food shortages in somalia
Three years ago, Somali residents experienced one of the worst famines in history. The devastating epidemic resulted in over a quarter of a million deaths across the country. With severe droughts currently plaguing the nation, officials are concerned that more lives will be lost as the country spirals back into famine.

Al-Shabab, a militant terrorist group based in Somalia, has been preventing aid and relief services from reaching those in need. The group has blocked roadways, prohibiting standard trade from reaching millions of people. In addition, extreme droughts have wiped out a great percentage of livestock and local crops. In some areas, including the province of Bakool, residents state that it hasn’t rained since last October.

“Lack of food and water is our biggest challenge now,” says Bakool Commissioner, Mohamed Abdi Mohamed. “Food is too expensive even for those with money. The town is under a blockade.”

Since al-Shabab began erecting blockades, prices for food and other basic necessities have more than tripled. This has caused many to plunge further into poverty and over a million people have been forced to leave their homes. A large number of people have set out in search of food and water themselves, though, with the continuous drought, many have died along the way. Others have transferred to refugee camps where they often receive little to no assistance.

Rebels have intercepted food deliveries intended for thousands of starving people in Somalia. They are currently keeping food products locked away in warehouses in the capital city of Mogadishu. Now, the only way that relief services are able to reach people in these areas is through deliveries of airlifted goods. Though this form of distribution is costly, many international organizations are doing their best to continue relief services.

An estimated 1.6 billion dollars is needed to save the 2.9 million lives at stake. As of yet, only half of this amount as been reached. The UN is currently urging international aid groups and individuals to raise awareness of the situation and to help in funding relief efforts.

Meagan Douches

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post, UN
Photo: Flickr

famine in africa
Despite the great strides, development programs have made in feeding hungry people in Africa, many of the continent’s regions have experienced famine. Famine can have disastrous humanitarian consequences; according to Mother Jones, the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa killed 29,000 Somali children in its first three months. Even food crises that are not officially famines can cause significant loss of life. Aid agencies must understand famine’s causes to address potential future famines in Africa.

The U.N. defines a food crisis as famine when 20 percent of households have food shortages, 30 percent of people have acute malnutrition, and more than two people per 10,000 die per day from food-related causes. Since 2000, the U.N. has declared famines in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia. The ongoing food crisis in South Sudan, which has already caused suffering, could soon become a famine.

Africa also has many instances of food insecurity, making its countries more susceptible to future famines. In 2013, the World Food Program found that the East African nations of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia had undernourishment rates of over 35 percent, the highest in the world.

What has made famines and other food crises in Africa so common? Droughts play a role because they reduce crop production and kill livestock all over affected regions. In 2011, the Horn of Africa experienced abnormally low rainfall, leading to food shortages and an eventual famine. This year, Kenya’s Capital News Network reports similarly bad weather patterns across East Africa.

Droughts are not the only contributing factors to famine in Africa, however. Violence and political instability made it difficult for NGOs and aid agencies to distribute food in affected areas. Mother Jones reports that clashes between the Somali transitional government and the extremist al-Shabab militia prevented many groups from reaching people in the 2011 famine. Al-Shabab itself expelled aid agencies from Somalia, worsening the crisis. Capital News estimates that the famine killed 250,000.

Today, South Sudan shows similar signs of potential famine. Low rainfall combined with an ongoing civil conflict means that people, especially refugees, will have reduced access to food. Already, 3.5 million South Sudanese citizens struggle with dying crops and livestock, malnutrition and food shortages.

The food crisis in South Sudan is not yet a famine, but the lack of an official label may worsen existing conditions. According to The Guardian, studies on the Horn of Africa famine found that more people died from undernourishment before the crisis was declared a famine. Without the official famine designation, the media did not cover the crisis as much, there was less public outcry for support, and governments did not appropriately scale up funding.

Only when the Horn of Africa crisis became a famine did aid providers start to become more effective. To properly distribute food aid and prevent future deaths from the recent South Sudan shortage, the international community will need to act quickly and urgently. The threat of famine in Africa will continue, but with a strong early-reaction network the world can help prevent it. If the world can come together and get support for aid before crises become famines, millions could be saved.

Ted Rappleye

Sources: United Nations, Mother Jones, World Food Programme, Capital News Network, The Guardian
Photo: Mother Jones

hunger in eritrea
Situated between Sudan and Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea is a nation of both plenty and dearth. Food grows abundantly in the nation’s nutrient-rich fields, but nearly every year, Eritrea makes global headlines for a hunger crisis.

A particularly severe food shortage in 2011 left as many as two-thirds of Eritreans hungry. Last year’s shortage was among the worst in Africa–only Comoros and Burundi had more serious food insecurity–and was classified as “alarming.”

Eritrea is one of many African nations with both an economy based in agriculture and a paradoxical inability to feed its people. Though nearly 70 percent of Eritreans are involved in the agricultural sector, Eritrea currently only meets a third of its estimated food needs (the other two-thirds being met by international food aid programs). Though Eritrea’s economy is technically growing, it isn’t growing quickly enough to sustain a population of over six million people.

Being one of the least-developed countries on the planet makes it difficult for the government to implement lasting changes to prevent hunger in Eritrea, as the infrastructure and supplies for long-term economic changes and aid programs are largely lacking.

In the past three years, the Eritrean government has focused on improving agricultural infrastructure in order to decrease food insecurity, and though hunger has declined during that period, it has not declined significantly enough for Eritrea to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (that of halving hunger and poverty levels by 2015).

Another issue causing continued hunger for Eritreans is that the government is rather secretive and has been accused of deliberately withholding information regarding the substandard living conditions of its people.

During the 2011 famine that swept through the entire Horn of Africa, Eritrea publicly stated that it was unaffected despite the overwhelming majority of its people living in hunger that year. Eritrea’s government faces no opposition and forbids freedom of the press, allowing it to mask subpar conditions more easily than other, more transparent governments.

To some extent, food insecurity can be expected in a country with a climate like that of Eritrea. Situated in the Sahel desert, Eritrea experiences periodic droughts which affect its agricultural output. That said, the number of people hungry in Eritrea remains alarmingly high even with the implementation of food aid programs and efforts to improve infrastructure.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: BBC, All Africa, World Food Programme, World Bank, UN
Photo: Trust

famine in south sudan
On July 9, South Sudan celebrated its third anniversary as a country. However, that celebration was marred by predictions that the country may soon be facing famine-like conditions if its food crisis continues to worsen in the coming months.

As of now, 1.2 million South Sudanese receive emergency humanitarian assistance, but another 2 million who need aid are unable to receive it, as roads have become inaccessible due to armed conflict. That conflict began in December 2013 when government and rebel forces began to clash. To date, more than 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. It is estimated that over 300,000 of those refugees have fled to neighboring Ethiopia and Uganda, considerably decreasing the host countries’ resources and planting the seeds for future tensions.

Further exacerbating the food crisis is the fact that a large number of displaced farmers have been unable to harvest crops due to the fighting. Their absence, coupled with dwindling funding for humanitarian groups in South Sudan, has created a dire need for intervention.

On July 5, the International Red Cross conducted its first air drops of supplies since 1998 in Afghanistan. The air drops occurred in Leer where 40 tons of seeds and emergency food supplies were provided — enough to supply 1,100 families. However, this assistance can only be viewed as a temporary fix to a long gestating problem. It is estimated that there are 3.7 million people in South Sudan at risk for acute food insecurity as the threat of famine in South Sudan lingers.

The delicate nature of the country’s economy has hindered South Sudan’s ability to help itself. An oil exportation dispute with Sudan in 2012 led to South Sudan ceasing its oil production for an extended period, essentially toppling its opportunity to reach the expectations of economic improvement the international community sought. Now, with the civil war raging on, oil production has again been interrupted in parts of the country as its currency continues to be devalued and inflation remains on the rise.

South Sudan is in dire need of aid. The Red Cross’s support has been helpful, but only temporary. The instability of the country has repeatedly thwarted its efforts to develop. As the country’s food supplies continue to dwindle, only time will tell how this crisis will be resolved.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: United Nations Development Programme, BBC News, The Guardian, NBC News
Photo: FAO


Hunger in Pakistan has killed many people and affected the lives of many more, especially children. After a drought hit the Tharparkar district of Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province earlier this year, at least 132 young children died, many as a result of malnutrition.

The problem of hunger in Pakistan is not limited to Sindh Province, however. While Sindh certainly has the highest rates of malnutrition and least access to food, Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey reported that 58 percent of all Pakistani households were food-insecure.

Malnutrition is also widespread; the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey found that 24 percent of Pakistani children under 5 exhibited “severely stunted growth.”

Why is hunger such a prevalent issue in Pakistan? Some of it has to do with past inflation of wheat prices in the late 2000s, as it was more difficult for people to afford domestic grain. Infrastructural difficulty, such as providing electricity to flour mills, also poses a problem.

Still, the largest factor causing food insecurity in Pakistan is the nation’s own government and its policies that hinder food production and distribution.

Take, for example, the deaths from the drought: the government did not work to distribute food until after the crisis. As the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network reports, “the government didn’t act until [it received] reports of children dying” last December, even though animals had been dying since October and rainfall was decreasing. Moreover, government-run hospitals and clinics in the region have been constantly understaffed, making it difficult to get medical care to those who needed it.

Other government policies affect all of Pakistan, not just Sindh. Under the Corporate Farming Ordinance, the Pakistani government leases large tracts of land to foreign investors looking to stockpile crops for their own countries. This takes valuable land away from local farmers while keeping the food away from Pakistani citizens that need it.

The government of Pakistan seems to prioritize profits over its people. During the inflation of wheat prices in 2008, the government increased its wheat exports, depriving many hungry people of food. Even today, much of the wheat that large corporate mills produce leaves the country.

In reality, Pakistan should be capable of providing its citizens with enough food to survive, and there should not be as much food insecurity as there is now. Arif Jabbar Khan, Oxfam’s Pakistan director, affirmed that “missing public policy action and persistent economic inequalities are the main causes of malnutrition,” not droughts or famine.

How can hunger and malnutrition be reduced in Pakistan? Foreign aid providers may be able to earmark funds for the redistribution of grain to poorer areas, and this aid could be cut if the government does not comply.

Nevertheless, political pressure to change food distribution policy must come from within Pakistan itself. The citizens of Pakistan must demand change and hold elected officials responsible for their actions in the polls if the system is to be fixed.

 — Ted Rappleye

Sources: The Guardian, South Asia Masala, Triple Bottom-Line
Photo: Tribune

Somalian Food Security
Late rains and other irregular weather patterns have worsened the Somalian food security situation. The lack of rainfall has already affected the pastoral northeastern region and the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, both of which are major maize producers.

The late Gu rains, which make up the major rainy season, have exacerbated an already tenuous situation in Somalia, where conflict has already caused sharp increases in food prices and disrupted other important markets. Some areas have seen double-digit increases in the prices of maize and sorghum. In the south, prices have risen as much as 60 and 80 percent since the previous year. During March, the Bakol region witnessed a price increase between 40 and 50 percent on imported food products such as rice, sugar, wheat flour and vegetable oil.

These factors, combined with the lack of funding for relief programs, has left many facing the threat of starvation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) currently estimates that 857,000 Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance. This figure includes 203,000 malnourished children under age 5.

“[The people of Somalia] need urgent support to improve their food security and maintain their livelihoods, most of which depend directly on agriculture,” said Luca Alinovi, Head of the Somalia Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

The FAO is currently seeking $18 million to stage rapid interventions to prevent Somalian food security from worsening. A little more than a third of this assistance would help provide temporary employment for about 13,000 households through FAO’s Cash-for-Work program, a system that provides wages for families who work on community infrastructure like roads and canals. Another $5.5 million would provide 15,000 households with adapted crop production inputs for the upcoming Deyr season, a minor wet season from October to November. $3.2 million would allow for the restocking of livestock for 4,000 pastoralists, and $3 million would be designated for pest control and disease prevention in livestock.

The FAO has planned these interventions for the next three months. Target areas are Hiran, Bari, and Middle and Lower Shabelle, Galgadug and Bakol regions.

The Gu rains resumed in early May, but in order for the food security situation to improve, they must continue through the remainder of June. The FAO expects improved conditions in August and September, but not enough to outweigh the current damage. The immediate future of food security in Somalia relies greatly on the Deyr season and the impact of outside assistance.

The current situation in Somalia is very similar to the 2011 famine that affected the region. The factors that contributed to the loss of life and livelihood during that time are occurring now, and the possibility of a second famine exists if steps are not taken to alleviate the damage.

In 2012, the U.N. declared an end to famine in Somalia, but more than two million people are still considered food insecure. This represents about a 17 percent decrease from early 2012.

As part of its initiative in Somalia, FAO maintains Somalia’s Water and Land Information Management Unit (SWALIM) to monitor weather patterns and climate changes, as well as the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), an organization that monitors food and livelihood security in one of the poorest countries in the world.

—Kristen Bezner

Sources: FAO 1, FAO 2, FSNAU, Global Food Security Journal, SWALIM
Photo: Flickr

The famine in South Sudan has reached a scale similar to that in Syria. Close to one third of the population of South Sudan is already at severe risk of starvation and, unless something is done soon, the struggle will only get worse. Some are calling it a race against time.

Since the violence erupted this past December, around 255,000 people have fled to neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, and more than 800,000 people have been displaced inside the country. Some people have even fled north to South Sudan’s recently separated Sudan counterpart. The United Nations coordinator for humanitarian aid in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, has appealed for the essentials such as food and water, as well as farming tools and seeds. If the South Sudanese are unable to plant their crops by the time rain comes in May, they will face the most disastrous famine in Africa since the 1980s.

According to Lanzer, aid donations have been catastrophically faltering. A United Nations appeal for $1.3 billion was not fully funded and only a quarter of the requested money went though, in an assertion that only $232 million was necessary for the bare minimum of humanitarian aid to the country. But the bare minimum is not enough, as tragic 7 million people in South Sudan are at risk of hunger. People are in such dire need of food and water that one family started boiling poisonous roots for an entire week in order to have something to eat. Many travel for days with no water whatsoever.

Violence in the country has only made matters worse. When weapons were reported to have been found in a UN convoy in March, the government and army in South Sudan understandably felt obligated to increase surveillance and security measures on UN vehicles delivering aid. The issue strained relations between the international agency and South Sudan, subsequently making aid delivery increasingly difficult.

The horrifying conditions in which people are currently living, however, can be changed. Famine implies that people are dying and, while many argue that South Sudan has not yet reached that point, the risk is very real. With enough funding reaching the people of South Sudan in a timely enough fashion, an even worse future can be avoided.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: USA Today, Al Jazeera, The New York Times
Photo: UPI

Experts and residents residing in the southeastern Pakistan desert told Al Jazeera a “drought-induced famine” is affecting the lives of impoverished individuals in the region.

Ever since the famine story broke out, the Pakistani government has focused its attention in the region. According to Al Jazeera, the National Disaster Management Authority claims, “Tharparkar has seen the delivery of 3,582.3 tonnes of wheat (worth approximately $2.5m), 201 tonnes of rice, and 1,483.7 tonnes of emergency food packs and other food aid”.

But despite the government’s involvement in helping the famine-stricken region, the Pakistan Meteorological Department believes that there is no drought in Tharparkar in the first place. The department instead classifies it as a “socioeconomic disaster” despite the region being drier than usual this year.

On the other hand, the NGOs in Pakistan believe that the famine that killed over 100 children in Pakistan could have been avoided had the government decided to act sooner. According to the Guardian, Pakistani activists blame the government for failing to provide the region with healthcare and better infrastructure.

A local newspaper also told a similar story about the famine in southeastern Pakistan.

“The provincial government usually declares a state of drought in Thar by September or October when there is low rainfall during and after the monsoon season,” said the Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper.

Due to the low amount of rainfall last year in September, the government apparently pushed forward the declaration “and the provision of relief was thus delayed.”

Sources also told the newspaper that the local administration and health officials informed the chief minister that the conditions in the region were “normal during drought”.

According to local organizations that work with some of the poorest people in Pakistan, members of Dalit population are the ones mainly affected by the drought.

“Known in Pakistan as the scheduled class, Dalits suffer heavy discrimination under the caste system common across south Asia.”

The founder of Baanhn Beli, an NGO operating in Tharparkar since 1985, believes that representatives who were elected to represent the region should be held responsible for failing to properly report to the chief minister. He also believes that if the state invested in Tharparkar, most of the deaths caused by the famine would have not occurred.

It is clear that the officials are refusing to take full responsibility for the crisis in southeastern Pakistan. The international community, along with local humanitarian groups, is criticizing the state for failing to stop a preventable famine. They believe that the government should keep its promise and compensate the families of the victims for improperly handling the situation.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Tribune, The Guardian
Photo: India Times

World Hunger Facts
You have been asked to write a school report on world hunger.  What kinds of information would you find and possibly include?  Well, as a start, hunger is defined as “the continuing deprivation in a person of the food needed to support a healthy life.”  For millions of people around the world, food insecurity and hunger are a daily part of their lives.  Millions of human beings, young and old alike, are not getting enough vitamins and minerals their bodies need to properly function, causing damage to their health and ultimately destroying their lives.

World hunger is a problem that can be solved.  The first step is being educated on what it is.  Below is a list of ten world hunger facts to help get you started.

1. Out of the nearly 7 billion people in the world, there are roughly 870 million who are hungry (more than the populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union combined).  This means that around 12 percent of the global population is undernourished, consuming less than the minimum amount of calories necessary for strong health and growth.

2. Causes of hunger include: natural disasters (accounting for less than eight percent of victims), conflict, poverty, poor agricultural infrastructure, environmental exploitation, climate change, harmful economic systems and unstable markets.

3. The majority of hungry people (nearly 98 percent) live in developing countries, with over half in Asia as well as the Pacific and a quarter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

4. In the developing world, 66 million primary school-age children go to class hungry.  The United Nations World Food Programme calculates that $3.2 billion is needed annually to reach these children.

5. Women account for 60 percent of the world’s hungry.  The number of those hungry could be reduced by up to 150 million people if female farmers had equal access to resources.

6. Each year, 17 million children are born undernourished, due to the mother’s lack of nutrition during pregnancy.  Roughly 100 million children (1 out of 6) are underweight.

7. Annually, 15 million children die due to hunger-related causes.  Poor nutrition, specifically, accounts for nearly 3.1 million children’s deaths.

8. The world produces 10 percent more food than is needed to feed the entire globe. International trade and distribution imbalances affects poorer countries the most, as food tends to get distributed to those with the most money.

9. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 people in developing countries face vitamin and mineral deficiencies, with deficiencies in vitamin A, iron and zinc ranked among the leading causes of death through disease.

10. Effects of hunger include: high infant-mortality rate, susceptibility to common illnesses, increased risk of infection, increased vulnerability in times of disaster, stunted development and stunted economic growth

The above statistics are meant to serve as a preliminary overview of world hunger.  When writing any report, it is important to think critically about the statistics and facts you come across.  A critical thinker will dig deeper into the causes and consequences of an issue, and what can or should be done to address it.

Stand out among your classmates and focus on a specific aspect of world hunger that allows you to develop a meaningful analysis and conclusion.  The first step to becoming an advocate for change starts with knowing your cause and all the factors that surround it.

Rifk Ebeid

Sources: World Food Programme, Do Something Org, United Nations Resources for Speakers on Global Issues, Womenaid International, World Hunger Education Services, Freedom from Hunger, The Hunger Project, World Food Programme Hunger
Photo: Food Navigator

One in every eight people on the planet suffers from hunger. This statistic is estimated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Congress is currently debating passing a Farm Bill that includes cutting the budget for nutritional aid to financially deficient families.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data about people in the country who are living below the poverty line, and the number was almost fifty million persons. The bureau also provided interesting facts about food stamps, now knows as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and how programs like this helped prevent families from falling into poverty.

The National School Lunch Program kept almost two million people from being classified as living in poverty by offering free lunches to small-budget education systems. An article written on comments on the timing of this report coming out just as Congress is trying to decide how much to cut from nutritional assistance budgets.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is funded entirely by the U.S. federal government, although the state governments help cover operating costs within their jurisdictions. Families whose income is very low or who are working at wages below the cost of living are all eligible for the SNAPS program. Net income and assets are also factored into a family’s eligibility for the program.

Malnourishment contributes to a decrease in health, ability to work and attend school, and is a huge contributor into people falling into poverty. Medical bills increase while wages and income decrease, creating a vicious cycle of financial difficulty.

Families begin getting overwhelmed by their inability to meet monetary and nutritional needs because of personal illness or sick children. Bills pile up with no one to pay them and once someone is struggling with poverty it is extremely hard to climb out without assistance. Programs like SNAPS and donations to social welfare charity organizations and government funded assistance foundations are necessary to help resolve this problem.

According to, “World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase.” This incredible fact means that the world offers enough food via agriculture and harvested nutrition to feed everyone on the planet.

So why are so many people malnourished? Why is the U.S. government even considering cutting the budget that provides assistance to those struggling to meet nutritional needs?

These are complicated questions that undoubtedly require complicated answers, but every little smidge of effort can help to solve a big problem. Calling local congress members, emailing state officials, and even spreading the word through personal networks can make a difference in what kind of policies are implemented.

Awareness is the first step towards action, and everyone should act against world hunger.

Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: American Progress, CBPP, World
Photo: Glogster