The Struggle of Immigrants at Sea in South-East Asia
Imagine living in a country which does not even consider you a citizen solely because of your religious beliefs, and now imagine trying to leave such a country, only to be turned away by several others, leaving you stranded in the ocean with dwindling food supplies and no clean water.

This horrible scenario has been a reality for around 11,000 Rohingya Muslims who are attempting to flee the country of Myanmar. The Rohingya and Bangladeshi peoples have been fleeing from Myanmar for many years as a result of religious persecution and in search of new jobs respectively.

Usually, immigrants have relied on normal passages to allow legal entry into their destinations, but this is being cracked down on. With increasing populations, countries such as Malaysia are being forced to make tough decisions when it comes to the plight of these immigrants’ lives.

In the past, the Rohingya people have paid human traffickers to smuggle them into neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, but with populations rapidly increasing, Malaysia has blockaded the north-western border to prevent immigrants from entering Thailand. With more and more countries turning away immigrants, or “boat-people,” as the locals refer to them, many have taken to the sea, but with traffickers being highly persecuted, they are often left abandoned at sea.

Several ships have already sunk and many local fishermen have been attempting to rescue what passengers they can. However, no good deed goes unpunished. Fishermen have been instructed not to rescue any migrants unless their boat is sinking, and some have even had to watch people drown because entry via boat would deem an illegal migration into the country.

Luckily, 3000 individuals have been rescued from the abandoned boats, but hospitals in Malaysia do not have the means to treat all of the individuals suffering from starvation, dehydration and sickness.

The mayor of one of the coastal towns receiving “boat-people” has called for the necessity of aid from NGOs and the World Health Organization. These are small island towns which do not have the capacity to care for such a large number of people. Many surviving immigrants recount major fights over food on the boats.

Because people were stranded for such long periods of time, it is an absolute wonder that so many managed to survive. However, there are still 8,000 individuals stranded at sea. The U.N. has condemned the refusal of immigrants from Myanmar by these countries. Even with help on the way, there is growing concern that time is running out.

One survivor stated, “We were hoping that more ships would be found, and that more people would be rescued and allowed to come onto shore. Unfortunately, this did not seem to have happened.”

While fishermen continue to attempt to provide as much aid as they can to the individuals stranded at sea, it is high time the government intervened and rescued these ‘boat-people’. Regardless of an individual’s religious background or ethnic make-up, everyone deserves to be rescued. This is an atrocity which can soon turn into a tragedy, hopefully these people can find safe homes soon.

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: BBC, IB Times,
Photo: Aljazeera


Currently, the number of people who face hunger is around 750 million people. The number of people living in hunger has been reduced by about 167 million people in the past 10 years. In the past year alone, the number of hungry people dropped by 10 million people.

This is incredible progress!

One of the main focuses of the Millennium Development Goals is to eradicate global hunger. Global hunger has dropped considerably, and this is a moment to recognize all that has been accomplished.

In South America, less than five percent of the population faces hunger. The number of hungry people has dropped by 50% in the past 25 years. Central and South East Asia, as well as Northern Africa, have seen a drop in the number of hungry individuals.

However, 44 percent of countries did not accomplish the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by 50 percent in the last 15 years. South Asia still has 281 million people who suffer from hunger. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 23 percent of people do not get enough food.

Political instability in Sub-Saharan Africa may contribute to why hunger is still a problem. Twenty-four countries in Africa are currently experiencing food crises. This number is up from the 12 countries who were experiencing food crises in 1990.

Recently, bountiful food harvests and low oil prices have made the price of food drop considerably. These factors could have played a role in why hunger has been dropping.

Beyond economic growth, countries also have to focus on inclusive growth. For example, social investments, such as cash transfer programs, employment projects, food distribution schemes, healthcare and education could all reduce the number of hungry people.

Food is a basic necessity. It is extraordinary news that global hunger has dropped below 800 million. We need to continue to prioritize eradicating world hunger. If we continue progressing in this way, it is conceivable that world hunger could be eliminated.

– Ella Cady

Sources: Reuters, Deseret News,
Photo: Flickr

Although 795 million people worldwide are still undernourished, global hunger has been steadily declining in recent years. This is due to a combination of factors, such as social protection programs, agricultural development measures, and inclusive economic growth in developing nations. So far, 72 countries have reached the Millenium Development Goal target of halving the hungry population by 2015. However, completely eliminating global hunger will be difficult with the looming threat of climate change.

Climate change has already begun affecting food production, and could increase the risk of hunger by 20 percent by 2050. The world has seen an increase in the number and intensity of both floods and droughts, which can destroy crops and necessary infrastructure. Rising sea levels can render land unsuitable for growing crops, and glacial melt can affect water quality. Higher temperatures, along with too much or too little rainfall, can decrease both the quality and quantity of crops.

The decrease in food production caused by climate change disproportionately affects those living in poverty. With less food being produced, prices will spike, meaning that many will be unable to afford to feed themselves and their families. It is time to focus on environmentally friendly methods of maintaining or increasing current levels of food production in order to continue effectively fighting world hunger.

Quality soil is the foundation for successful agricultural systems and food security. It is resilient to flood and drought, and its stores of carbon contribute to climate change mitigation. However, many do not recognize that soil is a non-renewable resource, and therefore do not understand the need for sustainable soil management.

Soil degradation is caused by unsustainable land use practices and climate extremes, and negatively impacts food security. A 60 percent increase in demand for food is expected by 2050, but with 25 percent of usable soil highly degraded and 44 percent moderately degraded, it will be difficult to keep up this level of production without intervention. Sustainable soil management needs to be prioritized on global development agendas.

There is still progress to be made in ending world hunger, and focusing on sustainable soil management can help to feed more of the world’s population. Governments need to recognize the issue of soil degradation and invest in appropriate land management projects. They also need to effectively regulate contaminants that impact soil quality, while focusing specifically on protecting organic, carbon-rich soils such as peatlands and permafrost. Systems and technologies that can produce more food using less soil will be especially important. Feeding the world’s people in the face of climate change requires a close look at the most basic requirement of food production: quality soil.

Jane Harkness

Sources: FAO, WFP 1, WFP2
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Iran
In Western Asia, food insecurity continues to rise, with over 27 million people suffering from acute hunger in 2018. UNICEF has been working since the 1950s to educate mothers on proper child nutrition, supply rural areas with necessary foods and reduce overall hunger in Iran. This process has been slow, yet increasingly effective. Eradicating hunger in Iran is now a top priority for NGOs like UNICEF.

Causes of Hunger in Iran

Iran has struggled to gain food security partially due to problematic farmland. Roughly 1/3 of Iran’s surface area is suited for agricultural farming, but because of poor soil and lack of proper water distribution, most of it cannot be used for planting. Annual rainfall in Iran averages 30 centimeters, a much lower figure than the United States’ 30 inches. This dry soil affects other areas of food production: without ample grains or vegetation to feed on, livestock is less likely to thrive.

Reducing Hunger through Resources and Research

Despite the prevalence of hunger in Iran, the amount of people going hungry has fallen every year by at least 0.1% since 2013. This declining trend is due in part to UNICEF measures. UNICEF started a campaign that distributed food packages with milk, cereal, canned fish, soup, biscuits, sugar and cooking oil among other necessities to over 20,000 families. The packages were delivered in 28 cities across the country, with care being taken to reach those most in need like mothers and children.

In addition to providing rural Iranian citizens with produce, UNICEF also supported research to learn more about Iran’s hunger crisis and promote change. The organization states, “Iran’s 2012 National Micronutrient Survey [concluded] 10% of children are underweight, 14% have a low weight-for-height, and 13% have a low height-for-age.” UNICEF later organized a collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOHME) to conduct surveys that could lead to improvements in Iran’s overall food security and children’s nutritional statuses. MOHME then started the National Anthropometric and Nutrition Survey with UNICEF’s support. The survey focused on the nutritional and early development data for children aged zero to five. The results give further insight into actions that could drastically improve the hunger crisis in Iran, especially for children.

The Future of Food Security in Iran

UNICEF forces in Iran are working toward implementing a complete evidence-based “Mother and Child Nutrition approach,” which supplies food for infants over 6 months and provides supplements for both women and children. This strategy has the potential to nourish thousands of children, further reduce health disparities in children and adults, lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and ultimately eradicate hunger in Iran.

Though food security remains an area of concern for Iran’s government officials, the country has considerable agricultural potential. With a consistent focus on lessening hunger and humanitarian assistance from organizations like UNICEF, Iran can continue to effectively combat its hunger crisis.

– Rebecca Malachowski
Photo: Wikipedia

At the 39th session of the Conference of Member States of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held in Milan, Italy this June, Ghana was given an award from the FAO for reducing the level of its malnourished population from 7 million in the early 1990s to less than 1 million today.

Ghana is one of the 72 countries that have managed to reduce its level of people suffering from hunger to less than 5% of the population. Ghana has also seen a significant decrease in poverty. As Feed the Future states, Ghana’s GDP growth rate has grown from 4% in 2002 to 8% in 2012, as poverty was reduced from 52% to 28%.

Ghana’s success at decreasing the level of the population in poverty has made it the first Sub-Saharan African country to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015. This decline in poverty has led to a corresponding decline in levels of hunger and malnutrition. In 1990, 27% of the Ghanaian population was malnourished. By 2005, this number fell to less than 5%. The level of malnutrition in children has also reduced — it has been halved from the 1980s to today.

Ghana was able to drastically decrease poverty and hunger by investing in its agricultural sector. Ten percent of the Ghanaian budget is devoted to its agricultural sector, which, as The Gates Foundation states, has led to a steady growth in Ghana’s agricultural productivity of almost 5% each year since 1985. Ghana has also significantly increased its production of cocoa, allowing it to increase exports.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that besides agricultural growth, there are also other factors which helped to drive much of the population out of poverty. For example, the government of Ghana has introduced special social intervention plans which increase spending on programs that target the poor and vulnerable.

The south of Ghana is the country’s main agricultural area, which has led to a disparity in poverty between the north and the south. The poverty rates in the north are double than those in the south. In order to help decrease this poverty gap, Ghana has established four main interventions. The first is the adoption of security measures which help to end longstanding civil conflicts and attract private investment. The government also increased the number of resources it gives to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), an agency which works to plan a development agenda for the northern ecological zone in Ghana. Ghana has also augmented its infrastructure, providing more access to rural areas, and worked to help social intervention programs such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP).

The gap between the poverty levels in the north and south of Ghana is worrisome, but the four interventions that the government established should help decrease poverty in the north and help the country overall. Ghana’s ability to decrease its level of hunger is remarkable and suggests that other countries that wish to reduce hunger and malnutrition should be prepared to invest heavily in their agricultural sector.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: Impatient Optimists, Action Aid USA, UNDP, Feed the Future, Ghana Business News, Ministry of Food and Agriculture
Photo: World Food Programme

While hunger has always been a ubiquitous concern among humanitarian and developmental organizations, it is often misunderstood. Here are five things to keep in mind when considering a problem affecting millions around the world:

1. Hunger is widespread.
The United Nations estimates there are 795 million hungry people today, mainly rural people in developing nations. Although hunger is a global problem, it is concentrated primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. India has the most hungry people: 194.6 million, which is roughly 24 times the population of New York City.

2. It affects children the most.
Hunger is the leading cause of death for children under five. That is about 3.1 million deaths per year, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Hunger also causes physical and cognitive stunting; a fourth of children worldwide suffer from this condition. Without proper nutrition, children cannot develop strong bodies and minds. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are especially important.

3. It’s caused by poverty and waste.
A common misconception is that hunger is caused by global food scarcity or overpopulation. In fact, a third of the food the world produces goes to waste every year. Poverty and the unequal distribution of resources are actually the leading causes of hunger. It is often made worse by disasters, both natural and man-made.

4. It weakens the immune system and helps disease spread.
A proper diet is essential to a functioning immune system. Nutritionally deficient people are more likely to become infected with disease, more likely to suffer worse symptoms and less likely to recover. The World Health Programme estimates that iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional concern, affecting almost two billion people. Vitamin A deficiency is also a cause for concern, especially among children and pregnant women.

5. It can be solved during our lifetime.
José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, recently called on the world to become the “Zero Hunger generation.” Hunger is a problem that can be solved and organizations around the world have made great progress to date. The WFP calls this effort a “best buy” because it can be very cost-efficient. For example, a child only needs 25 cents per day to receive the essential nutrients and vitamins, according to the WFP. That’s why the United Nations made global hunger a top priority in its Millennium Development Goals. That effort was a success; according to a recent report, 72 of 129 nations monitored by the United Nations met their goal by 2015. But the work continues.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Health Organization
Photo: Humanosphere

feed_the_futureDaniel Obare used to be a subsistence farmer. His family ate most of the tomatoes and green peppers he grew, and he sold the surplus on the side. Today, he cultivates watermelons on three acres of land and uses cutting-edge farming techniques. He and his family have experienced a huge lifestyle improvement thanks to the agricultural guidance of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.

Most Tanzanian farmers do not have the training or equipment required to properly use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They use untreated seeds planted at random distances apart in sunken beds and often rely on rainfall for precious irrigation. These inefficient techniques result in lower yields, farms that are more vulnerable to extreme weather and high levels of pollution caused by chemical runoff.

In September 2014, Obare attended a farmer’s convention in Mbeya called the Nane Nane Fair. There, he met members of the Tanzania Horticultural Association, a group run by Tanzanians and supported by USAID.

With their help, Obare learned more modern farming techniques and dramatically increased his yield. “My lifestyle has completely changed. For instance, my daughter, who was in a government school, has been transferred into a private school that has more facilities. I can confidently pay 1.5 million TZS [$740] for her annual school fees,” Obare said.

Obare’s experience in Tanzania is indicative of a greater trend throughout Africa. USAID’s Feed the Future initiative works in 12 African nations supporting groups like the Tanzania Horticultural Association. The programs differ by country, from the small farmer training and support in Tanzania to trade hub programs in Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

“The trade hub provides targeted technical assistance to governments, the private sector and civil society organizations to advance regional trade within southern Africa while incorporating gender integration, environment compliance and strategic outreach in all activities,” a USAID report stated.

Feed the Future is ultimately trying to give developing nations a strong economic base in sustainable agriculture. Their initiatives focus on efficiency, resilience in the face of a changing climate and gender equality. Their impact has been felt by small farmers and administrators alike.

James Bever, a former mission director for USAID, is enthusiastic about the program’s potential. When asked about the Feed the Future programs in Ghana, he told reporters that agribusiness has the potential to really take off, especially in northern Ghana.

“It is a sustainable model and we are extremely excited about it,” he said. “I think Ghana is in the path to an agricultural revolution that really can turn the northern part of the country to a bread basket and reduce imports. The north is where there is a real potential for quick improvement in grain production such as rice, white and yellow maize and sorghum, which are marketable.”

The dedication of local agricultural groups is turning USAID’s support into skills and their goals into reality. More farmers are being helped every day, and despite the challenges they face, small farmers in Africa are living markedly better lives.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Feed the Future 1, Business Ghana USAID 1, Feed the Future 2 USAID 2
Photo: Flickr

Macedonia FYR (Former Yugoslav Republic) is a country in the crossroads: it is an emerging middle-class country, yet it has a hungry population in many areas. But great strides have been made over the last few years to decrease the number of people who are hungry, especially malnourished children.

The United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals where one goal would be to cut worldwide hunger in half by 2015. For the three years that indicators were completed for Macedonia FYR, the percentage of children under five moderately to severely underweight has dropped from 1.9 in 1999 to 1.8 in 2005 to 1.3 in 2011.

While these numbers do not seem particularly large or dramatic, they are only the percentages of children who are greatly malnourished. The numbers do not indicate the other children that might be slightly malnourished or food insecure. However, those children and their families still suffer from the effects of poverty and hunger.

Hunger in Macedonia FYR is tied to the historic economic instability of the region. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “when prices [of food] rise, consumers often shift to cheaper, less nutritious foods, heightening the risks of micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition.” Even though malnutrition and hunger in Macedonia FYR are less than many other developing countries, in 2006 UNICEF still reported 17 deaths out of 1000 children under five.

There is no delineation in the study between what caused those deaths, yet most can be tied to malnutrition or diseases caused by poor nutrition. Hunger is inherited; an undernourished woman will give birth to an undernourished child. Yet the opposite is also true. According to the WFP, “well-nourished women have healthier, heavier babies whose immune systems are stronger for life. A healthy, well-fed child is also more likely to attend school.”

Malnourished children are more likely to have life-long health problems and not attend school, which creates a state where the economy sees a downturn and hunger rises again. When hunger is reduced, an individual can live longer and more productively, strengthening the economy. This very trend can be seen in Macedonia FYR.

The World Bank has assisted in boosting the nation’s economy, therefore helping to reduce hunger in Macedonia FYR. The country “has been a member of the World Bank Group since 1994 and currently receives funding from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.” The World Bank also says that Macedonia FYR “is an upper-middle-income country that has made great strides in reforming its economy over the last decade.”

How does a “middle-income country” still have hunger and malnutrition at levels high enough to be part of the Millennium Development Goals program?

UNICEF says that “disparities in access to health and education between rural and urban areas are obstacles towards achieving the low mortality rate of Western European countries.” The rural areas still need much more help before hunger in Macedonia FYR can be completely eradicated.

Great achievements have been made in helping those who are hungry in Macedonia FYR, but the number of children suffering from malnutrition has not been cut in half yet like the goal states. With the country’s economy becoming stronger and more children receiving good food and an education, it is conceivable that hunger in Macedonia FYR will be eradicated in the near future.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank, UNICEF, UN, World Food Programme
Photo: Jstor Daily

Like many countries in Africa, Lesotho faces a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in which issues are intertwined and often exacerbated by each other’s presence. The Lesotho government estimates that around 725,000 people, or about a third of the population, are in need of some form of humanitarian aid. Lesotho has the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS with almost a full quarter of adults ages 15-49 infected with the virus.

Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that almost 9,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished in Lesotho. In 2009, a study conducted by the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 39 percent of children under 5 years old exhibited signs of stunted growth resulting from malnutrition. UN research shows that school attendance for young boys and girls has been decreasing in recent years as well. This is likely due to families reliance on children to assist with increasing agricultural responsibilities.

Unpredictable weather conditions such as floods and droughts have burdened the production and availability of food in addition to other necessary resources. These factors have also contributed to increases in soil erosion and infertile lands. Minimal access to secure, high yielding seeds has also been an obstacle. These fluctuations of climate, coupled with the constant demand for staples such as maize, oil and sugar have caused prices to increase. All of these factors have contributed to malnutrition in Lesotho.

In an effort to combat the drastic price increases, UNICEF, WFP and the Lesotho government are working to implement relief measures. Efforts to adapt to irregular climate conditions are also in place. The Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN has created the Emergency & Resilience Program along with the Lesotho government to implement long term procedures such as subsistence farming and agro-conservation tactics. So far, the program has aided almost 20,000 farmers in Lesotho.

In 2007, UNICEF helped create the Lesotho Child Grants Program that affords impoverished families 40 U.S. dollars each quarter to purchase basic necessities. The program helps over 10,000 families and is being expanded to provide assistance to over 15,000. In addition, the dollar amount allocated to each family will be increased by 94 U.S. dollars.

Puseletso Tsiu is a recipient of the child grant who has greatly benefited from the program’s assistance. Tsiu’s two daughters died of AIDS and she has assumed responsibility for their childrens’ care. As a result of the extra support, she has been able to buy pairs of shoes for her orphaned grandchildren to wear to school. A commonplace purchase in the first world, such as the purchase of shoes, is viewed as a crucial investment in countries like Lesotho.

The National School Feeding Policy, sponsored by the WFP, provides two meals per day for students who can meet attendance requirements. For many families, the program provides an added educational and economic incentive to send young children to school. Families like Tsiu’s rely heavily upon the meals provided in schools so they can save money by not feeding them at home. In total, this program provides meals for over 400,000 students in Lesotho.

In the case of Lesotho, it has been demonstrated that international unity between organizations and governments can make a positive difference. “Kopano ke matla” is an old saying in Lesotho that roughly translates to “unity is power.” When faced with such adverse conditions, the meaning and power of this phrase must not be underestimated.

– The Borgen Project

Photo: World Food Programme



Belo Horizonte, the third most populous metropolitan city in Brazil, is one of the most progressive actors in poverty reduction. Home to nearly 2.5 million, Belo Horizonte practices the Right to Food that perceives food as a human right rather than a commodity. Poverty rates have dropped dramatically in Belo Horizonte since policy makers enacted this act in 1993.

The Right to Food guarantees healthy and accessible food to all citizens in Belo Horizonte. Policy makers use systematic approach to effectively execute this law by implementing the following techniques:

  • Integrating logistics and supply chains of the food system
  • Tying local producers to consumers to reduce prices and increase food sovereignty
  • Utilizing government purchase to stimulate diversification of agricultural production and job creation
  • Implementing education about food security and good nutrition
  • Regulating markets on produce that guarantees the right to healthy, high-quality food

Certainly no policy goes without a financial cost—the Right to Food law calls for a 10 million dollar yearly budget. While seemingly large at first, this amounts to two percent of the overall budget of Belo Horizonte. Policy makers have established budgetary committees to foresee the maintenance of this budget in accordance with the economy. This novel distribution of funds has proven successful, largely due to the positive returns the Right to Food law has enabled in the job market.

The effects of the Right to Food law in Belo Horizonte are immeasurably positive for the future of poverty reduction. To ensure food distribution, Belo Horizonte implements affordable food stations that act as restaurants around the city. People of all walks of life, ranging from low-wage workers to businessmen, eat at these restaurants. This social integration eliminates the shame behind hunger and promotes a culture where everyone is deserving of food.

Poverty has reduced drastically in Belo Horizonte, Brazil since the Right to Food law passed in 1993. Benefits include:

  • Reduction of the child mortality rate by 60 percent
  • Reduction of child malnourishment under the age of 5 by 75 percent
  • Fruit and veg eatable intake increase by 25 percent

The Right to Food law is an award winning policy and serves as an inspirational example of how food redistribution saves lives. UNESCO named the Right to Food law, Best-Practice in 2003. The Right to Food law also received the Future Policy Award by the World Future Council in 2009.

Scholars regard Belo Horizonte as a progressive city in its utilization of existing resources. UN Special Rapporteur, Oliver de Schutter, reports: “I think we should use the example of Belo Horizonte as a lesson taught to us, food is not a commodity. It is a human right and it should be treated as such…”

Belo Horizonte did something the U.S. has yet to do, tackle poverty from a bottom-to-top approach. By recruiting the help of local farmers, Belo Horizonte helped the impoverished by teaching them ways to help themselves. Policy makers isolated the detrimental effects of competition in the market and eradicated them, thereby emphasizing the freedom in free markets.

The Right to Food serves as an example of the role democracy can play in helping the world’s poor.

– Tanya Kureishi

Sources: YES Magazine, FAO
Photo: Yes Magazine