Food InsecurityAccording to the U.N., malnutrition has been on the rise in recent years. The latest data states that 821 million people are undernourished. This translates to one in nine people suffering from hunger. These statistics are staggering; fortunately, this problem is currently being addressed by numerous organizations that are combating food insecurity across the globe.

What is Food Insecurity?

The U.N. defines food insecurity as “uncertain access to food at the household or individual level.” In 2017, in the U.S. alone, 40 million people faced food insecurity. This number drastically increases when describing those who are food insecure worldwide. Food insecurity can lead to severe malnourishment. Due to the fact that the price of fresh, healthy food is typically higher than that of processed foods, food insecurity can also lead to obesity. This is how poverty can increase food insecurity

Food insecurity can be the result of multiple factors. Natural disasters and droughts are examples of conditions that contribute to food insecurity. For example, in 2016, 40 million people experienced food insecurity after El Niño. Though these statistics are discouraging, different organizations are addressing this problem. These five organizations combating food insecurity are making a difference in the lives of millions.

Five Organizations Combating Food Insecurity

  1. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID provides support for 142 countries across the globe. The largest areas of aid provided include emergency relief ($3.9 billion) and the reduction of HIV/AIDS ($3.5 billion). However, the areas of assistance often extend past these categories to include health, agriculture, education and more.
  2. World Food Programme (WFP): The WFP provides aid to 83 countries annually. They also help approximately 86.7 million people each year. This organization centers its efforts on areas of conflict and disasters. It is estimated that WFP provides 15 billion rations each year. One donation of $50 through WFP provides three months of food for a child in need.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): FAO works in 130 nations around the world. It has adopted the slogan #ZeroHunger in unison with numerous organizations globally, which reflects its purpose of ending hunger through the use of agricultural programs. This agency of the U.N. also focuses on sustainability. Additionally, it provides support for countries to protect against the detrimental effects of natural disasters.
  4. The World Bank: Created in 1947, the World Bank has provided funding for 12,000 projects globally to go towards disaster relief and support development. The World Bank’s mission includes reducing extreme poverty by providing financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It has five subsections aimed at accomplishing specific goals. These subsections convene together to promote the common mission. One of the five institutions is the International Finance Corporation, which provides financial services to the countries where the World Bank works.
  5. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): IFAD is an organization combating food insecurity in rural regions. Another branch of the U.N. established in 1974, IFAD was created to address the food insecurity resulting from poverty. Its focuses include building up agricultural programs and creating a lasting impact on people in rural areas.

These organizations are a few examples of the various organizations combating food insecurity globally. Their efforts provide valuable assistance to reduce the number of people who face food insecurity and hunger around the world. Food insecurity can have detrimental effects on those who experience it. However, it is reassuring to know that there are organizations working to reduce the severity and extent of hunger.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela
Life expectancy rates in Venezuela may have looked very different a decade ago under Hugo Chavez, but now the country caught the attention of the world with the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, which has resulted in civil unrest. The country is facing extreme hyperinflation and a reduced supply of power, healthcare and food, which has ensured the exodus of more than three million citizens in recent years. Although the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, its economy seems to have collapsed within months. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela

  1. In terms of life expectancy at birth, Venezuela was ranked 92 in the world in 2017, with a total life expectancy at birth of about 76 years. The expectancy of males is 70 while that of females is 79.
  2. Coronary heart disease has been cited as the chief cause of death, resulting in roughly 16 percent of all deaths, followed by Cardiovascular disease, which had almost the same death toll as violence. The cardiovascular problems have been attributed to the increasing trend of a sedentary lifestyle that more people are leading now due to urbanization of the area.
  3. The country reached its lowest infant mortality rate of 14.3 percent in 2010. Unfortunately, there has been an increase since that year with the rate shooting up to 25.7 percent in 2017 from 22.2 percent in the previous year. The researchers from The Lancet Global Health could not determine one cause of the trend, but it indicated a number of factors that may be responsible such as the collapse of healthcare and macroeconomic policies.
  4. Maternal mortality rates have increased 65 percent to 756 deaths in 2016 from 6.3 percent in the earlier year. I Love Venezuela is an NGO that has been trying to reduce these rates by providing more than 4,200 families with medical supplies.
  5. The data provided by Venezuela to the World Health Organization showed that cases of Zika virus increased from 71 to 59,348 in 2016. This increase was likely one of the causes of the significant rise in both infant and maternal mortality rates.
  6. Encovi, the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida, a survey on living conditions done by a group of universities, found that the citizens lost an average of 24 pounds of body weight in 2017 due to extreme hunger. Around 61.2 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty. The study also reported that poverty rates had increased from the previous year from 82 percent to 87 percent. Furthermore, 61.9 percent of the adult population reported going to bed hungry because they couldn’t afford to buy food. A U.S. based NGO, Mercy Corps, has expanded their operations on the Colombo-Venezuelan borders to appease such disparities as many Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia to escape the skyrocketing food prices.
  7. There has been a staggering increase in the number of children dying from malnutrition and dehydration that have been reported in recent years. South American Initiative is trying to mitigate the situation and has been successful in providing 1,500 meals per week and clean drinking water to the orphans and malnourished adults in the hospitals to tackle the enlarging of malnourished patients.
  8. As per the 2017 survey done by the Congress of Venezuela, nine out of 10 main hospitals of the country were found to be short of diagnostic facilities, including x-ray machines and laboratories, with 64 percent of hospitals being unable to supply food to their patients. Healing Venezuela is an NGO fighting the expanding lack of medical services and doctors in the country. They have provided seven tons of urgent medical supplies to hospitals and NGOs in need.
  9. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has been able to assist 130 hospitals and institutions with more than 480,000 individuals served and more than 39,500 patients treated with its various programs targeting food, health, formula and school supplies.
  10. The country’s National Assembly estimated that prices rose 4,608 percent in 12 months in the span of 2017 to the end of January. Reports from the International Monetary Fund estimate that the inflation in Venezuela will rise to 10 million percent in 2019, an alarming projected increase from 1.37 million in 2018.

The Fight Continues

The former Health Minister, Antonieta Caporale, was fired shortly after he had released the health statistics in 2017, which were the only data provided by the government. The Venezuelan National Assembly had announced a humanitarian crisis in the country, further pleading for international humanitarian aid, which was quashed by the President.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela may seem bleak, there is hope for the country with NGOs playing a major role in helping improve the current state. Several organizations are working towards improving the condition of Venezuela, including the Trump administration who have shown support and held secret meetings with the opposing military forces to formulate plans to overthrow President Maduro.

– Nikhil Sharma

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in UgandaUnder the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, the U.S. selected Uganda as one of 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future is a U.S. global hunger and food security initiative that is primarily carried out by USAID. One main component of USAID’s Uganda strategy is nutrition since Uganda is among the top 20 countries with a high prevalence of malnutrition.

Effects of Malnutrition in Uganda

Malnutrition causes about 45 percent of child deaths in Uganda. Malnutrition severely affects children because it can lead to:

  • Stunting
  • Inability to gain/maintain weight
  • Frailty – especially regarding bone density, physical strength and endurance
  • A compromised immune system/greater risk of infection
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Anemia

Stunting is used as a primary indicator of malnutrition. As of 2018, 2.2 million (29 percent) of Ugandan children under the age of five are stunted, meaning they are too short for their age. About 850,000 (11 percent) of Ugandan children under the age of five are underweight and a further 300,000 (4 percent) are too thin for their height.

The severity of a child’s stunting directly relates to their degree of cognitive impairments. Adults who were malnourished as children often have lower educational attainment and earn decreased wages. These adults have a reduced likelihood of escaping poverty.

Malnutrition can also cause anemia, a condition marked by a low red blood cell count or low amounts of hemoglobin. More than 4 million (53 percent) of Uganda’s children under the age of five are anemic, but malnutrition in Uganda does not just affect children. USAID reports that 32 percent of women and 16 percent of men between the ages of 15 and 49 are anemic.

How USAID Fights Malnutrition in Uganda

One way USAID fights malnutrition is by training health care workers to better identify and manage malnutrition. In 2017, USAID helped more than 1,000 health care workers receive nutrition-related training, allowing them to reach more than 1.7 million Ugandan children.

USAID also works closely with Uganda’s government to implement programs for nutrition interventions on both national and local levels. These programs, plus more highly trained health care workers, have already had a massive impact on malnutrition in Uganda. With the help of USAID, the percentage of children under the age of five with stunted growth has been almost cut in half since 2001 when it was nearly 50 percent.

Some examples of the nutrition intervention programs include:

  • Routine nutrition monitoring
  • Nutrition rehabilitation
  • Counseling and education for caregivers on nutrition

Diversifying Diets

Dietary diversification interventions primarily change household food consumption patterns. In countries or regions where malnutrition is common, households often eat starch-based diets due to limited access to meats, dairy, fruits or vegetables. USAID’s Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project suggests increasing the consumption of animal-source foods as a possible dietary diversification intervention.

The nutrition education programs USAID and Uganda’s government have implemented work directly with caregivers, teaching them about the importance of certain types of food:

  • Foods that protect their children (vitamin- and mineral-rich foods)
  • Foods that build their children’s bodies (protein-rich foods)
  • Foods that give their children energy (foods with carbohydrates)

Dietary diversification’s objective is to increase the variety and quantity of nutrient-rich foods in a household’s diet.

Diversifying diets is generally achieved through social and behavioral changes. Besides the three types of food, nutrition education programs also provide cooking classes and teach caregivers about the importance of meal frequency, hygiene and even gardening. Changing behaviors such as meal frequency and hygiene greatly contribute to children’s overall health. Teaching caregivers about gardening improves their access to diverse foods.

USAID seeks to ensure that families have all of the knowledge and skills they need to maintain healthy diets and reduce the prevalence of malnutrition in Uganda.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in MalawiAccording to the U.K. Business Insider, Malawi was ranked one of the poorest countries in the world in 2017. Malawi is located between Zambia and Tanzania in Africa and approximately 74 percent of its population lives in poverty. This level of poverty has a great impact on the healthcare in Malawi. There are less than 300 registered doctors and 7,000 nurses in the entire country.

The number one cause of death in Malawi is HIV/AIDS, while neonatal disorders rank number four and nutritional deficiencies rank number eight. The healthcare in Malawi suffers greatly from the lack of provided funding which causes a lack of supplies. Also, there is a considerable lack of training for healthcare professionals, a factor that results in an infant mortality rate of approximately 90 deaths for every 1,000 births.

The healthcare in Malawi, or lack thereof, has a major impact on nutritional status. It is estimated that 50 percent of malnutrition is directly related to HIV infection. Only 19 percent of children between the ages of six months and 23 months of age receive a proper diet in Malawi. This lack of nutrition causes extreme anemia, vitamin A deficiencies and other micronutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies cause stunting of the child’s growth which has negative impacts on their overall development. Only one out of every three children receive proper healthcare in Malawi to treat malnutrition.

Fortunately, there are programs that are trying to improve the overall healthcare in Malawi. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been working with the healthcare system in Malawi since 2011. The CDC has provided scholarships for nurse-midwives and other professionals for training. The U.S. government has also partnered with the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) to incorporate training programs for healthcare professionals, improve surveillance systems, improve laboratories and implement prevention programs.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has acknowledged that half of Malawi’s children are stunted from malnutrition and that 23 percent of child deaths are associated with malnutrition. The WFP was organized to raise awareness all over the world for these children of Malawi. Also, in 2011, the Republic of Malawi launched SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) which raises money for MOH to send to the local facilities. SUN is largely funded by the USAID and Irish Aid. The USAID has also funded the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III (FANTA III). This program provides nutrition assessment, counseling, support and HIV treatment programs.

The healthcare in Malawi is still struggling a great deal to provide proper care and improve the nutritional status of children. In 2003, Ripple Africa was created as a charity that focuses on improving healthcare in Malawi. Ripple Africa focuses on funding dispensaries and local clinics and hospitals. This charity relies on overseas volunteer doctors and nurses to provide much assistance. With these programs assisting the healthcare in Malawi, the system will hopefully continue to improve and save lives.

– Kristen Hibbett

Photo: Flickr

Starving Syrians“Starvation is a different level of abhorrence because it is a slow, gruesome death”. -Dr. Leah Carmichael

The Syrian Civil War seems more and more hopeless as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime gain more power over insurgents and civilians by intentionally starving them and using biological and chemical warfare. With Russian support, Assad has been able to avoid punishment for his war crimes and consequently gain more power.

The Syrian refugee crisis is probably the most notorious aspect of this ongoing war. As per UNHCR, there are 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Syria. More than five million Syrians have fled the country; however, there are still more than six million that have left their homes and are homeless within their country.

Further, the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that there are 6.5 million starving Syrians.

Despite Syria’s seemingly grim future, non-governmental agencies like Mercy Corps have stepped up to help in addition to governmental programs. Mercy Corps helps feed hundreds of thousands of people each month by donating flour to local bakeries and ensuring that people in need are able to get bread from the bakeries.

Nonetheless, Mercy Corps has faced some setbacks, as the Assad regime does not want it to assist starving Syrians. Dr. Leah Carmichael stated that “one of the main roles of the government is to ensure a food supply”.

Dr. Carmichael is a respected professor at the University of Georgia and a food insecurity expert. She has been researching the puzzle of Assad’s starvation war tool to determine why governments starve their people to gain power and later want their people’s support. She is also interested in the role of Mercy Corps in replenishing food for the Syrian people. The Borgen Project had the privilege of interviewing her on March 2, 2018, to gain more insight into the current situation and Mercy Corps.

“Food is really one of those things where if you’re hungry and you weren’t before, it catalyzes that kind of protest [referencing the Arab Spring, the start of the Syrian Civil War],” Carmichael stated in the interview. “Understanding that food is a major provision of welfare for a government and then understanding that the tactic of taking food away and making people hungry is either unintentionally or intentionally a way which governments lose their authority to rule”.

As for Mercy Corps shaping the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Carmichael says it is unintentional yet powerful in helping starving Syrians because “as much as you are keeping civilians alive, you are shaping the future legacy of this war as not just being one where the international community turned a blind eye as mass genocide occurred…as in this case, Mercy Corps is shaping the human side of it.”

However, Carmichael mentioned that Mercy Corps’ role is still a “drop in the bucket” in comparison to what a government could do. She said that everyday people can help this situation by determining “what active role if any should the U.S. play abroad”.

She also mentioned that a growing norm is starting to emerge in the international community called the responsibility to protect, “the idea is that pure sovereignty matters for states, but in the cases where you see sovereignty being used to promote genocide, the international community has a responsibility to step in to protect those people against their government”.

Thus, public pressure to take action could lead the U.S. to possibly intervene. However, public support is withering in terms of U.S. global intervention. As Carmichael stated in a 2017 TEDx Talk, “the abject horror of war is our indifference to it”. Doing good and helping people in need is very much “something that we as Americans like on paper.”

Suzy Hansen from the Washington Post shares a similar view in that Americans under President Trump are beginning to dislike more intervention as an “America First” ideal grows. Further, Americans are learning more about the “darker” parts of American history that have resulted from U.S. intervention, such as U.S.-backed coups. This suggests that many Americans are re-thinking the global role of the U.S., as intervention has the potential to cause more harm than good and can negatively impact relations and foreign policy.

To help starving Syrians, it seems that the international system needs to intervene, as Russian-led peace talks may only prolong suffering. However, “what to do” will prove to be a difficult and methodological decision to make.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

How Many People are StarvingMost people have an idea of what global starvation is. Nonprofit marketing campaigns aim to tug at the heartstrings of the developed world. And, as a whole, they have done their job. People know about the existence of world hunger. But what about the details? How many people are starving?

This is where knowledge of global hunger ends for many. Despite seeing it in advertisements, global hunger seems like a distant idea to most. Few people know that undernourishment impacts 795 million people globally. Even though this number has decreased by 167 million over the last ten years, that number is still large.

For certain areas, the problem is worse than others. One out of every five people in the developing world struggles with undernourishment. Looking forward, there is reason to believe that the situation will not become easier to solve. To meet forecasted demand, food production in developing countries must double by 2050.

The need for action is clear. Several countries have undertaken efforts to diminish how many people are starving globally. Yet, given the size of the problem, the solution has proved to be complex.

The U.N.’s 1996 World Food Summit met to develop methods to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The summit included almost 200 countries committed to helping global food security.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not able to cut hunger in half by 2015. The majority of the failure was due to a lack of concrete plans for implementation. Despite falling short of its goal to cut hunger, the summit engaged world leaders on food issues. It offered a forum to brainstorm solutions to global questions about food disparity.

Turning questions about how many people are starving into action to help is key. Indeed, there is a fair amount of momentum pushing forward the solution to food disparity. Total calories per person have risen since the 1960s. Yet, despite rising calories per person, certain issues with food security remain.

What is the solution? To increase global food access, many believe the answer lies in technology. A few of these methods include:

  • A “seawater greenhouse” that is able to use nearby saltwater to grow crops in the desert
  • Precision agriculture that utilizes GPS for fertilization and watering
  • Robot farm workers to maximize efficiency and profit

Yet, despite being marvels of technology, these solutions are costly. An easier way to lessen food inequality is through the proper education of farmers. In developing nations, teaching avoidance of slash-and-burn agriculture can make a noticeable difference. This farming practice is common in areas where growing is difficult or education is lacking.

Farmers in certain regions cut down and burn the land before planting a crop. In doing this, the ash acts as a fertilizer, producing crops without investment. But despite producing short-term yields for regions, the practice is destructive over time. Lack of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions and massive deforestation can result from slash-and-burn. To combat this, programs to educate farmers on sustainable farming practices are essential.

Solutions to this destructive method exist. The Inga Alley Cropping method of farming is one such example. In this method, farmers plant Inga trees to balance the soil’s nutritional content. The result is a sustainable way to grow in places where slash-and-burn is the norm.

Education is a key part of solving food disparities. And with the numbers showing a decline in undernourishment, there is hope on the horizon. Education programs continue to lessen food insecurity in the developing world. Working with technology, there is great potential for increasing global food access.

These factors, combined with continued government efforts, could be the answer. Working together, a world with dinner on every table might be obtainable. Asking questions is the first step.

– Robert Schacht

Photo: Flickr

The Effects of Poverty in the Philippines
The Philippines is a country located in Southeast Asia comprised of more than 7,000 islands. Poverty has proven to be one of the most significant challenges facing this country and its citizens. Filipinos are having a hard time surviving in such difficult conditions, and more and more are falling into extreme poverty.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the major causes of poverty include: low economic growth, a weak agricultural sector, increased population rates and a high volume of inequality. Because of these factors, there are a lot of effects of poverty in the Philippines that make it difficult for people to live in such circumstances.

Inability to Afford Housing

With poverty plaguing the country and employment opportunities being scarce, many Filipinos are unable to afford housing, which puts them in danger of turning to the streets for accommodation. In 2012, extreme poverty within the Philippines affected 19.2 percent of the population or around 18.4 million people.

This poverty line survived on $1.25 a day, making it extremely difficult to rise out of poverty and find affordable housing for Filipinos and their families.

Malnutrition in the Philippines

Hunger is one of the extreme effects of poverty in the Philippines. With little money to buy food, Filipinos are having to survive on very limited food; even when food supplies are stable, they are most accessible in other areas where people have enough income to purchase the food.

And with such an unequal distribution of income, there is a low demand for food supplies in less developed areas that are home to low-income residents. The quality of food is also decreasing — rice used to be the main source of food for Filipinos, but now it has largely been replaced with instant noodles, which is cheaper but less nutritious. As a result, malnutrition has become a lot more common.

Child Labor

With poverty taking a toll on Filipinos, parents often can’t make enough money to support their families; children then have to be taken out of school to work in harsh conditions. Statistics show that around 3.6 million children, from ages 5-17, are child laborers in the Philippines. This is 15.9 percent of the entire population.

Crime and Thievery

With conditions so troublesome, people often resort to crime and thievery to survive. Research found that one of the overwhelming reasons to steal is due to difficulties caused by poverty. Without proper employment, people turn to stealing, especially since family sizes are rather large, and there are a lot of people to provide for.

There are too many people and not enough resources. And with such conditions, people become desperate and practice drastic measures to provide for themselves and their families.

Even with later statistics found in 2015, 21.6 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Conditions do not seem to be improving, but there is always the hope for new development. As a result, it is important to understand the effects of poverty in the Philippines because it is a country in need of assistance.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in America and World’s Poorest Countries Has Common SolutionThe United Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food…” As important as these words are, they have not yet become a reality for many people in the world. Some common solutions to food insecurity may help alleviate world hunger.

Falling Short of the U.N. Standards

Often, countries represented in the U.N. fall short on the promise to provide adequate, nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurities can be attributed to many causes worldwide: political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.

It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable populations. Ethnic minority groups, women and children and those living in rural areas often suffer the most. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, out of Niger’s population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas were vulnerable to food insecurities.

Identifying the Problem in Food Distribution

In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale/medium sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.” Essentially, the middlemen are taking profit directly out of the farmer’s hands.

In America, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel very long distances throughout this process to be consumed by people who could have purchased comparable foods grown much closer to home.

One example is the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (HPFDC), which is one of the largest food distributors in the United States, with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York. It supplies over 50 percent of the food consumed by people in the area and also supplies its goods to about 20 percent of people in the region. Yet, still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity levels of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of those people being children.

Solutions Lie in Local Support

About 13 years after the Niger food crisis, the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in nations like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lower the high levels of food insecurities and issues related to them, such as malnutrition and the high mortality rate among children under the age of five.

One essential component in the common solutions to food insecurity is assisting locals with the sustainable management of local natural resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity. This is directed toward localized measures to solve food deficiency issues.

The same steps need to happen in America. The HPFDC in New York, in an effort led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is planning to upgrade facilities and operations. A plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distribution, supporting local farms and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

These common solutions to food insecurity could help feed millions of people around the world. Reducing the middlemen in food distribution will put more money back into the hands of the farmers. Additionally, by reinforcing sustainable farming at local levels, farmers will have more opportunities to provide relief from food insecurity in their own communities with more nutritional diversity, which can reduce malnutrition and high mortality rates.

Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr

Poverty A Factor in High Rates of Obesity in India
Alongside rising poverty rates, India’s population has encountered elevated cases of nutrition-related diseases. However, as a result of the fast-food proliferation movement caused by the multi-spread of fast food industries through globalization, the problem of obesity in India succeeded in outweighing its underweight and malnourishment issues due to its multiple life-threatening comorbidities.

With 270 million people reported as living below the poverty line, India was not previously seen to be at risk of obesity which was correlated with higher and more frequent access to food. Yet, the Indian lifestyle altered dramatically, from an active mode of living requiring constant strength and mobility in agricultural fields and industrial sectors to a sedentary lifestyle dependent on machines and technological innovations brought upon the country by the developed nations in the form of transnational corporations.

According to the Lancet journal in 2013, the percentage of obesity in India ranked the nation as one of the top 10 countries having the highest proportion of obese citizens. In fact, India and China together contributed to 15 percent of the world’s obesity, with a total of 46 million Chinese and 30 million Indian obese people.

 

New Food and Dietary Patterns

Globalization and the expansion of transnational corporations have been continuously associated as two main underlying causes of the obesity epidemic witnessed in developing countries. Foreign trade through multinational companies paved the pathway for increasing the availability of international food products and foreign brands at reduced prices.

This shift in dietary patterns and the quality of food products in the markets not only negatively affected the profit of local farmers and the country’s overall economy, but it also led to the development of a double burden of disease on the healthcare system. On the one hand, infectious and communicable diseases continue to strive and cause seasonal outbreaks; on the other, the afterthoughts of obesity including heart disease, liver damage and diabetes reflect the dangerous health impact of obesity through high incidence and prevalence rates.

 

Impact of Obesity in India

Dr. Anoop Misra, chairman of the National Diabetes, Obesity, and Cholesterol Foundation, highlighted obesity in India as one of the most concerning health issues for the country’s population, particularly among children. According to Misra, recent childhood obesity statistics are alarming as the intra-abdominal and truncal subcutaneous adiposity features in children tend to expose them to further lifelong comorbidities such as type II diabetes. Misra also asserted the crucial need for intervention programs in the country addressing obesity through healthy nutrition, physical activity, and stress management.

 

Measures for Improvement

Despite the significant impact caused by obesity on the overall development of the country, only few steps and initiatives have been taken to address the problem. Certain non-profit organizations provide resources for the youth and their parents to help them fight obesity, while medical professionals tend to recommend bariatric surgery rather than preventive treatment due to higher effectiveness and efficiency.

Future efforts in the country should be directed towards primary prevention, including educational and awareness campaigns, physical education opportunities and access to healthy/locally grown food at lower prices. Such attempts could contribute in proactively lowering the rates of obesity in India rather than relying on expensive means to fight the problem.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr