Examining Disability and Poverty in FranceDisability is affecting 12 million people in France. Limited mobility and sensation not only prevents disabled people from normal daily and professional life but they also lead to a higher risk of poverty. According to Eurostat, disability and poverty in France go hand in hand. In 2018, 21% of the French population over 16 years old with a disability were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with less than 15% of those with no limitation. This considerable gap exists across the European Union, although the proportion of each member state varies significantly. On average, the possibility for a disabled EU citizen to suffer from poverty is about 10% greater than that of their counterparts.

Governmental Policies

In 2018, the French government rolled out a comprehensive and interministerial policy to increase resources available to the disabled population and to improve their living conditions. This policy embraced housing, health, education, work, transport as well as access to culture, sport and recreational activities. In the following five years, the government determined to provide disabled people with a preferential allocation of social housing for rent, develop health prevention among disabled people and enhance the status of healthcare workers and reduce the gap between the unemployment rate among citizens with disabilities and non-disabled people.

Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH)

Regarding the correlation between disability and poverty in France, the French government has already achieved its 2019 goal of increasing the Allowance for disabled adults (Allocation aux adultes handicapés/ AAH) to €900 per month. AAH is a minimum-income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

A French resident with a disability severity rating of at least 80% can benefit from AAH for a period of one to 10 years, depending on each particular case. For those rated between 50% and 79% with a substantial reduction of access to employment, they are eligible for AAH for one to five years. As of 2020, the maximum AAH is €902.70 per month, with annual income ceilings of around €11,000 for a person living alone and around €20,000 for a couple.

Facilities and Mobilities

French law requires that all new buildings and existing public buildings must be adapted and accessible to people with disabilities. The transformations have to take some time, yet large cities such as Paris and Lyon and some popular touristic regions have become much more accessible in recent years. For example, all buses in Paris are now equipped with platforms facilitating passengers with limited ability to get on and off more easily. Additionally, any disabled resident of France can request a carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) that grants them priority access to seating in public transport and free parking.

Although the government and social organizations are taking various actions to improve the well-being of people with disabilities and poverty in France, the current situation is hardly satisfying. Joncour, a 19-year-old university student and non-verbal autistic, complains that the departmental home for people with disabilities (MDPH) can only grant him three hours a day of subsidized personal assistance. The remaining hours cost the family about €1,000 per month so that he can go to class and have a normal life like his peers. This expense has enormously impacted the daily life of the family and sadly drove them to a precarious position. There is still a long way to go to improve the living standards of those with disabilities and poverty in France. Hopefully, after the five-year term of the new policies, the living conditions of disabled people will significantly improve in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Z EventEven though the world is more connected than ever, poverty remains a large problem as many people are left behind. Fortunately, the internet has been used as a platform for change, resulting in unprecedented awareness of global poverty. One example of this is Z Event, a French charity project hosted annually on the live streaming website Twitch. Z Event started with just two people who wanted global change. The video gaming event has been shattering world records and raising millions of dollars for charity.

Twitch Live Stream Platform

Z Event would not have been possible without the rise of the Twitch platform. Twitch is a website that people can use for live streaming. This means that whatever viewers are watching is happening in real-time. This creates a new world of interactivity. While Twitch was originally created for live streaming video games, the website has now expanded into other genres like art, music and chess. Twitch now has a massive following, with over 140 million monthly users.

It was only a matter of time before content creators used Twitch as a platform to raise money for charity. In July 2013, Summer Games Done Quick raised $257,181 for Doctors Without Borders in a charity stream on Twitch. As Twitch started growing in popularity, charity streams became even more popular. In 2019, Twitch streamer “DrLupo”, raised more than $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 24 hours.

Video Gaming: Z Event

With the success of charity streams in the past and the increasing global presence of Twitch, the time was right for Z Event. In March 2016, a charity stream called “Avengers Project” raised 170,000 euros for Save the Children. The goal of the project was to gather every popular French streamer to raise awareness for certain issues. While the project started small, the annual event grew considerably. In 2017, the now named “Z Event” raised 500,000 euros. Z Event is the annual charity event by French streamers ZeratoR and Dach. As the project grew larger, more popular French streamers joined the event. In 2020, 41 Twitch streamers participated in the event.

Video Gaming for a Cause

While each individual streamer is popular on their own, their platform increases exponentially when combined. In 2020, the event had an average of 248 thousand viewers with a peak of nearly 700 thousand viewers. This large amount of awareness led to large sums of money raised for charity. In 2019, Z Event hit the world record for most money raised in a charity stream on Twitch, over 3.5 million euros. In 2020, Z Event shattered its own record, raising over 5.7 million euros, which is approximately $6.7 million.

Each year, the event raises money for a different cause. The money raised in 2019 was for the Pasteur Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches diseases. In 2020, Z Event raised money for Amnesty International, an organization focused on global human rights.

Video Gamers Uniting for Charity

These efforts have been applauded by many. Mark Hamill supported Z Event on Twitter and President of France, Emmanuel Macron has also commended the project.

While poverty remains a problem in the world today, the growing platform of the internet along with websites like Twitch show significant promise. Millions of dollars have been raised for charity to fight poverty. France’s Z Event shows that when people come together, the impact is substantial.

– Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

France is helping to protect the Amazon
One of the organizations making a large difference in protecting the Amazon is the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). This agency is a public financial institution that operates based on policy given by the French government. Its main objective is to fight poverty and promote sustainable development. Here are five ways France is helping to protect the Amazon.

5 Ways France is Helping to Protect the Amazon

  1. Contribution through Grants: Since 2019, AFD gave 15.5 million euros in grants to Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. These grants aim to help the local population and governments increase protective measures for the environment. To make these grants possible, AFD combined efforts with other public development banks, including the Inter-American Development Bank. The Inter-American Development Bank aims to promote biodiversity in the Amazon, which is one of the AFD’s objectives as well.
  2. TerrAmaz Program: Another way that France and the AFD are protecting the Amazon is by giving money to the TerrAmaz program. This program is located at five different sites in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. TerrAmaz is working on new models of large-scale ecosystem conservation with a focus on low-carbon economic development. Additionally, TerrAmaz monitors deforestation at each local site and promotes sustainable agricultural practices to lower deforestation effects. The grant given to TerrAmaz from AFD is worth 9.5 million euros.
  3. Supporting Indigenous Tribes: The third way AFD is helping to protect the Amazon region is by supporting the local tribes that inhabit the land. AFD gave one million euros to help the Kayapo and Kapoto tribes in Brazil. Indigenous communities in the Amazon face tremendous pressure from those looking to seize and deforest the land. In response, AFD supports tribes to prevent that from happening. This project is led by Conservation International with the help of other local organizations that support the indigenous community. These organizations will help rehabilitate the land after fires, create a monitoring system for fires and introduce new sustainable agricultural activities to the tribes.
  4. Sustainable Cocoa Production: AFD, along with the French Facility for Global Environment, is giving a total of 7.5 million euros to support sustainable cocoa production. The project is focused specifically on the production of cocoa in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Conservation International has partnered with Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières and Kaoka, an organic fair trade chocolate company. The aim of the project is to increase cocoa sales, while also preserving the biodiversity in the area. One method is to combine the farming of cocoa with tree planting.
  5. Political Pressure: The final way that France is helping to protect the Amazon is not on the ground but in the political sphere. President Emmanuel Macron of France has openly criticized the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, over his lack of effort and action towards protecting the Amazon rainforest after the devastating forest fires. President Macron committed France to a $500 million package to save the Amazon, which includes other South American and European countries, but not Brazil. Macron would like to work with Brazil, but is determined to help save the Amazon regardless of an agreement between the two nations.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily paused some of the work that AFD has funded, it is nonetheless a major step for a big European power to support the Amazon. France and the AFD have set an example for the rest of the world through its work to protect the Amazon. Hopefully, other countries will also make saving the Amazon rainforest a priority of their efforts.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

Top 6 Facts about Child Poverty in FranceChildren are among the first victims of poverty. Even in France, one of the world’s most affluent countries, child poverty is still a serious issue today, if not an increasingly urgent emergency. Here are six facts about child poverty in France.

6 Things to Know about Child Poverty in France

  1. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one out of five children under 18 years old in France live below the poverty line. This means that more than three million children in France suffer from their parents’ financial weakness and live on less than about €1000 per month, with many of them actually living on much less. This statistic is astonishing especially considering that the total population of poverty in France was 8.8 million in 2017.
  2. In France, 20% of households have difficulties paying for their children’s meals at the school canteen. To cope with this problem, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan in September 2018. As a result of this plan, primary schools provided free breakfast to the poorest students as well as subsidized lunches for €1 each in the school canteen.
  3. Child poverty in France is closely related to single-parent families who usually lack financial sources than the rest of the population. One-third of impoverished children live in single-parent families, especially those made up of single women and children. As of 2018, single mothers are among the most affected by poverty in France, before immigrants and elderly people. The fraught financial situation and high educational expenses have sadly led some young women to pay for their children’s studies through prostitution. The students’ union SUD Etudient estimated in 2006 that the number of single mothers struggling to pay for their children’s’ education was around 40,000 and continues to rise.
  4. The impoverished family background may reproduce further inequalities in education and employment. According to the 2015 UNICEF report, 140,000 children were dropping out of school each year. UNICEF also criticized France’s educational system, in which children from unprivileged families have less chance to enter universities, for failing to gear up social mobility and widening the gap between the rich and the poor instead. It estimated that it takes six generations for children born in impoverished families to attain an average income in France.
  5. There are about 30,000 children in France who are homeless and 9,000 who live in slums, many of whom are foreigners without legal status. The charitable organization Secours Catholique, which helps more than 67,000 impecunious people in need in France, claims that more than 40% of the families they assisted are immigrants, and only less than half of them have legal status in France. As a result, they do not have the right to work or benefit from social welfare.
  6. Nevertheless, thanks to its social service and healthcare, France remains one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rates despite its issue of child poverty. In fact, the 4% rate of child mortality in France is the same as that in Germany, Spain and Italy, lower than 6% in Canada and 8% in the United States.

These six facts about child poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a country that is as wealthy as France. However, by shedding light on child poverty in France the government and charity organizations will work to alleviate youth poverty in its early stages.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr 

Period Poverty in FranceMenstruation shame and period poverty have become hot topics in France in recent years. Monthly tampons, pads and menstrual pain medications can be a heavy financial burden for an impoverished woman. As Règles élémentaires, a leading charitable association fighting against period poverty in France estimates, a woman has to spend around €10,000 to €20,000 on menstrual products in her lifetime.

Multiple campaigns took place in the early 2010s to appeal for more affordable sanitary products, mainly by calling for the lowering of the tampon tax. At the time, tampons were taxed as a luxury item, at 20%. In 2016, France became the first country in Europe to reduce the tampon tax to 5.5%. This brought menstrual products in line with other primary-need products such as shampoo or toilet paper.

The Labour Code in France states that an employer must “provide workers with the means to ensure their individual cleanliness.” However, according to the French Institute for Public Opinion (IFOP), there are still 1.7 million French women suffering from period poverty in 2019.

Feminist Organizations

Règles élémentaires has been collecting hygiene products for impoverished women in need since 2015. It is the first French association that fights against period poverty as well as menstrual taboo. The success of this association soon inspired many more initiatives in France to address period poverty. For instance, a grocery store at Paris-Diderot University offers sanitary products at only 10% of the selling price to students with economic difficulties.

The student health insurance company, La Mutuelle Des Étudiants (LMDE) started to include sanitary protection reimbursement for up to €20-25 per year. A women’s health charity, ADSF, distributes sanitary kits to women in need. This especially targets homeless shelters where women are often too reluctant to ask for them. “We now know that sanitary pads must be included in the kits distributed at shelters – and not just razors, as used to be the case when people associated homelessness with males only,” the group explains.

Government Policies

The feminist organizations and their activities gradually brought period poverty to the government’s attention. Two members of France’s National Assembly drafted a 107-page report on how to lift menstrual taboos and alleviate period poverty. After the report, Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa and her colleague Christelle Dubos announced in early 2020 that the French government will carry out a one-year trial of free distribution of hygienic products for women in schools, hospitals, shelters and prisons. The budget will be €1 million. The initiative will start in the Île-de-France region as soon as the end of October 2020. In the first phase of the experiment, the region has chosen 31 high schools based on their overall percentage of female students and scholarship recipients. The regional government will provide these chosen schools free organic sanitary products and dispensers.

French menstrual activists are still advocating that social security should cover all menstrual products, as it does for condoms. They have also devised a plan of vouchers and pre-paid cards for women in need to make their own intimate choices, rather than the government deciding which product they should receive.  While great strides have been made to alleviate the financial burden and social stigma as it pertains to periods, there is much more to do to further alleviate period poverty in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

France’s Foreign Aid
France is a country in Western Europe that people know for its wines and its medieval art. France is a generous donor of foreign aid, which is the voluntary transfer of resources from one country to another. This aid can take several forms, including money, military assistance and natural resources. The purpose of foreign aid is to provide humanitarian relief and support to other nations. In addition, it is a strategic way to elevate national security and garner assistance in return from other countries in time of need. France is the fifth-largest donor country in the world. In 2019, the country allocated $12.2 billion to foreign aid. Here are five facts about France’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About France’s Foreign Aid

  1. France has prioritized five areas of development. International stability and climate change are some of the most important of the government’s priorities, along with global education, health and gender equality. France aligns these priorities with several strategies, such as the gender equality strategy for 2018 to 2022, which will allow it to approach and contribute to overall global progress.
  2. France emphasizes support for priority countries. France provides at least 50% of its allocated foreign aid funds to 19 countries that are mostly in Northern and Central Africa. These countries include Ethiopia, Chad, Haiti and Senegal. These funds primarily go to addressing climate disruption and promoting economic development.
  3. France distributes a large amount of its aid in the form of loans. In comparison to other donors, France’s foreign aid policy accounts for more than twice the average amount of loans as exhibited by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The DAC’s Peer Review of France recommended in 2018 that the country increase the number of grants it gives while decreasing its dependency on loans.
  4. France intends to increase its foreign aid budget. Currently, France allocates 0.44% of its gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid. The country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has set a goal of attributing 0.55% of the GNI to foreign aid by 2022. This would increase the budget from its current amount, $12.2 billion, to over $15 billion, allocating nearly $3 billion extra to France’s foreign aid.
  5. France ranks highly for foreign aid donations in several categories. The country ranks second among the top 23 donors for aid to education, and it ranks the highest for donations to the environmental sector and general budgetary support. France’s commitment to funding these sectors in foreign aid ensures its progression on a global scale, improving educational attainment and environmental conservation for the country’s donor recipients.

France is a highly successful nation in terms of providing foreign aid. Through this, France is able to contribute to global environmental preservation, human development and gender equality, economic development and peace and stability. Nations receiving aid benefit from these improvements, along with economic growth and poverty reduction. France has committed itself to further developing its foreign aid policy and increasing the budget to offer further support.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in France
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the foundations of the world’s healthcare systems to an extreme level. Healthcare workers have traditionally had exhausting and demanding working conditions that often lead to burnout and PTSD long before the start of the pandemic. While several other countries’ hospitals are getting substantial pay cuts, France’s healthcare workers are finally getting the pay raise that they rightfully deserve.

Healthcare in France

Many have often referred to healthcare in France, or “La Sécurité Sociale,” as among the best in the world, stating that it is high quality, very accessible and affordable for the citizens of France. Its national insurance program receives most of its funding through employer payrolls and income taxes. When someone must go in for a checkup or procedure, “La Sécurité Sociale” provides funding for 70% of the medical bill. Private insurance, known as a mutuelle, subsidizes a large portion of the 30% that is leftover. The majority of the population has a mutuelle. However, no healthcare system is perfect and every one of them comes with its flaws.

Months before the COVID-19 pandemic started, protestors were discussing the issue of better wages for healthcare workers. According to a report from Aljazeera.com, these protests have reached a boiling point due to the stress and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the workers who peacefully protested received fines or even went to jail for breaking social distancing and gathering rules. The root causes of these protests stem from the healthcare worker’s low pay and low staff that have been decreasing yearly. Ironically, while France’s healthcare system ranks among the best in the world, its healthcare workers are among the lowest-paid among established economies. As a result, doctors and nurses are in the tough position of having to accept employment through privately owned practices instead of hospitals.

Healthcare Reforms

On Monday, July 13, 2020, the French government finally heard the voices and outcries of healthcare workers. BBC News reported that the French government and several different labor unions were able to reach an agreement after seven long weeks of complex negotiations. One of the main overseers of how France has handled the coronavirus is its newly appointed prime minister, Jean Castex. He made the announcement that healthcare workers would receive an additional €8 billion ($9 billion), which will equal an additional €183 ($215) a month. While this additional funding may not have addressed all of the demands that healthcare workers requested, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Mr. Castex went on to say, “It’s also a way of catching up the delay for each and everyone – including perhaps myself – has their share of responsibility.” This monumental decision was passed just one day shy of Bastille Day, which is traditionally a national holiday in honor of the French Revolution. In 2020, however, the holiday will provide national recognition to the doctors and nurses that have been on the front lines since the start of COVID-19.

It is no secret that the devastation of this pandemic has pushed many of the world’s healthcare systems to a near breaking point. Healthcare in France has especially undergone trial and testing, but this pay raise is a step in the right direction during such uncertain times. It is a promising notion that the world’s healthcare workers are getting well-earned recognition as the heroes that the world desperately needs right now.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in France
Nearly 9 million people in France, about 14% of the population, live under the poverty line, defined as 60% of the median income. However, the large total number does not necessarily mean destitution. Under the same criterion, the poverty rate in France is lower than that in many other developed countries. Moreover, France has long been active in reducing poverty at national, European and global levels, and many other countries have drawn lessons from various exemplary innovations in poverty eradication in France. 

France and the UN

In 1989, France proposed the resolution 1989/10 to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of the United Nations, requesting to give particular attention to extreme poverty and exclusion from society. It was the first time that the commission raised extreme poverty as an independent issue, and the adoption of the resolution marked the starting-point of the U.N.’s work on extreme poverty and human rights.

From then on, every year, France presented a resolution on extreme poverty to the HRC. In 2012, France presented a resolution together with 39 other countries and had it adopted as The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. The document sets out the principles that form the basis for all poverty reduction and eradication policies, such as rights of the child, equality between men and women, transparency and access to information, etc.

Over decades of international solidarity policies, the number of people in extreme poverty around the world has successfully dropped by more than half since 1990. In 2015, the U.N. set the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of 2030, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in every corner of the globe. Following this universal call, France’s main aim is to adopt national and international policies to remedy current situations of extreme poverty and inequality.

Governmental Anti-poverty Plan

In September 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron — though people sometimes criticize him as a “president of the rich” — announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan. The new plan focused on helping the young from poor families and dealing with unemployment and introduced various innovations in poverty eradication in France. Macron announced compulsory school or vocational training for all until the age of 18 and free breakfast at primary school for the poorest students as well as subsidized school lunches for €1 each. He also granted funding to open new daycare centers and other extra crèche places in the most deprived regions in France, in order to help new mothers return to work. The government promised to reform the social benefits system and to extend completely free healthcare to several million more people.

By the beginning of 2020, the French government had allocated €1.9 million to the Red Cross and other welfare organizations in Mayotte, one of the poorest of all the 101 French départements.

Fourth World People’s University

A French priest, Joseph Wresinski, founded the ATD Fourth World organization in France in 1957, aiming toward the eradication of global poverty. Fifteen years later, the organization established the Fourth World People’s University that provides people living in poverty with opportunities to participate in political and public life as well as in the production of first-hand knowledge of fighting against poverty. In regular meetings and dialogues, people in extreme poverty share opinions and experience with others who work in solidarity with them, and they together work for a more inclusive world. Since then, having their voice heard, people have benefited from People’s Universities in eight regions throughout France and in a dozen other countries.

In 2019, some 100 participants of the European Fourth World People’s Unversity gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels and met with European deputies and various European institutions. They delivered the messages from the poor and discussed how the E.U. can address poverty, by stressing the impact of family-related policies on people living in poverty and working on indicators of poverty.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)

On October 17, 1987, Wresinski gathered 100,000 people on the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza in Paris and launched the first commemoration to the victims of poverty and hunger. In 1992, in memory of the death of the humanist priest, the United Nations instituted the date of October 17 as the official annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to help the people living in extreme poverty fight actively and to make their voices heard. For the IDEP of 2018, France and Burkina Faso organized a conference at the U.N. in New York, delivering speeches from ambassadors, activists as well as people living in extreme poverty, to advocate the U.N. goal of eradicating extreme poverty for everyone, everywhere.

Throughout the years, the world has witnessed many regional anti-poverty movements and innovations in poverty eradication in France become international. It is time for other affluent countries to learn the experience and take up more global responsibilities to reach the 2030 goal of the eradication of extreme poverty.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

hunger in France
Recently, France has made consistent progress towards eliminating hunger within its borders, throughout the European Union and in developing nations. However, with worsening global health conditions as an added stressor to those who suffer from food insecurity, it is imperative to end hunger in France and around the world.

Who Does Hunger in France Affect?

The majority of France’s most food insecure are the 200,000 plus homeless and those living in the outskirts of Paris.

Globally, one in nine people go hungry every day, and global hunger is increasing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that around 10.7% of the world’s population suffers from chronic undernourishment. Additionally, over 26.4% of the world’s population is food insecure.

The standard of living in France is relatively high due to the country’s inclusive social security systems. Access to basic needs and services such as food, water, health care and education are mostly available to all. However, while many reap the benefits of this system, disenfranchised minorities and essential workers in some parts of France have lost their jobs and access to meals. For example, in the lower-income districts that surround Paris, residents in cities like Clichy-sous-Bois require the generosity of food banks to get by.

Why Does Hunger Persist Today?

In France and on the global scale, poverty, climate change, poor public policy and food waste drastically increase hunger. These factors manifest in several ways. Some communities, like Clichy-sous-Bois, do not have equal access to resources and become stuck in cycles of poverty. Environmental degradation from unsustainable agriculture and increasing natural disasters negatively impacts crop yields, access to and distribution of food. Food waste exacerbates climate change by releasing dangerous levels of methane in landfills. Furthermore, food waste also deprives hungry people of quality food.

Furthermore, estimates determine that by the year 2050, the world will need to produce enough food to feed over 10 billion people. The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs stresses the need to transform the “agricultural and food systems” in France. According to the Ministry, “agriculture must be more sustainable and effective from economic, social and environmental perspectives to ensure food security and the health of individuals.”

The Strategy to End Hunger in France

Luckily, France has stepped up to reform the current food systems and agricultural practices that aggravate hunger and malnutrition locally and internationally. Through the Ministère de L’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères, France wrote the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture. This strategy works out a five-point plan that France will carry out between 2019 and 2024. This plan tackles the causes of hunger and serves as a leader in ending hunger in Europe and the world.

The five points of the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture are:

  1. To Strengthen the Global Governance of Food Security and Nutrition: France wishes to improve the effectiveness and coordination of international actors involved in the global governance of food security and nutrition.
  2. To Develop Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Agriculture is currently a leading cause of climate change and biodiversity loss. As a result, France wishes to confront these issues by promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
  3. To Strengthen France’s Action on Nutrition: Multiple factors lead to undernutrition in young children, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. These include access to quality food, clean water and conditions for good hygiene.
  4. To Support the Structuring of Sustainable Agri-food Chains to Promote the Creation of Jobs in Rural Areas: Targeted at younger generations and striving to be inclusive of family agriculture, agri-food chains are a good source of employment.
  5. To Enhance Food Assistance Actions to Improve the Resilience of Vulnerable Populations: The goal is to help struggling populations regain food autonomy in the face of recurring food crises.

More Solutions

In addition to this international plan, more immediate solutions in France aim to combat food waste locally. For example, Guillaume Garot, a member of Parliament in France, authored a food waste bill. This bill requires grocery stores to donate food that they would otherwise throw away. Additionally, this bill is the first of its kind, and the European Union quickly followed suit with similar goals.

The European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) works with the U.N. to use the 88 million tonnes of food that the E.U. wastes annually. A new set of sustainable development goals seek to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” in France. As a result, FEBA transforms unnecessary food waste into vast quantities of food donations for the hungry.

FEBA builds connections with existing food banks and global partners to strengthen the food bank networks in France and across Europe and help mediate the donations. This organization works to alleviate food insecurity by distributing the equivalent of 4.3 million meals every day. That is 781,000 tonnes of food that it delivers to 9.3 million food-insecure people. In France, the Banque Alimentaires annually donates 73,000 tonnes of food products to those in need.

Through persistent actions like the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture and food bank networks, the process to end hunger in France and worldwide is an ever more attainable goal.

– Rochelle Gluzman 
Photo: Flickr

Martinique's Pesticide Poisoning
From 1972 to 1993, Martinique used the pesticide chlordecone in banana plantations to eliminate the weevil, a type of beetle that was infesting the lands. Mainland France banned the use of this extremely toxic pesticide. However, the French government still authorized its use in the French West islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The chemical contaminated over 20,000 hectares of land between both islands. The world finally banned chlordecone production in 2009. However, it was too late to reverse the health damages Martinique’s pesticide poisoning left on the people of Martinique and the environment.

For almost five decades, the people of this island have been dealing with serious public health issues that chlordecone caused. Some of the issues include prostate cancer, nervous system disorders, high rates of premature births and exposure through breast milk. There is no viable decontamination method. In addition, traces of the pesticide will likely remain in the soil for at least 700 years. Martinique’s pesticide poisoning will come under control once the French government provides the funding for research that will allow a deeper understanding of the situation.

The People of Martinique

Ninety-two percent of the citizens on this island have tested positive for chlordecone poisoning. Contamination has reached the water and food supply, livestock and even marine life. This slow poisoning has caused many mothers to have premature babies. As a result, premature births are four times higher than the national average in Martinique. The contamination also affects the island’s men. Martinique has one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world with 577 new cases reported in 2018.

The pesticide is also affecting the children of Martinique. Nineteen percent of children tested for chlordecone exceeded the toxic dose. Contaminated and breastfeeding mothers are unintentionally poisoning their children through their milk. As the kids grow older, dietary exposure to chlordecone continues. This will increase their chances of developing cancer later on in life.

The Economy of Martinique

Because chlordecone poisoning has reached the waters surrounding Martinique, fishermen are having trouble staying in business. Thirty-three percent of coastal waters surrounding the island has a ban on fishing to prevent more citizens from eating poisoned food. Although this ban has kept the citizens safe, many families who rely on fishing to make a living are now struggling financially. The French government is providing some aid to these families. However, reports indicate that only 50 out of 506 fishermen received any aid. Depression and suicide are common within the fishing communities in Martinique.

Chemical contamination is also hurting the island’s exports. Martinique can no longer export much of the foods grown on the island to mainland France due to its lack of safety. This has not only hurt the economy but has also caused an uproar and a call for justice for the people of Martinique. France has banned the contaminated food. However, many in Martinique only have contaminated food. Many of the island’s citizens find this unfair. People started protests and campaigns in an attempt to get the attention of the French government. In September 2019, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, made a pledge to increase the budget for food controls of contaminated lands.

The Solutions for Martinique’s Pesticide Poisoning

Despite the lack of action by the French government, the farmers of Martinique have started to search for alternative solutions. Many of them are starting to grow their crops above land by using trees. Chlordecone is unable to travel through tree trunks which means that any crop that grows through trees will be chlordecone free. Lab testing has confirmed the lack of the toxic chemical in their crops. They are able to provide the people of Martinique with safe foods.

Along with growing food above land, farmers have started using alternative substances such as aldicarb, isophenphos, phenamiphos, cadusaphos and terbuphos which has stopped further spread of the toxic pesticide.

Despite these solutions, one of the biggest ways that the French government can help the people of Martinique is by providing the funding for research that will help them better understand chlordecone’s movement through the soil and water. Without this research, providing successful solutions will be impossible, and the people of Martinique will continue to suffer. Along with this, the government should also implement education to the population on how they can minimize their exposure to the toxic pesticide. Because the French government has ignored this issue for so long, the lack of understanding over how the pesticide threatens the environment and human health is unsettling and gaining knowledge should be the first step in solving Martinique’s pesticide poisoning. The French government has the funding and power to give the people of Martinique the quality of life they deserve.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons