Information and stories on food.

Somalia’s food crisis
Somalia is facing significant consequences as a direct result of changing weather patterns. The most serious is the food crisis and severe malnutrition it faces due to droughts, poor crop yields and livestock deaths. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for immediate action as the continuing conflict and rising food and energy costs will require immense humanitarian aid in 2023. The ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis by implementing several programs and methods, including teams on the ground that provide water and food, financial help, nutrition services and health care (mobile health teams).

Somalia’s Food Crisis

Many different factors have led to the food crisis in Somalia. Changing weather patterns and the resulting “worst drought in 40 years” has left more than 7 million people without adequate food, British Red Cross reports. The droughts have prevented access to food and water and led to the death of livestock that Somalians depend on for their livelihood. Another factor that has contributed to Somalia’s food crisis is the conflict.

Conflict throughout Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the displacement of populations and a rise in food and fuel prices. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which produces a quarter of the world’s wheat and grains, is a significant contributor to the hunger crisis since Somalia relies on its exports for 90% of its wheat and grains, ICRC reports.

The rising food and energy costs are hurting communities steeped in armed conflict and violence. The ICRC has indicated that the price of food staples has risen to more than 30% in Somalia. The consequences of the food crisis in Somalia have left many exhausted as people are displaced and struggle to find necessities such as water and food. Many children are unable to attend school to fulfill their education needs.

Ultimately, as of May 2022, Somalia has seen drought affect 6.1 million people and the displacement of 760,000 people throughout the country without access to sufficient water, food and health care. An update that the ICRC provided in the month of August indicates that the internal displacement throughout Somalia due to the drought continues to rise. About 30,000 people experienced displacement in May 2022, 100,000 people in June 2022 and 83,000 people in July 2022, totaling more than a million people displaced in Somalia in 2022.

Emergency Funding For Families

One of the ways the ICRC is tackling the food crisis is by providing monthly payments of $90 to more than 150,000 families in the south and central parts of Somalia to help them purchase food and other necessities. As of the end of August 2022, the program had provided more than $13 million. The program’s outcome has seen positive results. One of the recipients, Dadir Ahmed Adan was able to use the money to open a small shop for $50 and save the rest of his money to buy food for his children after losing his livestock to the droughts.

The primary objective of this program is to help the most vulnerable people survive and minimize debt. The impact of the droughts has caused families to become displaced as they lost their livelihoods. They end up in desperate situations where they look for help from other family members or aid organizations.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way that the ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis is by supporting agricultural cooperatives designed to help bear the brunt of changing weather patterns. The cooperatives involve training, farming tools, drought-resistant seeds and cash that is necessary for the fuel in order to irrigate. The ICRC cash assistance will continue distributing cash assistance to people in conflict-affected areas of Somalia and rehabilitating boreholes and wells. Communities will also benefit from primary health care services and mobile health clinics and support. Through this program, the ICRC has managed to help more than 150,000 families with life-saving assistance to purchase food and other necessities, following severe droughts in Somalia.

Provision Of Clean Water and Sanitation

The ICRC is also tackling Somalia’s food crisis by increasing the production and quality of water to alleviate the impact of droughts. This consists of “electromechanical quick fixes, re-drilling of boreholes, increasing the water storage by constructing elevated water tanks, water catchment systems, animal troughs and generator houses for strategic existing borehole/mechanized hand-dug well locations.”

Since the beginning of 2022, the ICRC has successfully distributed fuel and made quick fixes to 26 electro-mechanical boreholes. They completed the construction of five water reservoirs and half a dozen hand-dug wells and rainwater catchment systems. They have also constructed community water sand filters and animal troughs.

The ICRC’s success in aiding drought-stricken regions comes from their initiative and determination, along with support from local communities. The organization ensures that the most vulnerable people in Somalia have the means and access to clean water and sanitation and that these facilities have proper maintenance and improvement.

Road Ahead

The work that the ICRC conducted in response to the food crisis continues and the challenges for 2023 are ever-present. This is a year where humanitarian support is greatly necessary and the ICRC has appealed for $2.9 billion to fund its work in 2023. The ICRC expects the situation to get worse throughout the year, with children and the elderly being the most affected.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Problems
The globalization of agricultural markets has played an important role in virtually every country’s economy. Even though the farming sector has been declining, it still makes up 27% of worldwide employment and about 75% of the world’s poorest people. With how important the agricultural sector is to many of the world’s impoverished, many of these people find their economic prosperity and success stymied by a lack of food security and access to agricultural technologies. Thankfully, there are several technologies and programs working to solve many of these global food problems.

The Importance of Food Security

Global food security today is shaky at best. About 30% of the global population is susceptible to food insecurity due to issues such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and pre-existing economic security in many of the world’s poorest countries. These problems contributed to between 720 and 811 million people around the world suffering from chronic hunger in 2020. The numbers are not much better today, with more than 2 billion people still suffering from general malnutrition.

A significant factor causing these global food dilemmas is poverty that exists in the agricultural sector. Estimates suggest 60% more food production is necessary by 2050 to keep pace with the increasing global population, but that is a tall order considering that 700 million agricultural workers live in poverty. This makes it difficult for them to have access to technologies and resources to help them effectively connect with the ever-growing (and ever-digitizing) global agricultural markets. Thankfully, even with these steep hurdles, several technologies and programs are working today to help raise the world’s poorest agricultural workers and solve global food problems.

myAgro

Founded in 2011, myAgro knows that a vital component of boosting the productivity of poor farmers is connecting them to financial resources and platforms that allow them to afford the tools and technologies needed to farm. By developing a mobile layaway platform allowing poor farmers to pay for agricultural items like seeds and fertilizers in advance (and in smaller increments), myAgro has helped over 115,000 farmers grow 78% more food. This has translated into more than a million additional people being fed in 2021. myAgro continues to work in raising the world’s poorest farmers through its innovative financial technology.

TechnoServe

A nonprofit organization based out of Virginia, TechnoServe has been active for more than 50 years in the fight against global poverty. TechnoServe understands that a lack of access to many technologies we take for granted has stunted the economic growth of the world’s poorest farmers. TechnoServe has built digital training courses that help farmers otherwise locked out of global data and agricultural knowledge learn the skills needed to successfully run a farm. For example, it created the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) program which uses digital technologies to teach cacao farmers in Central America how to farm efficiently and sustainably. The provision of these digital avenues of agricultural learning has made a positive impact in reducing many global food problems.

Aerobotics

One technology that has made an impact is the drone. One company helping make this technology more accessible to poor farmers is Aerobotics, a South African company that Cape Town native James Patterson created. By developing drones that help farmers gain invaluable data on crop health, Aerobotics has helped boost their farming clients’ yields by as much as 10%. As drone prices continue to drop, they are becoming an ever-more-important tool for poor farmers to boost their agricultural efficiency.

Making Progress

Thanks to innovative programs and technologies from organizations like myAgro, TechnoServe and Aerobotics, great progress has occurred in raising the world’s poorest farmers. As these technologies develop and become more efficient and accessible, progress in solving global food problems will only continue.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is an issue that affects those in poverty at a higher rate. Due to supply chain issues, food prices are at a record high. Lower and middle-income countries are at a higher risk of the impact of increases in food prices because they spend a higher percentage of their income on food.

Food Insecurity

Food security is defined as having access to an adequate amount of food to sustain individual health and well-being. More than 2.3 billion people were food insecure in 2020. This was an increase of about 320 million people from 2019. In addition, there are still an estimated 660 million people who may experience food insecurity by 2030. Food insecurity is a serious threat to the livelihood of those in poverty. Those in middle and lower-income countries are more likely to suffer from hunger due to the inability to access the resources needed to be food secure. There are currently about 800 million people who are malnourished, and about 780 million of them live in low to middle-income countries. Additionally, in areas with chronic poverty, malnutrition is often present. Food insecurity is an economic issue, and when local areas do not have control over their food supply, the economy suffers, along with the health of the individuals that comprise it.

Economics and Food Insecurity

Food insecurity closely relates to economic principles; supply chain issues have caused an increase in food insecurity, especially in countries with weaker economies. In July 2022, the Agriculture Price Index was 19% greater than in January 2021. Moreover, the price of maize was 16% higher and wheat prices rose by 22% from January 2021 to July 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic still plays a huge role in supply chain issues and food insecurity. Around 130 million people could endure chronic hunger because of the pandemic’s damage to the supply chain. Furthermore, the supply chain has been restricted since the start of the war in Ukraine. Additional limitations by more than 15 countries since July 2022 have exacerbated supply chain issues. World events influence the supply chain, but strengthening local economies and producers will likely contribute to increased food security.

Solutions

In order to solve food insecurity, it is essential to make food accessible. One way to do this is through the supply chain. When every branch of the supply chain – from the local farmers to the consumers – is strengthened, local communities can be better served. Up to 80% of food comes from small farms; when these farmers are able to work in their local communities, they can cut down on costs and fight food insecurity. Economically, it is less expensive to buy food locally than to import it. However, farmers need additional support to counteract the supply chain issues and potential loss of income. The average salary of more than 500 million small farmers around the world is just $2 a day. Making the necessary changes to food accessibility, such as subsidizing local farms, will be a boon to food security.

Soy Farming

In the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, the startup, Agrorobótica, is analyzing dry soy fields using NASA technology. This organization takes soil samples and then analyzes their composition. The robots measure the amount of carbon in the soil. When farmers know how much carbon is in their soil, they can find ways to improve their farmland. By implementing sustainable farming practices like cover cropping, conservation tilling and crop rotations, farmers are able to improve soil productivity and, thus, fight food insecurity. Agrorobótica CEO, Fabio Angelis, explained that Brazilian agribusiness could account for 40% of the 70% increase in agricultural productivity over the next ten years. The startup is investing in Brazil’s soil to make food more accessible. The desired goal is for the supply chain to become more sustainable and efficient.

Conclusion

Food insecurity is an issue that predominantly impacts low-income countries. Improving the supply chain can make a huge difference in fighting food accessibility. There are a wide variety of solutions ranging from economic improvements in farming to reforming entire industries.

– Ann Shick
Photo: Unsplash

Charities Operating in Argentina
Argentina is one of the southernmost countries in South America. Though it boasts a 98% literacy rate, a solid public healthcare system and one of the most robust economies in all of South America, it suffers from a high national poverty rate and concerns in the healthcare and education sectors. Both the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must work to improve the living conditions for Argentinian citizens. Here is an overview of the country’s poverty situation and a few impressive charities operating in Argentina.

Argentina’s Poverty Situation

In 2011, the population in urban centers had an estimated poverty rate of 12.2% (earning less than $5.50 per day). However, a national economic recession in 2018 combined with the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the sharpest increase in poverty in Argentina in recent decades. Approximately 41% of the urban population now falls below the national poverty line.

Beyond high poverty, Argentina struggles with inequalities in key sectors including education and health care. Though Argentina has a relatively strong education system, there is a trend of high dropout rates and low college attendance as well as a steep inequality in education quality between urban and rural areas. Similarly, though Argentina has universal health care, it is decentralized, creating a large discrepancy in the quality of care. In particular, healthcare access is either poor or absent in more rural, remote areas of the country. These issues call for help from a variety of charities operating in Argentina.

4 Helpful NGOs Operating in Argentina

  1. Sumando Manos Foundation: One NGO doing great work in improving nutrition and health care in Argentina is the Sumando Manos Foundation. The organization has helped more than 7,000 children and their communities since its founding in 2005. It does this by “providing food and critical medical and dental attention and teaching fundamental health care.” Sumando Manos operates by visiting the same communities over a span of many years. Common dental problems and nutritional deficiencies have decreased by more than half in the communities that Sumando Manos serves. That is tangible evidence of Sumando Manos’s strong impact.
  2. La Casa Ronald de Argentina: McDonald’s humanitarian healthcare initiative in Argentina, La Casa Ronald de Argentina, provides support for families with young family members who have cancer and other complex care needs. Specifically, La Casa Ronald provides rooms within hospitals and houses where families can stay with their children while they receive medical care. This is an incredibly important service in Argentina where most quality medical care is located in urban centers and families have to temporarily migrate to accommodate the situation. Casa Ronald also has a Healthy Habits Unit that promotes healthy lifestyle choices and a Wellness Unit that provides snacks and books to families during their long days at the hospital. Since its founding in Argentina in 1998, Casa Ronald has provided nearly $37 million to 280,000 children and families facing healthcare emergencies
  3. Fundacion Leer: A third organization improving the quality of life in Argentina is Fundacion Leer. It is dedicated to providing educational resources throughout the country with the goal of 100% literacy for children across Argentina. In operation for over 25 years, its impact is no doubt a part of the literacy rate increasing from 93.9% in 1980 to 98.1% in 2015. In its time, Fundacion Leer has provided more than 2.5 million children with assistance in learning to read and write, more than 2.5 million books to educational institutions and trained 27,613 adults to teach basic literacy skills.
  4. Cåritas Argentina: Cåritas Argentina, an institution of the Catholic Church, exists to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in Argentina. The organization provides direct aid, but also more central to its mission, its 40,000 volunteers provide emotional and spiritual support for vulnerable families. As its website explains, “The challenge is not only to provide food or shelter, but to accompany families and be the gateway to listen, contain, organize and plan tasks that stimulate human development.” Cåritas Argentina works in many sectors including early childhood education, addiction prevention and food response. Two specific examples of achievements include helping 5,300 families construct and maintain their own homes through its Habitat initiative and maintaining a network of  180 inclusive educational spaces.

These charities operating in Argentina fight poverty reduction by giving citizens skills, opportunities and services essential for success in life.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Sri Lanka
Food systems globally are having to adapt to increasing numbers of challenges; a growing population, supply chain inadequacies and an overwhelming strain on the environment that in itself disrupt harvests and crop growth. Food systems in Sri Lanka are experiencing major shortages in recent years due to government mismanagement and a failed transition to organic agriculture, alongside crippling economic conditions and mounting foreign debt. People’s food security is a growing concern.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported an estimated 6.3 million people, nearly 30% of the population believed to be experiencing moderate to severe acute food insecurity in September 2022. This follows after successive poor harvests and a limit on imports of food grains as a result of a depreciating currency and rising prices of goods.

Imports account for 22% of the country’s food consumption. Previously self-sustained in the production of rice, meat, fish, eggs and fruit and vegetables, poor harvests have rendered domestic supplies inadequate, forcing Sri Lanka to import $450 million worth of rice, despite the price for the staple crop rising some 50%. Maintaining a nutritious diet has become increasingly difficult for the average household as inflation rises to 57.4% and incomes fall.

How it Happened

One can attribute poor harvests to environmental impacts and government policy. Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April 2021 imposed a national ban on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in an effort to transition Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector to organic production methods. This was carried out without an integration period, effectively ordering 2 million of the countries’ farmers to go organic overnight.

Whilst the notion of organic farming is appealing through the environmental benefits it offers, the use of synthetic fertilizers attains consistency in yield that is difficult to replicate. Consequently, since the imposition of the ban, Sri Lanka’s rice production has substantially declined.

The foreign exchange felt the economic drawbacks of this policy after tea production took a hit and Sri Lanka’s export revenue decreased, weakening a key industry that employs many across rural areas. The significant decline in agricultural output sent many Sri Lankan farmers into poverty.

Intrinsically altering the nature of production and operations of food systems in Sri Lanka in such a way requires education programs to introduce farmers to alternative methods of crop growth. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka did not take such measures.

Following public outcry, in October 2021 the government went back on its synthetic fertilizer ban. Despite this, the global rise in prices has seen farmers struggling to afford imports of fertilizer, resulting in continued shortages of harvest and food.

The need for sustainability in agriculture is irrefutable; for the attainment of various SDGs as well as the health of the consumer. A gradual approach, alongside a holistic framework, reappraising all the involved sectors and stakeholders will be necessary to ensure vulnerable communities are provided with the required subsistence levels.

Solutions

To curb the effects of current shortages, NGOs and foreign governments are actively sending remittance packages targeting vulnerable communities and Sri Lankan food systems.

In September 2022, the United States embassy announced a package worth $40 million supplying Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer needed to resume crop growth. A crucial step in kickstarting the agricultural sector. The embassy also announced a package worth $20 million addressing immediate humanitarian needs across the country, focusing on the groups that the shortages most affected, including pregnant women and children.

The WFP appealed for $63 million in emergency funds earlier in the year to supply those most affected by the crisis, including vulnerable groups, pregnant women and children. It aims to offer food vouchers to help cover expenses and provide emergency nutrition and school meals until the end of the year.

Australia was the first country to meet the WFP’s appeal, from whom Sri Lanka received a donation of rice worth $15 million in September. The Australian government has scheduled further donations of rice and cooking oil to be shipped to Sri Lanka in the coming months.

Many are hungry and much rely on a successful harvest in the coming season. However, with the measures in place, some pressure on the agricultural sector and food systems in Sri Lanka is being relieved, and the immediate needs of the most vulnerable groups are receiving attention.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

African Green Revolution Forum
The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) meeting commenced on September 5, 2022, with
nearly 6,500 policymakers, activists, researchers, business leaders and agriculture experts from all over the world in attendance, both in-person and virtual. The forum theme was Grow, Nourish and Reward – Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems, reflecting a dedication to addressing Africa’s growing food insecurity and a need for food system improvements. 

Africa’s Fragile Food System

Due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, 147 million African people are experiencing severe food insecurity, a jump of 20 million from the previously recorded statistics at the start of 2022. In addition, food prices have also increased by 40% due to the coronavirus, making it increasingly difficult for those living in poverty to maintain healthy diets.

According to leaders at the AGRF summit, African food systems are highly susceptible to global changes, such as the war in Ukraine and climate-related environmental changes, as they heavily rely on imported goods to sustain their people. For that reason, the AGRF focused on ways to improve existing agricultural systems and determined what actions to take to help African agriculture evolve and resist the effects of the changes.

AGRF Leaders Define the Issue

Deputy Secretary-General Amna J. Mohammed shared at the AGRF that “Ending hunger requires us to consider food as a system and recognize the range of intersecting challenges that are undermining progress across the spectrum of the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Within the summit declaration, leaders at the AGRF determined a list of essential topics to confront. The topics include aiding food systems led by countries, solidifying food system visions, pushing for healthier diets and sharing working models and any new information learned with the public.

There was some discourse during the meeting when determining the best solution. Some leaders wanted to take an investment route, while others preferred to take on the issue starting from the bottom of the chain with small farmers. Overall, the AGRF decided to mobilize to collect $200 billion in investments to improve African food systems.

Making the Switch From External Imports to Internal Production

Experts at the AGRF declared that decreasing reliance on imported goods is vital if Africa wants to create a sustainable and independent food system. The experts determined that implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area may aid in breaking barriers that prevent the trade of food from areas with surplus to those with shortages and establish profitable markets for farmers.

AGRF leaders agreed to invest in internal food transportation and retention as a means to decrease import reliance. Ministers pledges to coordinate improvements in the current tariff systems.

Taking Action

Increasing the number of locally produced, nutritious foods cultivated by local farmers is a priority in Africa. Rwanda’s Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) has worked to enhance African food systems and combat malnutrition.

According to PABRA, beans contribute 32% of daily calories and 65% of protein intake in Rwandan homes. The country’s government has prioritized these nutrient-rich bean crops through the Government Crop Intensification Programme. Beans are high in iron and zinc while also being inexpensive, which makes them a cost-effective crop to incorporate into the African food system.

Another organization, the Zimbabwe Pfumvudza Programme, aims to achieve food security by providing local farmers with maize, sunflower, small grain and soya bean seeds with basal and top fertilizer. Following the Conservation Agriculture Principles, local farmers receive training on adequately caring for the crops and government monitoring.

This program is in the early stages of production as they are working on financing and training staff on new agricultural technologies. However, the expected outcome is 75KG of produce per household, adding up to 1 million MT total.

Some criticism of this kind of intervention has been reported by activists at the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, arguing that providing resources to farmers will create a dependency. Activists also say that having farmers plant monocultures will take away a farmer’s crop variety, impacting already present food deficits.

Looking Ahead

To stay on track to end chronic hunger in Africa by 2030 and meet the Zero Hunger target in 2015, African Green Revolution Forum attendees acknowledged a need to reshape African food systems and agriculture into a more substantial business model to support malnourished households and small farmers.

With the number of households facing poverty, income inequality and rising food costs, nutrient-rich diets and a steady food supply are unattainable for many African people. Leaders at the AGRF shared that Rwanda’s efforts as a host country and an example of potential improvements that have the potential to benefit food systems in other countries inspired the movement.

– Mikada Green
Photo: Flickr

Mexican hunger
Texans have grown up with H-E-B being a household name. The grocery store is famous for its fresh produce, low prices and wide variety. Most Texas residents, however, are ignorant of the good work the establishment does abroad. Mexico, the state’s neighbor to the south, is a developing country with quite a bit of malnourishment and poverty within its borders. H-E-B recognized this reality and implemented generous relief measures, making H-E-B v.s. Mexican hunger is an interesting and unforeseen rivalry.

Crisis in Mexico

As of 2020, 6.1% of Mexico’s population was undernourished, a figure that is part of an alarming trend of increased hunger. Such movements are a consequence of a variety of factors, whether that be the 2012 statistic of 10% of Mexicans who are 50 years or older having no education or the data from that same year that showed 17% of men and 14% of women had no health insurance. Undesirable employment due to illiteracy and empty bank accounts due to high medical bills leaves individuals with limited food options and gives generous organizations like H-E-B a lot to combat.

Hence why the H-E-B v.s. Mexican hunger fight is multifaceted, with funds going towards food banks and festive feasts alike. The assistance allocation process includes a wide network of partnerships and the mere scope of the endeavor showcases just how invested the corporation is in helping the helpless. Take for instance the H-E-B Food Bank Assistance Program, this subset of the company’s anti-hunger campaign, founded in 1982, supports 13 different food pantries across Mexico.

Relief Efforts

A quarter of all donations come from the H-E-B Reclamation Center, reducing the number of shipping fees the banks have to pay and greatly improving their administrative abilities. That is alongside the figure of 50% of contributions originating from H-E-B’s Retail Donation Program, a policy that entails stores donating their unsold commodities to various food banks, according to H-E-B’s website. This means that it delivers the aid quite efficiently.

After all, in 2020 more than 600 truckloads of food were delivered to banks, 80,000 meals were donated to hospitals, and there was a 35% increase in the total amount of pounds of aid being distributed with respect to the previous year.

H-E-B took this efficiency one step further by providing the storage materials for these organizations, a rare move among food bank contributors, and by partnering with notable anti-poverty groups such as the Global Food Banking Network. In working with these NGOs, H-E-B has donated more than 1 billion pounds of food since its Food Bank Assistance program’s genesis, according to its website. Every year the corporation holds what it calls the Feast of Sharing at several different locations both within the states and in Mexico.

Even when the pandemic was raging, the company found a philanthropic alternative to this tradition, donating more than 340,000 meals to various meal centers and poverty-fighting organizations. Such adaptivity truly highlights how H-E-B v.s. Mexican hunger is fierce competition.

Sourcing

When H-E-B expanded into Mexico in 1997, the corporation created new relationships between Mexican companies and the store, giving the agricultural industries down south a welcomed boost. For goods that do not come from the Mexican fields, Texas farmers are then there to stock up the locations across the border, which means more business for them in the long run.

Considering that as of 2019, 3.3% of Mexico’s GDP was agriculture-based, this sector of the economy has huge implications for the well-being of the Mexican people and is definitely a key market of investment within the H-E-B v.s. Mexican hunger battle. As of 2017, 36%of producers in Texas had connections to farms, meaning that increased farming activity has greatly influenced the lone star territory.

Larger Scale Implications

Given the mutually beneficial aspects of H-E-B’s international initiatives, other public and private aid measures on the global stage seem more enticing. Many naysayers to U.S. corporate and federal assistance claim that the nation has so many problems of its own, it should not look abroad for dilemmas to fix. These two concerns are not mutually exclusive, however, operations like mere grocery stores can foster meaningful economic growth in markets far and near.

Though regardless of the American concerns, the H-E-B v.s. Mexican hunger fight, seen through the food bank donations and the festive meals, was an endeavor that the organization did in an orderly, thoughtful and efficient manner and the organization is providing more and more assistance. Regardless of which way you slice its ambitions, it is influential nonetheless.

– Jacob Lawhern
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

new technologies in South SudanTechnology increasingly offers more and more solutions to help reduce poverty across the globe. Considering South Sudan’s unpredictable climate and scarce resources, new technologies in South Sudan can provide a gateway of opportunities and security to the locals. This can be through new farming methods and equipment, schooling, banking and monetary management.

The Problems in South Sudan

South Sudan’s current climate is posing many challenges to its poverty-stricken population. The World Bank describes poverty as ‘ubiquitous’ across South Sudan, with it estimating that two-thirds of the population requires humanitarian assistance.

Estimates stated that floods are affecting up to 1 million people every year because the floods have forced many to evacuate their homes. This has had an impact on education with floods affecting 100 schools. As a result, more than 60,000 students have reduced access to education.

In the short term, people in South Sudan have had limited access to nutrition and health care. This has contributed to the fact that 60% of the population is facing malnutrition.

It is not just flooding that impacts South Sudan. Excessive drought, temperature changes and unpredictable rainfall have all damaged day-to-day life in South Sudan. Droughts have resulted in food insecurities leading to a loss of livestock and crops.

This is severely impacting the economy in South Sudan considering that 95% of the population work in sectors that rely on the climate. This includes agriculture, fishing and forestry resources.

In the 2020-2021 period the South Sudanese economy reduced by 5.4% due to lower exports of oil and agricultural output. This is having a large impact on the living conditions of individuals in South Sudan.

The Conflict in South Sudan

As a result of the unpredictable climate in South Sudan, many have had to migrate. In fact, up to 4 million people as of 2022 remain displaced due to climate-induced dangers – 1.6 million internally and 2.3 million in neighboring countries.

Migration has led to enhanced homelessness across South Sudan. This has reduced living standards and increased disease. A lack of infrastructure has led to more exposure to malnutrition, mosquitos and climate-induced diseases such as malaria and cholera.

Serious conflicts over resources in South Sudan between groups, especially in areas of extreme drought, has led to livestock raiding and exacerbated the displacement of people into concentrated areas making resource scarcity even more serious.

Furthermore, the large weaponry market that has spread throughout the territory to the failure of the South Sudanese government, fuelling the problem and resulting in wider political instability in South Sudan. Resource conflicts have increasingly become a method to gain political support and power.

UNHCR’s Efforts

To solve the issues of conflict and lack of institutional and infrastructural support in South Sudan, the resource and climate problems require mitigation and resolution. Technology could be a solution, but South Sudan has limited new technologies presently.

First, and foremost, technology can make farming more efficient and sustainable. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure such as dikes and drainage systems to try and appease the problems in South Sudan. Moreover, UNHCR has provided flood-tolerant seeds and training for locals. To help with droughts, it has introduced new irrigation systems and set up tree nurseries to regrow forests. In Maban, five tree nurseries underwent establishment in four refugee camps. These activities are introducing new skills and opportunities for the locals, that are more resistant and malleable to the changing climatic conditions. Other technologies include high-efficiency cooking stoves, reusing agricultural waste and using solar energy to extract water from boreholes.

How the US is Helping

Next, greater investment into education and human capital development is vital for presenting more opportunities for the locals to be able to use new tech. The U.S. has provided more than $117 million to South Sudan on top of humanitarian aid. This is helping the government to invest more money into their infrastructure, allowing more to access education.

The U.N. has also been providing increased support across Africa. It is important that this continues as, alone, South Sudan does not have the fiscal capacity to create a stable socioeconomic climate.

A further key area for South Sudan is taking full advantage of technology to provide education to rural areas that otherwise do not have access. This seems to have had little traction so far but could prove to be a very advantageous development.

Lastly, introducing these new technologies and skills in South Sudan will help to address the migration problem, reducing the levels of migration and allowing the population to become more dispersed again. This will hopefully help to reduce conflict in South Sudan as well.

Looking Ahead

Behind this shift to new technologies in South Sudan in the long run, support through charity and initiatives will help to smooth the transition. For example, to help with conflicts UNHCR has started several peace initiatives in Eastern Equatoria to reduce further conflict between herders and farmers, and to incentivize the use of new technology in pastoralists’ original locations, rather than internally migrating.

As a result, it becomes clear that South Sudan can reduce conflict across the country if it introduces more sustainable technology to help with the unpredictable climate. This requires the support of other countries and the cooperation of the South Sudanese government if this is to successfully reduce poverty.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake in AfghanistanU.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, announced that the U.S. would provide $55 million in aid after a fatal 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan on June 21, 2022. The disaster destroyed more than 10,000 houses and killed more than 1,000 people, making it the deadliest earthquake to hit Afghanistan in two decades. The earthquake poses a challenge for the Taliban, who have since asked the international community for aid.

Distribution of Funds

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on June 28, 2022, that it will allocate $55 million in aid for emergency relief resources such as shelter, food, water, clothing and hygiene products in Afghanistan. A portion of the aid will go toward sanitation measures to limit the spread of waterborne diseases. Funds will go directly to partner civil societies and nonprofit organizations operating in the region as the U.S. does not have official diplomatic or humanitarian ties with the ruling Taliban.

Additional Aid Efforts in Afghanistan

The devastating earthquake exacerbates the economic and humanitarian crises that have pummeled Afghanistan since the Taliban first rose to power in August of 2021. Afghani citizens already face food insecurity, with national hunger rising from 14 million in July 2021 to 23 million in March 2022.

With more than half of the population facing food insecurity, international assistance narrowly managed to avoid full-scale famine in the country in the winter of 2022. Poverty rates in the country are estimated to stand at almost 97% as of 2022 due to prolonged drought and instability caused by recent political upheaval and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 25, 2022, the United Nations initiated an emergency appeal for $110 million in aid to help the provinces most affected by the disaster. The U.N. will disseminate the funds in the next three months in order to help 360,000 Afghanistan citizens. This emergency appeal is integral to the U.N.’s Humanitarian Response for Afghanistan, which calls for a total of $4.4 billion in emergency aid.

Barriers to Aid

Unfortunately, the Taliban’s strict control over the country complicates all international humanitarian efforts. In late March 2022, the Taliban’s Prime Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund announced to all foreign aid agencies in Afghanistan that all humanitarian projects must be done in close coordination with Kabul’s authorities. This announcement came a week after the governor of the province of Ghor, Ghulam Naser Khaze, attempted to exert total control over several local NGOs.

Governor Khaze insisted that the NGOs turn over their funds and only adopt projects chosen by the local government. Prime Minister Mullah’s directives and Governor Khaze’s actions in Ghor represent a policy framework known as the “Monitoring and Control Plan of NGOs.” Kabul’s Taliban government formulated this plan in the fall of 2021 to consolidate all NGO activities under the Taliban’s authority.

Sanctions and other measures aim to prevent the Taliban from fully implementing its NGO-control framework. As a result, international financial systems are especially diligent, making it difficult for humanitarian groups to access the funds efficiently. The Taliban continues to actively insert itself between nonprofit organizations and the aid they seek to provide via various formal and informal decrees, further frustrating the fund distribution process.

How to Help

As a result of international sanctions on the Taliban, online fundraising sites cannot be transferred to Afghanistan banks. The best way to help those affected by the earthquake is to donate directly to NGOs in the region. Below is a list of NGOs helping those struggling in Afghanistan.

  • The World Food Programme: The earthquake exacerbated the food crisis that has gripped Afghanistan for months. The World Food Programme mitigates the issue of food insecurity in Afghanistan by delivering food to those in need within just a few hours.
  • The Red Cross and Red Crescent: The Red Cross and Red Crescent have been working in Afghanistan since the U.S. evacuated the country in the summer of 2021. These programs are already organized to deliver food, other critical supplies and mental and health services to those affected by the earthquake.
  • Islamic Relief: Islamic Relief is a Muslim aid network founded in the U.K. in 1984. The organization operates various humanitarian relief programs in more than 45 countries. It already has a fund to help supply food aid, cash and emergency shelter to those facing the impacts of the earthquake.
  • International Medical Corps: The International Medical Corps stood as one of the first organizations to respond to the disaster. It immediately began coordinating with domestic emergency responders and providing trauma care to affected communities.

The international community is rushing to help those affected by the crisis. Still, everyone can help in their own small way. Be sure to remain an active and informed global citizen by vocalizing the importance of foreign aid funds to local government representatives. Through the efforts of nations, NGOs and ordinary citizens, Afghanistan can look to a brighter tomorrow.

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Flickr

Oceania's Health ChallengesRecent genetic studies of Pacific Islanders are revealing new insights into Oceania’s health challenges. In turn, these insights may drive sustainable solutions that improve community health and save lives.

Convenience-food diets, obesity, lack of resources and the health challenges that result from these conditions are escalating in many island nations in the Pacific. Worse, the resulting non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are leading to an increase in preventable deaths. Activists from many nations are working to better protect many Pacific Island populations from Oceania’s health challenges.

Oceania

Oceania is a group of countries and territories that share a border with the Pacific Ocean. These 14 countries and territories are diverse culturally, economically, geographically and demographically. Oceania includes the large and wealthy countries of Australia and New Zealand and smaller and less affluent countries including Figi, Tonga and Palau.

Vulnerability

Indigenous people in Oceania are more genetically prone to gut issues and certain NCDs that evolved during colonization. While traditionally, Oceania diets were low-energy-density, the introduction of processed foods and more modern snacks brought obesity and linking issues. Before colonization, there was little to no obesity in the Pacific Islands. According to a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Immunology, “During the period of nutritional transition, the people came to consume energy-dense foods imported from Australia and New Zealand.”

The study reports that certain health conditions disproportionately affect specific indigenous populations including the Polynesians in Hawaii, the Maoris in New Zealand, and the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders in Australia compared to non-indigenous people in the same places.  Mortality rates, NCDs and fertility decline are all issues that disproportionately affect these populations. Studying Pacific Islanders’ health data more closely, as this study did, may lead to sustainable solutions.

Environmental factors such as urbanization, sanitation and pathogen exposure also have the potential to increase disease susceptibility. Genetic vulnerability in the form of microbiome genetic mutations and immune function justifies population-specific medical studies and consideration in regards to nutrition. Accessibility and food insecurity have also driven people to foods that are low in nutrition.

Solutions

There are several specific solutions to combat the sharp rise in NCDs in the Pacific Islands. One strategy is better health monitoring. Current medical data surrounding nutrition is almost nonexistent and therefore Pacific Islander nutrition lacks proper evaluation. Increasing data and enhancing research in this area can better inform people about their eating habits.

The George Institute for Global Health, Fiji National University, Sydney University and Deakin University have created the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases project. This effort hopes to collect data on preventable deaths and possible food policy initiatives for the future. The researchers already found that decreasing salt intake by one gram a day for a year would prevent heart attacks and strokes and save 131 lives a year.

A second strategy is creating a sustainable interest and consumer demand for fresh and healthy foods.  Since COVID-19, Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture has distributed seeds for people to grow their own food at home. Additional countries could benefit from a program like this as well.

Other strategies include projects and policies that focus on building a stronger market for healthy foods. Finally, the study suggests applying a gender lens to improve Oceania’s health challenges.  While more women are joining the workforce, they continue to play the primary role in caring for and feeding their families.  They do not have the time to prepare complicated meals so they are turning to convenience foods.

World Bank Showcases Oceania Women Leaders

The 2019 genetic study, others like it and the projects mentioned above are setting a trend of focus on the nutritional health of Pacific Islanders. Sustainable change and progress are occurring throughout Oceania. This progress prompted the World Bank to showcase some inspiring women who are starting to implement solutions to Oceania’s health challenges. In Samoa, Lenara Tupa’i-Fui is the assistant CEO of Health Information Technology and Communications at the Somoa Ministry of Health. She is helping lead the Samoan eHealth system that will better track medical records and provide accessible health monitoring and data. As program director of the Partnership of Human Development in Timor-Leste, Armandian Gusmão Amaral advocates for better health care, especially for women and children. She also focuses on mentoring women to pursue careers in the medical profession.

Looking Ahead

Advocating for better data tracking and health communication, increasing the understanding of and demand for healthy foods and applying a gender lens to improving eating habits are all steps that are helping the vulnerable in Oceania take action on their health.

– Karen Krosky
Photo: Flickr