desenvolupin programes nacionals. Alguns dels beneficis que aquests aporten -segons Salort-Pons- són la millora de la nutrició infantil, la seguretat alimentària, la contribució a l'educació i, fins i tot, els menjadors escolars milloren la higiene personal i donen accés a l'escolarització de les nenes, contribuint així, a la igualtat de gènere. "En molts països en els quals actua el programa, les nenes no poden anar a l'escola, però, amb aquests àpats es garanteix la seva nutrició i incrementa la seva assistència escolar". A més, per cada euro invertit es produeix un benefici econòmic d'entre quatre i deu euros en millora de la salut i educació en nens en edat escolar i augmenta la seva productivitat quan aquests joves passen a ser treballadors adults. Aquests menjars escolars, quan es produeixen localment, milloren la nutrició dels menors, promocionen dietes variades i hàbits alimentaris saludables i enforteixen l'agricultura local.

Per la seva banda, Lidia García, professora associada de la Universitat Politècnica de València i investigadora en alimentació escolar, ha centrat el seu discurs a explicar els models d'intervenció en alimentació escolar a països d'alta, mitja i baixa renda. I quin és l'impacte d'aquests models en els menors, les famílies i les comunitats en general. García ha remarcat que en alguns països subdesenvolupats la xarxa d'alimentació escolar ajuda a les polítiques de protecció social, com és el cas d'El Salvador. La ponent, a més, ha volgut precisar que a l'Amèrica Llatina són les institucions públiques que assumeixen els costos de l'alimentació escolar, mentre que a Espanya són els pares i mares els que paguen el menjador, tot i que també hi ha beques públiques i d'altres entitats. En aquest sentit, la professora ha destacat la necessitat que els nens mengin a l'escola, ja que amb això augmenta el rendiment i, en molts casos, l'assistència.

A l'Amèrica Llatina, tot i que la situació ha millorat, encara hi ha més de 34 milions de persones que pateixen fam: "Paradoxalment, 1.300 milions de tones d'aliments es llencen a les escombraries en tot el món, quan amb un quart d'aquesta xifra s'acabaria amb la fam al món".

En el cas concret del Salvador, s'ha creat el Programa d'Alimentació i Salut Escolar, -amb una inversió de 30 milions de dòlars en el seu primer any i que ha arribat fins als 388 milions el 2016- atén el 100% dels estudiants de l'estat. Aquesta iniciativa s'ha centrat en un canvi en el menú escolar -basat en aliments fàcilment emmagatzemables com els fesols, l'arròs, l'oli, el sucre i la llet- a partir de la introducció de fruites, verdures i ous, entre altres aliments, dels productors locals. Aquest projecte s'ha creat de manera transversal, gràcies a la col·laboració entre diferents ministeris del país centreamericà -com el d'Educació, el de Salut i el d'Agricultura- així com amb l'ajuda d'associacions de pares i mares, onegés i institucions internacionals. Amb aquest model d'alimentació escolar s'han millorat les condicions d'alumnes i productors locals: Els primers obtenen una millor i més variada alimentació, mentre que els segons veuen augmentada la seva economia, ja que en els menjadors escolars s'aposta pels seus productes.

Les propostes de les entitats 
Finalment, la jornada ha comptat amb una taula rodona titulada "Pobresa infantil i accés a l'alimentació dins i fora de l'escola", moderada per Elena Sintes, de l'Institut Infància i Adolescència, en què han participat Marta Segú, directora general de la Fundació Probitas; Ignasi Giménez, president del Consell Comarcal del Vallès Occidental; Miquel Gené, membre de la comissió de beques menjador i pobresa infantil de la Federació d'Associacions de Pares i Mares de Catalunya (FAPAC); Josep Rodríguez, coordinador de la comissió de centres oberts de la Federació d'Entitats d'Atenció i d'Educació a la Infància i l'Adolescència (FEDAIA) i Enric Morist, coordinador de Creu Roja-Catalunya. Aquesta activitat ha generat un gran debat i ha comptat amb la participació de la Fila 0 i del públic en la part final. Els temes principals de les diferents intervencions s'han centrat en el foment d'un desenvolupament saludable, la dignitat de les persones i en potenciar uns hàbits de nutrició, educació i salut mitjançant un sistema holístic de protecció dels menors més vulnerables.

Tots els ponents han coincidit en "l'error" del tancament de menjadors i cantines en centres de secundària. "Hi ha alumnes de sisè de primària que l'any que ve no podran accedir a una beca menjador i la seva situació no haurà canviat", ha apuntat el president del Consell Comarcal del Vallès Occidental. Qui a més ha lamentat la manca de recursos i ha reivindicat la necessitat de la creativitat per abordar la situació que actualment deixa xifres com que el 30% de la població viu en llars en situació de pobresa i en risc d'exclusió social. La Federació d'Associacions de Pares i Mares de Catalunya ha reclamat la necessitat d'obrir aquests espais dels instituts per garantir l'alimentació d'adolescents en risc de pobresa i exclusió social. La veritat és que el nombre de beques menjador concedides a adolescents és molt reduït i en moltes ocasions és el sector privat el que acaba emparant alguns joves. "Només un 2% d'estudiants de secundària reben beques menjador per part del sector públic", ha apuntat Elena Sintes. El programa RAI-ESO de la Fundació Probitas intenta mitigar aquesta problemàtica oferint un espai de protecció i socioeducatiu en els menors més vulnerables. Tal com ha explicat la directora de la Fundació, Marta Segú, el projecte -que ja treballa en sis municipis i que espera ampliar el radi d'actuació- protegeix els adolescents, oferint-los un menjar i activitats socioeducatives per garantir-los un entorn segur i protegit.

Les beques menjador dels més petits també han aparegut en l'ordre del dia i, mentre uns demanaven un augment d'aquests ajuts, altres qüestionaven el seu model de gestió. Ignasi Giménez ha apuntat que hi ha una diferència entre el llindar real de la pobresa i el llindar determinat per a l'atorgament de beques. "Per aquest motiu s'han denegat més de 1.000 sol·licituds de beques", ha sentenciat el president del Consell Comarcal del Vallès Occidental. Miquel Gené, membre de la FAPAC, ha demanat a la Generalitat un augment de les ajudes que costegen el 100% del servei de menjador escolar, ja que representen una minoria -el 22% -. I ha deixat en l'aire la proposta dels menjadors escolars universals i gratuïts de 0 a 18 anys (com ja passa en països com Finlàndia, Suècia i Estònia). La Federació d'Entitats d'Atenció i d'Educació a la Infància i l'Adolescència ha apuntat que entitats com la Fundació Probitas o Creu Roja són actualment les encarregades d'arribar allà on l'Administració no pot. Així mateix, s'ha denunciat la desigualtat territorial existent a l'hora d'atorgar les beques menjador, ja que aquestes es gestionen a través dels consells comarcals i depenent de l'organisme supramunicipal s'utilitzen uns paràmetres o uns altres. S'ha reclamat, també, que aquests consells paguessin puntualment les beques, a causa que la necessitat de les famílies comença a l'inici del curs i no al final d'aquest, que és, en moltes ocasions, quan arriben les ajudes.

No obstant això, la FAPAC defensa que l'accés al servei de menjador sigui universal i gratuït i apunta que aquest dret ha de garantir l'Administració, ja que consideren que les beques menjador que atorga el sector públic, tot i haver incrementat al llarg dels anys, són insuficients. Gené posa un clar exemple: en el curs 2013-2014, cinc anys després de l'inici de la crisi, la pobresa infantil havia passat del 17% al 27% mentre que la inversió en beques menjador s'havia reduït en gairebé 15 milions d'euros. Per aquest motiu, el curs següent, des de la FAPAC s'ha donat suport a una campanya per a la millora de les beques menjador iniciada en un col·legi de Barcelona, que es veu reflectida, un any després, en els pressupostos de la Generalitat, que s'incrementa en 6,8 milions d'euros la partida d'aquest tipus d'ajudes.

D'altra banda, des de FEDAIA han apuntat que durant el període de les vacances d'estiu, de Nadal, de Setmana Santa o simplement el cap de setmana, hi ha molts nens que no poden accedir al menjar que se'ls ofereix al col·legi i han proposat una prestació econòmica universal per a la criança de 2.500 euros anuals, que correspon al 50% del cost bàsic de la criança, que contribuiria a la defensa dels drets de tots els nens i ho faria a través de la prevenció.

Pel que fa a aquest període de vacances, els ponents de la taula rodona han coincidit en la necessitat d'oferir espais d'oci i protecció per als menors que es troben en situació de risc de pobresa i exclusió social. El programa RAI-Casals de la Fundació Probitas garanteix aquesta cobertura amb un pressupost de més de 700.000 euros: treballa perquè els nens més desafavorits puguin gaudir d'activitats socioeducatives en els casals d'estiu beneficiant així a més de 4.100 nens i nenes. Mentrestant, entitats com Creu Roja van més enllà de les beques menjador i ofereixen targetes prepagament a les famílies més desfavorides perquè aquestes puguin accedir a aliments sense ser estigmatitzades, per tant el seu model es basa en la dignificació amb l'objectiu d'evitar perjudicis en la salut física i mental dels nens i nenes. "Una família per poder alimentar de manera correcta o saludable ha de gastar entre 520 i 600 euros al mes, mentre que la gent que ve a nosaltres ingressa entre 300 i 600 euros al mes. No surten els números", ha sentenciat Morist.

Les xifres van anar més enllà: a Catalunya, un 30% dels menors -400.000 nens- es troben en una situació de risc de pobresa, mentre que un 11,7% d'aquest col·lectiu -al voltant de 260.000 joves- pateix privació severa. Aquestes dades les ha plantejat Marta Segú, qui al seu torn ha apuntat que, des de la fundació que dirigeix, s'intenten combatre aquestes desigualtats destinant, per exemple, 2,5 milions d'euros el 2016 a beques menjador. Morist ha reflectit la situació amb dades de l'organització que ell representa:
Un 40,8% de les famílies ateses des de Creu Roja no poden menjar carn ni peix de forma regular, mentre un 40,6% tenen pobresa crònica. La oenegé intenta pal·liar aquesta situació donant ajuda a 10.000 nens a Catalunya. Les xifres són un clar reflex dels efectes d'una crisi econòmica que, tal com ha afirmat Elena Sintes, ha atacat amb força als més desfavorits, vulnerant, fins i tot, els seus drets. Així mateix, la moderadora de la taula rodona ha destacat la necessitat d'actuar amb criteris que dignificaran aquesta situació així com augmentar les mesures tant assistencialistes com preventives.

Un altre fet que ha visibilitzat Sintes, i que ha coincidit amb l'opinió de la resta de ponents, ha estat l'augment de l'assistència a classe si els menors es queden a dinar al centre educatiu.  S'entén, doncs, el menjador escolar com un espai no només d'alimentació, sinó també d'educació i protecció. I, encara que alguns dels assistents han opinat que el menjador en els centres educatius hauria de ser una opció, la moderadora ha apuntat que a l'escola és on es troba la millor via per donar una bona alimentació a nens i adolescents. "No només es tracta de donar menjar, sinó de la salut física i mental dels nens. Es tracta de la nutrició, l'educació i la salut que després repercuteixen en les famílies i en la societat".

La taula rodona ha comptat també amb la participació de la Fila 0 i de bona part del públic, que ha qüestionat la jornada intensiva als centres de secundària i ha demanat una avaluació d'aquest sistema i dels problemes que aquest comporta. Així mateix, s'ha parlat de la importància d'oferir als menjadors escolars aliments de qualitat -i no menjars precuinats i congelats- i que aquests espais serveixin també per educar en hàbits saludables als nens.

Tant onegés com famílies han apuntat que les entitats no han de suplir el treball de les institucions, sinó complementar-lo. Actualment, però, el sector privat es dedica a assistir i a donar resposta a aquells problemes que l'Administració no pot solucionar, encara que el que és realment important és poder dedicar més recursos a la prevenció per tal d'acabar amb el problema d'arrel.

Finalment, s'ha arribat fins i tot a suggerir la idea de liderar una iniciativa conjunta de totes les entitats per l'accés a l'alimentació. La jornada ha servit per tenir una imatge de la realitat actual de l'alimentació infantil i de les singularitats dels programes escolars sobre aquesta temàtica en diferents països i la seva adequació a la situació catalana. Finalment, l'acte ha permès obtenir una visió sobre com treballen les diferents entitats que tracten d'alleujar la situació de pobresa i exclusió social que pateixen els nens i que l'Administració, per si sola, no pot erradicar.

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