COVID-19 and Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Nestled in the mountains of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has long suffered from high poverty rates and underdevelopment, but the past decade saw Kyrgyzstan’s per capita GDP rise by nearly 50%. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted progress, however, with 700,000 people in Kyrgyzstan sliding into poverty from 2019 to 2020. COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan are interlinked in several ways.

An Economy Based on Remittances

The World Bank classifies Kyrgyzstan as a lower middle-income country with a per capita GDP of about $1,200. Much of Kyrgyzstan’s national wealth comes from remittances, especially in rural areas, from which migrants move to work in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey. In 2019, citizens abroad sent back nearly $2.5 billion, or 30% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP. Official statistics show that without remittances, Kyrgyzstan’s 2019 poverty rate would have increased by more than half.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many migrant workers returned home, cutting off remittance flows that kept rural families alive. Others stayed abroad but sent family home, increasing the burden on Kyrgyzstan’s rural residents. Due to the informality of their work, many migrants lost their jobs during the pandemic and did not qualify for the government aid that other more protected workers qualified for.

Rising Food Prices

In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that 46% of the Kyrgyz population did not meet their daily calorie needs. From June 2019 to June 2020, food prices rose by 17%, pushing even more vulnerable households into food insecurity and highlighting the correlation between COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. During the same period, the price of flour increased by around 30%.

Kyrgyzstan’s poverty levels have close ties to food prices. According to the World Bank, when food prices rise, Kyrgyzstan’s poverty rate follows closely behind. Rising food prices use up savings of low and middle-class people, pushing them into vulnerability.

While faltering remittances largely affected rural populations, the rising food prices have mainly increased urban poverty in Kyrgyzstan. While those in rural areas have access to farms, urban residents in poverty require assistance to meet their basic food needs. Food imports that fed urban populations fell due to Kyrgyzstan’s weakening currency, hurting low- and middle-income people in cities.

In March 2020, to combat food insecurity, the government instituted price caps, took legal action against companies raising prices and handed out food to vulnerable citizens in urban areas. In April 2020, nearly 95% of households in Bishkek received aid from the government, while in rural areas, 26% received aid. The government’s efforts mitigated the worst of Kyrgyzstan’s increased food insecurity.

Informal Labor

Before the pandemic, informal employment accounted for 71% of all employment in Kyrgyzstan, a large cause of poverty. Informal workers, usually in the construction, trade or industry sectors, usually have no contracts with their employer, increasing their risk of exploitation. During the pandemic, as unemployment rose, informal employees found themselves without the same social protection systems and labor rights as formal employees.

The construction industry, one of the largest sectors of the Kyrgyz economy, employs an especially large amount of informal labor. Due to falling investment and government restrictions, the construction sector has suffered particularly badly, with business owners reporting major drops in employment.

The Government and World Bank Assists

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Bank has created three assistance programs totaling $88 million to combat the effects of COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. The programs target both urban and rural poverty, focusing on food insecurity, the environment and low wages.

One of the programs, the Emergency Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, is providing $25 million in microloans to small and medium-sized businesses suffering from the effects of the pandemic. With a focus on entrepreneurs, this World Bank program aims to help modernize Kyrgyzstan’s economy and workforce.

The World Bank also implemented the Social Protection Emergency Response and Delivery Systems to protect those most at risk of sliding into poverty. This response includes grants for vulnerable families with children and enhanced unemployment insurance for workers across all economic sectors. In the long run, this program will focus on developing income-generating skills in order to make the benefits of relief sustainable after the pandemic has passed.

The World Bank’s third program, the CASA-1000 Community Support Project, will fund small infrastructure projects across Kyrgyzstan. Community members will define and carry out the projects so that each locality has its needs met. The program will support projects in every sub-district, ensuring widespread impact.

The World Bank also supplied emergency funding for Kyrgyzstan’s healthcare system, with $12 million delivered as of March 2021. The funding helped the country acquire 266 hospital beds, 26 ambulances and 342 sets of breathing support equipment, along with funding for medicine, PPE and other supplies necessary for combating the pandemic.

Progress and the Road Ahead

As of July 2021, more than 2,000 Kyrgyz had died of COVID-19 and more than half a million have entered into poverty. The government, in partnership with the World Bank, has taken action to fight both the health and economic effects of the pandemic. New legislation and World Bank programs aim to bring Kyrgyzstan through the pandemic with a stronger economy and a less vulnerable population.

Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Poverty in JapanThe COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the 15% of people living in poverty in Japan, a figure already on the rise in recent years due to lower consumer spending and a shift to part-time employment. Citizens living below the poverty line are suffering from increased rates of food and housing insecurities. So, as the Japanese government prepares for the Olympics in the summer of 2021, it is also securing opportunities to combat rising poverty.

COVID-19 in Japan

Many policies in place at the beginning of the pandemic neglected the needs of Japan’s impoverished communities. For example, children could no longer receive government-funded meals due to school closures for public health safety. The pandemic has put pressure on the Japanese government to address preexisting social issues and the results will have a lasting positive impact. Collaborating with charitable organizations and businesses, the government has worked around traditional laws and regulations to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan.

Food Aid

One initial roadblock to COVID-19 relief was restrictions on who could receive food aid. After a poor harvest of rice in 1993, the Japanese government holds stockpiles of the grain in case of emergency. As part of a program called “food education,” the government releases a portion of this stockpile to schools each year in order to provide school lunches and emphasize the value of food. However, regulations made it difficult to release stockpiles to others in need during the pandemic, especially childless people.

The government is working to find loopholes in the 1993 stockpile law to ensure food security for Japan’s impoverished communities. Stockpiles are now allowed to release 300 kg of uncooked rice per year to each organization, compared to the 60 kg cap in previous years.

Charitable organizations such as Minoshima Megumi no Le in Fukuoka and volunteers at St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo have also worked to promote food security for families, refugees and other groups not covered by initial government distributions.

Housing Aid

The pandemic has threatened the safety of Japan’s homeless population. Initially, without adequate access to face coverings or sanitation, more than 4,500 citizens were at serious risk of catching the virus. While the Japanese government offers Livelihood Protection, a program designed to guarantee a minimum standard of living for all citizens, it is difficult to access for some populations in need, including homeless people.

Groups outside the government have also taken the initiative to limit the spread of the virus by providing housing. Across the country, hotels and inns are working to offer affordable shelter. One hotel chain based in Osaka currently offers rooms for ¥390 (about $4) per night. Rooms include a private bed and bath, amenities not found in the Livelihood Protection quarters. This offer helps 100 people at a time find safe living quarters, helping combat the pandemic while also dedicating a space for Japan’s homeless to take refuge for months to come.

Small Businesses and Labor Aid

Japan’s economy depends heavily on human resources, of which, small businesses represent 70%. When stay-at-home orders were implemented, tourist activity halted and consumer spending decreased and the country experienced its first large economic decline since 2015. By February 2021, 1,000 small businesses had closed with 25% located in Tokyo alone. These closures left more than 100,000 people without work, especially in retail, restaurants and manufacturing industries.

The Japanese government passed a record-setting COVID-19 stimulus package equivalent to 40% of Japan’s GDP to protect businesses and their employees. The stimulus allows the government to offer temporary no-interest loan plans to more affected businesses, opening the door for more citizens to receive the aid they need.

In Summary

Pressure from the pandemic has prompted Japan to address existing problems. The government, independent businesses and charities have taken an initiative to help manage the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan. Such movements have the potential to continue even after the pandemic, advancing the country’s standard of living for years to come.

Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian crisis in MadagascarThree years of drought and a sharp recession caused by COVID-19 have left a third of Southern Madagascar’s population unable to put food on the table. Extreme malnutrition rates are on the rise and many children are having to beg to help families survive. Immediate action is needed to avert this humanitarian crisis in Madagascar.

Food Insecurity and Malnutrition

In southern Madagascar, the situation has been progressively worsening. The number of people needing humanitarian assistance has doubled to 1.3 million due to “famine-like conditions.” The World Food Programme (WFP) stated that successive droughts and a lack of jobs linked to COVID-19 restrictions are to blame. With 300,000 people in need of safe-living support, governments and humanitarian organizations need to act immediately. Weary communities have few resources to fall back on.

Furthermore, many people have had to leave their homes to search for food and job opportunities. Approximately 1.14 million people, or 35% of Madagascar’s population, are food insecure. This figure is nearly double what it was last year due to the second wave of COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in fewer seasonal employment opportunities between January and April 2021, which affected families relying on this form of income.

Children are the most vulnerable to the food crisis. Many children have dropped out of school to beg for food on the streets. By the end of April 2021, more than 135,00 children were estimated to be acutely malnourished in some way, with 27,000 children between the ages of 6 to 59 months suffering from severe acute malnourishment.

Drought Conditions

According to the WFP, Madagascar’s susceptibility to climate shocks is contributing to the ongoing crisis. A WFP official stated that rains usually fall between November and December. However, the entire area only received one day of rain in December 2020. Thunderstorms have also been wreaking havoc on the fields, destroying and burying the crops.

With markets closed because of COVID-19 restrictions and people forced to sell their possessions to survive, the U.N. warned that drought conditions are expected to persist well into 2021. The anticipated conditions are forcing more people to flee their homes in search of food and jobs. WFP South Africa and Indian Ocean State Region Director Lola Castro explained that “the population of the South relies on casual labor and goes to urban areas or to the fields to really have additional funds that will allow them to survive during the lean season.” However, she noted that “this year there was no labor, they moved around without finding any labor anywhere, both in urban areas or in the rural areas, due to the drought and due to the COVID lockdown.”

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian organizations delivered assistance across the Grand Sud, the southernmost region of Madagascar, between January and March 2021. Organizations supplied food aid to 700,000 people and improved access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for 167,200 people. Furthermore, 93,420 children and pregnant and lactating mothers received dietary care and services. The WFP also provided food assistance to almost 500,000 severely food insecure people in the nine hardest-hit districts in the south. Given the rapidly deteriorating situation, it intends to scale up its assistance to reach almost 900,000 of the most vulnerable by June 2021.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent droughts, the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar is worsening. The country needs more support to fund lifesaving food and cash distributions as well as malnutrition treatment programs. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations make addressing the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar a priority.

Aining Liang

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe
Rates of food insecurity in Zimbabwe have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the fall of 2019. Internationally, food prices have increased by about 38% since January 2020. Some household food staples, including corn and wheat-based products, have increased by as much as 80%. The World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that supplies aid for countries struggling with malnourishment, estimated that by April 2021, an additional 111 million people would be malnourished because of COVID-19. For Zimbabwe, a country already facing large amounts of food insecurity before the pandemic, the increase in food prices has only added stress to its acute hunger crisis.

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe

Voice of America (VOA) recently reviewed a report from the government of Zimbabwe on the country’s rising food insecurity. The report revealed that about 2.4 million Zimbabweans who were not food-insecure pre-pandemic are now struggling with food insecurity. The food scarcity problem is especially difficult for members of Zimbabwe’s urban communities. In urban centers, misinformation about the virus was rampant during its initial spread. Many urban Zimbabweans received conflicting information about COVID-19, increasing the number of cases.

Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Zimbabwe also struggled to counter the virus because healthcare facilities are typically under-resourced or too expensive for many residents. Many urban Zimbabweans lost their jobs during the peak of COVID-19 and have struggled to find consistent work since, only increasing the cases of food insecurity.

Although international aid organizations and the government of Zimbabwe have indicated that plans are emerging to help combat the growing hunger crisis, many Zimbabweans have taken matters into their own hands. The way they are fighting food insecurity is by growing mushrooms.

Mushroom Growing in Zimbabwe

One Zimbabwean who lost his factory job during the pandemic, Murambiwa Simon Mushongorokwa, said that growing mushrooms was keeping him and his family members afloat. “I used to get about $30 a week. It was not enough for my needs. But when the lockdown came, it got worse, until I started growing mushrooms. It’s slowly improving my life,” said Mushongorowka.

Others are following Mushongorokwa’s lead. Several nonprofit organizations, including the World Food Programme (WFP), have begun teaching other Zimbabweans how to grow mushrooms. The Future of Hope is another such organization. The Future of Hope has been able to provide Zimbabweans with additional income that has improved their situation. Simon Julius Kufakwevanhu, an official from The Future of Hope, has been teaching about the benefits of mushroom farming. Kufakwevanhu stated that “Before the introduction of mushroom farming in this place, it was very tough for people in this community to survive because of the lockdowns and so forth. But when The Future of Hope brought in mushroom growing, it’s changing because you can now buy something, able to go to shops and buy mielie meal [coarse flour], sugar and so forth. Even if I fall sick I can go to the hospital after selling mushrooms.”

Mushroom growing has proven to be a viable way to fight food insecurity in Zimbabwe. According to the WFP, over 700 mothers have received training in the past few months. The process allows the mothers to grow their own mushrooms and to pull their families out of food insecurity. The WFP plans to expand the mushroom classes in the future.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr

Prickly PearThe opuntia, better known as the prickly pear, could be the key to food security in the world’s most arid countries, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This statement is born from the results of a five-year study conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno. The study sought to examine the potential benefits of cultivating the prickly pear on a mass scale. Many people who live in rural areas consider this cactus to be little more than a formidable and even dangerous weed. It proliferates easily, is difficult to uproot and poses a threat to livestock who can injure themselves and their digestive systems on the sharp spines. However, the FAO believes the benefits can outweigh the downsides. Here is why this international humanitarian organization thinks the prickly pear is fundamental in the fight for food security.

Resistance to Drought and Heat

The study states that the prickly pear requires up to 80% less water than crops such as corn, rice and soy. Additionally, those crops have upper-temperature limits, whereas the prickly pear is able to grow in extreme heat. Africa’s largest country, Algeria, is classified as being around 80% arid or semi-arid, which leaves its population of more than 43 million vulnerable to food insecurity. In 2013, the country formed a cooperative of farmers, scientists and traders to begin cultivating the prickly pear. For this project, they consulted with Mexico, whose people and ancestors have ample experience with the cactus.

The cooperative built its first processing factory in 2015. The factory produces oil that is exported to France, Germany and Qatar. Since then, the enterprise has steadily grown. The cooperative built another factory in 2018 and plans to begin exporting its goods to the United States.

Can be Used as a Biofuel

The primary crops grown for biofuels are corn, sugar cane, soybean and palm oil, which comprise 97% of the biofuel industry. Sugar cane and corn require three to six times more water than the prickly pear, though they produce the same amount of energy. When grown as biofuel, corn, sugar cane, soy and palm oil crops can only be used for that very purpose. In contrast, farmers can first harvest the prickly pear for food before its waste-product is converted into fuel. It’s a circular system versus a linear system. When it comes to the question of the prickly pear as the key to food security, this distinction makes all the difference.

Food for Humans and Livestock

The prickly pear borders on being a superfood. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It contains antioxidants and is anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. For animals, the plant’s pads, or “nopales,” contain nearly 80% water, making them ideal feed for livestock. It can also be prepared in countless ways, though many people around the globe are unfamiliar with its myriad of uses.

Eritrea, a northeast African country is a prime example of this missed opportunity. Here, they sell the prickly pear on roadsides and in marketplaces alongside more popular fruits such as bananas, guavas and oranges. However, the Eritrean people, who regularly face food shortages, are largely unfamiliar with the number of ways the plant can be consumed. As a result, it has yet to be cultivated on a mass scale. Nearly all of the prickly pears that are brought to market are harvested from wild cacti.

Can Function as a Carbon Sink

One of the strongest arguments for the prickly pear as the key to food security is its function as a “carbon sink.” The fruit grows in areas where other plant life can not be established and then captures excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Cultivated on a mass scale, this could lead to lower temperatures and more rainfall, thus decreasing the number of droughts that threaten food security worldwide.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

In 2015, Madagascar faced a drought-induced famine. The lack of rain laid waste to their chief crops, including rice, cassava and sweet potatoes. Desperate for nourishment, many turned to the prickly pear, which was then regarded as a weed. The FAO points to the plant’s usefulness during the direst conditions as proof of the potential benefits of cultivating it on a larger scale. Droughts have continued to plague the people of Madagascar, with approximately one million inhabitants living on the brink of famine. The continued suffering of those living in the world’s most precarious conditions underscores the need for attainable, wholesale solutions. The FAO believes one such solution, agriculture or “green gold,” is well within reach.

– Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in VenezuelaAccording to the World Food Programme’s 2019 report, in the current Venezuelan economy, food insecurity has brought approximately 2.3 million Venezuelans into extreme poverty. Thankfully, international organizations are coming in to help mitigate this reality.

Food Insecurity and Poverty in Venezuela

Andres Burgos wakes up around 3 a.m. every day to prepare arepas: the Venezuela staple of cornbread. After filling his backpack, he rides his bicycle through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela. He looks for people prying into trash bags for food and offers them this bread stuffed with ham, cheese or vegetables. There are many others like Burgos that do the same in Venezuela’s major cities.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), levels of food insecurity are higher in 2021 than in the WFP study from 2019. In the same line of analysis, ENCOVI, a group of national universities, conducted a survey that concluded 74% of Venezuelan households face extreme poverty and food insecurity.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the pattern of consumption has forced the fragile population to change diet habits. Individuals are forced toward consuming more carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and beans. Items including meat, fish, eggs, cheese and vegetables are often too expensive for this sector of society. This type of diet leads to chronic malnutrition.

Addressing Food Insecurity in Venezuela

Numerous organizations are advocating to improve the lives of Venezuelans in need. Recently, Executive Director of the WFP David Beasley arrived in the country to set up the program: The Venezuela Humanitarian Response Plan with Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020. The goal is to reach out to the most vulnerable populations and include them in the program’s three objectives: to ensure the survival and well-being of the most vulnerable, to continue sustaining essential services and strengthening resilience and livelihoods and to strengthen institutional and community mechanisms to prevent, mitigate and respond to protection risks

Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation is another organization that collects funds with the goal of empowering vulnerable Venezuelans with the skills to provide for their own needs and ultimately improve their quality of life. Programs include a health program, a nutrition program and an empowerment program. The health program provides medicine and supplies and hosts educational health drives. The focus of the nutrition program is providing food staples, including formula, to orphanages, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and organizations that cook for the homeless. Additionally, the empowerment program offers training for success in micro-business and funds educational programs centered around children’s creativity, social dialogue and use of their free time.

GlobalGiving is a website that hosts groups and organizations that are collecting funds for a variety of social programs. This one site offers the ability to donate to programs targeting a large spectrum of vulnerable individuals, including the food insecure in Venezuela. Likewise, Alimenta la Solidaridad is an organization that develops sustainable solutions to the food security challenges of Venezuelan families. The organization promotes community organization and volunteer work as a way to provide daily lunches to children at risk of or experiencing a nutritional deficiency as a result of the complex humanitarian crisis.

These organizations are just a handful from the vast number working toward helping the most vulnerable populations of Venezuela who are facing food insecurity and poverty.

– Carlos Eduardo Velarde Vásquez
Photo: Flickr

Desert Locust Control ActDue to a recent outbreak of desert locusts in East Africa, the 117th Congress has written and introduced the H.R 1079 – Desert Locust Control Act on February 15th, 2021. In general terms, this act would “develop a comprehensive, strategic plan to control locust outbreaks in the East African region and address future outbreaks in order to avert mass-scale food insecurity and potential political destabilization.”

The Act Explained

In more specific terms, the Desert Locust Control Act would create an interagency working group that comprises several representatives from varying federal departments and agencies carrying out the act’s requirements. These duties would include monitoring the effectiveness of regional efforts to mitigate the outbreak and finding opportunities for additional support. Furthermore, the act asks to ensure the delivery of necessary assets to control the outbreak and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected. Lastly, the act would improve coordination among the involved government agencies, relieve the impact of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to prevent future desert locusts as well as other potentially harmful outbreaks.

What Desert Locusts Cause

This act has become necessary for a variety of reasons. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization has reported that as of December 2020, there were 42 million people suffering from food insecurity in East Africa. This number will increase if the locust outbreak is not handled. It becomes especially disheartening when considering the highly destructive nature of the desert locust. A small swarm can eat enough food for 35,000 people in one day, while a larger swarm can devour enough to leave 81 million people starving. It’s important to note the urgency of the situation as well. By June of this year, the number of desert locusts could increase by 400 times, due to there currently being favorable weather conditions for their breeding and each locust generation increasing by 20 times on average.

Problems Amplifying the Crisis

Another concerning factor of this recent outbreak is the economic damage to these countries, with locust-related losses being estimated at $8.5 billion for livestock production and asset damages. Furthermore, COVID-19 regulations have already created unfavorable conditions for agricultural production by disrupting supply chains, transportation and access to services and labor. These conditions have consequently increased the chances for a potential food security crisis in the past months. The desert locust outbreak only compounds these issues and creates a crisis within a crisis, making a worse situation out of an already dire issue. Unfortunately, the desert locust will also place vulnerable citizens, including women and children, into further vulnerability, when accounting for the fact of the eventual increase in crime due to food shortages. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), has estimated that 5,000 households, especially those run by women, will need humanitarian assistance by August of 2021.

The immediacy of this outbreak, the drastic results and the economic and political difficulties present, have made it necessary for the U.S. and other foreign countries to involve themselves and provide assistance. As evidenced, the Desert Locust Control Act will be crucial for the well-being of several impacted African countries as the second wave is almost 20 times larger than the first one. Due to this, African communities will need foreign aid in order to safely and effectively nullify this issue.

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

hunger crisis in the United KingdomThe United Kingdom has the fifth-largest economy in the world. However, the country continues to struggle with national hunger. Since the implementation of budget cuts and tax increases to combat the financial crisis of 2010, struggling families trying to feed their children have suffered. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the food shortage in the U.K. has gotten exponentially worse. Food insecurity stands at 47% among people without jobs. People who fall in the lowest income quartile also report high levels of food insecurity at 34%. Women are also more vulnerable to food insecurity and some ethnic groups are more affected than others. The efforts of food banks attempt to address the growing hunger crisis in the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 and the Hunger Crisis

COVID-19 has exposed the true extent of the hunger crisis in the United Kingdom. Many people have experienced wage cuts and unemployment since the onset of the pandemic. In addition, many rushed out to supermarkets to stock up on food, which only caused more damage. Families who were impoverished before COVID-19 struggled the hardest to compete with panic buyers. Lower-income families can only afford store brand products and discounted goods, but stockpilers left only the more expensive products on the shelves. School closures have also made feeding families more difficult. Many families relied on schools and childcare services to provide daily meals for their children. Despite this, the government refused to extend free meal packages for students into the holiday season.

Food Banks

Food banks have helped curb some of the hunger issues in the U.K. The largest food bank network in the U.K., the Trussell Trust, continues to make a huge impact. The Trussell Trust food banks make up two-thirds of all the food banks in the U.K. Between April 2018 and March 2019, the network delivered more than 1.6 million food parcels to families in need. This amounts to a need increase of 26 times more since 2010. Due to COVID-19, however, the Trussell Trust reported handing out 2.5 million food packages from January 2021 until the end of March 2021. These numbers reflect the dire hunger crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated hunger in the United Kingdom, but the efforts of food banks have promptly addressed the issue.

The Road Ahead

Although food banks have helped reduce the food shortage in the United Kingdom, food banks are not a permanent solution. Many have criticized the U.K. for not doing enough to address hunger. Some even think that the British Government itself has exacerbated hunger in the country. Considering that the U.K. is not a low-income country, it has the means to do more. The Department for Education and Minister for Children and Families has funded programs to address hunger in schools and the hunger children experience in the holidays when they are out of school.

Human Rights Watch has made suggestions about how the government should proceed. Most importantly, it has emphasized that the U.K. needs to first acknowledge the right to food as a fundamental human right and compensate people for violations of this right. The government also needs to monitor and survey food insecurity in the country to get an accurate reflection of the true extent of hunger in the U.K. Human Rights Watch also suggests that the U.K. devise a national anti-hunger strategy and reassess the impacts of its previous welfare cuts. Welfare benefits for low-income households should be lifted to ensure food security for impoverished households.

With commitment and dedication to addressing hunger in the United Kingdom, the government can turn the situation around and ensure the well-being of people in the country.

Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Chad
Citizens of Chad suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. This is due to a number of reasons such as geographical location. Humanitarian crises and poverty have impacted approximately 6.3 million Chadians. However, three notable organizations are working to fight food insecurity in Chad including Action Against Hunger, CARE and the World Food Program U.S.A. (WFP). These groups are working to ensure a direct solution, by providing food to Chad’s citizens. Moreover, these programs are attempting to implement long-term solutions, such as creating more fiscal opportunities and supplying clean water.

Food Insecurity in Chad

The country’s geographical location does not provide a reliable agricultural system. Chad is a landlocked country without any bodies of water. The country’s location also entails a hot, dry climate and the country experiences periods of drought. This has led to a lack of water for drinking and producing food. Moreover, conflict with bordering countries has applied further pressure to Chad’s limited resources. This has led to political instability, social unrest and a great influx of refugees. The country has accepted around 465,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic. Lack of food supply has resulted in over 317,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 2019. An estimated 790,000 inhabitants in Chad live with food insecurity.

Action Against Hunger

In 2019, Action Against Hunger helped 579,092 Chadians combat food insecurity. The organization reached those in need with programs focusing on nutrition and health, sanitation and hygiene and food security and livelihood. Action Against Hunger has worked to create solutions for the long term. For example, it initiated health and nutrition courses in Kanem, Bar El Gazal and Logone Oriental. Moreover, to promote behavioral change, the organization implemented husbands’ schools and care groups.

Action Against Hunger has also provided emergency, short-term and long-term solutions directly related to food. This includes supplying food, teaching new agricultural techniques (solar-powered irrigation systems and farmers’ field schools) and providing job opportunities to young people and women.

CARE

Although CARE does not directly focus on food relief, it offers a number of programs to improve the well-being of Chadians into the future. This includes initiatives such as natural resource management, farming classes and education on water and sanitation.

World Food Program USA (WFP)

WFP has partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Food for Peace to provide nourishment to underserved Chadians. The organizations collect food from producers in the United States and local markets. They also distribute food vouchers, cash transfers and specialized nutrition products to struggling Chadians.

WFP has three other initiatives that it focuses on titled Emergency Operation, the School Meals Program and Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation.

  • Emergency Operation: This program focuses on those seeking refuge in southern Chad. WFP provides them with nourishment, food vouchers and e-cards, and gives nutrition support for mothers and children.
  • School Meals Program: This initiative seeks to increase school attendance, specifically amongst girls. The school meals program reaches approximately 265,000 elementary school children. All students in attendance receive a hot meal and girls can take a monthly ration of oil home to their families. This in turn encourages parents to send their daughters to school, and thus increases the rate of educated females.
  • Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation: This program can assist up to 2.2 million Chadians and refugees in need. Health centers and clinics provide supplementary feeding to local and conflicted populations.

Despite food insecurity in Chad, the country is benefitting from significant aid from prominent organizations. Through these organization’s continued support, Chad should be able to improve nutrition for its entire population in time.

– Ella Kaplun
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Food Insecurity in Palestinian Territories
In 2018, the World Food Programme reported that 68.7% of urban Palestinian territories and 67.4% of refugee camps experienced food insecurities. As the poverty rate continues to increase, COVID-19 has further damaged the nation’s economy. Despite the Palestinian market’s dependence on agriculture, many factors have affected the region including foreign occupation, insufficient governance and distanced global intervention. Palestine’s history of unsustainable farming practices and social pressures to sell land still exist, making food insecurity in Palestinian territories an ongoing struggle.

A History of Hunger

Poverty has affected these regions since the early 15th century as governing entities have deterred progression in agricultural advancement. Until the 1920s, the British occupation of Palestinian territories did not emphasize its agricultural sectors, leaving many farmers with elementary techniques.

In the 1950s, the neighboring Israeli state emerged, vastly increasing economic competition. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948  resulted in widespread poverty, creating an overflow of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. The rule of the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank in the 1950s changed land and water policies and increased taxation on Palestinian lands. Shortly after, Israeli’s markets began to bleed into Palestinian territories, and the two nations’ economies began to blend. Many Palestinians became the cheap labor source under the Israeli market system.

Considering the lack of diplomatic unity and relocation of labor and resources, the state of Palestine has never had a chance to renovate agricultural practices to sustain a consistent food source. One major source of stagnation exists that perpetuates the cycle of economic recession and insufficient production in Palestinian territories: the neighboring Israeli nation. Palestinian resources often go to Israeli markets due to the merging of the two nations’ economies. With Palestinian refugees working within Israel’s economy, Palestinian land, water, livestock and agriculture sectors work to fuel the neighboring commercial systems, deducting from Palestinian progress or self-efficiency.

An Ongoing Challenge

In 2021, Palestinians are still facing severe food insecurity along the Gaza Strip, battling various levels of poverty that the pandemic exacerbated. State efforts have undergone fragmentation, as the governing body is thinly spread between responding to COVID-19, severe food insecurity and the Israeli threat of annexation of the West Bank.

To combat this turbulence and provide aid to Palestinian territories, the UNRWA and IRUSA have collaborated to donate $2.44 million to provide COVID-19 relief and support food security. These nonprofit organizations target refugees and children in need of food assistance and contribute to education, health, food, livelihood and women’s initiatives.

Though these U.S. organizations have supplied funding to alleviate some poverty and food insecurity in Palestinian territories, these projects are temporary assistance because the problem has not experienced complete elimination.

Systemic Solutions

In efforts to mitigate the recession, Palestinian sectors are taking part in “agro-resistance” to reclaim independence and labor. Localization tactics are constantly circulating; the Palestinian people participate in nonviolent demonstrations and work to redefine methods of agriculture. Locals work together to catch rainwater from rooftops, preserve and catalog seeds and create gardens within households to support self-sustainability.

The most crucial advancement within this process is the education of farmers. Nonprofit organizations such as the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Ma’an Permaculture Center work with the locals to reduce food insecurity in Palestinian territories and to rebuild the economy. The effort still continues as each sector receives education and renovation, even amid COVID-19 and existing poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr