Drought in Zimbabwe is reaching epic proportions as nearly one million people are at risk of food insecurity. According to the 2013 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC,) food insecurity levels will affect roughly 2.2 million Zimbabweans at the peak of hunger season between January and March in the upcoming year. Zimbabwe already suffers from high poverty rates as approximately 72 percent of citizens currently below the poverty line and nearly 14.7 percent of the population is HIV prevalent.

Zimbabwe relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture, which has since plummeted since last season’s drought.  As the need for food increases, maize, a primary source of food in Zimbabwe, continues to rise in price making it more difficult on a population who already lives on less than a $1 a day. Making matters worse, the World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced that their initial plan of providing support for 1.8 million people will be drastically reduced.

“We’d been hoping to have scaled up our seasonal relief operations to reach 1.8 million people in the coming months with distributions of food aid, in some areas, cash transfers. Despite generous contributions from donors such as (United States,) (United Kingdom,) Japan, Australia, ECHO and the central Emergency Relief Fund (UN CERF), it’s now looking like all this will not be possible because of a shortage of funds. In fact, we’ve had to cut rations for one million of our beneficiaries in recent months and there are likely to be deeper cuts as from next month,” said WFP in a statement to the media.

Of the $86 million funding dispersed by the previous listed countries, only half of it has been implemented into relief intervention. “Rising food prices are making matters worse — in some areas, they are as much as double what they were last year,” says WFP communications manager Tomson Phiri.

These rising prices in the market are heavily affecting food security and although WFP is short on funding, they are hoping to raise another $60 million over the next 6 months in an effort to implement relief and recovery operations.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: World Food Programme, World Food Programme, Zimeye
Photo: The Telegraph

In recent years, technology and applications have had an increasingly philanthropic purpose. The latest of these technologies is the Share Your Calories application. The app was designed by Catherine Jones, a well-known author of nutrition cookbooks, Elaine Trujillo, a leader in nutrition, and Stop Hunger Now, an international agency aimed to end hunger across the globe.

The app can be used to help people lose weight while simultaneously providing food to people harmed by natural disasters. By adding a philanthropic purpose, the designers of the application aimed to give users another goal as well as more motivation to eat healthier. Studies also show that spending on others makes us happier than spending on ourselves, so the application, in and of itself, allows users to feel lasting happiness.

The application allows users to monitor their daily activities and food intake through a calorie bank determined by bio-data. If they do not consume all the calories in their calorie bank, the user has the option to convert the extra calories into monies. Once they have accumulated $12, the user has the option to donate to Stop Hunger Now.

Each Stop Hunger now high-protein dehydrated meal is equivalent to 250 calories and 25 cents.

The financial contributions from the Share Your Calories App go toward Stop Hunger Now meal packaging events. Each of these meals contains rice, dehydrated soy and vegetables as well as a vitamin-mineral pack. These meals are easy to store and have a shelf-life of 2 years.

These meals are currently distributed through host-organizations, but the funds from this application will also allow smaller groups and businesses to participate.

This application hopes to bring in $95,000 to build an android app, provide basic nutrition information, translate the app into different languages, etc. The Stop Hunger Now effort is supported by the Medical Science Foundation, TruBios Communications, iSO-FORM, The Ohio State University Food Innovation Center and the Experiment.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: IndieGoGo, FoodTank
Photo: Irish Red Cross

Though there are many causes of death in regions of poverty within developing countries such as AIDS, cancer, unclean water or other diseases — the number one cause of death continues to be hunger.

To understand hunger, however, one needs to first understand the definition of hunger. According to the Oxford dictionary, hunger is a feeling, discomfort or weakness caused by the lack, or severe lack of food. Global hunger refers to the latter — a severe lack of food.

A closer definition of world hunger comes from World Hunger, which describes hunger as being the scarcity of food in a country.

Hunger also leads to the lack of nutritional supplements necessary for human health. One out of three people in the world suffer from vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin A, iron and iodine.

A lack of vitamin A can cause blindness and reduce the effectiveness of the human immune system. The lack of iron is the cause of anemic, malaria and worm infections. The lack of iodine negatively affects mental health of children while the lack of this supplement during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, premature death in babies.

As it stands, though the world is producing enough food to feed the growing human population, those living in poverty do not have enough income to supply food for their households.

According to a slew of statistics, as you are reading this article, 820 million people are suffering from hunger, over 7000 people die of hunger everyday in India alone and one child dies every five seconds. Moreover, with the climate changing in recent years, many natural disasters have occurred, further pushing a large number of people into poverty.

Humanity is fighting a tough battle against global poverty, especially when concerning world hunger.  Though with the help of the world’s population, the future continues to look bright.  One person alone might not be able to make a difference, but if people are united under the same flag and want to make a difference, the world will change significantly.

This battle is, in fact, a drawn out war — and humanity is winning. With everyone’s support, this war can be won in twenty years, thus allowing the world tree to bear the fruit of freedom and strong economic growth for all nations.

– Phong Pham

Sources: Hunger Notes, Bhookh Relief Foundation
Photo: CRS.org

kenya hunger cycle
A 2011 drought caused an immense famine that affected over 4 million impoverished citizens in Kenya. It was estimated that half a million children, pregnant and breast-feeding women suffered from “acute malnutrition” due to a shortfall of indispensable resources.

Though the 2011 famine has subsided, rural populations are still very susceptible to scarceness of resources. Recent reports surfaced that “four million” Kenyans in urban areas and over 1 million people in rural Kenya are expected to experience shortages.

Kenya has, moreover, experienced tremendous GDP growth. Since 2004, the GDP has been increasing annually at a rate of 5%.  Kenya’s adult life expectancy increased from 54 in 2004 to 60 in 2012.

Kenya’s rapid economic expansion and burgeoning “agricultural sector” have, furthermore, been celebrated. Regardless, the nation has been criticized for “unequal distribution of wealth” that has exacerbated the virulent spread of communicable and water-born diseases as well as food insecurity. The north-western county of Turkana has a startling 87.5% living below the poverty line, while the wealthy capital Nairobi’s has no more than 21%.

On average, 46% of the population is presently living in poverty. Sadly, food insecurity has disproportionately affected adolescents. For example, stunted growth has been observed in about 30% of children, while 20% of children are consistently emaciated.

Global Aid associations have, moreover, made attempts to alleviate juvenile hunger but face obstacles.  Instability of feeding programs have been damaging to Kenyan education initiatives, resulting in 15,000 children from the Turkana region withdrawing from schools. Nancy Laibunu, a Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research policy maker, argued that food insecurity in poorer families pushes them to make harsh choices between food or sacrificing access to educational opportunities and vital healthcare.

The World Food Programme, a poverty relief organization involved in the lives of more than 97 million impoverished people in 80 countries, discontinued efforts in Turkana because of it’s “inaccessibility.” The province lacked sufficient finances to construct a suitable road or rail network that allowed the secure transport of food aid.

United States officials recommended a number of ways to tackle Kenya’s food insecurities. Zhuileta Willibrand, of the United States Department of Agriculture, proposed that Kenya embrace genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).  However, in November of 2013, Kenya banned the importation of GMO’s since the administrative officials considered it disadvantageous to the well-being of the public.

They contended that a “lack of sufficient information” about the “impact of such foods” on a person’s physical condition was enough to prohibit their cultivation.

Kenya’s former Public Health Minister, Beth Mugo, was directed by former President Kibaki to make a scientifically founded decision. On the other hand however, Kenya’s National Bio-safety Authority holds the authority of permitting GMO’s. They oversee the application of advancing bio-technology in “the cultivation” of genetically modified produce.

In May of 2013, Romano Kiome, the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, lifted the ban, calling it an “ill-advised” decision, thus calming the apprehension Kenyan scientists fostered.  They expressed concern that the law was potentially holding back scientific “progress” that could help boost food production and lessen production deficits.

Kenya needs to figure out the proper means to solve their food production problems, especially since 5 million are anticipated to have inadequate amounts of food according to the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis. As it stands, Kenya’s growing population and “urbanization” most likely provoked the nation’s hunger problems.  The report prominently highlights “inadequate crop production,” something GMO’s and advanced farming techniques could supposedly correct. Millions of lives hang in the balance, relying on decisions that government makes.

Joseph Abay

Sources: UNICEF, NY Times, The Guardian, All AfricaAction Against Hunger, Capital Business, Red Cross, SciDev, SciDev, CNN, Business Daily Africa, NY Times, World Bank, Standard Digital News, All Africa, UNICEF, All Africa
Photo: Giphy.com

14 of the 20 most at risk nations of climate change distresses are African countries. These countries are considered as so susceptible due to the vulnerability of the population as well as the continent’s liability to extreme climate events.

Specifically, these African nations tend to experience extreme losses due to droughts, floods, fires, storms and landslides. Additionally, weak economies, governance, education and healthcare systems make it difficult to tackle or adapt to these problems.

Over 200 governments agree that global warming will exceed 2 degrees Celsius, causing much devastation and hardship, especially in Africa.

For instance, sea-level rise along Africa’s coastline is expected to be 10 percent higher than in the rest of the world, and in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Gambia, up to 10 percent of the population would be at risk of floods each year by 2100.

The cost involved to address this looming danger amounts to billions.

According to the United Nations, adaptation costs faced by Africa range from $7 billion to $15 billion annually by 2020. Moreover, that amount could increase to $350 billion annually by 2070.

Some of the adaptation projects include developing drought-resistant crops, building early warning systems, investing in renewable energy sources, producing better drainage, building sea walls and prioritizing reforestation and desalinization.

According to the World Bank, there is a 40 percent chance of temperatures rising by 3.5 to 4 degrees Celsius if these types of climate change mitigation efforts are not stepped up.

Adaptation measures could, in fact, decrease the impacts of climate change in Africa.

Currently, projections for Africa are grim, even without the 2 degrees Celsius warming. Undernourished Africans are likely to increase by 25 percent to 90 percent, crop production will be reduced as arid areas are expected to increase by four percent, protein needs for over 60 percent of the communities would be jeopardized as fish will decline in African freshwater lakes and the necessary infrastructure for African communities to cope with climate impacts is inadequate. These effects will result in an increase of premature deaths, a rise in healthcare concerns and a decrease in food production.

The adaptation costs required to address the global temperature rise could reach four percent of Africa’s GDP by 2100. Therefore, additional funding is imperative if Africa is to move towards a climate-resilient life saving path. To meet this need, annual funds would need to grow at an average rate of 10 percent to 20 percent per year from 2011 to the 2020’s.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, The World Bank, CNN

Poverty in Yemen
As one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen is currently faced with some of the most extreme poverty issues in the world. There are several issues that are unique to Yemen that contribute to this magnitude of poverty, issues that are on track to only get worse unless direct action is taken to mitigate these circumstances. If basic problems, such as lack of access to water, are not properly addressed, other matters, such as sub-par literacy rates, will continue to plague the region and exacerbate poverty in Yemen.


Top 5 Facts about Poverty in Yemen


1. Yemen’s population stands at 25.4 million and approximately 54% of those people live in poverty.  In other words, 54% of the population survives on fewer than 2 dollars per day.

2. Approximately 45% of the population is malnourished.

3. Life expectancy in Yemen is 64 years old, 14 years younger than the average life expectancy in the United States.

4. Major infectious diseases plaguing the country include Bacterial diarrhea, Typhoid fever, Dengue fever and Malaria, all of which are preventable, curable and in some cases largely unheard of anymore in the western world.

5. There is less than 1 physician for every 1,000 people in Yemen.


Major Causes Behind Poverty in Yemen Today


  • The dire water shortage: The use of the word ‘dire’ cannot be stressed enough. According to Maplecroft, a global risk analysis organization, Yemen is ranked as the seventh most water-stressed country on the planet. Even though there is a water shortage in Yemen, approximately 90% of the country’s water is put towards its largely ineffective agricultural practices. In Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, tap water is only available once every four days for its 2 million people. Even worse, in Taiz, a major city in the south, tap water is only available every 20 days. It is estimated that in 10 years, Sana’a will literally run out of water for its citizens.
  • On the brink of famine: In mid-2012, several major humanitarian relief organizations issued a warning that 44% of the population’s food needs are not currently being adequately met. Five million of these malnourished Yemeni citizens require emergency aid and immediate action. The warning cited a surge in food and fuel prices and political instability as the cause behind the number of malnourished people doubling since 2009. Though there is food available in some cases, many Yemenis cannot afford to buy nourishment because they have been displaced from their homes due to conflict.
  • Lingering political instability: Like most of the Middle East, Yemen felt the effects of the Arab Spring in 2011. The initial uprising was centered on protesting high unemployment, economic conditions and government corruption, which included the then president’s plan to alter the constitution to allow the direct transfer of power to his son. Al-Qaeda also has a presence in the region, which further contributes to political instability. For these reasons and many others, the attempt to reach stability within the government and the region is an ongoing process. After significant fighting and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of citizens, a new president was placed in power after running uncontested in an election. The new president is responsible for overseeing the drafting and implementation of a new constitution and further presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.

– Colleen Eckvahl


Sources: BBC: Yemen’s President cedes power, BBC: Yemen on brink of food crisis, Green Profit, Maplecroft, The World Bank


There are approximately 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today, with hunger and malnutrition as the leading causes of death in the developing world. Yet, despite the overwhelming magnitude of this problem, global hunger can be solved. By addressing the factors behind widespread hunger – poor agricultural systems, poverty, environmental exploitation and economic crises – we can come closer to ending it. Below are just five practical ways to end global hunger.

1. Decrease the production of meat.
The intense rate at which many countries focus on producing meat has taken a serious toll on resources. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s valuable agricultural resources go towards feeding livestock. If the production of meat was reduced, those resources could go toward ending undernourishment instead.
2. Food for Life and the human responsibility. 
Food for Life is an organization committed to putting a stop to world hunger. Based on simple, yet powerful, principles of human spirit, humility and compassion, Food for Life has developed a number of programs that bring both food and education to malnourished countries.
3. Stop land grabbing. 
Wealthy countries without extensive landholdings have started seizing land in underdeveloped countries to use as allotments. This “land grabbing” prevents people living in the region from using that land to grow crops and sustain their communities, further perpetuating hunger and malnutrition in the area.
4. Small-scale farming. 
Family farmers play a vital role in the development of food sustainability. Small farmers are more likely to produce crops rich in nutrients as opposed to conventional agribusiness that grow mostly starchy crops. Organizations such as AGRA, which works towards a green revolution in Africa, focus heavily on small farmers, providing them with education, quality soils and the seeds necessary to build a prosperous farm.
5. Eliminate infant malnutrition. 
Infant malnutrition is rampant in underdeveloped countries that lack the resources and education necessary to nourish healthy children. Educating families and mothers living in these regions on proper feeding techniques and providing them with the right nutrients at every stage of the pregnancy will make a huge difference in alleviating infant malnutrition.
– Chante Owens

Sources: The Guardian, Food for Life, Living Green Magazine
Photo: Greenpeace

With the world population expected to double by 2050, food security will continue to be an increasingly complicated and important issue. More food will be needed to feed more people and, to preserve vital biodiversity sites, we’ll need to produce this additional food using land already devoted to agriculture. While there are many factors that could improve agricultural efficiency, genetically modified crops hold the most potential. Many scientists now believe that transgenic plants could help prevent or minimize future food shortages.

Transgenic plants are those that possess an inserted portion of DNA either from a different member of their own species or from an entirely different species. The inserted DNA serves some special purpose, such as allowing the plant to produce natural insecticides. Once the genes are transferred, they can be passed on to offspring through simple fertilization, allowing farmers to breed advantageous traits in their plants. Transgenic plants have proven extremely profitable in the developed world, accounting for a 5% to 10% increase in productivity, and reducing the cost of herbicides and insecticides.

Such methods could effectively increase productivity in the developing world, where a surge in food production is sorely needed. Developing countries, especially those in the tropics and subtropics, suffer severe crop losses due to pests, diseases, and poor soil conditions. In addition, a lack of financial capital often prevents farmers from investing in high quality seeds, insecticides, and fertilizers. Poor post-harvest conditions such as inadequate storage facilities and thriving fungi and insect populations also fuel crop loss. Currently, pests destroy over half the world’s crop production. Transgenic plants could provide an innovative solution.

Fortunately, bioengineering solutions can be easily adapted from one species to another, allowing one advancement in plant biotechnology to quickly produce many more. For example, insect-resistant strains of several important plant species have been produced using one specific endotoxin. Commercial production of insect-resistant maize, potato, and cotton has already begun. Plant bioengineers hope to use similar technology to create fruits that ripen more slowly, allowing for longer shelf lives and less post-harvest crop loss.

It is important to note that this technology has mostly been established with the developed world in mind. Therefore, adapting it for use in the developing world must be done carefully. For instance, many crops grown in the developing world are local varieties and have not been extensively tested thus far by plant bioengineers. Blindly replacing local crops with bioengineered varieties from the developed world could disturb deep social or religious traditions that are represented in the widely varied cultures in the developing world. Additionally, societies are more likely to embrace a familiar crop than a foreign one. Research and development in bioengineering must, therefore, adapt to include the crops of the developing world.

Although the globe produces enough food for everyone, people everywhere continue to die of starvation. With this unequal distribution in mind, it is imperative that, moving forward, small farmers in the developing world receive the same access to plant biotechnology given to large agribusinesses in the developed world. First-world corporations cannot be granted even more unfair advantages over small landholders in poorer nations, especially as global populations grow and food security becomes ever more scarce and important. As this technology is developed, it is up to us to share it with the developing world in order to minimize severe food shortages in the years to come.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: Plant Physiology, Colorado State University
Photo: Tree Hugger

North Korea Flood
Throughout the month of July, North Korea has been struggling with severe rainfall. In turn, the United Nations has sent food in order to help the North Korean flood victims.

On July 11, in central areas of North Korea, there was as much as 20 centimeters, or nearly 8 inches of rain. As a comparison, the state of California sees 17.28 inches of rainfall every year. Hawaii has 23.47 inches.

North Korea saw in one day nearly half of the average yearly rainfall in California. Even the state with the most rainfall per year – Louisiana – only has 59 inches per year. So 8 inches would be about 1/7th of Louisiana’s yearly rainfall. It was devastating to the country.

As of July 15, over 750 people were homeless due to the flooding, while two people had been reportedly killed. The flooding has destroyed large areas of farmland in multiple provinces of North Korea, including South Hamkyong, North Hwanghae, and Kangwon.

The farmland that was severely damaged ranged across over 1,700 acres. This puts incredibly pressure on the agricultural sector of North Korea. The flooding has created shortage of crops and food within the country, leaving many people to face starvation. In July 2012, there was worse flooding – 88 people died and 62,000 people were left without homes.

However, this year, the damage has become nearly as devastating as last year’s floods. As of August 6, over 30 people have died while nearly 20 are missing, almost 50,000 have become homeless, and 10,000 (nearly 25,000 acres) hectares of farmland are damaged, and 1,000 (nearly 2,500 acres) hectares of crops are ruined.

Unfortunately, the floods of 2012 left North Korea’s agricultural sector nearly beyond repair. North Korea does not have the technology and infrastructure in order to survive when faced with natural disaster. The country will certainly face crop failure, food scarcities, and other problems within their country due to these unavoidable and devastating floods.

Experts believe the 2013 floods will have “a longer term impact on food security” than last year’s floods; other issues that are arising are the failing of early crops, like potatoes, and concern over public access to water that is safe.

Thankfully, North Korea is not alone in facing these problems. Indeed, the international community is already beginning to come together in order to give aid to those who are facing problems due to the flood, such as hunger and homelessness.

For example, the United Nations, through the UN’s World Food Programme, said that they have officially begun sending aid to North Korea. The aid includes emergency rations of maize to the major flood victims. They will be sending 460 tons to the afflicted country.

The aid will reach about 38,000 people who are living in the areas that have to deal with crop devastation. This is incredibly helpful, since it would be giving emergency aid to those who are forced to fight hunger and the lack of food security. 400 grams will be given to each individual each day for a month.

Another international organization that has come to the aid of North Korea is the International Federation of the Red Cross Crescent Societies (IFRC). They are providing relief aid to the areas that face the flooding, which involves doing whatever is needed within the actual areas of the flood, such as medical care.

Overall, the United Nations is providing a short-term solution to an emergency situation, which will be incredibly helpful to the thousands who will no longer be devastated by hunger. However, there is still much to be done on the long-term for North Korea, and hopefully, the international community will come together in order to help a struggling country.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Times of India, Global Post, Flood List, Between Waters
Photo: Update News

Microcredit, microfinance, micro-insurance… There is a microfinance revolution occurring around the world, and it is changing the perceptions of what can be done for those living in poverty.

Empowerment is an important focus of aid and development work. A family that, instead of being given rice and feed for a season, is educated and provided with tools to grow rice and feed themselves, can become self-sustaining. However, providing this kind of empowerment assistance can be difficult. How can organizations provide loans or credit to people who do not have bank accounts? How can they insure farmers when the value of their crops does not reach the minimum premiums? How can they make health insurance available to families living in poverty?

There is a market available for all of these services, but it is taking a revolutionary approach to provide it. Insurance has typically been the domain of the middle and upper classes. Insurance providers have always targeted those with significant investments to protect, as that is where the money lies. But for small-scale farmers, with fewer assets, the dependence on the success of their investments is greater than that of the wealthy. It is these people at the bottom of the economic scale who need insurance the most, as they are the ones without a safety net.

Recognizing this, the international foundation Syngenta has begun offering an insurance program for small farmers. The project originated in Kenya, and offers insurance for farms as small as half an acre, charging them a rate of $5.25 a season. The project is run remotely, with local supply stores acting as purchasing points for insurance and weather stations used to calculate damages due to climate effects, resulting in minimal overhead costs. Operating in Kenya and Rwanda, the scheme has already sold more than 64,000 insurance policies, largely to farmers who have never before had the option of buying insurance.

Similar programs are being developed around the world, with some focusing on micro-credit while others provide insurance at a fraction of the cost of traditional insurers. Furthermore, as the field develops, larger insurance companies are also embracing the model. In 2005, micro-insurance was offered by only 15% of the largest insurance companies. Today, two thirds of those companies are offering with micro-insurance. Some estimates place the potential market of micro-insurance to be between 2 and 3 billion potential policies.

Small-scale farmers with insurance are better able to provide for their families, even in the event of crop failure. This minimizes the potential for famine and also decreases the need for foreign assistance to provide for people in the event of crop failure.

– David M Wilson 

Sources: The New York Times, Syngenta
Photo: Dowser