Rice ATMs in VietnamIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneur Hoang Tuan Anh created a network of rice ATMs in Vietnam to help alleviate poverty and address food insecurity due to reduced household incomes. Vietnamese celebrity Dai Nghia drew inspiration from the initiative’s widespread success. On May 14, 2021, Nghia donated 15 tons of rice to distribute through four new rice ATMs in Cambodia. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice ATMs have proven successful in feeding those struggling with food insecurity in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Rice ATMs in Vietnam

The rice ATMs in Vietnam, coined by Tuan Anh, dispense 3.3 pounds of rice at a time to people in need. During Vietnam’s initial COVID-19 lockdown, about five million people became unemployed, pushing millions into poverty. The informal working sector took a hard hit as informal employment lacks the security and benefits that formal jobs promise.

The rice ATMs in Vietnam operate 24/7 to ensure food is always accessible to those in need. The ATMs were initially created as a temporary form of assistance during the pandemic, but Tuan Anh pledged to keep them going even after the pandemic in order to reduce hunger for impoverished people. In June 2020, Tuan Anh helped install seven rice ATMs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with the intention of installing rice ATMs in 30 total locations in Vietnam. The entrepreneur aims to open 100 ATMs in the foreseeable future.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia

COVID-19 has harshly impacted Cambodia. Between June 2020 and January 2021, the World Bank identified at least 150,000 “newly poor” households, equating to about 500,000 people. The virus significantly impacted Cambodian industries such as “tourism, manufacturing, exports and construction,” which accounts for 40% of all employment in the country.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia arrive at a crucial time as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Phnom Penh Red Cross Society is in charge of distributing the donated rice to the four rice ATMs in Cambodia. The rice ATMs in Cambodia were developed and sponsored by the original creator, Tuan Anh.

Largely due to these slowdowns, the economic growth rate in Cambodia decreased by 3.1% in 2020, making it “the sharpest decline in Cambodia’s recent history.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected already impoverished people in Cambodia, causing the poverty rate to double. As the poverty rate is forecasted to reach approximately 17.6%, the rice ATMs serve as a solution to overcoming the increased poverty presented in Cambodia.

The Future of Rice ATMs

Vietnam and Cambodia have strong diplomatic relations. Tuan Anh’s rice ATMs and Nghia’s rice donation in Cambodia have only bolstered the already positive relationship between the countries. In May 2021, The Central Vietnam – Cambodia Friendship Association and Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) donated more than $200,000 to Cambodia for COVID-19 relief efforts.

For the cities hit hard by the pandemic, the ATMs have served as a vital resource. The creation of rice ATMs in Cambodia will aid many people struggling with pandemic-induced food insecurity. Overall, the project is an example of the power of creativity and technological innovation in the fight against global poverty.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KenyaKenya is currently home to 46 million people. Over 35% of them suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition each year, with 2.6 million facing a food insecurity crisis. The state of food insecurity in this country is serious, with the country ranking 86 out of 117 countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index. Children are especially at risk, with just under a third of those who are food insecure suffering from stunted growth.  This is one of the many common issues related to hunger and poor nutrition. The rampant hunger in Kenya is a dire situation. However, there are some efforts to fight this crisis.

The Farming Issue

Nearly 75% of Kenyans rely on agriculture for all or part of their incomes. The industry makes up about a third of the Kenyan economy, but only one-fifth of the land in Kenya is suitable for farming. A lack of reliable irrigation forces farmers to rely on rain as their primary water source. Reliance on nature makes planting and harvesting unpredictable and risky. This is combed with the population boom in Kenya over the past 25 years. This has left the food supply limited at best and extremely vulnerable to weather patterns and natural disasters.

Domestic farmers are the main food providers in Kenya. The industry needs a robust workforce to keep up with the heavy demands of an ever-increasing population. However, the younger generation is uninterested in farm work and current farmers are getting too old for the job. Conversely, lack of employment also perpetuates hunger in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans are unemployed or underpaid, and many can’t afford to buy food in the first place. Poor infrastructure and high domestic taxes levied on farmers for transporting their goods are the cause of such steep food prices. These exorbitant transportation fees leave much of the population hungry.

Despite all of this, the issue of hunger in Kenya has generally improved over the past decades. Further, many organizations continue to battle this crisis and expand food access to the millions of struggling Kenyans.

World Vision

The Christian nonprofit World Vision tackles child poverty and injustice worldwide. The organization first branched out to Kenya in 2017. Upon arrival, World Vision volunteers saw villages suffering from drought and hunger. They noticed people eating animals like hyenas and vultures while others mourning the loss of their livestock, the remains of which were everywhere.

In the first year of its project, World Vision reached 3.5 million individuals. The organization was able to provide clean water, health care, and nutritional support. World Vision knows that hunger in Kenya is far from solved and doesn’t plan on stopping its efforts. The nonprofit has hope in expanding water and nutrition access as a way to help alleviate the suffering in this country.

Action Against Hunger

The “world’s hunger specialist,” Action Against Hunger, is a nonprofit working to end hunger with our lifetime. It provides global aid to children and families to treat and prevent malnutrition. The organization has worked in Kenya since 2002.

Its work has included implementing programs on health, water, sanitation, refugees, and childcare. The nonprofit has been able to expand access to health treatments, screenings, and services for those suffering from malnutrition. It also supported thousands of herders by providing livestock vaccinations and training animal health experts.

In 2019, the organization reached over 1.9 million people with its nutrition and health programs and nearly 50,000 people with its water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives. Additionally, it aided over 40,000 people with its food security and livelihood programs. This all added up to over two million people in 2019 alone, a huge effort for a team of only 43 employees.

Conclusion

Hunger in Kenya is a severe issue that has cost the lives and livelihoods of millions of individuals and families. Children are at severe risk of malnutrition and related diseases, while the farming industry is struggling to provide even a portion of the country’s necessary food supply. Aggressive and comprehensive government or international intervention to shore up farmers and expand their capacity to produce are absent. It is organizations like World Vision and Action Against Hunger that have to pick up the slack. Fortunately, they have been able to reach and save the lives of millions of Kenyans. The issue lives on, but the efforts of nonprofits continue to provide hope.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Hunger InitiativesFood security is a large topic in Africa due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and environmental factors, such as drought. Recently, many South Africans have experienced rapid food shortages. However, various hunger initiatives have taken off during this time.

The Issue

In South Africa alone, four million migrants are at risk of descending into poverty. The number of South Africans currently living in poverty — 40% of the population — is expected to increase within the next five years. Those already in poverty don’t have access to basic medical supplies and other life-saving resources. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these issues further. Many people grapple with economic fallout as a result.

South African women are disproportionately affected by poverty, especially as heads of the households. Around half of female-headed households are below the poverty line as opposed to 33% of male-run households.

Hunger initiatives have proven essential in helping vulnerable groups like women and children.

Ladles of Love

Many food-based charities have dedicated their efforts to providing meals to those displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. A soup kitchen called Ladles of Love is one such organization. The soup kitchen operates on Seva, the art of selfless service. The soup kitchen volunteers service over 200 meals a week to those in need.

Recently, Ladles of Love was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts providing healthy meals to the poor and hungry. They broke both the South African and the world record for most sandwiches made in an hour. The previous world record was 57,000, and they eclipsed that by making over 68,000 more sandwiches. They also surpassed the South African record by 18,000. As a result of this, they were able to make over 300,000 sandwiches and raise publicity for their cause.

67 Minutes

Ladles of Love is part of the social media movement 67 minutes. The movement, started in memory of Nelson Mandela, emphasizes the importance of making a difference. The 67 minutes campaign encourages people to prioritize helping others for 67 minutes. The number 67 is significant because Nelson Mandela fought for social justice reform in South Africa for 67 years. As such, the campaign uses that number as a baseline for its work. Through social media, Ladles of Love increased publicity for the movement. More people are aware of the severe issue of hunger in South Africa. This will hopefully generate more funding and education about the topic in other parts of the world.

Actions Against Hunger

Organizations like Actions Against Hunger have this world-reach goal in mind. The global nonprofit strives to end hunger and malnutrition within “our lifetime.” The group focuses on both preventative and reactionary measures to help provide food for those in need, especially children and families. Action Against Hunger works to empower people to help themselves rather than rely on their services. They believe education, empowerment and innovation and crush world hunger.

Conclusion

Since quarantine began, many South Africans have struggled to make ends meet. Most people were furloughed from their jobs and left without stable sources of income. Furthermore, the pandemic has impacted students especially hard. The government suspended their nutrition program, and they can no longer get steady meals. Despite this, the government has attempted to rectify the situation by providing over one million food packages for residents and constituents.

Many South Africans struggle to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, changing weather patterns and rising poverty levels. Ladles of Love, the 67 minutes campaign and Action Against Hunger provide support for them. These organizations and other hunger initiatives work tirelessly to alleviate food insecurity among the poor population.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr