Microparticles That Could Alleviate Global Malnutrition
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is the most common consequence of poor nutrition worldwide. Every year, 2 million children die globally from malnutrition. Efforts to refortify foods date back to the early 20th century, but the technology to stabilize those nutrients in different foods has progressed slowly. In a breakthrough method of encapsulating micronutrients, researchers at MIT have discovered a way to refortify common foods by using biocompatible polymers that have shown in efficacy trials to prevent degradation while being stored or cooked. The new method would allow for better nutrient delivery and absorption. If there were microparticles that could alleviate global malnutrition, such a development, if scaled up, could provide many developing countries with more nutritious food and prevent malnutrition-related diseases that primarily affect children and pregnant women.

Micronutrient Malnutrition

Malnutrition primarily affects those living in developing countries and the malnourished often represent 30 percent of their population. Malnutrition presents itself in a variety of ways, but most notably through anemia, cognitive impairments and blindness. Roughly 2 billion people live in low-resource areas where infectious diseases compound the effects of malnutrition. The lack of micronutrients is a quiet and prolonged killer and can cause premature death and loss of economic activity. There is also a direct correlation between those with the least education and most iron-deficient in these countries.

WHO has worked to tackle the causes of malnutrition using solutions such as promoting dietary diversification with enhanced iron absorption and supplementation, noting that solutions must meet the local population needs. Since many of these communities lack more than one vital micronutrient, efforts to supplement the diet can address multiple deficiencies, such as lack of folate, vitamins A and B12. Part of their plan includes programs that aim to eradicate infectious diseases that contribute to anemia, including schistosomiasis, hookworm, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Doing so would help end the cycle of poverty that many communities face due to disease and malnutrition.

Microparticles That Could Alleviate Global Malnutrition

The lead authors of the MIT study are Aaron Anselmo and Xian Xu, as well as graduate student Simone Buerkli from ETH Zurich. In the study, they claim to have developed a new way of refortifying foods using a biocompatible polymer microparticle. What is most notable about this new technology for supplementing foods is that the encapsulated micronutrients will not degrade during cooking or storage. Researchers selected the polymer BMC out of the 50 different polymers they tested, after trying them on laboratory rats and later on women. The same polymer is already classified in the United States as a dietary supplement safe for consumption. The next step for the researchers is to advance clinical trials in developing countries with local participants.

The researchers were able to encapsulate 11 different micronutrients using polymer BMC, such as vitamins A, C, B2, zinc, niacin, biotin and iron. They were able to successfully encapsulate combinations of up to four micronutrients at a time. Even after boiling encapsulated micronutrients for hours in a lab, they remained unharmed. Researchers also found that the new microparticles remained stable after experiencing exposure to oxidizing chemicals in fruits and vegetables as well as ultraviolet light. The polymers become soluble in acidic conditions (such as the stomach) and the micronutrients released. An initial trial did not yield a high absorption rate, so researchers boosted the iron sulfate from 3 to 18 percent and were successfully able to achieve high absorption rates, which was on par with typical iron sulfate. This trial added encapsulate iron to flour and used it to bake bread.

History and Limitations of Food Fortification

In its Guidelines on Food Fortification with Micronutrients in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the WHO noted that the most common deficiencies were in iodine, vitamin A and iron, representing 0.8 million deaths annually. Developed nations typically do not experience these levels of malnutrition because they have access to a variety of foods that are rich in micronutrients, such as meat and dairy products. Underdeveloped countries consume mostly monocultures of cereals, tubers and roots. Prior to the 1980s, developed countries focused their efforts on protein-energy malnutrition. While protein-based foods did help to improve nutrition, it was the addition of iodine to foods in the 1990s that helped prevent degenerative characteristics such as brain damage and mental retardation in childhood.

To combat micronutrient malnutrition, WHO promotes greater access to a variety of quality foods for all affected groups. In addition to a more diverse diet, they strategize to create policies and programs with governments and organizations to educate the public on good nutrition, diversify food production and deliverability, implement measures to guarantee food safety and provide supplementation. Having the support of the food industry has been essential since the beginning of the 20th century to include these guidelines in their production of food. Salt iodization in the 1920s expanded from developed countries to nearly the entire world. However, a number of challenges have remained for the refortification of foods.

For example, early on in the fight against malnutrition, a lack of quality evaluation programs on the efficacy of food refortification left nutritionists wondering if the empirical improvements for certain populations were due to supplementation or a combination of socioeconomic facts and public health improvements. Analyzing the data with a comprehensive efficacy trial became the norm in an effort to better gauge the efficacy of their efforts. Other issues remain such as interactions of nutrients, the stability of polymers, correct levels of nutrients, physical properties of ingredients and how well customers receive the food. For instance, in large amounts, calcium inhibits iron absorption while vitamin C has the opposite effect in refortified foods.

Implications of the Study

The MIT study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, modeled its research on the success of refortifying food with iodized salt from the past, incorporating micronutrients into a diet that would not require people to change their consumption habits. According to researchers, the next phase will be to replicate the study in a developing country with malnutrition to see if the microparticles can feasibly enter residents’ diets. They are seeking approval from the WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. If successful, they will scale up manufacturing of the nutrient additive in the form of a powdered micronutrient.

The initiative could lead to a significant decline in global cases of nutrient deficiencies thereby reducing the effects of anaemia and other preventable diseases due to a poor immune system. By no means would it represent the first technological advance in refortifying foods and increasing access to nutrition, but the addition of microparticles that could alleviate global malnutrition may help many developing nations end a cycle of poverty that disease has perpetuated for generations, increasing their health and productivity in the process.

– Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts about Food Insecurity in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, although rich in natural resources, has high rates of poverty and food insecurity. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, and conflict has caused food insecurity to increase. Other challenges include climate change and natural disasters, which will only exacerbate the nation’s struggles in the coming years. Here are eight facts about food insecurity in Afghanistan.

8 Facts About Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

  1. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of access to healthy, affordable food. In Afghanistan, food insecurity is driven by a number of factors, including droughts, flooding, climate shocks and insufficient infrastructure.
  2. Between 2014 and 2017, food insecurity in Afghanistan increased significantly, reaching 13.2 million out of a total population of 35.7 million. Approximately 54 percent of the population lives in poverty and an estimated 41 percent of Afghan children under the age of five are stunted due to food insecurity.
  3. Food insecurity is worsened by conflict. Due to the seemingly unending conflict in the Middle East, the people of Afghanistan have been denied access to the most basic human right: food. Years of oppression from the Taliban regime along with drought further worsened food insecurity in Afghanistan.
  4. Bombings conducted by the U.S. and the U.K. have also driven many people into camps where food delivery is nearly impossible. As of Dec. 2018, there were more than 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan. Even outside of camps, displaced individuals are more likely to experience food insecurity.
  5. Groups like the World Food Program (WFP) assisted more than 3.6 million people in 2015. Most of the assistance came in the form of food deliveries to people in rural areas where food insecurity is the highest. The WFP’s work aims to protect the most vulnerable and impoverished families and illiterate schoolchildren. They also place a particular emphasis on protecting women and girls.
  6. In 2015, the WFP also reached more than 814,000 women and children with take-home food baskets. Along with these baskets were small tablets that provide nutrients that those who are food insecure often lack.
  7. The nonprofit organization Action Against Hunger was able to help 374,814 people in 2018. In the same year, conflict escalated even further in Afghanistan, forcing 278,000 Afghans to flee their homes. Action Against Hunger has operated in Afghanistan for two decades. Since 1995, this program has worked to alleviate malnutrition in children, build safe sanitation services and create food security across the nation.
  8. The Save the Children Initiative has also worked to quell the extreme food insecurity that has resulted from years of war and conflict in the Middle East. Save the Children has helped 24,733 parents to provide food for their children so they do not become malnourished.

These eight facts about food insecurity in Afghanistan highlight that while Afghanistan has seen years of conflict and still wears the scars of war, there are always organizations working to alleviate the hunger crisis. There are many things people in the U.S. can do to help alleviate this conflict as well, including voting to continue foreign aid to the Middle East and supporting candidates and congressional leaders who wish to end the war in this region of the world.

William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Locust Swarms in Ethiopia
Brutal locust swarms have been decimating the food supply of Ethiopia and other African nations. Over 40 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP comes from agriculture, specifically the cultivation of grains like wheat and barley. Locust swarms attack the food supply of the livestock as well, of which Ethiopians consume at a much higher standard than most developing countries. Ethiopia consumes 15 kilograms of meat annually, 50 percent of which is beef. Locust swarms plaguing East Africa have the potential to create a famine that threatens to starve the people of Ethiopia. Here are some facts regarding the locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia recently.

7 Facts About the Locust Swarm Crisis in Ethiopia

  1. The locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia threatens to plunge several Eastern countries into famine. The United Nations (U.N.) has released a call to action, asking other nations around the world to provide $76 million for relief efforts in order to spray the affected areas with insecticide. This is one of the only ways to quell this impending famine.
  2. Ethiopia is no stranger to this kind of epidemic, as a similar influx of locust swarms preyed upon nearly 100 percent of green plant cover in Northern Ethiopia back in 1954. This locust swarm, along with extreme drought that year, plunged Ethiopia into a year-long famine.
  3. The locust’s ability to fly over 150 kilometers in one day makes it a traveling crop reaper. A single locust swarm, containing 40 million locusts, can consume the amount of food required to feed 35,000 people in a single day. This is the largest locust swarm Ethiopia has faced in 25 years.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in order to monitor prime breeding locations of locusts to effectively eradicate them before a full-blown infestation comes to fruition. USAID also backs the research of naturally-occurring pest control agents over harmful chemicals.
  5. USAID aids in coordination with national authorities in order to quickly locate swarm locations so every party has the preparation to eliminate the swarms. Local farmhands and herdsmen often alert locust control staff when people have spotted locusts in a particular area, playing a primary role in the prevention of locust swarms. Locusts tend to destroy crops very quickly, so it is important for locust control staff to know whether it is necessary to intervene with the local sightings and data they collect.
  6. Biologist Arianne Cease believes that the practice of overgrazing livestock creates more severe locust swarms. The land management that farmers implement creates a humid climate that is perfect for spawning locusts. Cease says that farmers should feed crops to their livestock that are optimal for that specific animal and not for locusts. For example, locusts thrive on a high carbohydrate crop, such as the grain that farmers grow in Ethiopia, while a sheep thrives on a high protein crop. Therefore, selecting the right crop and not overgrazing can decrease the severity of swarms, according to Arianne Cease.
  7. Dr. Cease has begun working with over 1,000 Mongolian farmers at a university for agriculture in order to implement these farming strategies, all with the hope of decreasing locust swarm sizes, such as the city-sized swarm currently plaguing Ethiopia.

One locust swarm can threaten Ethiopia’s entire food security. With the right precautionary measures like selective crop growing, moderate grazing and reporting locust sightings to international and local authorities, Ethiopia and the rest of the East African nations that these swarms plague can work together to mitigate the destruction that these pesky insect swarms caused.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Video Games Support the World Food Programme
In today’s society, the popularity of video games has steadily increased. With that popularity comes opportunities to support a nonprofit cause, spreading awareness to gamers and fans worldwide. Video games support the World Food Programme in a way. In fact, there are three video games supporting the World Food Programme in particular.

What is the World Food Programme?

The World Food Programme (WFP) is a United Nations agency with the goal of ending world hunger. It is the world’s leading humanitarian organization in this endeavor, delivering food to countries in crisis and working with communities to improve the situation. The agency arrives in the wake of war, natural disasters or famine, providing food to the victims or those caught in the conflict. When the crisis ebbs, WFP helps rebuild shattered livelihoods and lives. Its development projects focus on nutrition, especially for mothers and their children. WFP has also been implementing school feeding programs worldwide for over 50 years. Here are three video games that support WFP.

Food Force

In 2011, the World Food Programme collaborated with Konami Digital, a Japanese electronic entertainment company, to create an online game to support the fight against world hunger. Food Force immersed players in the virtual experience of planting, harvesting and distributing food across the world while responding to food emergencies. The game prompted players to logistically solve food shortages and keep countries from experiencing hunger. The money that players have spent through this game has helped fund the World Food Programme’s school meals projects in real life, providing meals to 20 million children per year.

PUBG

One of the most popular games of 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) had a gaming community of over 3 million players worldwide. With the success of this game, a famous Korean YouTuber, known as The Great Library (GL), created a live-action PUBG video in support of WFP’s fight against world hunger.

In PUBG, players search for food and weapons while competing against each other in a last-one-standing battle royale. GL’s video replaced the energy drinks and food pickups that people normally find in the game with energy biscuits and bags of rice, the very same that the World Food Programme distributes to the world’s hungry. Additionally, rather than battling to be the lone survivor, GL and his opponents had an alternate objective: beat world hunger by sharing a meal with a hungry child via WFP’s ShareTheMeal phone app.

Hunger Heroes

In July 2019, YOOZOO games hosted a charity gaming marathon, GTarcade’s Hunger Heroes, that invited gamers from across the globe to turn their on-screen efforts into meals for the world’s hungry, supporting the World Food Programme in the fight against hunger. The goal was straightforward; the more gamers that played, the more YOOZOO Games donated to WFP. Hours of playing turned into dollars, which YOOZOO Games donated via WFP’s ShareTheMeal app. During the week-long event, players received exclusive gameplay features and in-game prizes as a reward for joining and contributing to the cause.

The fact that these video games support the World Food Programme is a positive accomplishment for the gaming community. People can even implement games like PUBG as a positive influence, which supposedly has a negative influence on today’s society due to violent gameplay, and are a solid example of how popular entertainment can contribute to spreading awareness of global crises.

Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger
Hunger is not simply a lack of food. It is also the sustained physiological and psychological changes in a human body from the persistent unavailability of nutritious meals at least three times a day. Achieving zero hunger across the world by 2030 is the second of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Here are 10 disturbing facts about hunger.

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger

  1. One in nine people around the world goes to sleep hungry every night. At present, 25,000 people die of hunger each day which translates to around 9 million deaths annually. This is equivalent to the number of people living in the state of Virginia. Most of these deaths are preventable.
  2. The number of people suffering from acute hunger rose from 80 million in 2016 to 120 million in 2018. The highest rates of hunger are in Africa and South Asia. Among the 119 countries that the Global Hunger Index scores, the Central African Republic ranks last with a GHI score of 53.7, which is alarming. The global average GHI is 20.9.
  3. Hunger is gender-biased in many food-insecure households. Most of this has to do with the fact that many societies around the world encourage paternalism. In such households, sons and other male members are better fed than daughters and other female members. This bias in food insecurity between both sexes most prominently exists in Africa, followed by Latin America and Asia.
  4. When listing 10 disturbing facts about hunger, it is important to discuss food waste. Humans waste roughly one-third of the total food the world produces. North America and Oceania together waste the highest amount of food. Estimates show that food wasted in rich countries is equal to the total food that sub-Saharan Africa produces. The amount of food wasted in a year can feed 2 billion people for a year. Hence, the problem of hunger is not due to inadequate food production but rather the inefficient distribution of food to the world’s population.
  5. Poverty is the biggest cause of hunger. Other causes of hunger include war and conflict, political instability, poor infrastructure and food policies, population increases, rising urbanization, unstable economic conditions and climate change.
  6. Changing weather patterns are destroying agricultural land through acidification, desertification, flooding and rising sea-levels. Climate change reduces the crop yield due to erratic rain and drought seasons, which cause an increase in crop diseases and extreme heat. Global warming and rising levels of carbon dioxide also reduce the nutritional quality of food, meaning that people have to eat more to gain optimum levels of nutrition.
  7. Hunger forces people (especially in countries like Haiti and Cameroon) to eat mud. Mud cakes are a delicacy for the poorest earthquake survivors of Haiti. People mix mud, salt and margarine together and dry it in the sun. It is the cheapest way to assuage hunger in children and pregnant women who also believe it to be a source of calcium to help their growing fetus. Experts have determined that this is not true and that mud cakes have no nutritional value.
  8. Poor health and hunger form a vicious cycle. People suffering from chronic hunger also suffer from debilitating health conditions, including severe malnutrition and anemia, lowered immunity causing recurring infections and chronic health conditions such as heart diseases and diabetes. People who cannot afford food are also unlikely to access any health services. Their circumstances render them unable to go out and work leading to continuous poverty, bad health and hunger situations.
  9. Hunger damages the health of children irreversibly. Children born to undernourished mothers have lower rates of survival beyond 5 years of age. Data from UNICEF attributes half of all under-5 deaths to malnutrition which means that around 3 million children die of malnutrition every year. Such kids lose the opportunity to go to school. Children suffering from malnourishment lose up to 160 days of school. Some 66 million children in primary schools go to school hungry.
  10. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the families that face hunger are farmers. This is because although these people produce food for the world, most of the time they do not own the land they work on. Those who do own land are often not able to earn profits from their yield due to high input costs such as fertilizers, seeds and machines. These farmers also often do not have the means to store and transport their products.

These 10 disturbing facts about hunger may paint a grim picture of the world but all is not lost. Countries can fight hunger by adopting climate-smart agricultural practices, empowering women, donating food through food banks and creating an efficient food distribution network. With consistent political will, the zero hunger goal of the United Nations is achievable.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

Global Infancia

Global Infancia is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in protecting children from abuse in Paraguay. It was founded in 1995, “Global Infancia works towards creating a culture which respects the rights of children and adolescents in Paraguay.”

It has attempted to promote the human rights of children in a myriad of ways, ranging from creating a branch of the government tasked with protecting children to founding a news agency focusing on children’s rights. Global Infancia represents the blueprint for a successful NGO because of its ability to form partnerships with governments, influence local communities, and follow through with its goals.

Partnerships with Governments

Studies have estimated that roughly 60 percent of children in Paraguay have been victims of violence. Faced with this fact, Global Infancia worked with the National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescence along with the Paraguayan Government to pass a law stating “all children and adolescents have the right to be treated properly and with respect for their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. This includes protections for their image, identity, autonomy, ideas, emotions, dignity and individual values”.

Additionally, Global Infancia spearheaded the forming of Municipal Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescence who have become instrumental in protecting children’s rights throughout Paraguay. Global Infancia’s work is proof of how a successful NGO can form fruitful partnerships with local governments.

Integration into the Local Community

Since the end of authoritarian rule in Paraguay, it has been working to integrate itself into local communities and promote the recognition of children’s rights. In the town of Remansito, Global Infancia is providing supplementary nutrition and school support to over 1,000 children. Approximately 22 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line. The child labor force of participation with a rate of 25 percent, shows that the conditions for many children in Paraguay are not ideal.

However, Global Infancia recognized these problems and has created national media campaigns to raise awareness for children’s rights and used training forums around the country to educate the public that violence against children will no longer be tolerated. Finally, Global Infancia has harnessed the power of local communities by “installing an alert system which reduces the demand for childhood labor”. These actions illustrate how a successful NGO employs the power of the communities they are working in.

Accomplishing Goals

At its inception, it was primarily focused on fighting the trafficking of babies and children. Today it has evolved into a children’s rights organization with a bevy of goals. Whether it be their success at establishing legal rights for children in Paraguay or the founding of CODENIS bodies which protect children throughout the country today, Global Infancia has had a considerable impact on Paraguayan society. In a 2017 report by the United States Department of Labor, experts found significant advancement in Paraguay’s fight to end child labor.

However, the current situation still puts many children in danger, requiring more resources to fully end child labor. With the help of Global Infancia and the multitude of other successful NGO’s, there are no doubts that Paraguay will continue to see improvements to children’s rights.

Overall, Global Infancia is a perfect example of how a successful NGO operates. From its crucial government and community partnerships to their impressive track record of accomplishing its goals.

Myles McBride Roach

Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has internally displaced half a million people. Many are seeking refuge in forests with little access to medical care and portable water. Only recently has the world acknowledged the crisis, despite three years of growing human rights abuses driving the country to the brink of civil war.

The Makings of a Disaster

French and English are the official languages of Cameroon, which consists of 10 semi-autonomous regions. However, the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions have felt marginalized by the central government for decades.

Anglophones make up 20 percent of the population and have long complained of few job opportunities and the predominance of Francophones. When the government assigned French-speaking teachers and judges to anglophone schools and courts, anglophone lawyers and teachers felt that it violated their rights, leading to peaceful protests in 2016.

Government security forces responded by killing four protestors and arresting around 100, including several anglophone leaders. The government even banned civil society groups seeking a peaceful solution.

Escalating the Crisis

In 2017, an anglophone separatist group declared a new independent state called Ambazonia. In a pro-Ambazonia demonstration, security forces killed 17 people. The Borgen Project interviewed Mausi Segun, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Africa, who said, “If anyone is putting the abuses on both sides on a scale, the government has the upper hand. They have the most effective military equipment.”

Security forces have killed unarmed civilians and burned down villages. Meanwhile, authorities are arresting civilians on suspicion of supporting or belonging to the separatist movement. A number of those held on suspicion are undergoing torture.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, a Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute told The Borgen Project that authorities are catching civilians in a web of violence and mistaken affinity. “They can be arrested for not having their identification card,” he said.

As authorities hold anglophones in detention without trial, lose property and loved ones, resentment and distrust in the government is growing, fueling the grievances of the separatist movement. “We’re concerned the government is throwing the military, and arms and ammunition at a problem that is beyond just a military one,” Segun said.

Armed separatists have committed unlawful abuses as well, including killing security forces, kidnapping students and burning down approximately 36 schools. The International Crisis Group reported the killing of 235 soldiers, along with 1,000 separatists and 650 civilians.

Although one can blame the Anglophone Crisis on a failure of governance, Fomunyoh said that it is no longer a governance issue, “It’s now one of political insecurity.”

International Response

Cameroon now has the sixth-largest displaced population in the world. A wider conflict could threaten the entire region, impacting bordering countries such as Chad and Nigeria, who are fighting Boko Haram alongside Cameroon.

In March 2019, after three years of growing systematic violence, the U.N. human rights chief told the Cameroon government that its violent response will only fuel more violence and the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held its first meeting on the crisis in the following May. The E.U. called on Cameroon’s government to initiate a dialogue with armed separatists and Switzerland agreed to act as a mediator.

Fomunyoh said that countries may have been slow to respond because they expected African organizations to intervene. The African Union (A.U.) is one such organization, which has intervened in precarious situations before, including South Sudan’s recent crackdown on protestors. The A.U. called on Sudan to restore civil law and expelled the country from the Union. Although the A.U. has endorsed Switzerland’s peace talks, it has yet to take further action.

Solutions

Fomunyoh said that there are three divided propositions to the Anglophone Crisis, “The Amba boys who want separation, those who want a federation and those who believe the status quo is fine the way it is,” however, the first step should be to end this violence.

All parties need to agree to a cease-fire, separatists need to allow children to go back to school and the government should release anglophone prisoners so they can be part of finding a solution. Although the idea of federalism has almost become taboo, Human Rights Lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho strongly believes it would appease all sides.

“People would have a separation of powers. People would have the autonomy,” said Nkongho. However, the government has made promises in the past it did not keep.

Cameroon’s previous federation dissolved in 1972 under the same government. So, promises to implement any agreement will not mean anything unless the government regains trust. Segun believes this can start by holding those guilty of human rights abuses accountable. “To sacrifice justice on the order peace would only lead to more violence and a crisis later, if not immediately.”

Preventing a future crisis also requires healing from the trauma, which is Fomunyoh’s biggest concern. If the country does not make investments in healing, it could threaten future security by creating an environment where corruption thrives.

“When you have dead bodies in the street when that becomes the norm, then other abuses like assault, rape, theft, are pale in comparison,” said Fomunyoh. The Anglophone Crisis can become much direr and have unintended long-lasting consequences.

International solidarity helped South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The AU and UNSC helped resolve Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis. There is no reason that Cameroon cannot stop its Anglophone Crisis.

Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

 

U.S. Food Policy
The U.S. produces around 38.7 percent of all corn grown globally and around 35 percent of all soybeans. With such a large stake in global markets, it is not surprising that when U.S. food policy changes occur, many and often poorer places feel their effects throughout the globe.

Over 1 billion people work in world agriculture, and in poorer regions, a majority of the workforce population works in agriculture. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, over 60 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. With such a dependence on agriculture, changes in global markets and farming policies can severely affect these poorer populations. U.S. food policy may impact foreign farmers negatively in four principal ways: restricting imports in which developing countries have a comparative advantage; stimulating an overproduction of commodities in the U.S., that when the U.S. exports lowers the international price of goods from which low-income country farmers derive their income; distorting food markets in developing countries by the provision of in-kind food aid; and reducing official development assistance for agricultural and rural development.

Subsidies

Subsidies are a long-standing agricultural policy in the United States. Originating during the Great Depression, farming subsidies are payments and other support that the U.S. federal government gives to certain farmers. Today, the U.S. distributes around $20 billion to farming businesses annually. In 1930, when the stock market crashed, around 25 percent of Americans lived on farms and ranches and the government intended subsidies to help support these smaller family-run farms. Today, the largest 15 percent of farm businesses receive 85 percent of government subsidies that protect them from price fluctuations and unexpected decreased crop production.

Because of the U.S. subsidy system, it is cheaper for U.S. farmers to produce certain crops and thus it is cheaper for many poor nations to import crops such as wheat, barley and corn, instead of buying and growing locally. As one of the world’s largest cotton producers, subsidies can cause severe global price depression. In 2004, Brazil challenged the U.S. cotton subsidies with the support of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO found that U.S. cotton subsidies were responsible for distorted international markets. In winning the dispute, Brazil could impose $830 million in product sanctions and the U.S. paid $300 million to the Brazil Cotton Institute as reparations.

Subsidies are also the main cause of more market distortion for corn, one of the U.S.’s most lucrative crops. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. exports highly subsidized crops that compete with Mexican products. The exported corn contributed to a 413 percent increase in U.S. exports and a 66 percent decline in Mexican producer prices from the 1990s to 2005.

Cargo Preference

Cargo preference is another policy interfering in international relations between the U.S. and its beneficiaries. The Cargo Preference Act of 1954 ensures that ships operated by U.S.-based companies must transport at least 50 percent of overseas-bound food aid. Because of this regulation, 35-40 cents of each dollar spent on food aid goes toward transportation rather than the food itself.

The United States established Cargo Preference to protect U.S.-flag maritime companies and unions from competing for foreign cargo ships. These companies may increase or decrease the cost of transportation. The disparity between foreign-flag and U.S.-flag ships is very costly to the food aid effort. U.S.-flag ships can cost around $100-135 per metric ton while foreign-flag ships cost around $65 per metric ton. By matching foreign pricing, the country could use the $23.8 million that the country that it would have spent on shipping towards feeding the poor.

If the U.S. were to eradicate cargo preference, there would be an additional $300 million to feed another 9.5 million people each year.

Biofuel Mandates

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) emerged with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This federal policy requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel, namely ethanol from corn or soybeans. This policy was to help American farmers and decrease dependency on foreign oil.

The policy has, however, had a negative effect on global food prices. According to the Resources for the Future, estimates determine that the RFS in the U.S. and the E.U.’s own biofuel mandate will increase global food prices by 15 percent by 2022. Because the RFS demands more corn for ethanol production and because the U.S. produces 40 percent of the world’s corn crops, the policy has had a critical impact on global corn markets. An Iowa State University study estimates that the RFS has diverted a third of U.S. corn crops (10.8 percent of the global corn market) towards production of ethanol and biofuel and has caused an increase in global corn prices from 8-34 percent.

Proactive Policy

The U.S. government has taken major steps toward improving the food security of poor nations. While many food policies focus on farmers and exporting goods, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act (GSRA) targets farmers in developing countries. Signed into law in 2018, the GSRA ensures funding and support for the Feed the Future initiative. Feed the Future works with local agriculture sectors in developing countries to help build up strong farming techniques and give them the tools to ensure their food security. Thanks to Feed the Future, estimates state that 23.4 million people now live above the poverty line and that farmers have generated $12 billion in new agricultural sales from 2011 to 2017.

Due to the size and volume of exported crops and resources, the U.S. food policy has a strong pull on global markets. Developing and poor nations can feel the effects of rising and falling global food prices most keenly. Therefore, it is important for U.S. policymakers to assess the impact of these policies and others like them. Luckily, initiatives like Feed the Future are working hard to help build stable agricultural communities in developing countries. With such size and resources, the U.S. has the power to create positive change in global markets.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea‘s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr