Making Nutrition Attainable
There are roughly 15.2 million children under the age of 5 in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Malnutrition affected about half of this population for years. However, there has been some success in lowering this amount by making nutrition attainable. The WHO records that growth stunting reduced from 41 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2014. The percentage of underweight children also dropped from 36 percent to 33 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Although Bangladesh’s economy has progressed and the country has experienced a reduction in poverty, food insecurity remains a concern for about 35 percent of its citizens. The International Food Policy Research Institute recommends that children who consume at least four different food groups a day will be 22 percent less likely to experience stunting. In spite of the food insecurity, each day there are more possibilities for making nutrition attainable for poor countries.

Processed Foods

A very common misconception among big companies and corporations is that poor countries would not be able to purchase their food. Therefore, many companies do not venture to sell to these countries in fear of failure. However, in countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, people purchase over 80 percent of the food rather than relying on home-grown. In Bangladesh, 75 to 90 percent of low-income urban consumers and about 40 percent of low-income rural consumers purchase their food. Fifty to 70 percent of the food people purchase in these countries is processed.

Although there are many unhealthy packaged foods, there is also a market for nutritional processed goods. A study in Nepal found that 80 to 90 percent of the country’s children of 6 to 23 months of age ate commercially-produced packaged foods. In Nigeria, people buy 80 million MAGGI bouillon broth cubes every day. These bouillon cubes carry essential nutritional qualities such as iron and other key micronutrients. There is a need for more similarly packaged and processed foods that provide nutritional density and quality.

Making Nutrition Attainable

In an effort to improve the situation, Groupe Danone and Grameen Bank collaborated to make a fortified yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Danone is the world’s largest yogurt maker with more than $21 billion in annual sales. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, first suggested making baby food, however, a yogurt factory became the ultimate choice.

The company is successfully putting enough vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine into the 60 and 80-gram cups of yogurt to meet 30 percent of a child’s daily needed diet. Overall, the local children who are often poor and malnourished benefit from the yogurts the factory produces. There is still a lot of work to do. The consumer demand increasing in the U.S. leads many businesses to cut sugar out of their products by at least 20 percent. However, for countries in Africa and Asia, there has yet to be this kind of motion.

The Danone and Grameen Factory Help People

The Danone and Grameen factory’s main goal is not to make large revenue, but rather to provide nutrition and education. Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank hopes to share a lesson in manufacturing, business and humanitarian efforts for the developing world and the West. He believes that in starting this project, “You don’t see the money-making aspect, but how you can help people.” The project has employed the rural community through its links with the farmers which serve the factory. The yogurt company pays the local workers and farmers more than any customer does. Many employees are earning $60 a week, a substantial amount for rural Bangladesh.

Many private sector companies are hesitant to step into this effort because of the misinformation that affordable nutrition cannot be profitable. Professor Yunus hopes to educate these companies by challenging them to begin thinking about running their businesses in a different manner. For Danone, this project provides a clearer understanding of marketing food in South Asia and entering in a more profitable market in India.

The Impact

Danone and organizations like Feed the Future strive to make nutrition attainable in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, the U.S. Government selected Bangladesh as one of the 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future, under the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, is a global hunger and food security initiative. It has established a strategy for making nutrition attainable. Feed the Future aims to intensify production while diversifying agriculture. It uses high-value, multi-nutrient products. Feed the Future’s target beneficiaries include rice farmers, the landless poor who are net purchasers of rice, small and medium-size farmers who can diversify production, agricultural-based enterprises and people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sector. In poor countries, companies such as Danone make nutrition attainable by placing more importance on those in need than on the profit it makes. Government organizations like Feed the Future also help in providing food security to poor countries like Bangladesh.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: USAID

korea sharing food
The end of World War II brought the division of North and South Korea. The fragmented region became occupied by the United States in the south and by the Soviet Union in the north. While both nations now hold sovereign status, they are still not on good terms. An area that spans the width of both countries and is roughly two and a half miles long separates the north from the south today. This zone, called the demilitarized zone (DMZ), is rarely crossed to travel from one country to another. That has changed recently, though.

Potential for Change

On Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that they will give North Korea 50,000 tons of rice to offset rising malnutrition rates in the region. South Korea sharing food with its neighbor marks the first humanitarian venture across the DMZ to provide food aid in North Korea.

Historically, North Korea has faced numerous issues providing the proper nourishment to their population. Here are a few quick facts on North Korean malnourishment:

The Bleak Facts

  1. Roughly half of North Korea’s population of 24 million live in extreme poverty. North Korea holds the lowest spot on world personal freedom rankings. Poverty, coupled with a lack of freedom, has led to very poor living conditions for its citizens.
  2. One-third of children in North Korea have stunted growth because of malnourishment.
  3. The Global Hunger Index ranked North Korea tenth from last, stating the hunger levels seen in this country are a serious health threat. One-third of children are thought to have their growth permanently stunted due to malnourishment. The lack of food not only affects children, it has also dropped life expectancies by five years.
  4. North Korea has lost hundreds of thousands of people to malnourishment due to historical famines. The largest, which occurred in the 1990s, had a disputed death toll that varied widely from 800,000 people to 3.5 million. This famine, although it killed several hundred thousand, if not millions, has never been acknowledged by the North Korean government.
  5. Currently, the country is facing the worst drought in a decade, which led to a 1.36 million ton shortage of grain. This shortage forced the North Korean government to reduce rations to only 11 ounces per person daily. If nothing is done to counterbalance the food shortage caused by this drought, up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of needing food aid in the next few months.

A New Precedent

These facts paint a bleak picture of life in North Korea, yet South Korea is trying to offset this growing problem by offering food aid. South Korea sharing food is an act of good faith aimed at improving relations between the two countries. The possibility of South Korea sharing food in the future with its estranged neighbor depends on North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program and improving ties between the two countries.

An act of humanitarian aid between two divided countries gives hope that someday food, not fences, will be shared between the two countries and that the world will see a unified Korea sharing food.

-Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Hunger in South AfricaSouth Africa possesses one of the strongest economies and lowest hunger rates in the continent of Africa. It is a middle-income emerging economy with a profusion of natural resources and well developed legal, communication, energy and transport systems. In recent years, its economic growth has declined to 0.7 percent and records show official unemployment as 27 percent. The cost of food in South Africa has increased and citizens are finding it more difficult to acquire food. South Africa’s economic state is one of the main reasons why millions of South Africans are food insecure, unable to consistently access or afford adequate food. To grasp the volume of the issue, here are 8 facts about hunger in South Africa.

8 Facts about Hunger in South Africa

  1. The Statistics South Africa General Household Survey (GHS) reported that 7.4 million people encountered hunger in 2016 and 1.7 million households had a family member go hungry in the past year. The percentage of South African Households with an insufficient or severely insufficient acquisition of food has been steadily declining since 2002. This may be in relation to the rising price of food and the unemployment rate in South Africa. The inflation rate was 5.3 percent in 2017 and the unemployment rate was 27.5 percent.
  2. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 2017 report, “Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Figures,” a third of all the food produced “in South Africa is never consumed and simply ends up in a landfill.” Specifically, South Africa loses 210 kg per person per year. The report detailed that this contributes to adding more pressure to South Africa’s overly exerted waste-disposal system. The WWF is currently doing research on how to tackle food loss and working towards advocating for action across government and business sectors. Its “research includes both qualitative studies of attitudes and understanding and more data-driven approaches such as using life-cycle analysis to understand hotspots in food product value chains.”
  3. Reports indicated that households led by whites (96.6 percent) and Indian/Asians (93.2 percent) have adequate access to food. On the other hand, black African headed households had the largest proportion (17.9 percent) of households with inadequate access to food. This relates to the fact that the South African unemployment rate is roughly 27 percent of the workforce, and runs significantly higher among black youth.
  4. The number of children aged five or younger who have experienced hunger in 2017 reached half a million and counting. Data provided by Statistics South Africa shows that households with few to no children have more adequate food. Tables show that “80.8 percent of households with no children reported that their food access was adequate.” The report detailed that more than half of the households containing children that have undergone hunger were in urban areas. The report defines rural areas as traditional areas and farms. South Africans living in rural areas are more likely to have farms and thus attain food through agricultural means. Families living in urban areas have a harder time growing food or farming due to their location and surroundings.
  5. The Statistics South Africa General Household Survey reports that in 2017, 63.4 percent of households located in urban areas claimed they were experiencing hunger. As in the previous point, South Africans living in rural areas are more likely to gain food through farming endeavors, whereas people in cities will be less likely to grow their own food.
  6. The number of those living in extreme poverty in South Africa rose from 11 million in 2011 to 13.8 million in 2015. The price of agricultural products has increased over several years as well, which places many South Africans who are combating poverty in a position of insufficient access to food. South Africa’s GDP for agriculture in 2017 was 2.8 percent. Households most commonly grow crops or keep animals in order to grab hold of an additional food source. However, only 14.8 percent of households took part in manufacturing agriculture and only 11.1 percent of these individuals declared receiving government-issued agricultural support. The support would involve training as well as dipping/livestock vaccination services but it is not very widespread across South Africa. The few provinces that received significant support were KwaZulu-Natal (16 percent), Eastern Cape (21.7 percent) and Northern Cape (21.1 percent).
  7. FoodForward South Africa (SA) is a nonprofit organization that redistributes food throughout South Africa. It has partnered with “retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, farmers and growers” to distribute their overabundance of food to those in need. The organization distributed 4,400 tonnes of food and fed 250,000 people in 2018. It provides food to beneficiary organizations centered around services such as youth development, women’s empowerment and care centres that serve “hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries daily throughout South Africa.”
  8. The last of the 8 facts about hunger in South Africa is that many South Africans are not dying of hunger, but malnutrition because they do not have access to proper amounts of food. Malnutrition is the main cause of death for younger children. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals can lead to birth/growth defects and increase the risk of getting HIV and AIDS. UNICEF is aiding the Department of Health to restructure the capacity of health workers and execute nutrition aid in under-served communities in South Africa. It has also implemented the single infant feeding strategy that encourages breastfeeding in relation to HIV. Specifically, to ensure that babies reach their full potential, health practitioners encourage mothers with HIV and their babies to take antiretroviral medicines (ARV) to prevent transmission.

This list of 8 facts about hunger in South Africa underscores the hunger issue that a number of people in South Africa face. Groups and organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), FoodForward SA and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recognized this problem and are making efforts to improve food conditions in South Africa.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr