Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
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

Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015. North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

food waste and global hungerAccording to World Food Program (WFP) USA, food waste and global hunger are directly correlated. Food waste, alongside conflict, lack of resources and chronic poverty, is a key cause of hunger in the world today. Annually, as much as one-quarter to one-third–approximately 1.3 billion tons–of all food is wasted or lost globally. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, $4 billion in food was lost in 2011, significantly exceeding the amount of foreign assistance the region received that year.

Lack of Access

The issue of global hunger is generally a lack of access to food, rather than lack of food supply. Considering that $1 trillion in edible food, enough to feed roughly 2 billion people, is discarded around the globe each year, it would seem that examining and addressing food waste could be a significant step in alleviating global hunger.

Projections indicate that a 25 percent decrease in global food waste could provide enough food to feed all who are malnourished in the world today. Food waste has multiple root causes, depending on the region and level of development where it occurs. In developing countries, food loss and waste is usually the fault of lack of technology and infrastructure in the agricultural and transportation sectors. Conversely, developed countries tend to create food waste because of overproduction or consumers purchasing more food than needed.

Combating Hunger

To combat food waste and global hunger, the United Nations (UN) and other organizations have created initiatives to increase efficiency in food production and minimize waste. One such initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), to which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with nine countries, pledged about $1.4 billion over the course of three years.

Since its creation in 2009, GAFSP has been able to target 2.5 million farmers, deploy approximately $332 million, approve 61 investments spanning 27 countries and approve 67 advisory projects across 30 countries in the developing world. Today, GAFSP is working on projects ranging from modernizing the dairy industry in Mauritania to promoting the growth of sustainable development in the palm oil sectors of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

These contributions, in addition to the $4.4 billion invested in the private sector by the International Finance Corporation in 2013, jumpstarted projects to provide access to seeds, equipment, information, markets and finances for producers and farmers in developing countries. The Global Irrigation Program (GIP), created by the IFC, continues to support irrigation suppliers and farmers by creating access to and availability of effective irrigation equipment, thus helping to manage water use in farming communities.

The Impact of Aid

The World Bank notes that initiatives such as these have led to significant improvements relating to food waste and global hunger in recent years. As a direct result of the International Development Association’s efforts, over 210 million pregnant and/or lactating women, children under the age of five, and adolescent girls in developing regions gained access to basic nutrition services from 2003 to 2013.

Food waste, along with other factors such as poverty and conflict, is a root cause of global hunger. Initiatives to address hunger and malnourishment worldwide have sought to improve the efficiency of food production and minimize sources of food waste; these initiatives are making significant progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger by 2030.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

eating plant-based
Many people (820 million) around the world fall asleep hungry every night. Some have taken significant steps to help feed those who lack the significant food necessary to survive, but those steps have not yet been enough to completely combat hunger and poverty. One easy step that every person could take to make a small difference in helping the hungry, though, would be eating plant-based. Studies show that decreasing one’s meat intake could ultimately help save lives and feed those who cannot afford to feed themselves.

The Effects of Meat-Eating on Poverty

Estimates determine that global meat production will steadily increase due to a rise in the pork and poultry industry in developing countries. According to Livestock Production Science, almost two-thirds of all livestock around the world are in developing countries. Yet many of these farms are industrial animal farms that require the importation of grains, animal units, tractors and other necessary processors necessary to raise livestock. Because of inadequate wages for farmers and the excess of tools needed to produce and sell meat, the rise of poultry and livestock farms is creating more poverty in developing countries.

In addition to insignificant wages for farmers, industrial animal agriculture creates problems such as how it can detrimentally affect the environment and human health, put small family-run farms out of business and use food sources inefficiently. According to a joint report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. (FAO), cheap food, such as legumes and cereal, could feed hungry people, but instead feeds livestock. The result of eating more plant-based is that one will waste less energy, save more water and gain additional space and money.

Fighting Poverty

Although the rise of meat production is doing more harm than good, the rise of veganism and vegetarianism is uncovering data that highlights the benefits of eating plant-based. According to a report in The Lancet, “almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, barley, and about a third of all grains are used as feed for animals.” Another study highlights that eating less beef and more legumes would open up 42 percent more croplands, which could grow plant-based foods to feed more people.

In addition to opening up more croplands, eating more plant-based can allow farmers to grow more food with the land that they have. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes 56 million acres of land to grow feed for animals in the United States alone, while farmers use only 4 million acres to produce plants for humans to actually eat. By using this land for plant-based foods rather than meat, farmers could harvest a much larger quantity of food and feed those who are hungry and in poverty.

Every Step Makes a Difference

Scientific research has found that eating plant-based can make a huge impact on human health, the environment and poverty. Although veganism and vegetarianism may not be an option for everybody, every small step can make a huge difference in feeding the hungry and saving lives.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Wikimedia

Satellites and Food Security
Nearly 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat. It is no secret that more efficient farming and agricultural practices can help yield more crops to feed more people as well as bring in more income to poor farmers. In conjunction with traditional ground-based data collection of farmland, satellite imaging and sensing can help farmers monitor their crops and land condition in real time. Satellite-based technology can map cropland area and crop type, estimate area planted, estimate product yield and even detect early signs of droughts and floods. With this kind of technology, farmers may be better equipped to make informed choices about their land to protect their products. With more informed farmers, better use of resources and ultimately more crops, satellites may be an important part of ensuring global food security.

A New Wave of Tech

Precision farming is the use of technologies to inform farmers about their products. This method is not new, however, the systems in place are changing. Traditional, ground-based tests, such as soil sampling, have long been used to test the arity, salinity, and other conditions of land. These tests help instruct farmers about the optimal mix of fertilizer, pesticide and water that should be used to yield the most crops. While these tests are useful, they are expensive, time-consuming and can only provide data for a small area of land.

Satellites may provide a comprehensive solution. Equipped with imaging and sensing technology, satellites may analyze entire fields at more regular intervals for a more timely and lower-cost option. With land-use mapping and monitoring technologies, satellites cater to a variety of farmers’ needs. Farmers are using satellite technology to:

  • Analyze soil fertility.
  • Map irrigated land.
  • Monitor crop growth.
  • Produce crop yield forecasts.
  • Track crop development.
  • Measure soil moisture content.
  • Test soil chemical composition.

Depending on the program and type of imaging, the costs of satellite data may differ. The Sentinel-2, a land-monitoring system of two satellites that the European Space Agency (ESA) controls, provides vegetation imagery and moisture maps to farmers for $0.20 per acre per two months of service.

Satellites: Prediction, Protection and Prevention

In places like sub-Saharan Africa where agriculture accounts for 64 percent of all employment, satellite-based technology is vital to the survival of farmers. Ninety-five percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmable land lacks irrigation systems, thus making the farmland more susceptible to drastic land conditions like droughts and floods. With satellite technology and remote sensing, farmers can shift their focus from reacting to disasters after they occur to planning response before the disasters cause damage. Because low soil moisture content is an indicator of drought, satellites can measure the soil’s moisture content using microwave radiation and send an early warning to farmers in the affected area.

With these early response mechanisms, insured farmers can apply early to their insurers and receive money. Programs like the Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Program provides cash-transfers to poor households using this satellite-based technology.

People have used satellite drought imaging combined with data on local market supply and demand to bring the right amount of food aid to countries in need. Molly Brown, a researcher for NASA, uses satellite images of cropland in Niger, where farmers not only grow food for markets but also eat the crops, to estimate rising market costs. During droughts, these farmers cannot grow enough food to feed themselves and sell locally, thus demand and market prices increase. Since many rural families in Niger live on only around $400 a year, drastic price increases may mean that they cannot get enough to eat.

The goal of Brown’s research is to predict rising market prices before they occur based on satellite images of farmland. It is also to bring in enough food aid when people need it and to stop food aid when it is not necessary. Brown hopes satellites will be an important step toward ensuring food security.

Already at Work

Many organizations, large and small, have already begun harnessing the power of satellite technology and its use in agriculture. NASA has rolled out several satellite-driven initiatives to help combat food security. The Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) Network, established in 2000, uses NASA’s Landsat satellite imaging and remote sensing to gather data, forecast weather trends and hazards and create maps for vegetation, rainfall and water use. In order to make satellite imaging and data more accessible to the communities that could best utilize them, NASA established a web-based visualization and monitoring system, for Africa and Central America, called SERVIR, in collaboration with USAID.

Working with more than 200 institutions and training around 1,800 regional support staffers, SERVIR provides previously inaccessible satellite data, imaging and forecasts to local governments and researchers. With this information, SERVIR hopes that developing nations will be able to respond better to natural disasters, improve their food security and manage water and other natural resources.

Even private companies like Planet Labs, are investing in satellite-based technology. Planet uses many smaller, relatively inexpensive satellites for its imaging force. The company has around 140 currently deployed, enough to capture an image of the entire Earth every day. It sells imaging and monitoring data to over 200 customers, many of whom are agricultural companies.

In 2015, at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit, Planet Labs introduced its Open Regions initiative. By making $60 million worth of its satellite imagery for certain regions available to the global public and directly accessible online, Planet Lab’s imagery brings data vital to the health of crops directly to farmers. With the U.N. deadline to end global hunger and ensure global food security by 2030, it is important for governments and organizations to look for new, sustainable opportunities to increase productivity. By looking beyond conventional, ground-based agricultural solutions and turning to the skies, farmers may find that satellites may be an important part of ensuring global food security.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Aquaponics in developing countriesEarth is now home to 7.7 billion people. Of those 7.7 billion people, about 10 percent are currently suffering from chronic undernourishment. With the global population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, the need for more efficient and effective agriculture practices and systems is critical. Aquaponics, any system that creates a symbiotic relationship between aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water), has the potential to solve this problem.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is any symbiotic relationship between fish that produce excretions of ammonia, bacteria that convert this ammonia into nitrate, and plants that use this nitrate as fertilizer. Overall, it creates a win-win-win situation for these three organisms, which leads to the maximization of available resources.

History of Aquaponics

Many historians believe that the first aquaponics systems were devised in South China in 5 AD. Farmers would raise ducks, catfish and finfish together in rice paddies. During the Tang Dynasty, records of floating rice rafts on top of fish ponds also began appearing.

Modern aquaponics, on the other hand, emerged in the U.S. Interest in the concept is relatively new, as the majority of the progress made in this field has been achieved within the past 35 years. The first closed-loop system, as well as the first large-scale commercial facility, were both created in the mid-1980s.

Benefits

Aquaponics provides many benefits to its users. In comparison to traditional conventional agriculture methods, aquaponics uses only one-sixth of the water to grow up to eight times more food per acre. Due to it being a closed system and the use of the fish waste as fertilizer, it also avoids the issue of chemical runoff. Because aquaponics produces both a vegetable and fish crop, communities that implement the system would also have access to better nutrition. Protein-calorie malnutrition is often the most common form of nutrient deficiency in developing countries, so providing stable sources of fish protein to such at-risk communities could potentially be revolutionary.

Challenges

Although it is undisputed that aquaponics would be a game-changer for food production in developing countries, the high initial start-up cost of modern aquaponics — about $20,000 for a small commercial system — remains a significant barrier. Furthermore, technical training on the subject would need to be provided to locals prior to the implementation of such systems. These aquaponics systems also require a consistent source of electricity in order to maintain constant water circulation. This issue, however, can likely be solved through alternative sources such as solar or hydropower. Therefore, a more simplified design is required for implementation in developing countries — one that could withstand shortages of raw materials and professionals as well as a strong technical support system.

Implementation in Developing Countries

Currently, aquaponics in developing countries has mostly been brought about through nonprofits. For instance, the Amsha Africa Foundation started an aquaponics campaign in sub-Saharan African countries. After launching its first project in rural Kenya in 2007, the organization has since expanded into five more countries and positively impacted thousands. The project targets sustenance farmers who do not have an adequate supply of food and water and are living on eroded or depleted soils.

Another similar organization is Aquaponics Africa, a project created by engineer Ken Konschel. The organization works with farmers to build and design their own backyard or commercial aquaponics system. It also sells informational handbooks detailing the process of maintaining an aquaponics system in Africa for just R300, or about $20.

Aquaponics in recent decades has proven itself to be quite revolutionary to the agriculture industry. It provides many benefits over conventional farming, as it is both more efficient and effective. But, for it to be easier accessible by communities and individuals in developing countries, greater headway will need to be made in terms of simplifying its design in order to adapt it to different environments.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Wikimedia

Food Shortages in North Korea

Currently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.

Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.

Food Shortages in North Korea

Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.

At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.

North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.

South Korea’s Food Donation

On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.

Looking Forward

Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Crispr techWith the rise of biotechnology, CRISPR gene editing is on the cusp of eliminating global poverty. CRISPR research began in Asia, the U.S. and Europe, but has since spread to Africa. Gene editing in humans offers a promising resolution for eliminating disease, but it is still undergoing research and development. In agriculture, however, it is already showing more promise. These are four ways CRISPR gene editing could transform and eliminate global poverty.

Although humans have been altering the genes of plants and animals through selective breeding, CRISPR is different in that it does not combine the DNA of different organisms. In CRISPR, a section of one species’ DNA is deleted or altered. This is a different process than with GMOs where insecticide is taken from the soil and inserted into the crop.

4 Ways CRISPR Gene Editing Could Eliminate Global Poverty

  1. Farmers in Africa could breed better livestock. The dairy cow that survives in hot tropical climates, known as the Ankole-Watusi, produces far less milk than the Holstein breed. Holsteins are better off in moderate climates and their productivity is a result of naturally occurring mutations that breeders have aimed for over the course of many years. Scientists at the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health at the University of Edinburgh are working with scientists in Africa to study ways to edit the genes of the tropical cow and boost their milk production to that of the Holsteins. At least 80 percent of the world’s poor living in rural areas are smallholder farmers, with livestock being a pivotal component of both their nutrition and income.
  2. Gene editing could improve crop yield. “Africa’s population is expected to more than double by 2050.” In a climate where the yield of basic cereals is five times less than in North America, food production and supplying the demands of the growing population is going to be a challenge. For 40 percent of Africans, the cassava plant is an important food source. While the crop represents security because of its ability to withstand drought, it also faces many issues. Cassava usually has a prevalent amount of toxic cyanide, which must be removed post-harvest. In combination with malnourishment, people who ingest cyanide can get konzo, a neurological disease that affects around 100,000 people in poverty each year. Scientists at the Genomics Institute are working to reduce the cyanide levels in cassava through CRISPR. Unfortunately, diseases like brown streak can wipe out a farmer’s entire field. Scientists in Africa are also exploring ways to make the plant more disease-resistant, so the crop yield will be sustained and improved.
  3. CRISPR may be humanity’s hope in eliminating malaria. In 2017, malaria was the cause of death for at least 435,000 people around the world with 93 percent of all cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. CRISPR could change the three species of mosquito most responsible for the disease’s transmission either by making all offspring male and eliminating the species or by adding a gene that makes the mosquito resistant to the malaria parasite. Not only could this cure malaria but it could stop other illnesses carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Although the technology is already effective in labs, inserting it into the world could redesign the entire ecosystem, which comes with a heavy burden on the hands of the scientists involved.
  4. New diagnostic methods can easily hunt down the correct genetic sections. Such diagnostic tests could eliminate the spread of diseases like Lassa fever as well as provide a better means of cancer detection. This year, the Lassa fever in Nigeria has killed 72 people and is only expected to get worse. A CRISPR-based test could reduce the death rates of many diseases in impoverished regions. Scientists in Africa are also hoping that these new diagnostic tests could lower the death toll of cervical cancer in Africa where the disease is typically diagnosed too late.

Gene-edited crops are expected to hit the Western market in the next year or so, but Africa is just beginning to see the effects. CRISPR gene editing could transform and eliminate global poverty on a massive scale. With rising population numbers, climate change and urbanization, it’s important that agriculture adapt. The benefits of this technology, which could save the lives of millions of people, should be equally accessible to those in developing countries. These four examples show the ways that CRISPR’s research could eliminate global poverty.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

op 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia
Australia, home to more than 25 million people, is often regarded as a regional power with one of the strongest economies in the world. However, a significant portion of Australia’s population suffers from food insecurity. Many are unable to afford enough food to feed both themselves and their families. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia to know:

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia:

    1. More than four million people in Australia suffer from food insecurity. According to Foodbank Australia’s 2018 Hunger Report, more than four million Australians suffer from food insecurity, approximately 18 percent of the population.
    2. One in five children is hungry in Australia. Foodbank Australia reports that 22 percent of children in Australia suffer from food insecurity, and of that 22 percent, nine percent go at least one day a week without a single meal. Additionally, 29 percent of parents report they go a full day without eating at least once a week so their child has something to eat. In order to fight this, some schools provide breakfast programs. Charities such as Helping Hands provide families with weekly access to fresh food for a small donation.
    3. Women are more likely to suffer from hunger. Often due to living on low incomes or pensions, women are at a higher risk of hunger. Women are 31 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than men. Women with low incomes have a 49 percent chance of experiencing food insecurity while the rate for men is 38 percent.
    4. Indigenous Australians suffer disproportionately. Food insecurity affects roughly 30 percent of Indigenous Australians, both in remote and urban areas. In cities, Indigenous Australians often experience low incomes and lack of access to cooking facilities, making them more susceptible. In the country, options for purchasing food are limited. On average, Indigenous Australians spend at least 35 percent more of their income on food than Non-Indigenous Australians. However, the Australian government has worked to fight hunger with its Close the Gap campaign. Close the Gap was established in 2008 and focuses on achieving health equality for Indigenous Australians.
    5. Hunger is a greater issue in remote areas. Australians who live in remote areas are 33 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than those in cities. In cities, 17 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity. In remote areas that rate is significantly higher at 22 percent.
    6. Hunger negatively impacts mental health. Of Australians impacted by food insecurity and living in remote areas, 65 percent report feeling stressed, and 60 percent say that their situation makes them feel depressed. Australians living in urban areas report similar feelings: 54 percent report they felt stressed and 48 percent report food insecurity makes them feel depressed. Foodbank Australia found that 42 percent of those who receive aid say it helps improve their mental health and wellbeing.
    7. Australia’s high cost of living contributes to hunger. Wage growth has stagnated in recent years while Australians experience heavy cuts to welfare payments. Electricity prices have simultaneously skyrocketed. Consumer spending has plummeted, as increases in wages are unable to sufficiently match increases in costs. As a result of either an unexpected expense or expensive bills, 49 percent of Australians who suffer from food insecurity report being unable to afford food.
    8. Single-Parent Households are more vulnerable. Food insecurity impacts 39 percent of single-parent households in Australia, meaning they are the household type most likely to be hungry. Nearly two-fifths of all single-parent households struggle to put food on the table compared to 23 percent of single person households and 22 percent of family households with children.
    9. The task of providing food to the hungry is placed into the hands of nonprofits. The Australian government has yet to establish a government program that focuses on fighting food insecurity. Australia’s state welfare agency, Centre, does provide a one-time payment to those in crisis but has yet to establish additional support. Feeding the hungry has been placed in the hands of charities and private donors.
    10. Charities are unable to meet the demand for food. Only 36 percent of charities are able to fully meet the food needs of those they serve. This means 64 percent of food needs are still not being met. Additionally, these statistics do not account for those suffering from food insecurity who have not approached a charity. Furthermore, charities are completely unable to provide for seven percent of those who approach them each month.

These are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia that illuminate the challenges many Australians face every day. Many factors contribute to food insecurity in the country and all too often put the most vulnerable at risk. However, programs such as Close the Gap and the work of nonprofit organizations illustrate how the country is taking powerful steps to end hunger in Australia.

– Nicholas Bykov 
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