Information and stories about food security news.

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

The Problems in South Sudan

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conflict in South Sudan

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

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

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

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

UNHCR’s Efforts

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

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

How the US is Helping

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr

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

Distribution of Funds

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

Additional Aid Efforts in Afghanistan

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

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

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

Barriers to Aid

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

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

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

How to Help

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

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

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

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Flickr

Food Crisis in Sri Lanka
Record inflation and soaring fuel costs are igniting a food crisis in Sri Lanka. Skyrocketing prices leave more than 6 million Sri Lankans food insecure. Because people are not certain when their next meal will be, they reduce their food intake and that results in their poor nutrition. The health of Sri Lankan pregnant women and children is particularly at risk due to a lack of quality nutrition.

Sri Lanka Food Crisis Specifics

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), about three out of 10 households (nearly 6.26 million Sri Lankans) are uncertain of where their next food will come from. More than 60% of households are resorting to rationing their food and do not obtain sufficient nutrition. As one Sri Lankan woman  said, “These days, we don’t have a proper meal but eat only rice and gravy.” In June 2022, WFP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and Pacific Anthea Webb explained, “Pregnant mothers need to eat nutritious meals every day, but the poorest find it harder and harder to afford the basics.”

At an astonishing rate of 57.4% inflation, increasing food prices have resulted in two out of five households living without enough food to support their families. In the “farming estates sector” which includes tea plantations and other similar “estates,” more than half of households live with food insecurity. These households are worse off than urban populations and other rural dwellers. Rural and urban households are depleting their savings or using credit to buy essentials. “Poor families in cities and those who work on estates have seen their incomes plummet while market prices have soared,” a WFP spokesperson commented.

Stories of Family Struggles

Perhaps one can better understand Sri Lanka’s food crisis by hearing about family struggles. Chandrika Manel, a mother of four children, expresses how crucial the situation is when she says, “even buying bread is a struggle. There are times I [give them] milk and rice, but we don’t cook any vegetables. They’re too expensive.” Sahna, a pregnant 34-year-old who has three children and is due in September, is nervous about the future, uttering, “My children are miserable. They’re suffering in every possible way. I can’t even afford a packet of biscuits or milk for my babies.” Acute malnutrition could increase dramatically from 13% to 20%. Further, the current 35,000 malnourished children could double according to Dr. Renuka Jayatissa, President of the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association.

UN Warns of Humanitarian Crisis

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing for significant funds to hold off a humanitarian crisis. UNICEF found that depleting gas and medical supplies forced 70% of Sri Lankan families to reduce their food intake in 2022. “We’re trying to avoid a humanitarian crisis. We’re not yet at children dying, which is good, but we need to get the support very urgently to avoid that,” said Christian Skoog, UNICEF’s representative in Sri Lanka.

On the positive side, UNICEF has noted a sense of solidarity and community among Sri Lankans.  For example, Pastor Moses Akash began a community kitchen a month ago after meeting a single mother who survived off of jackfruit for three days. Akash meets people who have not had a meal in four months and believes the number of people waiting in line for food will increase from 50 to 250 a day because of the up-to-80% increase in food prices in June.

WFP Taking the Lead to Combat Sri Lanka’s Food Crisis

To address Sri Lanka’s food crisis, humanitarian organizations are taking the lead. The WFP kick-started an emergency relief fund of $60 million for food and nutrition to help 3 million who are in vulnerable sectors like women and children. Each month the WFP gives $40 meal vouchers to pregnant women in impoverished areas. The WFP also collaborates with local governments that provide prenatal care. Thus far, the organization has provided 88% of the 2,375 vouchers to assist 3 million people with food, sustenance and school lunches. Going against this support, 61% of Sri Lankan households are using the approach of lowering the quantity of food consumption and obtaining more food with less nutrition. Unfortunately, the food relief agency expects an estimate of 200,000 families will use that approach as the crisis continues.

The US announces $20 million in Additional Assistance for Sri Lanka’s Food Security

On July 5, 2022, at the G7 Summit in Germany, United States President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. committed to an additional $20 million in aid to Sri Lanka to feed more than 800,000 children and 27,000 pregnant women in the next 15 months. The relief grant encourages strong school nutrition for students and includes meal tickets for pregnant women. The plan also supports 30,000 croppers to improve cultivation in impoverished communities that are living in debt. U.S Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung underlined that the United States is devoted to food security, public health and promoting economic stability for the people of Sri Lanka. She commented, “This aid will feed Sri Lankan children, combat food insecurity and demonstrates our enduring commitment to the health & well-being of the Sri Lankan people.”

