Nigeria’s Food EmergencyCurrently, Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, is facing a significant food shortage crisis. According to a UNICEF report in January, “nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023 (lean season) if urgent action is not taken.” Now, in July, Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu, has declared the country in a state of national emergency over food. Further, The Conversation reports that almost 6 million children across northwest and northeast Nigeria have been subject to acute malnutrition, with nearly 2 million suffering severely. Several causes have led to Nigeria’s food emergency; therefore, it is vital to understand them before proposing solutions. 

Causes 

UNICEF’s report covering the Nigerian food emergency crisis suggests the floods that occurred in 2022 contributed greatly: “Widespread flooding in the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands.” The floods resulted in a devastating loss of harvests, creating an increased level of food insecurity for a considerable number of families. Additionally, conflict and violence throughout the country have increased food shortage levels. This, combined with extreme shifts in weather, has created an overwhelming food insecurity status across Nigeria, meaning potential solutions that can bring the country out of this state of emergency are desperately needed.

Education 

Action Against Hunger has continuously worked to alleviate Nigeria’s food emergency issue and has developed numerous education programs to help prevent food insecurity. The organization’s Porridge Moms program aims to educate mothers impacted by a lack of food on creating nutritious meals, thus reducing malnutrition levels in the Nigerian population. This system not only creates a long-term solution but also generates a support system for Nigerian women who have endured suffering. Action Against Hunger was able to help almost 3 million people in 2022.

Developing Income-Generating Activities

Nigeria requires both short and long-term results to ensure a reversal of their food emergency. In response, the World Food Program has prioritized the development of income-generating activities in the country: “We give cash support in the short term, while providing training so displaced people can acquire skills and employment in the long term.” The WFP has worked to create opportunities for the affected Nigerian population in vegetable gardening, aquaculture and food processing, enabling communities to prevent further food shortages from occurring in the future. 

Preventing Soil Erosion

A report from the World Bank has revealed that uncontrollable floods in southern Nigeria triggered significant soil erosion, leading to the destruction of numerous crops and farms. Soil erosion is an indirect consequence of climate change. The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) proposed numerous mechanisms to combat changing weather patterns. Such mechanisms included waste management, stormwater diversion plans and early-warning systems. NEWMAP has reported that more than 12 million people benefitted from their program.

Despite the causes that have led to Nigeria’s food emergency, many organizations are proposing a vast multitude of solutions across all areas to alleviate food insecurity. With help from the rest of the world, the country of Nigeria can look to a brighter future with the assistance of the charitable organizations already devoted to the country.

– Ibrahim Azam
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in KenyaKenya, a country known for its vast savannahs and teeming wildlife, relies on agriculture for a large proportion of merchandise exports and approximately 33% of its total GDP. However, in a climate prone to unstable weather and ongoing food insecurity, it is crucial to transform the current food systems in Kenya to secure a sustainable and healthy future. 

Kenya’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA)

With more than 40% of its overall workforce situated within the agricultural sector, the Kenyan government pledged to implement its Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) in 2022.

The policy focuses on making agricultural transformation a priority within government and aims to support small-hold farmers by driving resources and technology to modernize outdated methods within agriculture. 

While implementing this plan recognizes the importance of transforming food systems in Kenya as a solution to extreme poverty, severe food insecurity still affects around 28% of Kenyans, with a large proportion of children suffering from malnutrition. 

Hydroponic Systems and Urban Farming

One example of a method revolutionizing food systems in Kenya is the use of hydroponic systems. While the initial installation of hydroponics can be expensive, this ‘no soil’ method of farming uses nutrient-rich water to grow crops and can produce plants rapidly. 

According to the World Bank, hydroponic systems use 10 times less water than traditional field farming methods and can grow barley for cattle feed in just five to seven days.

A second factor setting hydroponics at the forefront of modern sustainable farming, is the ability for systems to be built and grown vertically. This allows people living in confined urban environments to create their own food systems through initiatives like The World Food Programme’s (WFP) H2Grow project. Through this program, WFP is providing technology and support to local farmers, while creating innovative solutions to decrease the cost of installation and upkeep for disadvantaged communities.

With results in more than 21 countries worldwide, H2Grow aims to ‘grow food in impossible places’ and has helped more than 89,000 people to achieve better nutrition and food security.

The primary benefit of using hydroponic systems in Kenya is that hydroponic farming does not rely on seasonal rainfall which makes it one of the few sustainable forms of continuously successful agriculture for arid and semi-arid environments. 

Women in Agriculture

While hydroponics offer a positive route for urban farming, rural communities still largely rely upon land-based subsistence.

The Association of Women in Agriculture Kenya (AWAK) is a women-led, nonprofit organization seeking to educate women in the necessary skills to develop both profitable and agroecological farming practices. 

Winners of the 2023 Women’s Economic Empowerment Award, AWAK focuses on helping women at the intersection of poverty and the climate emergency by providing education and opportunities through a variety of projects. 

Their initiatives range from a land restoration project teaching women how to successfully become independent farmers, to an online MYCoop partnership that reduces the gap between the producer and market. 

Currently, AWAK’s land restoration project has reached more than 150,000 farmers and has taught women how to turn subsistence farming into a sustainable, profitable and climate-smart business. AWAK’s goal is to reach and empower 4,000,000 women in the next 10 years by helping them become an integral, educated part of Kenya’s agricultural sector. 

Looking Ahead

Both education and resources play a vital role in transforming food systems in Kenya and emphasize the need for Kenya’s BETA to fully come into effect. Tackling food systems in Kenya will not only help poverty reduction but, with enough research and technological advancement, present an opportunity for Kenya to utilize its agricultural sector innovatively and sustainably in the fight against food insecurity and poverty.

– Zoe Winterfeldt
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in CameroonWhile Cameroon has abundant natural resources, historically, it has depended on wheat imports to sustain its population and prevent food insecurity. However, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, Cameroon is experiencing severe wheat shortages, threatening to push many households into poverty. With many local food producers now seeking alternatives to wheat, a solution may be on the horizon as more and more are turning to locally produced flour like sweet potato flour. This article will, therefore, examine how the sweet potato can relieve poverty in Cameroon.

What is the Problem?

Cameroon is a large Central African country situated on the Gulf of Guinea. An ethnically diverse place, its population stands at around 27 million people, almost half of whom live in rural areas. While Cameroon has experienced moderate growth since its Independence, it has been beset by economic stagnation and high inflation in recent years.  

A major importer of essential resources such as wheat, vegetable oil and meat, this crisis is due to disruption to these global value chains due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Rising food prices and stalling wages mean that many Cameroonians face the prospect of falling into poverty. As a result, 11% of the population faces acute food insecurity; worryingly, this number will likely increase by 45% compared to last year.

For many Cameroonians, wheat is a dietary staple consumed in high volume as pasta and bread. However, as a non-wheat-producing country, Cameroon completely depends on imports, 46% of which come from Russia. However, the war between Russia and Ukraine has severely affected global exports. This has created wheat shortages around the world and pushed up its price. 

In Cameroon, for example, the cost of a kilogram of wheat flour rose from 500 FCFA in February to 600 FCFA in May, an increase of 69% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Not only has this meant businesses are struggling with increased production costs, but the government has also needed to raise the price of bread (a commodity that the government tightly regulates). These price increases will reduce the purchasing power of many Cameroonian households and increase poverty. 

An Alternative

However, as the government has sought to contain the volatility in the wheat market, many are turning to an alternative form of flour made from sweet potato. Already an essential crop in many East African countries, the sweet potato has received significant attention as a cheap, easy to grow and sustainable food source due to its high yield in various climates and ability to withstand drought. However, it is nutritionally rich in carbohydrates, vitamins A, B and C, and minerals like phosphorus, iron and calcium. On a continent plagued with Vitamin A deficiency (which can lead to blindness, disease and premature death), it is hoped that the sweet potato can relieve poverty in Cameroon as it offers promising solutions to malnourishment, food insecurity and poverty. 

What Has Been Happening?

With wheat prices rising to unsustainable levels, the crisis reached breaking point when the Cameroonian Association of Millers suspended deliveries of wheat flour. However, stepping in to quell the fears of many business owners and consumers, in 2011, the President of the National Union of Bakery Owners, Jean Claude Yiepmou Kapwa, pointed out that sweet potato flour can replace wheat in 80% of everyday recipes. Local entrepreneurs successfully producing flour from wheat alternatives such as sweet potato and cassava have now been adopting this idea. While flour makes baked products that taste sweeter and are slightly dryer, overall, its production has been praised by some government ministers supporting the diversification to alternative forms of flour. 

A great example of where sweet potato flour is successfully replacing wheat is through Yaoundé baker Guy Marcel Ngata. Ngata has been making baguettes with sweet potato, cassava and other legumes for the past 13 years. Ngata points out that switching wheat to local flour alternatives has kept his production costs down and increased his profits. Importantly, like other bakeries in Cameroon, the switch has also kept him solvent. But bakers have not been the only ones to feel its benefits. As Adeline Pelage, owner of Bobo Biscuiterie in Douala, explains, sourcing flour from local cooperatives and farms supports agriculture in areas of the country that traditionally have been very poor. This demonstrates how the sweet potato can relieve poverty in Cameroon. 

Conclusion 

As Cameroon, like many other wheat-importing, developing nations, struggle to contain the volatility of the wheat market, it can take encouragement from the initiatives of many Cameroonians who are actively seeking alternatives to wheat to ensure they can still receive a livelihood. Moreover, by turning to locally sourced flour, many food producers are ensuring that bread prices will remain low and that important income sources reach the country’s poorest parts. This helps show how the sweet potato can relieve poverty in Cameroon. 

– Cameron Mason
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in ThailandHunger and food insecurity are serious issues in Thailand, with many low-income households and vulnerable communities unable to afford to feed their families. A lack of reliable access to food has exacerbated food insecurity amongst the poor and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened it. Fortunately, community assistance such as food banks shows promise to combat hunger in Thailand.

The State of Food Insecurity

Every country aims to achieve food security and eradicate hunger. However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has observed a growing severity of global food shortages since 2014, resulting from a loss of natural resources due to changing weather patterns and natural disasters. This has had a detrimental impact on agricultural production and food security.

A steep rise in food prices has also increased the number of people facing food insecurity. In fact, according to the World Bank, it takes only a 1% increase in food prices to push an additional 10 million people into extreme poverty.

Nutrition in Thailand

The problem of hunger in Thailand has significantly worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, the National Statistical Office surveyed households in Thailand on the impacts of COVID-19. Results indicated the pandemic caused multiple food-related challenges within households, including inadequate consumption of nutritious food and limited food variety. Lower-income households suffered more serious consequences due to increased unemployment and consequent loss of income.

A World Bank study from 2020  revealed that 6.2 million people in Thailand–or 9% of the total population–lack adequate nutrition. This is a result of rising food costs, as well as a lack of nutritional knowledge. Poor understanding of nutrition is often more prevalent in lower-income households and contributes to unhealthy dietary habits and food preparations that do not adhere to nutritional principles.

The Rise of Food Banks to Tackle Hunger

Food banks are steadily growing in popularity across the globe. The Global Foodbanking Network (GFN) found that the number of people using food banks has doubled since the pandemic. In 2022, more than 32 million people used food banks across 50 developing countries. Many communities in Thailand have also turned to food banks as a solution to combat hunger, with the additional benefit of reducing the environmental consequences of food waste.

According to the Pollution Control Department, nearly 70% of Thailand’s total rubbish consists of food waste. The Scholars of Sustenance Foundation (SOS) originated in 2016 to eradicate hunger through the redistribution of surplus food to communities in need such as orphanages and shelters. It is one of the oldest food banking initiatives in Thailand, working in Bangkok, Phuket, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and many other areas.

SOS also runs other programs to help combat hunger. The Rescue Kitchen Program works with community kitchens to turn surplus food into warm and nutritious food that is served to undernourished communities. The Remote Community Food Program employs military and volunteer networks to transport food across mountainous terrains, supplying food to isolated rural communities. The Healthy School Lunch Program promotes food security and nutrition for malnourished children at school, providing them with fresh vegetables for school lunches.

SOS has had a significant impact on reducing food insecurity and hunger in Thailand, having served nearly 30 million meals to more than 3,000 communities. The SOS foundation has also rescued around 6.8 million kilograms of surplus food. This is equivalent to about 17,282 tons of CO2 if the food were instead wasted in landfills.

Taking Action to Combat Hunger in Thailand

Food banks show promise in reducing hunger in Thailand by redirecting surplus food toward lower-income and vulnerable communities. Food banks have been so effective because of how embedded they are within local communities. To facilitate change, the government must transform the food system – starting at the community level. Prompt action must be taken to facilitate food access and security in Thailand for a lasting impact on hunger.

– Stephanie Chan
Photo: Flickr

Child Food PovertyThe Central African Republic, a landlocked nation in sub-Saharan Africa, is bordered to the south by the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda, to the west by Cameroon, and to the north by Chad and South Sudan. Founded as an independent nation after a period of French colonial rule in 1960, the Central African Republic was saturated with various structural challenges dating from before and during colonial administration. The product of this history and several ongoing conflicts, as well as poverty from decades of relative economic and land mismanagement, have resulted in the Central African Republic failing to overcome among the highest poverty rates globally. Land and natural resource mismanagement has, in particular, rendered the nation’s most vulnerable populations, especially children, vulnerable to food insecurity. There are four primary causes of this child hunger.

Civil War

Following several military coups and continued ethnic tension dating from the nineteenth century culminated in a civil war beginning in the 1990s. Over the past twenty years, the nation has transitioned back to constitutional democracy since a final pro-democracy military coup in 2003 brought a new constitution and various multi-party elections. However, civil wars remain prominent, with several rebel organizations still active in the country’s north. Following these conflicts, the central government’s institutions, based in the Central African Republic’s historic metropolitan center, Bangui, have been substantially weakened, limiting the ability of public institutions to provide essential social services reliably. Additionally, recent post-election violence has added to this deprivation.

Economic Activity and Supply

Though many ceasefires have kept military tensions from worsening, rebel militias remain in control of large swathes of the nation, hampering economic output in all sectors, including agriculture. This dynamic has worsened poverty due to an absence of employment opportunities; 75% of the Central African Republic’s population is impoverished, statistically among the highest globally. This, coupled with a 35% reduction in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, has led to most households losing purchasing power, with recent reports indicating 65% to 75% of household income is allocated towards food.

The Most Vulnerable Demographics

High socioeconomic inequality most impacts women and young children in rural regions of the country, partially the result of longstanding inequality of land ownership common in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, rural families depending on subsistence or localized agriculture, already strained by circumstance, were often most impacted by the depredation of civil war. This has most substantially affected children among the youth population of the Central African Republic. Currently, the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, estimates that 40% of children under five years of age are suffering from malnutrition, while 30% suffer from malnutrition; rates are considered an “emergency threshold.” This growing number of malnourished children has prompted fears that already limited access to social services, such as education, will be exacerbated. This has rendered international food aid fundamental to preventing backsliding, in particular related to children. Currently, the World Food Program provides 36,000 children under 5 years of age with fortified meals as part of the initiative to improve nutrition, vaccination rates and health training.

International Efforts

Following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, immediate impacts on Ukrainian grain exports, on which sub-Saharan Africa is predominantly dependent, especially nations that rely on food imports, such as the Central African Republic. Increased costs for food imports, of importance due to structurally low domestic productivity, are overextending residents in the world’s poorest nations, including the Central African Republic. 

This development has been especially pronounced among already impoverished children, with child malnutrition increasing at high rates; since 2020, severe acute malnutrition among children under five years of age has increased by 25%. This has acted to reverse decades of efforts by international aid organizations, ranging from the International Monetary Fund, UNICEF, and prominent national donors, to counter the precarious situation for children and other vulnerable demographics, such as women in rural areas, with investments to improve security and resources. 

Before recent setbacks, child hunger in the Central African Republic was relatively lower than its neighboring countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with most large families obtaining direct and widespread international aid. In 2017 alone, UNICEF programs aided 850,000 in the Central African Republic through initiatives such as the WASH, a series of centers nationwide providing safe drinking water educational and health care services.

In conclusion, while international aid has proven integral to improving the impoverished circumstances in the Central African Republic, child hunger remains an ongoing and worsening crisis as the scale of deprivation among children is exacerbated by external factors, such as the war in Ukraine. As a result, organizations such as the IMF and individual nations are evaluating ways to encourage reform and expand programs. However, though a consensus remains, both are contingent on continued funding for the international programs that have prevented more significant crises from emerging.

– Cormac Sullivan
Photo: Flickr

El Niño's Impact on Honduras The global weather phenomenon, El Niño, impacts most parts of Central America and some of South America. El Niño is the process in which the temperature of the Eastern Ocean becomes unusually warm, causing erratic weather. In the process of the sea surface level warming up caused Honduras to experience severe drought. El Niño is causing food insecurity and an economic dip.

The Impact of El Niño in Honduras

Honduras and most of Central America expect around 3.5 million people to require humanitarian assistance because of El Niño. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), El Niño’s impact on Honduras is causing about 1.6 million people to require moderate to severe assistance with food because of the scarcity.

El Niño’s impact on Honduras causes severe drought compared to how it impacts other countries. Rural parts of the country that rely on importing goods or agriculture are affected the most by the severe drought and erratic weather the phenomenon presents. According to UNICEF, the lack of crops presents a constrained agricultural production, which leads to borderline famine and food scarcity.

The Permanent Commission of Contingencies (COPECO) declared that Honduras is on an indefinite Red Alert for 140 municipalities from rural areas to major cities. Aside from food scarcity, consumable and usable water is also becoming difficult to access. Water is now competing for agricultural use and human consumption, resulting in families in rural areas sacrificing water use for healthy hygiene. Since water is being used primarily for agriculture, there is an increase in water contamination, which affects children under five years the hardest.

Poverty in Honduras

While Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in the world, it is a remarkable and durable nation that emerged from a collapsing economy after the 2020 pandemic and two hurricanes. According to the World Bank, in 2020, more than half of the population lived under the poverty line but the country managed to recover with an increase in the labor market and an inflow of remittances.

Honduras’ economy will likely slow to 3.2% because of a slower growth of exports. El Niño’s impact on the country is a massive contributor to the halting of the economy because of the droughts it is causing. Without many crops or agricultural production, exporting goods significantly stunts the economy’s growth. The World Bank states in the report that another factor contributing to Honduras’ halting economy is low private investment and weak budget execution.

According to a report, the National Centers for Environmental Information estimates that the drought linked with El Niño is expected to cut into the region’s harvest. The drought is also impacting Honduras’ hydroelectric plants and beginning to ration electricity. Representative of The International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Ricardo Llaudes, the mission’s leader to Honduras, states, “Honduras remains one of the world’s most vulnerable countries” to natural disasters, “with sizable adaptation investment needs.”

Action Against Hunger’s Efforts

Adaptation is the game’s name when dealing with El Niño and its random weather outbursts. Countries cannot prevent the phenomenon because of how long it has been around. But there are strategies, aids and plans that can be implemented to help Honduras surge forward. 

Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that provides food assistance to rural areas with minor nutrition and works to improve clean water access, safe sanitation and healthy hygiene. As of 2022, Action Against Hunger helped 227,971 people in the country in hopes of reducing the impact of El Niño. 

But a growing concern in the country is the mass amount of migration from Honduran nationals and other countries in South America, including Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela and many more. What Action Against Hunger is doing in response is providing humanitarian support to inside and outside migration shelters alongside prioritizing children’s malnourishment.

How USAID is Helping

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new humanitarian funding package of $42.5 million. The package will support El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the most impacted by El Niño. According to USAID, the support will help reduce food insecurity and provide drinking water. The U.S. is providing a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Ways to adapt and deal with El Niño include helping farmers grow different crops that require less water. A good example is the sorghum plant. The dragon fruit cactus is a great alternative fruit tree that can survive in severe drought. U.N. agencies are helping farmers create vegetable gardens that efficiently conserve water by having a small irrigation system.

While El Niño is here to stay, there are ways to reduce its impact. Planting alternative plants that can still provide nutrition to help reduce food scarcity. New farming methods focus on conserving as much water as possible and using aid packages to develop a reliable source of consumable water and food. 

Sebastian Llerena
Photo: Flickr

SAFE ActAccording to the World Health Organization, in 2021, 828 million people were impacted by global hunger. The Securing Allies Food in Emergencies (SAFE) Act — which is currently being voted on in the Senate — will work to address global hunger and food insecurity. Here are five things to know about the SAFE Act (S.436).

  1. The SAFE Act was created in response to the food crisis in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. According to the New York Times, Russian attacks on Ukraine “cripple[d] the grain terminals where wheat and corn are loaded onto ships,” resulting in a Ukrainian food crisis. The SAFE Act was created to aid Ukraine as well as areas that rely upon Ukrainian and Russian goods. 
  2. The SAFE Act will also aid countries supported by the United Nations World Food Program. The United Nations World Food Program is “the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.” Unfortunately, this program greatly relies upon importing goods from Ukraine. The SAFE Act would provide support to the countries that rely upon this program to ensure that they are still able to receive the help they need. 
  3. It has bipartisan support. The SAFE Act currently has political support from both of the major American political parties. It was introduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Jim Risch (R-ID). 
  4. The SAFE Act will provide assistance to the millions of people living in poverty who are impacted by global hunger and food insecurity. In the words of The Hunger Project, “poverty causes hunger.” While not all people living in poverty are hungry, nearly all people dealing with the impacts of global hunger live in poverty. This means that a piece of legislation such as the SAFE Act has the potential to greatly help those living in poverty. 
  5. Food insecurity negatively impacts children’s education. Many children in countries impacted by global hunger and food insecurity have a difficult time in school as hunger inhibits their ability to concentrate. Sometimes, hunger leaves students with no choice but to withdraw from school, which can negatively affect their life outcomes

Looking Ahead

Putting the SAFE Act into law is not the only step being taken to fight back against global hunger. Several nonprofit organizations have similar goals. Founded in 1979, Action Against Hunger is an organization dedicated to taking action to stop global hunger

They do this through detecting and treating undernutrition and malnutrition in a variety of countries, working with local health workers to teach parents and caregivers about breastfeeding and nutrition and providing mental health support to those suffering from the negative mental health effects of food insecurity. Some of Action Against Hunger’s key milestones include halving the world’s undernourished population over the last 30 years and expanding its outreach to over 50 countries. From legislation such as the SAFE Act to organizations such as Action Against Hunger, hopefully, global hunger will come to an end one day.

– Nicole Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Armenia
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an ethnically charged territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is a contested region by both countries with an ongoing conflict that has lasted for over three decades, with two wars in the early 1990s and 2020. Ethnic Armenians predominantly populated this region until 2023. As of 2023, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 100,000 individuals who have sought refuge in Armenia. This exacerbates the strain on an already insecure economic situation. Furthermore, this influx of displaced persons has created food insecurity in Armenia, adding significant pressure to the country’s fragile economy.

The Current State of Poverty in Armenia

According to UNICEF, one out of every three children in Armenia resides in impoverished conditions. Additionally, “recent data from 2017 (34.2% child poverty rate, with 2% extreme child poverty rate) is showing that there was no reduction compared to the lowest level of poverty in 2008.”

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) fifth Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (December 2022 to January 2023) unveiled concerning statistics regarding Armenia’s food security situation. It revealed that 30% of households in the country were grappling with food insecurity. An additional 44% of the surveyed households fell into the category of marginal food secure. This implies that more than half of the population remains susceptible to food insecurity. Only one in every five households in Armenia, or 20%, fell into the category of food secure.

These findings underscore the nature of the food security challenge in Armenia, requiring targeted interventions and policies to address the specific needs of vulnerable groups and regions.

Action Against Hunger

There has been an increase in organizations providing assistance to Armenia in light of its present circumstances. The mission of Action Against Hunger revolves around safeguarding families affected by conflict. The organization has aided Armenian citizens in need since 2018. In collaboration with local organizations, Action Against Hunger extends protective services to more than 3,000 children and their caregivers in Armenia. It goes beyond these measures by empowering people with entrepreneurship and vocational skills, facilitating connections with potential employers and alleviating food insecurity in Armenia. Furthermore, the organization offers critical support to those uprooted by conflict, delivering essential services such as health care, access to clean water and affordable housing options.

The Armenian Food Bank

The Armenian Food Bank, a humanitarian organization with a clear mission to aid Armenian refugees, has stepped forward to provide crucial assistance. Established in 2020 by Michael Avetikyan, the Armenian Food Bank Charitable Foundation has actively delivered vital humanitarian support to underprivileged families with children and veterans. In 2020 alone, this organization rendered assistance to more than 200,000 Armenian and Artsakh citizens. Furthermore, it facilitated the collection and transportation of 12 tons of humanitarian aid to Artsakh.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

In an effort to support displaced individuals in meeting their nutritional and essential requirements, the World Food Programme (WFP), with backing from the European Union, United States, France and the Belgian region of Flanders, extended cash assistance to more than 13,000 individuals in June 2021. These beneficiaries are registered on the government assistance platform and presently reside within Armenia’s borders. WFP had the opportunity to meet with several families who received cash assistance from both Armenia’s government and WFP. This assistance plays a pivotal role in making sure each individual has fulfilled their daily needs. The organization ensures that Armenians have food on their tables so that they can address other immediate needs.

Food for the Future

Organizations are redirecting their resources and focusing their endeavors on alleviating food insecurity in Armenia during the ongoing humanitarian crisis. This situation demands immediate attention to address the pressing needs of the affected population. These organizations are mobilizing their expertise, manpower and resources to provide vital assistance, including food, shelter and health care, to those grappling with the devastating consequences of the crisis. Collaborative efforts among international and local organizations, governments and communities are not only alleviating the current crisis in Artsakh but also helping Armenia build a more stable and secure future for its people.

– Susanna Andryan
Photo: Flickr

Fiavota Cash Transfer ProgramMadagascar’s Grand Sud region, the country’s poorest area, faced severe hardship due to a devastating drought spanning from 2013 to 2015, followed by a 75% drop in rainfall in 2016, leading to a loss of 95% of crops, pushing more than a million people into food insecurity. Rainfall gaps in 2018, 2019 and 2020, compounded by the impact of COVID-19, have exacerbated this crisis.

By March 2023, more than 2 million people in Madagascar will likely face acute food insecurity. The Fiavota cash transfer program, with support from the World Bank and UNICEF, emerged as a lifeline for those affected by the drought by providing cash transfers disbursed by the government in combination with nutrition services and recovery funding.

Aiding Hundreds of Thousands and Alleviating Poverty

The Fiavota cash transfer program has made a monumental impact in Madagascar, benefiting more than 450,000 individuals, a significant portion of whom are women. These women, often the most vulnerable to poverty, have found opportunities to improve their families’ living conditions. The impact on poverty is profound, as families struggling with finances have witnessed a remarkable transformation.

The financial support provided by Fiavota has allowed households to increase their income, leading to beneficiary households now enjoying an average income 40% higher than non-beneficiary households. This substantial boost in income directly contributes to the alleviation of poverty.

Furthermore, Fiavota has played a pivotal role in empowering women and facilitating the establishment of small family enterprises, exemplified by businesses. In 2018, nearly two-thirds of recipient households engaged in a minimum of two small, family-operated income-generating ventures, typically led by women, directly contributing to poverty reduction.

Enhancing Food Security and Nutrition To Tackle Poverty

Amid the drought aftermath, one of the most pressing concerns was food security, a direct link to poverty alleviation. Fiavota swiftly addressed this issue by providing food and nutrition workshops and introducing households to a more diversified diet. This initiative has played a pivotal role in reducing cases of acute childhood malnutrition, ultimately enhancing overall food security in the region.

There have been significant improvements in food insecurity among beneficiaries. These improvements include a reduction in households skipping meals due to lack of money (3% reduction), having no food in the household due to a lack of money (9% reduction) and going to bed hungry (11% reduction). By mitigating food insecurity, Fiavota takes substantial strides in the battle against poverty.

Investing in Education

In Madagascar, 40% of children have no access to education, and 70% of students drop out before the final grade of primary school. Education is a powerful means to break the cycle of poverty, and the program’s positive effects on educational outcomes are well-documented, with evidence suggesting substantial improvements in school enrollment and attendance.

Beneficiary children have experienced a remarkable 29% increase in school enrollment, reaching an impressive 72% enrollment rate. Additionally, these children attend school more regularly, with an average increase of 0.34 days per week compared to their peers. The program has had massive success in increasing access to education and helping break the cycles of poverty.

Improving Child Health

Children in Madagascar often suffer from serious malnourishment, with more than one-fourth of children being severely malnourished. Fiavota has demonstrated its effectiveness in improving child health, a critical factor in the fight against poverty, as spending levels, particularly basic spending needs for food and necessities, influence health, nutrition and well-being. Children’s health improved significantly, with almost a 10% difference compared to non-recipients.

Furthermore, beneficiary households were 26% more likely to visit health centers, representing a nearly 100% increase over non-beneficiary households, further underscoring the program’s contribution to poverty alleviation by enhancing the health and well-being of children.

Continued Impact on Poverty Reduction

The impact of the Fiavota cash transfer program extends far beyond immediate relief. By addressing multiple dimensions of poverty, including food security, economic empowerment, education and child health, Fiavota improves the lives of individuals and families and contributes to the broader development of the Grand Sud region in Madagascar. This holistic approach offers a promising path toward sustainable poverty reduction.

Conclusion

The Fiavota cash transfer program in Madagascar is a powerful tool for alleviating poverty. Through its multifaceted interventions, Fiavota directly addresses the root causes of poverty, providing essential support to the most vulnerable populations in the Grand Sud region. As Madagascar continues to grapple with its unique challenges, programs like Fiavota exemplify the transformative impact that targeted interventions can have on those living in poverty.

 – Marnie Woodford-Venables 
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in TigrayConflict in Northern Ethiopia between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government has displaced more than 1.8 million people, creating dozens of refugee camps across the region. Living conditions in the camps soon became characterized by food scarcity and a lack of basic rights. International humanitarian organizations such as the U.N. partnered with the Ethiopian government to provide aid supplies to the refugees. Even with the temporary end of the conflict inaugurated by the cease-fire in November 2022 and the outside humanitarian aid, conditions in the camp remained precarious. 

Lack of Access to Basic Needs in the Wake of the Aid Suspension

Recently, the encampments have been plunged once more into profound insecurity. Because of nefarious groups’ organized theft of the humanitarian food relief meant for the refugees of the Tigray region, organizations, such as the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), suspended their deliveries in June, leaving many in a precarious position. Refugees already suffered from extreme food insecurity in Tigray and often faced malnutrition and malnutrition-related health conditions. The relief cut-off has only exacerbated an already precarious situation. 

Months after the aid suspension, deliveries still have not resumed. The U.S. and the U.N. have demanded that the Ethiopian government relinquish control of the food relief distribution system in light of the discovered thefts. Until Ethiopian officials do so, the U.S. and U.N. withhold the necessary food and oil supplies for fear that the government will not transmit them to the refugees. The stolen food is equivalent to the number of rations needed to feed the 134,000 people in the Tigray town for a month, and medical supplies are also missing. 

An investigation revealed that multiple shipments of grain provided by USAID were sold for profit in different local markets. Both the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebel fighters have been accused of confiscating the food meant for refugees to feed their demobilized armed forces. Some have also accused the Ethiopian government of diverting the aid meant for the region as a strategy to weaken the region and use starvation as a method of warfare by encouraging food insecurity in Tigray.

Local Nonprofit Centers Overwhelmed by Demand

An estimated 20 million people across Ethiopia rely on these foreign aid deliveries. Some refugees described having to resort to gathering seeds from the surrounding grounds to sustain their families. Others indicated not being able to eat for days at a time. The increase in malnutrition has led to a rise in nutritional deficiency-related diseases, with many refugee children presenting developmental delays. With limited access to aid from the more prominent international organizations, local nonprofit centers have been instrumental in keeping communities across the country afloat. 

The Salesians of Don Bosco have been especially instrumental, regularly helping thousands across the region. With Salesian missionaries’ particularity of living in the communities they support, they are uniquely informed on what community members require by building community bonds with those in need. The Salesian nonprofit centers and other nonprofit organizations are, however, overwhelmed in the wake of the aid suspension. Thousands gather outside the doors of the aid centers, yet they are simply unable to meet the immense demand, and the return of international aid is urgently needed. 

Looking Ahead

The U.N. is currently testing out different initiatives in certain parts of Tigray that use new methods of food assistance and delivery. The U.N. designed these testing initiatives to find an effective method to enable adequate control and surveillance of food deliveries, safeguarding against possible thefts, and hopefully, soon allowing the resumption of large-scale food assistance programs in the region. 

– Tatiana Gnuva
Photo: Flickr