Information and stories on food.

Papatoetoe Food Hub Fights Food Insecurity in South AucklandSouth Auckland, a highly diverse region of New Zealand, is home to numerous Māori communities like mana whenua and Pacific, Asian and European ethnic groups. Each of these groups holds significant food traditions that currently face the risk of increasing food insecurity. Data from the area reveal that one in seven children come from families facing moderate to severe food insecurity, with 30% of Māori children affected. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in South Auckland, with a local food bank reporting that most of its food parcel recipients were individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Traditional Food Practices

Land ownership, or the lack thereof, has severely affected indigenous communities’ ability to access and cultivate food. This is especially true for Māori communities, where colonization and urbanization have hindered their ability to gather and prepare traditional kai (food). In addition, the respectful use of whenua (land) is central to food cultivation in these communities. However, maintaining these values is becoming more challenging in the context of contemporary food systems. Consequently, the struggle of indigenous communities to engage in environmentally friendly farming practices is a major factor in escalating food insecurity.

The Papatoetoe Food Hub

The Papatoetoe Food Hub set up shop in South Auckland to provide sustainable and affordable meals to the community while embracing traditional values of community and environmental stewardship. A key focus, as reported by the Food Hub, is promoting knowledge exchange on growing, harvesting and maintaining crops. To this end, it conducts on-site lessons about indigenous cooking methods. The hub also prioritizes sustainable food practices aligned with Māori values, rescuing and repurposing 18.6 tons of food between September 2019 and May 2021.

A Community-Led Success Story

The Papatoetoe Food Hub adopts a community-led strategy, working in close collaboration with local schools, universities and government agencies to benefit its local community. Knowledge Auckland conducted interviews with 30 individuals about the hub, seeking to understand its impact. The study revealed the value generated by every dollar spent at the hub:

  • $0.55 goes to the team, comprised of people hired from local communities.
  • $0.38 goes to the local economy, including the purchase of ingredients from local suppliers.
  • $0.07 goes toward government infrastructure.

Julio Bin of the Southern Initiative observed, “The Food Hub is a tangible demonstration of how we can do things differently.” Meanwhile, a local mom emphasized, “They base the menu on what the community wants.” The Papatoetoe Food Hub continues to thrive, attracting an increasing number of patrons and even received endorsement from former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The hub aims to build on this success, with local stakeholder Gael Surgenor noting, “The biggest impact is yet to come.”

Looking Forward

The Papatoetoe Food Hub exemplifies the power of community-driven solutions in combating food insecurity while preserving cultural heritage. Addressing food insecurity in South Auckland, the hub intertwines traditional values with modern sustainable practices. It offers a beacon of hope for diverse communities, showcasing a scalable model for others to follow.

– Kayleigh O’Brien

Kayleigh is based in Leeds, UK and focuses on Good News and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Unsplash

aiding NigeriaWith a population of almost 220 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the world’s sixth most populous country. Nigeria has been facing growing instability and fear due to Boko Haram’s mutiny against the Nigerian government since 2009, particularly targeting the northeast and committing large-scale acts of violence. More than 2.9 million Nigerians have no choice but to flee their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries, leaving behind crops and vital necessities for survival. Ultimately, this has resulted in a humanitarian crisis as many Nigerians move into poorer regions and refugee camps where food, water and shelter are dangerously limited.

However, since 2018 ShelterBox has been aiding Nigeria by saving and protecting the lives of thousands affected by Boko Haram, as well as providing general support as a result of climate-driven scarcity worsened by conflict in the Lake Chad Basin.

Improving Food and Water Insecurity

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Nigeria faces a humanitarian emergency. More than 8.3 million Nigerians require emergency assistance, 80% of whom are women and children. Around 314,000 Nigerians have died from food insecurity due to the decline of agricultural production, which is a major catalyst affecting public health in Nigeria and has been worsened by conflict in the Lake Chad Basin, flooding and extreme weather. This has resulted in the displacement of 3.2 million and leaves 10.6 million Nigerians in need of humanitarian assistance as the majority of the Lake Chad population depends on agriculture, livestock, fishing and manual labor for survival, according to Refugee International.

ShelterBox and their partner ACTED are aiding Nigeria by providing lifesaving items such as kitchen sets, water containers and purification equipment to reduce food and water insecurity, enabling Nigerians to rebuild their lives, according to its website. Because of the effects of flooding, extreme weather and military-enforced movements, Nigerians are prevented from effectively growing and harvesting crops to support their livelihood. However, by providing kitchen sets, water containers and purification equipment, food and water insecurity is decreasing as ShelterBox and ACTED have successfully helped over 7,300 families from 2018 to 2022, according to its website. Additionally, water purification equipment has enabled Nigerians to access safe and clean water, significantly reducing the chances of disease from dirty water.

Providing Shelter and Security

With no choice but to flee their homes in search of safety away from conflict and food insecurity, more than 2 million Nigerians remain displaced from homes in the northeast of Nigeria, as of 2019. Thousands have no choice but to live in overcrowded displacement sites which are significantly below international minimum standards. Although some Nigerians choose to build improvised shelters with sticks and ripped fabric, it does not provide efficient shelter from extreme weather and provides no privacy or security, making women and children in particular even more susceptible to intrusions and attacks.

There are 9.7 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad region, according to ShelterBox. In partnership with other charities, ShelterBox has been aiding Nigeria by providing tents, shelter kits, rope, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, solar lights, blankets and other lifesaving necessities to increase the security and health of Nigerians amid the humanitarian crisis.

From 2018 to 2022 in partnership with IEDA, ShelterBox has been successfully aiding more than 100,000 refugees and displaced Nigerians. Additionally, ShelterBox has provided a type of shelter known as the Bama shelter to more than 30,000 Nigerians in the epicenter of the crisis in partnership with ACTED.

The Bama shelter is large enough for a family of five; it has a timber-framed structure with tarpaulin material for the wall and the roofing structure, ShelterBox reports. Windows provide natural sunlight and ventilation and for extra safety, the shelter has a secure lockable door to prevent intrusions and attacks. ShelterBox also provides sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets, allowing Nigerians to start again with a safe and comfortable lifestyle.

Aiding Nigeria Through the Crisis

After many years of instability, ShelterBox and other charities have worked tirelessly to aid Nigerians through the humanitarian crisis which remains an ongoing issue after ten years since the conflict began. Overall, Boko Haram seems to be at its final stages of conflict, however, aiding Nigeria remains vital. Other factors such as extreme weather patterns and flooding have resulted in food and water instability amongst Nigerian communities which continues to worsen as years go by.

– Emily Whatley
Photo: Flickr

Ukraine Promotes Human WelfareIn March 2024, the Grain from Ukraine initiative, launched by President Zelenskyy in 2022, contributed 7,600 tonnes of wheat flour to Sudan. This human welfare effort, facilitated by the German Federal Foreign Office, underscores Ukraine’s commitment to humanitarian assistance. The German Federal Foreign Office funded the operation with a $16 million investment, aligning its mission and humanitarian efforts with the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

In addition, the German Federal Foreign Office bases its actions on key humanitarian principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. These principles emphasize the importance of aiding individuals based on their needs without influence from political, military, economic, or other agendas, ensuring assistance is purely humanitarian.

Engineering the Donation

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the German Federal Foreign Office and the Grain from Ukraine program all maintain political neutrality in their donation efforts. Above all, its primary goal is saving lives and alleviating suffering through humanitarian aid. These efforts aim to underscore the importance of foreign aid and advocacy from one nation to another, focusing on the critical need for continued support.

Data Determines Need

The IPC is a multi-partner program that works to improve food security and perform nutrition analysis. This program analyzes situations of need, adheres to the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) process and shares data. Data from the IPC is then utilized by the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). The decision-makers like the IPC Acute Food Insecurity (AFI) and HRP use this information to address the situation of food insecurity.

Furthermore, the IPC uses five categories to identify areas of need: minimal/none, stressed, crisis, emergency and catastrophe/famine. The category designation guides decision-makers in prioritizing assistance and intervention efforts on global, regional, or national levels.

Improving Human Welfare

More than 25 million people in Sudan, South Sudan and Chad are facing a severe food security crisis. In Sudan alone, 5 million out of 18 million are experiencing emergency levels of hunger. In addition, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) reports that a shipment of 7,600 tonnes of wheat flour will provide a month’s sustenance for one million people. Arriving in Port Sudan, this wheat flour, distributed by WFP trucks, is crucial for families, especially during May’s “lean season” when food scarcity intensifies.

Moreover, Eddie Rowe became WFP’s Country Director for Sudan in March 2021, overseeing Emergency and Natural Disaster operations, including in Sudan. Rowe expressed, “This donation will enable WFP to support people whose lives have been completely upended. We are deeply grateful to Ukraine and Germany for supporting the Sudanese people in their greatest hour of need.”

Looking Forward

The Grain from Ukraine initiative, backed by the German Federal Foreign Office, is a beacon of hope for millions facing food insecurity in Sudan, South Sudan and Chad. Through collaborative international efforts, this program not only provides essential sustenance but also embodies the spirit of human welfare and solidarity across borders. The commitment to neutrality and impartiality ensures that aid reaches those most in need, free from external agendas.

Above all, as these endeavors progress, they highlight the crucial role of data-driven decision-making in addressing global hunger crises. The partnership between nations like Ukraine and Germany, alongside organizations such as the WFP, sets a precedent for future humanitarian collaborations. Looking ahead, the continued support and generosity of the international community remain vital in combating hunger and building a more secure, nourished world.

– Pamela Fenton
Photo: Flickr

Nutrition EducationChronic malnutrition or stunting, affects more than 26% of children in Mali. “Stunting has long-term effects on a child’s physical and cognitive development, which makes children more susceptible to sickness and leads to poor performance in school.” As a country with a significant burden of malnutrition, integrating nutrition education into school curricula can be a proactive approach to fostering healthy eating habits and empowering students with essential knowledge about balanced diets.

Root Causes of the Lack of Nutrition Education in Mali

One fundamental issue lies in the limited allocation of resources toward educational programs focused on nutrition. More funding is needed to ensure the implementation of comprehensive curricula that integrate nutrition education seamlessly into the school system. In the Sahel countries, the nutritional status of children under five remains concerning. Additionally, the low rainfall in 2017 may make things worse during the lean season.

About 1.6 million children in the Sahel experienced severe acute malnutrition in 2018, a 50% rise over the previous significant nutrition crisis that occurred there in 2012. Since 2020, there has been a rise in the number of underprivileged children by at least 1.5 million. Consequently, about five million children in Mali critically need humanitarian aid, including access to adequate water, health, nutrition, education and protection services.

Additionally, a lack of trained educators exacerbates the problem, as only a few have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach nutrition concepts to students. Money is needed to support medical services, such as the purchase of fuel to keep vaccines cold and more humanitarian goods like life-saving medications for malnourished children, as well as to give emergency food aid to those in need.

Moreover, amid cultural problems and domestic conflicts, schools may not prioritize nutrition education in Mali, leading to the neglect of formal schooling structures. The United Nations (U.N.) confirmed 1,024 grave violations of children’s rights in the nation in 2022, including the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, as well as killing and maiming.

Current Picture

More than 1,700 schools have had to close due to conflict and resource shortages, depriving at least half a million students of an education. Nearly 25% of Malians experience moderate to severe food insecurity as a result of domestic conflict. In the meantime, more than 2,500 people, primarily children, are at risk of starvation in the crisis-affected district of Menaka for the first time in the nation.

Mali faces a significant health care challenge, with approximately 2,780 physicians, translating to just 0.12 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, far below the global standard of 1.70 physicians per 1,000 inhabitants. Despite the constitutional guarantee of the right to proper health, Mali allocates only about 2.9% of its GDP to health care, contributing to a high incidence of various diseases. Moreover, the limited health care resources are disproportionately concentrated in the capital, Bamako, where more than 4,000 health care workers strive to maintain the well-being of 1.8 million people.

Solutions Addressing Lack of Nutrition Education in Mali

  • World Food Programme (WFP): Starting in 1961 as a humanitarian agency, WFP aims to save lives in emergencies and use assistance to help communities become self-sufficient and resilient to shocks. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, WFP provided emergency food and nutrition assistance to 3.8 million people in Mali. This included aid for 650,000 individuals during the pre-lean season (March to May) and support for 1.2 million food-insecure people throughout the June-September lean season.
  • Implementing Undergraduate Nutrition Training: Education institutes have implemented nutrition degree programs to address proper nutrition, overnutrition and nutrition security, including agriculture and food sanitation. With an emphasis on improving access to nutritional education, these educational institutes believe in updating syllabuses with nutrition training curricula.

Conclusion

The lack of nutrition education in Mali exacerbates the chronic malnutrition crisis, impacting more than 26% of children. Limited resources and a shortage of trained educators hinder the integration of nutrition education into school curricula, perpetuating the cycle of poor health and underdevelopment. However, several organizations, including WFP, are working to address Mali’s lack of nutrition education.

– Mahima Bhat
Photo: Flickr

Alleviating Child Malnutrition in North MacedoniaIn the heart of the Balkans, North Macedonia boasts a rich history and culture. However, an underlying issue endangers the well-being of its youngest citizens: child malnutrition, closely tied to poverty. Despite strides in economic development, the challenge of child malnutrition remains a persistent hurdle. Addressing and alleviating child malnutrition in North Macedonia is a critical priority.

The Interplay of Malnutrition and Poverty

Malnutrition and poverty share a complex and intertwined relationship, forming a cycle that disproportionately affects children in this country. In North Macedonia, where poverty rates remain consistently high, malnutrition intensifies the challenges faced by families already struggling to make ends meet. According to the World Bank, approximately 22% of North Macedonia’s population lived below the national poverty line as of 2021, with children being among the most vulnerable groups.

Impact on Children’s Health

Child malnutrition in North Macedonia also poses threats to physical and cognitive development, which can have effects such as weakened immune systems and cognitive impairments. These effects can extend far beyond childhood as well, affecting individuals’ long-term health outcomes and economic prospects. Malnourished children are more susceptible to illnesses and less likely to perform well academically, for example, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty into adulthood.

Economic Implications

The economic consequences of child malnutrition in North Macedonia are widespread as well. A new World Bank report warns that malnutrition is costing low-income countries up to 3% of their yearly GDP, while malnourished children are at risk of losing more than 10% of their lifetime earnings potential. This cost not only undermines economic growth but perpetuates the cycle of poverty in North Macedonia by depriving the nation of a healthy and educated workforce, however, this is a cost that can be remedied by alleviating child malnutrition in North Macedonia.

Progress and Ongoing Efforts

While these challenges are considerable, North Macedonia has taken significant steps toward alleviating child malnutrition. Government initiatives such as the National Food and Nutrition Strategy and the School Meal Programme, for example, are working to improve access to nutritious food and promote healthy eating habits among children. Collaboration between government agencies, NGOs, health care providers and communities has also been crucial in delivering services to individuals in need. These steps, as well as those listed below, provide examples of what must continue to be done to alleviate childhood malnutrition in North Macedonia.

Working with NGOs

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in alleviating child malnutrition in North Macedonia. Organizations such as the Red Cross of North Macedonia and World Vision have implemented nutrition programs targeting vulnerable communities, providing food assistance, nutrition education and access to health care services. These approaches ensure that interventions are tailored to the specific needs of each community, fostering lasting change in North Macedonia.

Investing in Nutrition Education and Health care

Nutrition education is another key to alleviating child malnutrition in North Macedonia. Schools, health care facilities and community centers can serve as platforms for delivering nutrition education to children and caregivers throughout the country. Similarly, improving access to health care services, particularly in underserved areas, is critical for early detection and treatment of child malnutrition. Investing in health care infrastructure and training health care professionals can strengthen the system’s capacity to address the nutritional needs of children in North Macedonia more effectively.

Looking Forward

North Macedonia stands at a crucial juncture in its fight against child malnutrition and poverty. While the country has made significant progress, more work is necessary to guarantee every child the chance to thrive and fulfill their potential. Collaborative efforts among government agencies, NGOs, health care providers and communities are essential to further reduce child malnutrition in North Macedonia, ensuring a future where no child falls behind due to malnutrition and poverty.

– Olivia Pitrof
Photo: Unsplash

USAID/BHA Food AssistanceFood insecurity affects more than 783 million people worldwide and is a significant driver of poverty. Suppose people are unable to secure their basic food needs. In that case, it is difficult to focus on addressing their other needs, such as medical concerns, employment and access to other services, like housing and electricity. Additionally, as reported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), the government entity that provides humanitarian food assistance around the world, alleviating hunger also helps protect the security of those in need and the United States (U.S.) because food insecurity can create and exacerbate conflict.

Strategies and Funding Allocations

For this reason, the USAID/BHA allocates much funding towards its food assistance programs: more than $6 billion in the Fiscal Year 2022 alone, helping more than 167 million individuals worldwide. It also partners with the World Food Program (WFP) and various humanitarian NGOs to provide funding and food provisions to even more needy people. The methods by which this assistance reaches those experiencing food insecurity go beyond providing food and are adapted to the specific conditions facing the countries and communities requiring food aid. These strategies vary from direct food assistance from the U.S. to locally procured food products and even cash or food vouchers given to those who need them to use at local markets.

In-Kind Food Assistance: A Rapid Response System

One common method of providing food aid is through provisions directly delivered by the U.S. to those in need. Referred to as “in-kind food assistance,” food parcels are taken from USAID distribution centers in Miami, Florida; Dubai, UAE; Durban, South Africa; and Djibouti City, Djibouti.

These warehouses are stocked with up to 50 million metric tons of food supplies, enabling a swift and robust response to urgent food needs worldwide. Basic staples such as rice, vegetable oil and lentils are readily available for deployment in critical situations. The reliability of the in-kind food assistance system proves particularly effective in addressing acute hunger resulting from emergencies, including conflicts or natural disasters.

A recent example highlighting the efficacy of this assistance occurred in Kenya, where years of drought made food both scarce and prohibitively expensive in 2022. It necessitated importing food aid into the country through USAID/BHA and WFP. Another instance underscores the crucial role of this assistance in Yemen, currently grappling with one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. Conflict in Yemen has severely disrupted local food supplies and markets, necessitating the importation of in-kind food assistance to address the insufficient capacity of local resources to provide for its citizens.

Supporting Economies and Meeting Local Preferences

USAID/BHA also utilizes other methods of providing food aid to those who need it beyond in-kind food assistance. One such method is using USAID/BHA funds to buy food provisions from local markets to distribute to those experiencing food insecurity. This allows USAID/BHA funds to support the local economy and provide foods that are more familiar and comforting to those experiencing hunger. It also can often be a more affordable and quicker method of food assistance for aid groups in places where conflict has made locally procured food assistance an essential supplement to in-kind food assistance, which can sometimes be costly to provide in these areas and can often be delayed. This recently has been the case in South Sudan and Afghanistan, where locally procured food products have helped aid groups provide food to those who need it.

Direct Cash Assistance

Another method is giving money directly to those in need so that can buy food at local markets. This is more common in places where there is technically enough food to feed the population locally, but it is unaffordable for those experiencing food insecurity or crisis. An example of USAID/BHA utilizing this approach is in Guatemala, where much of the population experiences hunger and malnutrition. Guatemala has the highest rate of childhood stunting in Latin America and the Caribbean. USAID/BHA efforts in Guatemala are entirely based on cash transactions, rather than in-kind food transfers or local procurement, in conjunction with other programs that partner with local farmers to strengthen agricultural supply and resiliency.

Food Vouchers

Finally, the last method utilized by USAID/BHA to help those experiencing hunger is by providing food vouchers, which can then be redeemed at local markets. A voucher, rather than monetary assistance, ensures that the funding is used for specific nutritious food items and decreases the possible dangers of possessing cash in certain volatile situations. An instance of this method in action is in Syrian refugee camps, where electronic vouchers are often provided to those living in these camps to procure food for themselves and their families.

Conclusion

Overall, USAID/BHA food assistance, as well as food aid provided by WFP and various NGOs supported by USAID/BHA, offers a range of methods to provide food to those experiencing food insecurity. This multifaceted approach allows these programs to adapt to the changing conditions and needs of different communities and situations globally. The flexibility inherent in utilizing all of these approaches, often in conjunction with each other, ensures that food reaches those in need efficiently while providing the added benefits of giving back to the local economy and providing some autonomy and comfort to those facing hunger. Most importantly, USAID/BHA food assistance helps keep people worldwide from having to go to bed hungry.

– Lyle Seeligson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Childhood Health in LiberiaIn Liberia, more than 230,000 children are victims of chronic malnutrition. This can limit human potential, reduce economic growth and cause stunting in children. Chronic malnutrition can also cause physical and cognitive delays in a child’s development, however, organizations are working tirelessly to help.

Childhood Malnutrition

Stunting in a child is one of the most worrisome problems associated with childhood health in Liberia. Approximately “one in three children under the age of 5 are stunted or too short for their age.” Childhood health in Liberia is significantly affected by stunting and children can face many challenges because of it. It can negatively affect a child’s brain function, immune system and organ development. A child who experiences stunting may also perform poorly in school and experience decreased productivity. In the future, the child could also develop obesity or diabetes.

In Liberia, the neonatal period is the most challenging time for a child. This is considered the “make or break years.” More than a third of deaths in children under the age of five happen during the neonatal period. This is because of the high maternal mortality rate and children not getting the support that they need. The maternal mortality rate is 1,072 deaths for every 100,000 births. Children may either die with their mother during childbirth or are born without a mother to care for them and provide the proper nutrition.

Children need access to food that provides energy, protein, fatty acids, iron, iodine, zinc and thiamin to grow properly and healthy. If a child is living in poverty and does not have easy access to nutrient-dense food, they are at more of a risk of experiencing stunting. The most significant growth velocity occurs between conception and two years of age.

Childhood health in Liberia has remained stagnant, while other parts of the world are declining in stunting. This is due to the continued high poverty rate, natural disasters and past and present conflict. However, the Liberian government and other organizations strive to solve the issues.

Organizations Here to Help

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supports childhood health in Liberia. The organization is working with the Liberian government to provide women with proper nutrition during pregnancy and children with adequate nutrition during the first two years of their lives. UNICEF also supports Direct Nutrition Interventions, promoting breastfeeding, treatment of malnutrition, hand washing, de-worming, supplements and food fortification.

The Power of Nutrition organization also strives to reduce childhood health in Liberia. The initiative seeks to help “lower coverage of nutrition services, limit capacity of health workers and challenge the nutrition information system.” So far, it has helped more than 950,000 children and more than 517,000 women access nutrition services.

The Actions Against Hunger organization is also active for childhood health in Liberia. It strives to provide childcare services, family planning services, nutrition services for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, malnutrition screening for children under five and hygiene kits to 4,000 households.

A Way Forward

Childhood health in Liberia is greatly affected by malnutrition and stunting. There is still a huge problem, but many organizations strive to fight it and give children better opportunities.

– Abby Trussell 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in KeralaKerala is an Indian state on the southwest Malabar Coast. Among its population of 33 million, Kerala has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country which some attribute to its leftist and progressive social policymaking. However, despite this, many still live in poverty and are unable to feed themselves and their families. Yet, since 2017, many Keralans have participated in a novel food parcel scheme called the Pothichoru scheme that has helped those in desperate need. This is how the Pothichoru scheme is reducing poverty in Kerala.

The Problem

In recent years, Kerala has made admirable strides toward eliminating poverty. According to the latest data from the World Bank, only 8% of Kerala’s population now lives below the poverty line. Much of this success is due to progressive social policy-making that has driven egalitarian land reform, registered more children in schools and made health care more widely available. Across the rest of India, in 2017, the national poverty rate stood at 10.4%.

However, despite this success, as of 2016, 84,000 families still live in extreme poverty in Kerala. For many, they have no income, no home and are unable to eat at least twice a day (three determinants of extreme poverty). Some have the added burden of caring for sick and elderly family members. This means the effects of poverty will amplify as households stretch their resources and the time available to work reduces considerably. As a result, many families are struggling to pay medical bills and generate the extra income necessary to care for their relatives. Many people are now going hungry and sleeping in abject conditions, such as on hospital benches and floors to care for relatives because they cannot afford the local accommodation.

What is the Food Parcel Scheme?

The Pothichoru or food parcel scheme is a locally organized program that began in 2017. Participating families cook an extra portion of food in their homes to provide meals for those in need. They then wrap the extra portion in a banana leaf and tie it to form a small parcel or Pothichoru before local volunteers who distribute the freshly made Pothichoru to those who are facing hardship collect them.

One can attribute the success of the Pothichoru scheme to its unique way of providing much-needed support to the poor all while keeping operational costs at a minimum. For example, apart from petrol costs (many deliveries that volunteers make by bicycle are negating this), there is no requirement for a kitchen to prepare everything and therefore no utility bills nor staff costs. As volunteers make the meals in their homes, there is only the requirement of adding extra ingredients so any extra burden on the food preparer is minimal. The use of a rota also means that participating villages and volunteers who only make the Pothichoru three to five days a year divide the cooking tasks. This allows volunteers to prepare meals 365 days of the year with little inconvenience for them.

How it Addresses Poverty in Kerala

India Today tells the story of a local Keralan named Soumya who contributes to the Pothichoru scheme. It is early morning in Kattakkada and Soumya is busy cooking. Stirring the Sambar (lentil stew), she measures out two glasses of rice rather than the usual one-and-a-half normally sufficient to feed her family of four. The rice will accompany the already prepared sambar and thoran (vegetable dry fry) and shortly be collected by volunteers of The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) who will distribute the Pothichoru to 50 hospitals in 14 districts in the state. Assisting those struggling to feed themselves and their relatives, what started with just 300 cooked food packets in 2017 now feeds around 40,000 people every day. This has contributed significantly to aiding those living in extreme poverty.

One can also attribute the success of the Pothichoru scheme to the fact that to those receiving the food, there are no social indicators of who prepared the food. Due to India’s caste system and its history of religious conflict, this could be an issue. As a result, the discretion and impartiality associated with the Pothichoru mean that it traverses cultural and social divisions and reaches as many people as possible.

Looking Ahead

While the Keralan Government has made great strides in reducing instances of poverty within the state, additional action is required to reach those who are struggling, especially those who must sacrifice time and money to care for ill relatives. However, as has been shown where there is community in Kerala there is compassion through the unique Pothichoru scheme that is supporting some of the state’s most vulnerable members. This is an example of how the Pothichoru scheme is reducing poverty in Kerala.

– Cameron Mason
Photo: Flickr

October 2023 saw two major global organizations resume food assistance to Ethiopia and its refugees.

On October 5 and October 9, respectively, both the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced they were again beginning to provide nutritional aid and food assistance to Ethiopia, specifically the country’s refugee populations. This comes after a pause in June 2023, when both USAID and the WFP suspended provisions after receiving reports of aid diversions.

The Situation

Ethiopia is a landlocked East African country, with a population of 116.5 million people. Following a two-year civil war in the Ethiopian region of northern Tigray — formally resolved in November 2022 — residents and refugees alike have found themselves in need of aid. Conflict has left 9.4 million people requiring food assistance throughout the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions. Additionally, severe drought in Ethiopia, a product of five consecutive seasons without adequate rainfall, has meant 11.8 million in the nation are facing extreme hunger. 

Assistant executive director of the WFP, Valerie Guarnieri, highlighted the widespread issue following the recent announcements to resume aid. “Food is a lifeline for refugees living in unimaginably hard conditions,” said Guarnieri, “and it’s a relief that we now have measures in place to resume vital support.” 

The Efforts of USAID and WFP

In their announcements, USAID and the WFP outlined effective plans of action to resume and maintain food assistance and combat the diversion of aid. In its press release, USAID reemphasized its pledge to provide for the most vulnerable refugee populations facing food insecurity. The nongovernmental organization stressed its disapproval for events in the past year, firmly stating that any diverting of its assistance is “unacceptable.” Relating to this, it announced the appointment of a “new agency coordinator” in Washington who will work to oversee the implementation of aid across the world and ensure that provisions from the U.S. are not mismanaged or diverted away from those most in need.

The WFP, on the other hand, pointed out in its press release that around 35,000 refugees in Ethiopia are in urgent need of food assistance, after fleeing from conflict in neighboring Sudan. It also noted how Ethiopia is currently hosting a further 850,000 individuals fleeing from Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan. With this in mind, in its announcement to resume aid, the WFP has pledged to provide refugees with resources such as pulses, cereals, salt and vegetable oil, as well as promising some of the vulnerable with additional cash assistance.

Like USAID, the WFP have worked to prevent future issues of aid diversion: The organization now exclusively manages each and every warehouse in Ethiopian refugee camps, and updated systems have been implemented for the tracking and collection of resources. The WFP has improved face-to-face support systems for refugees in Ethiopia at risk of having their food assistance diverted, placing help desks on-site and introducing an anonymous hotline for feedback and potential reporting.

The European Union’s Pledge

Food assistance to Ethiopia represents part of an international effort to end extreme poverty in the nation. Just days before USAID and the WFP announced they would be resuming aid, on October 3, 2023, the European Union pledged $680 million in support to Ethiopia, a package that the outbreak of civil war delayed. The original aim was for funding to undergo disbursal among Ethiopians from 2021 to 2027. Ahmed Shide, finance minister for Ethiopia, said the deal demonstrated the “strategic importance” of the Ethiopia–EU partnership. Jutta Urpilainen, the European commissioner for international partnerships, also said that the EU aims to “rebuild a mutually reinforcing partnership” with Ethiopia, with the goal of ensuring political peace and stability in the nation. 

Looking Ahead

Overall, global efforts to provide food assistance to Ethiopia and its refugees signal a step in the right direction. Concentrating aid in the regions with the most vulnerable populations — and ensuring all attempts at aid diversion promptly stop — is sure to reduce severe hunger in Ethiopia, contributing to the fight to end global extreme poverty. 

– Alice Weatherley
Photo: Unsplash

Being Poor in North KoreaNorth Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is one of the poorest countries in the world, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, when the North Korean Army attacked South Korea. The war lasted until 1953 when military commanders from the United States (U.S.), China and North Korea signed the Korean Armistice Agreement. It established a demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has economically and culturally separated South and North Korea to this day. 

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, North Korea experienced a significant economic decline, mainly due to a reduction in foreign aid. Poverty in North Korea is widespread, and its people have become one of the most isolated and marginalized groups. This economic downturn has contributed to the challenges faced by the population.

What Is Poverty Like in North Korea?

Poverty is prevalent in North Korea. Around 60% of the total population is believed to live below the poverty line, equating to 15 million people. According to the remote-sensed luminosity data, the economic status of North Korea forecasts a downturn even though there is a lack of credible information regarding the poverty figures. Furthermore, due to agricultural mismanagement of the state as well as an increasing economic inequality between regions, North Koreans are suffering from food shortages, leading to malnutrition. Aside from economic problems, there is a lack of infrastructure in education and health care, making the quality of life much poorer. 

When Have They Been So Poor?

Being poor in North Korea has been an ongoing issue. From 1994 to 1998, there was a severe famine in North Korea, which resulted in nearly two to three million deaths, more than 10% of North Korea’s population. All the natural disasters, such as hailstorms in 1994, flooding from 1995 to 1996 and droughts in 1997, pushed the whole country into a more grievous economic crisis. Despite starvation during the 1990s, the regime has maintained a failed economic model, which put the country’s food security in danger. Throughout the global pandemic coronavirus disease, starting in early 2020, North Korea closed its borders, which aggravated the scarcity of food. Day by day, North Koreans face increasing repression and danger, threatening the welfare of their lives. 

Why Is Poverty Rampant in North Korea?

Undeniably, being poor in North Korea stems from the poor governance of the totalitarian regime of the Kim family. They adopted the “Juche” ideology, having these three elements: the spirit of independence, self-reliance in the economy and self-defense in the military sector, which paved the way for the dictatorship by isolating the country in the name of independence. This ideology led the leadership to take on a command economy, also known as a planned economy, in which they controlled the production and distribution of goods and services. 

This economic model severely limits freedom in the domestic market setting, hindering economic growth due to the absence of competition. All the regulations on international trade exacerbate the country’s economy. Furthermore, the regime violated the right to life and freedom, and in particular, women and children are poorly treated among all vulnerable groups.

Hope in Action

Helping Hands Korea(HHK) is a non-governmental organization based on the Korean peninsula that has actively supported North Koreans since 1996. It provides necessities, including food, medicine and clothing, to North Korean people as well as escapees in China. 

LiNK, Liberty in North Korea, is an international non-government organization that aims to rescue North Korean refugees who have to travel a 3,000-mile secret route and empower them by offering resettlement programs. The organization also strives to change the narrative on North Korea by creating media content. More than 150,000 people engage with North Korean storytellers on social media, and in 2019, this project reached over 5.7 million people online. 

The what, when and why of being poor in North Korea reflects that its political and economic stance has made North Korea a hermit kingdom. However, despite the extreme poverty in North Korea, they have a hopeful future ahead as there are international supporters who are acting in full hope to ensure they are well-fed, clothed and sheltered.

– Grace Mun
Photo: Wikimedia Commons