Despite the catapulting of inflation which can threaten the health of children and expecting mothers, humanitarian organizations including the World Food Programme and the United Nations are leading the way in avoiding a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. response to the food crisis in Sri Lanka also improves the odds of avoiding a dire humanitarian crisis.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Flickr

Cash Transfer Programs
For the last 30 years non-government organizations (NGOs) like the Transfer Project and Concern Worldwide have been working with the governments of African nations and conducting trials and experiments with African villages to gauge how simple cash transfer programs will benefit their communities. The idea is to give households a small increase in their spending power through cash transfers. Then, after several months, see if these transfers had a lasting economic benefit on the affected households and villages.

Kenya’s Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC)

Kenya’s Ministry of Home Affairs began a cash transfer program in 2004 with additional aid and funding from UNICEF. This program provides a cash transfer equivalent to $21 for households in Kenya that have a chronically ill caregiver for a child under 17 years of age. Since its implementation, this cash transfer program has aided more than 250,000 households and nearly 1 million people. It provides necessary resources for vulnerable children, such as food security and health care.

Niger’s Temporary Cash Transfer Program

Niger experienced a food and water crisis after a catastrophic drought threatened the agricultural industry in 2009 and 2010. The government of Niger implemented a temporary social program with the help of the NGO Concern Worldwide. This program aimed to provide cash transfers to families in order to prevent malnutrition and resource exhaustion. This program lasted for five months and provided more than 10,000 affected families with $45 each month in order to guarantee food security during the shortage crisis.

Niger’s Childhood Development Cash Transfer Program

After the successful trial of the cash transfer program during the drought and food crisis in 2010, Niger’s government decided to implement Project Filets Sociaux. This is a national cash transfer program dedicated to providing families with the extra help needed for childhood development. Since 2011, this program provided more than 87,000 households with nearly $16 a month for 24 months.

However, this program provided more than just cash transfers to hundreds of thousands of individuals. This program also included a behavioral change component which supplied education for thousands of households on early childhood development practices. Such education practices included breastfeeding, diarrhea rehydration, sleeping under mosquito netting and family planning. Later modules also included school readiness, brain development and discipline. This program experiment turned out to be so successful that many villages that were not receiving cash transfers still benefited from the behavioral modules and learning programs. These educational materials increased the number of affected households to as many as 200,000 with more than 1.5 million people aided.

Cash Benefits

Cash transfer programs have become one of the most popular ways for a government to address poverty within its country. Based on the success of previous cash transfer programs, Niger’s government knew that a cash transfer system would help alleviate poverty. In 2012, Niger began giving its most impoverished citizens about $16 a month for two years. This doubled the spending power of most of these citizens. Despite the fears that these individuals would instead spend this money on luxury items such as alcohol, the opposite was true. The recipients used their extra money productively.

A similar program in Kenya provided around $1,000 to more than 10,000 households in more than 650 random villages. Incredibly, economic activity also increased in nearby villages that had not received the cash transfer, further supporting the idea that cash transfer programs can reduce poverty in African nations.

A Promising Way Forward

A 2021 World Bank report identified nearly 200 similar cash transfer programs across 75 different countries, all providing food security and increasing the quality of life for nearly 92 million people. With such a promising track record, cash transfer programs have firmly established their usefulness in the fight to alleviate global poverty.

– Declan Harkness
Photo: Flickr

Homs Yeast FactoryThe war in Syria has resulted in the destruction of important infrastructure including factories that produced yeast essential for making bread. The yeast would then be delivered to bakeries who use it to bake bread to sell to the people. However, because of the war, the only operating yeast factory is the one at Homs but it is producing less yeast than before due to reduced resources. Nevertheless, on June 1, 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that it will use its resources to rebuild the Homs factory so it can produce as much yeast as before the war. UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory are an illustration of a modern-day success story.

This story is more inspiring when looking at the mechanical details of the Homs yeast factory before and after UNDP’s intervention. Before UNDP’s intervention, the yeast factory in Homs produced “only six to 10 tonnes of yeast” every day. This is 5% to 9% of the amount before the war started. But with the intervention, the UNDP is aiming to have the Homs factory produce “24 tonnes of yeast daily” to give to the bakeries in Syria so they can bake and sell bread to Syrians. This is an ambitious goal to achieve especially since the quality of life in Syria has deteriorated sharply in the 12 years since the war started.

Current Poverty Rate and Food Insecurity in Syria

The war in Syria has devastated the lives of ordinary Syrians with the poverty rate increasing and food insecurity worsening. This makes UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory more uplifting. The number of Syrians living in poverty has reached nearly 90% of the population in the whole country as of June 1, 2022, according to a press release published on ReliefWeb.

Furthermore, as of June 1, 2022, the percentage of the population struggling with food insecurity is at a “historic highs with an estimated 60%.” Therefore, the UNDP is facing many obstacles in tackling food insecurity in Syria by rebuilding the Homs factory, which requires sophisticated solutions. Nevertheless, the UNDP has the necessary strategies to successfully reconstruct the Homs factory so it can feed more Syrians just like before the war started.

How the UNDP is Rebuilding the Homs Yeast Factory

UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory are possible because of the meticulous plan the UNDP formulated within the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. Technical assessments conducted by the UNDP on June 1, 2022, show that nearly $1 million is needed in order to reconstruct the Homs yeast factory.

UNDP is planning to allocate 80% of the $1 million to “the technical rehabilitation of yeast processing,” according to U.N. News. Twenty percent of that $1 million UNDP plans to spend on “packaging equipment, factory safety and hygiene standards.” The UNDP plan’s intended goal is to be able to feed 3 million more Syrians who cannot afford bread currently.

Nationwide Efforts to Distribute Bread to Syrians

Reducing poverty and food insecurity in Syria is not strictly dependent on UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory. The interim government in Syria announced on May 19, 2022, that it “prohibited the export or transport of any of the strategic crops,” such as wheat. The reason is that prohibiting exports of wheat and other strategic crops would “achieve food security in the liberated areas.”

Furthermore, on June 13, 2022, the interim government in Syria has also been “working on a plan to purchase large quantities of grains,” from Syrian local farmers. That way, the interim government can “boost stocks needed to produce bread,” Al-Monitor reported. The efforts of the interim government, if successful, are complementary to UNDP’s work on rebuilding the Homs yeast factory which produces materials necessary for making bread.

Looking Ahead

UNDP’s energetic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory highlight an international determination to help Syrians. It is commonly heard that the world is forgetting about Syria because of the longevity of the war. However, the UNDP’s hard work, planning and investment in rebuilding the factory shows that the world has not only not forgotten about Syrians, but is coming up with clever solutions to save them. International relations analysts usually ask whether the U.N. has lost its credibility because of its inability to end the Syrian war. The UNDP story proves that the U.N. is still credible and capable of saving lives despite the odds.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

WFP’s Humanitarian Partnership with Uber
On June 8, 2022, Uber donated a customized version of its “Uber Direct” software app to the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) to help distribute food in Ukraine. Some urban areas in Ukraine are hard to reach with conventional large delivery trucks because the areas are densely populated. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber allows the WFP to use a customized version of the Uber Direct app so the WFP can easily reach food insecure Ukrainians in urban areas. In addition, with the Uber Direct app, the WFP will be able to “coordinate a fleet of vehicles and track deliveries in real time.”

Innovative Approaches to Delivering Aid

The WFP’s partnership with Uber highlights the potential of modern technology to solve modern-day global humanitarian issues. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia makes it difficult for international humanitarian organizations to deliver food and other essential items due to ongoing military operations.

Russia is blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which are important for the transportation of food to developing countries struggling with food insecurity. However, innovative approaches to delivering aid, such as the customized version of the Uber Direct software app, give humanitarian organizations opportunities to efficiently tackle food insecurity in war-torn countries. Thus, WFP’s partnership with Uber in Ukraine illustrates how technology can stand as an important tool in the reduction of global poverty.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Ukraine

As of May 21, 2022, one in three Ukrainian households faced food insecurity due to the war, according to the WFP. Furthermore, these Ukrainians have lost their jobs, which means they have no income to support themselves and many have had to abandon their homes.

Russian forces are destroying farms and croplands in Ukraine. Additionally, the Guardian reported on June 13, 2022, that “Ukraine’s national seed bank has been partly destroyed amid fighting in Kharkiv in the north-east, where almost 2,000 crop samples rest in underground vaults.” The situation further exacerbates food insecurity in Ukraine. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is necessary in order to easily deliver emergency food to Ukrainians at risk of food insecurity.

How Uber Can Assist in Tackling Food Insecurity in Ukraine

The WFP “is already using the [Uber Direct] app in Dnipro,” but because food insecurity is widespread in Ukraine, the WFP intends to also send deliveries of food aid to Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv and Chernivtsi. The customized Uber Direct app allows the WFP  to “schedule, dispatch, track and manage deliveries by a network of cars and small vans to final distribution points within a 100km radius of WFP warehouses across the country.” Additionally, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber also includes a $250,000 donation from Uber to the WFP USA “to support the emergency response in Ukraine.”

Private Sector Support

Although the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is innovative and transformative, Uber is not the only private company providing support to the WFP to help Ukrainians. The John Deere Foundation, the charitable arm of John Deere, announced on May 18, 2022, a donation of $1 million to the WFP U.S.A so it can “combat global food insecurity” and tackle rising hunger in Ukraine. The John Deere Foundation also said that 50% of the donation will go to the WFP’s Innovation Accelerator, which “sources, supports and scales high-impact innovations to achieve zero hunger.” The support from Uber and the John Deere Foundation to the WFP illustrates the commitment of the private sector to humanitarian work, which is instrumental to ending global poverty.

Looking Ahead

International organizations have been documenting the steady decline in global poverty over the past decades before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, some may wonder how global poverty can be declining, given the wars and conflicts ongoing in many countries around the world. To find the answer is to look at how humanitarian organizations are leveraging their relationships with the private sector to discover creative ways to solve poverty and hunger. The WFP’s use of the customized Uber Direct app in Ukraine to deliver food to densely populated areas is a shining and, perhaps, enduring example.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in France
After a two-week campaign against Marine Le Pen, the French people re-elected Emmanuel Macron as their president on April 24, 2022, for another five-year mandate. The man who many often call the “president of the rich” has to deal with a country that is experiencing more and more inequalities today. After a first mandate in which Macron had to deal with the yellow vests or “Gilets Jaunes” movements requesting economic and social justice, France experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Poverty in France has become central to its people, whose main concern is their purchasing power amidst rising inflation. In fact, France’s inflation rate was 4.5% in March 2022.

Poverty in France

Although many know France for how it funds education, health care services and retirement pensions, the pandemic has had an impact on the French people. COVID hit parttime workers and workers in the informal economy especially hard. Additionally, many students were ineligible for state support during the pandemic, and many migrants and clandestine workers were only able to obtain support from NGOs.

The Fight Against Poverty in France Over the Last Five Years

In order to answer the needs and requests of the French people, the French government took different measures to adapt to each crisis the country was going through. Back in 2018, Macron first began with a $9.3 billion plan to fight the poverty in which nine million people in France are living.

Macron’s philosophy has always been to allow people to get out of poverty through work. Hence, Macron’s government decreased income tax and distributed a €100 bonus to low-income workers. The government adopted the “no matter the cost policy” to support businesses that the pandemic affected, thus protecting as many jobs as possible starting with the medical professionals who benefited from a €9 billion salary increase.

What About the Next Five Years?

Despite the fact that the populist class voted for Marine Le Pen, Macron has plans to continue his fight against poverty in France. The first measure Macron promised upon re-election was to provide “food cheques” to the people who cannot afford high-quality, local food.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine and the rise in prices of gas, Macron authorized subsidies for energy bills. However, the main measure of his program is to provide work and employment for people so they can get out of poverty. For that to happen, Macron is encouraging employers to recruit employees by adopting “pro-businesses reforms.”

After efforts to alleviate poverty over the last five years, the country is more in need of more reforms to fight poverty. The recently re-elected president has already started to implement some reforms and has work to do to please the important part of France’s population that is against his policies and is seeing its purchasing power diminish every day.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

Farming in the Sahel
Desertification is a problem that those living in the Sahel Region have faced for many years. Desertification is when areas of viable land for farming dry up and are absorbed or transformed into a more desert-like climate. The Sahel Region spans 10 African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad and Cameroon. The Sahel Region has lost millions of hectares of easily accessible farming land to the desert, thus creating food insecurity and loss of income for thousands, if not millions, in the region.

The Impact of Desertification

Desertification is the official term for the process when fertile land, typically in an arid, semi-arid or sub-humid area, loses enough moisture to receive classification as desertland or drylands. The drylands are 40% of the earth’s land surface. According to the United Nations, the rate of degradation in areas susceptible to desertification has sped up 30 more times than in previous years. Increased human activity and the lack of rainfall for extended periods are the leading causes of dryland desertification. Desertified lands officially are 10% of the Earth’s land surface. Many families in areas at risk of desertification rely on farming for their income. But, as the land dries, farming becomes impossible.

Desertification hits some of the most vulnerable populations as it takes away income sources. Desertified land can neither grow crops nor provide the food or land necessary for livestock. The land that some once coveted for farming now cannot retain water. The income that agriculture and livestock farming on desertified land formerly bought no longer exists.

Farming in the Sahel Region

The Sahel Region is officially a semi-arid climate, making farming difficult. Large companies do not typically organize farming in the Sahel Region. Instead, farming is family or community-run and provides food immediately for the owners and operators of the farms. There is little food or livestock traded elsewhere to earn income. Additionally, there is little to no developed infrastructure for communities to develop commercial farming.

Farming in the Sahel Region does not provide a lot of income, nor is it located in an area with highly-ranked or flourishing economies. It has, however, in many past years, contributed at least 45% of each region’s gross domestic product. Many countries in the Sahel Region employ the majority of their workforce in the agriculture sector. In half of the countries of the Sahel Region, poverty rates are as high as 40%. Therefore, the income of the Sahel Region farmers is vital.

In Chad, farmers earn an average of $253 a month. Mali farmers earn less than Chad farmers, with an average monthly income of $169. Senegal farmers earn around $173 a month. These farmers earn enough to sustain themselves, but there is rarely extra money to circulate into the local economy.

How to Improve Farming in the Sahel Region

Farming in the Sahel Region is a race against the clock as the region faces desertification. Organizations such as Context Global (CGD) invest in small farms to bring about economic growth and improvements to the Sahel Region farming communities. CGD does this by creating international links between the farms. CGD builds commercial links without requiring membership in an overarching organization so the farms can maintain independence and gain more experience to advance their operations and incomes.

In the desertified lands, though, farming is incredibly difficult. To combat desertification, there is a new farming tool called the Delfino Plough. The plough brings the ground back to life. This plow, in particular, can cover a minimum of 10 hectares a day to revitalize the land. As the plow moves along along the farmland, it injects seeds deep into the ground that are rich in vitamins to allow the soil to sustain life. As nutrients seep into the ground, it can revert back to its original state and sustain more and more crops.

Creating Opportunity

The more crops that farms are capable of producing, the more they can earn and provide for their landowners and communities. The land brought back to life saves the farmers money as well. If they can grow hay instead of buying it, farmers save money that they can then spend on other farming necessities. With the efforts of organizations such as CGD and tools such as the Delfino Plough, the farmers will have the opportunity to expand their farming operations and increase their immediate incomes while saving for the future.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in Chad
Chad, a country located in Central Africa, faces one of the highest levels of child malnutrition worldwide. A meta-analysis of child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa from 2006 to 2016 found that 39.9% of children in Chad suffered from stunting and 28.8% were underweight. Extreme weather events and conflict in the country exacerbate food insecurity, making it more difficult for many families to provide adequate, nutritious diets for their children. To help improve children’s health and reduce food insecurity, four recent initiatives are tackling child malnutrition in Chad.

Scaling Up Nutrition

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) is an organization that collaborates with low- and middle-income countries’ governments to organize malnutrition prevention efforts. In 2017, SUN developed partnerships with five civil society organizations in Chad focused on improving nutrition. SUN has also established six local Civil Society Alliance offices across different provinces of the country. With SUN’s support, these organizations adopted nutrition as an integral part of their development plans. SUN has also trained and mobilized 35 radio presenters and journalists for nutrition communication, who continue to help raise awareness on malnutrition across the country.

Collaboration with UNICEF and the UK

Through its Department for International Development, the U.K. committed £4 million to a collaboration with UNICEF to reduce acute malnutrition in Chad in 2018 and 2019. Using this grant, UNICEF provided therapeutic milk, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and essential drugs to 58,670 children across 20 provinces nationwide.

UNICEF also used the DFID grant to develop more sanitary and hygienic health centers, improving 30 facilities across the country. This development benefited an estimated 40,000 mothers and caregivers of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Zafaye West Health Center

A nutrition project that UNICEF and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sponsored supports the Zafaye West Health Center. The project selected N’Djamena, where the health center is located, as a priority province in Chad for nutrition aid because a 2019 survey detected a high prevalence of acute malnutrition in the area.

Community volunteers from the center travel door-to-door to reach out to mothers, encouraging them to visit the health center to check up on their children’s health and engage in educational campaigns. The campaigns educate mothers on the importance of balanced diets for their children and teach them nutrient-dense, affordable recipes to prepare. The nutrition project has saved 43,000 children, located within the six target provinces it serves, from acute malnutrition as of June 2021.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme is an organization that provides food assistance across more than 80 countries worldwide. WFP helps provide nutritious meals to 120,000 school children in the Sahel, the region of Africa where Chad is located. The organization also feeds 15,000 children in the Lake Chad region through an emergency school meal program.

In addition, WFP helps prevent child malnutrition in Chad among 6-month-olds to 2-year-olds by providing cash-based nutrition support to their families. This support provides families with more stable access to nutrient-dense foods.

Although many children in Chad currently face malnutrition, these four initiatives are making progress in eradicating this issue. With this support, child malnutrition in Chad may decline in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Syria The civil war in Syria began in March 2011, greatly impacting the lives of those who live in and around the country of Syria. With the United Nations noting a staggering poverty rate of 90% in March 2021, the people of Syria are struggling to secure their basic needs. Rising levels of food insecurity in Syria are of particular concern, a consequence of the conflict within the nation. According to the United Nations, in 2021, 60% of Syrians were at risk of hunger, “the highest number ever in the history of the Syrian conflict.”

The Numbers

According to an August 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) country brief, 12.4 million people in Syria suffer from food insecurity. This number rose by 4.5 million since the previous year, marking a record high. The onset of COVID-19 served to exacerbate food insecurity and poverty, compounding existing issues of “years of conflict, displacement, soaring food prices and a decline in the value of the Syrian” currency. The cost of essential food “is now 29 times higher” than it was before the civil war began. Due to worsening conditions in the nation, 1.3 million people in Syria are suffering from severe food insecurity. The conflict and war have also led to the displacement of 6.8 million people, serving as another contributing factor to growing food insecurity in Syria.

War and conflict within Syria also affect crops and harvests. A study published by Nature Food in January 2022 uses satellite data to shows that cropland near urban settlements suffered severe disruption after the start of the Syrian civil war. The areas that saw the most cropland reduction are the northwest and southeast. The issue of food insecurity becomes greater when the people of Syria can no longer grow their own crops.

Emergency Food Assistance

According to USAID, 11.7 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, 9 million of whom “require emergency food assistance.” Some 65% of Syrians have restricted their food consumption and are now “purchasing food on credit.” This means going into debt to feed their families. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has donated “more than $3.2 billion in emergency food assistance [to Syria] since 2012.” This includes $401.8 million in 2017, $514.6 million in 2018 and another $475.4 million in 2019.

WFP is also providing assistance to the people of Syria. It provides food assistance to 4.8 million people on a monthly basis. This food assistance includes “rice, pulses, oil and wheat.” The WFP also provides pregnant and nursing mothers with “nutritious food” as well as vouchers to help maintain their nutritional needs and improve their diets and vitamin intake. In addition, WFP provides school children with the nutritional food they need. The organization has given “vouchers to more than 348,000 students” to ensure they receive “snacks, fresh meals and assistance.” The crisis in Syria is concerning enough that WFP fundraises hundreds of thousands of emergency funds for its various food emergency initiatives.

Addressing the Crisis

The people of Syria continue to face difficult times during the ongoing civil war. Syrians have lost their homes, family members and access to food during this time. Food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high, with millions going hungry every day. Citizens’ struggles to grow crops only add to the food insecurity. However, with the help of the FFP and WFP, millions of people in Syria are receiving food assistance. Women and children also benefit from these programs by receiving food and vitamins. These programs offer a great example of how the international community can contribute to food insecurity emergencies around the world.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr