Widespread hunger in Liberia has plagued the country partly as a result of a coup d’état in 1980. However, a combination of president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s poverty reduction programs, other government programs and nongovernmental initiatives has led to a reduction in hunger.

In 1980, a military regime replaced the civilian government in Liberia. The people rebelled in 1989. The resulting conflict continued until 2003, when a peace agreement was signed. Then, in 2006, Sirleaf, the first post-war president, was sworn into office. The relative stability since 2006 proved helpful in the effort of reducing hunger in Liberia.

Nearly one-third of the Liberian population is undernourished. Every fifth household is food insecure, according to a 2012 government-led survey.

The staple food for families is rice. Liberia imports 90 percent of this commodity, so any change in price has a large impact on the Liberian people. For example, in 2008, the price for a 110 pound bag of rice equaled one month’s salary for a security guard in the country’s capital of Monrovia, a relatively well-paying position. That bag of rice could only feed a family of seven (the average is five in Liberia) for around two weeks.

In addition, about 14 percent of children under five are underweight and these children’s mortality rate was 7.8 percent in 2011. At one point in 2009, health officials feared that an estimated 74,000 Liberian children would die from malnutrition by 2015.

That fear motivated them to act.

In 2009, health officials succeeded in getting the government to adopt a policy committing them to improve food security, especially in the rural areas where it were most needed. John Agbor, head of child survival at UNICEF, said back then that the policy “refocuses nutrition and puts it where it ought to be—on the higher agenda of government.”

Sirleaf’s government did even more. Acknowledging that poverty and food insecurity are strongly correlated, Sirleaf’s government first implemented Poverty Reduction Strategy and then Poverty Reduction Strategy II, which built upon the successes its predecessor.

The policies’ successes were possibly reflected in 2013’s Global Hunger Index. While Liberia ranked only 50th out of 78 and remained in a “serious” status, its GHI ranking has been steadily improving since 1995.

Unfortunately, the recent Ebola outbreak in Liberia has presented Sirleaf’s government with new challenges in reducing hunger.

In a controversial move, Sirleaf ordered a quarantine of sizable villages, which have been cordoned off by the military. The villagers lack access to food and medical supplies, and the threat of starvation is motivating some to attempt an escape, which many fear will help Ebola spread.

Unless the government and other organizations can find a way to keep these quarantined populations fed, hunger among the people could make Ebola quite difficult to contain in Liberia.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger, IRIN, Newsweek, International Food Policy Research Institute 1, International Food Policy Research Institute 2, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr

global food security index
Last May, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published its annual DuPont-commissioned Global Food Security Index (GFSI). The index aims to “provide a robust and consistent analytical framework for measuring and deepening the understanding of food insecurity around the globe.”

The index showed that food security in 70 percent of countries increased from 2012 to 2013. In that time span, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger decreased from 868 million to 842 million, with a 17 percent decline over the past 24 years.

However, the index also highlighted numerous obstacles inhibiting the growth of food security that both poor and rich countries have yet to surmount.

One hundred nine countries were ranked. The top five, in order, were the United States, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway (tied with the Netherlands) and Singapore. The bottom five were Burundi, Togo, Madagascar, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of all 109 countries, Uganda saw the biggest increase and Myanmar saw the biggest decrease in food security.

To determine these rankings, the GFSI incorporates three categories: Affordability, Availability and Quality & Safety.

The Affordability category incorporates measures like food consumption as a percentage of household expenditure, the proportion of a country’s population living under the $2 dollar per day global poverty line and import tariffs on agricultural goods. This category, a combination of six indicators, seeks to determine the degree to which people can purchase nutritional food without depleting their financial resources. In the top performing countries (U.S. and Singapore), people spent less than 15 percent of their budget on food.

This all matters little if food is affordable, but unavailable, so the GFSI assesses how easily people can access food as well. Acquiring the food one needs can be difficult in countries plagued by corruption, a lack of infrastructure and unpredictable agricultural outputs. Low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa scored the lowest in Availability, though the region experienced a notable increase in overall food security.

Lastly, the GFSI analyzes the quality and safety of diets in different countries. It looks at the availability of micronutrients like vitamin A and vegetal iron, protein quality and diet diversification, among other indicators.

According to the index, the majority of countries made gains in Affordability, but many countries lost points in Availability and Quality & Safety. In many countries grouped in the “Asia & Pacific” region, food indeed became more affordable, but only because diet diversification had been markedly reduced.

Two new indicators were added this year: food loss as part of the Availability category and obesity as part of the Quality & Safety category. Both have been controversial in recent years. In India, for example, a lack of food-chain infrastructure results in tremendous food loss—as much as 25 percent of produce every year.

Furthermore, obesity has become a growing concern even in countries with high food insecurity, though experts are still at a loss to explain this phenomenon.

The upshot of the index seems positive, with food security increasing in most countries. Despite this progress, areas for improvement have been pointed out. For one, women farmers across the globe still lack the same access to education, land and machinery that men have. Moreover, governments in developing countries are still struggling to make food more affordable without sacrificing dietary quality.

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: Economist, Blouin News, Dupont, Global Food Security Index
Photo: BlouInNews blog

End Starvation
Nearly 25,000 people die every day from starvation. While in richer countries nutrition isn’t always a paramount problem, there are still 947 million people living in developing nations who are undernourished; we have the ability to help lower this number. Below are a list of ways you can help easily end starvation.

1. Raise Money

During the 2011 East African famine, relief organizations such as Save The Children and UNICEF launched campaigns to raise money for feeding starving children. By using clear and simple incentives (“just $10 can feed a child for seven days!”), smart organizations allowed even those halfway across the world to help those in need. Donating money is simple, easy and can usually be done online with just a click of a button.

2. Urge your Congressional Leaders to Support Crucial Legislation

Calling or emailing your congressional leaders is a simple and a sure way to increase their chances of supporting a bill which could save millions of lives. One such bill still waiting to be passed in the House of Representatives is the Global Food Security Act of 2013, which would improve nutrition and strengthen agriculture development in developing countries. Other similar legislation that could use your support includes the Food Aid Reform Act and Water for the World Act.

3. Limit Your Daily Intake

Over the past three decades, the average intake of dietary fats has dramatically increased in almost every country except Africa. With a recommended range from between 15 to 35 percent, we are seeing a stark contrast in dietary intake. In fact, many countries in North America and Western Europe exceeded this recommended daily intake, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia fell dramatically below.

Despite our growing intake, we are quickly running out of natural resources. In an overpopulated world, it is up to each of us to individually be cognizant of our daily intake. By limiting our intake in richer countries, we are ensuring that our world is capable of growing enough food in the first place for all of our global citizens.

By helping others who suffer from malnutrition, we are also helping ourselves in return. The most common causes of death around the world—including heart disease, obesity, cancer and chronic illness—can be a result of unhealthy eating habits.

By remaining aware that we have a much larger role in helping to end global hunger and poverty than we may believe, we can help put an end to millions of those going to sleep hungry at night.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Borgen Project, McCollum House, Food for the Poor, Green Facts, Green Facts 2
Photo: Action ContrelAfaim


Djibouti is a small country on the Eastern coast of Africa populated by malnourished people. Because of its location, Djibouti is a shipping hub for Eastern Africa, and so it has a large urban population. Still, a World Food Programme Emergency Food Security Assessment in 2012 found that three-fourths of assessed households were “severely or moderately food insecure.”

In rural areas, where one-third of Djibouti’s population lives, there is a severe hunger crisis. One in five children aged one to four  years is malnourished and, in the rural areas, about 70,000 people were food insecure in 2012. In the slums, Arhiba and Balbala, there is a high rate of child mortality from malnutrition.This is in part due to the fact that the country has very little natural resources and there have been recurring severe droughts in the region.

Additionally, in recent years Djibouti suffered from a cholera epidemic. The droughts have damaged food production from crops and livestock in rural areas, and because the rural villages are spread out across the country, it is difficult for aid organizations to send food and healthcare to each community.

Many rural families have moved to cities in search of work and a better life. However, work is often difficult to find and, with more people migrating to the cities, the unemployment rate has increased quickly. Other rural families are fleeing to the slums to escape the harsh conditions of rural life.

Most households are receiving assistance, without which they could not survive. Fewsnet found in a 2012-2013 report that, in some areas, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales.”

Prices and unemployment are rising as the droughts continue. The people of Djibouti need strategies for clean water, agriculture, health and nutrition. Until these needs are met, World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger and other organizations and governments are working to provide citizens with basic needs and helping the government develop programs for sustainability.

-Kimmi Ligh

Sources: Relief Web, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Asia
Hunger is a serious global issue that affects millions in developing countries, and hunger in Asia is particularly devastating. According to the World Food Programme, there are 842 million people suffering from hunger across the world, and 98 percent of that total amount lives in developing areas within Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

As the largest and most populous continent, Asia is home to approximately 4.427 billion people. Unfortunately, a large amount of that population suffers from hunger.


Top Facts about Hunger in Asia


1.  Asia has the largest number of hungry people, with more than 500 million suffering.

2. About 62.4 percent of global hunger exists in both Asia and the South Pacific.

3. More than 20 percent of Asian children are underweight, meaning they are too thin for their age, and more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia.

4. The lack of essential vitamins and minerals in one’s diet is a leading cause of hunger and malnutrition. Both Asia and Africa are iodine deficient areas. Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) greatly impact the mental and cognitive development of children, and if pregnant women do not receive the proper amount of iodine, there is a greater chance the pregnancy will result in abortion, stillbirth and congenital abnormalities.

5. About 75 percent of all those suffering from hunger live in rural areas, and a large majority of them live in the villages of Asia and Africa.

6. Out of the 553 million malnourished people living in Asia, six out of ten live in South Asia and eight out of ten are malnourished children living in those areas.

7. The poor and hungry in Asia face difficulties as the demand for food increases while water and land resources decrease, causing food prices to rise. If these food prices did not rise during the 2000s, approximately 112 million people in Asia could have escaped poverty.

However, there is some good news and socio-economic progress in Asia:

8. The 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) score for South Asia decreased by 34 percent when compared to the 1990 score.

9. Although 553 million people are still hungry in Asia, this represents a 30 percent decrease from the previous 739 million hungry people. Malnourishment has also decreased from 23.7 to 13.9 percent.

10. The U.N. launched the Zero Hunger Challenge on April 29, 2013, which has led governments, scientists, businesses, civil societies, farmers and consumers to work together to end poverty and hunger in Asia and the Pacific. To achieve this goal, the Zero Hunger Challenge outlined five objectives: ensure everyone always has access to nutritious foods, end childhood stunting, develop sustainable food systems, increase the productivity and income of small farmers and prevent the loss and wasting of food.

As these facts reveal, too many people across the world still suffer from hunger. Like in any other country, hunger in Asia affects the development of entire societies and communities.

Meghan Orner

Sources: World Food Programme, International Food Policy Research Institute, Asian Development Bank 1, Asian Development Bank 2, Hunger Notes, UN News Centre
Photo: WSJ

dietary supplements
It is no surprise that a world of nearly seven billion people produces imbalances. One of the planet’s many documented inequalities concerns the fight against malnutrition.

Globally, malnutrition affects nearly two billion people. Malnutrition is sometimes referred to as “hidden hunger.” While those suffering from malnutrition may receive enough food, they do not obtain enough micronutrients and minerals.

The German NGO Welthungerhilfe and child aid network Terre des Hommes published a report in July 2014 addressing the potential for fortified food to combat this problem. The report highlights the ongoing debate among the private sector, the government and the food industry as to whether food fortification is a mere “techno-fix” or a potential solution in the fight against hidden hunger.

According to the report, it is possible, albeit challenging, to provide populations with enhanced or fortified foods.

“Mass fortification is the preferred approach when a majority of the population is at risk of a particular nutrient deficiency, whereas targeted fortification is designed for defined population subgroups,” states the report.

Yet a sustained reliance upon enhanced foodstuffs could result in natural nutritional practices becoming obsolete. For example, breastfeeding allows infants to receive a host of nutrients via a mother’s breast milk. Health experts have warned that forgoing such practices for nonstandard approaches could prove costly.

Welthungerhilfe secretary general Wolfgang Jamann noted that parts of Africa place a rather significant reliance upon corn porridge. While those who consume the product may not necessarily be starving, such a diet restricts them from the necessary vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy life. In Asian countries, where rice is a popular food, a lack of Vitamin A can lead to numerous health issues.

Though such dietary supplements may provide a possible antidote to the nutritional issue affecting impoverished people worldwide, it is likely not a long term solution. Health experts continue to believe a balanced diet holds the key to remedying the issue of hidden hunger.

The authors of the report noted that fortification programs should “be implemented together with poverty reduction initiatives and other agricultural, health, education and social intervention strategies that promote the consumption and utilization of adequate quantities of nutritious foods. Otherwise, they risk ending up as a short-term technical fix to the multi-faceted problem of hidden hunger.”

Though obtaining such a diet may prove difficult for many, it is most likely a more sustainable, safer and healthier option.

Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, Micronutrient Initiative, Welthungerhilfe
Photo: JHSPH Open

hungriest countries
Today, there are over 870 million people in the world who are hungry. The World Food Programme estimated that 98 percent of these individuals live in developing countries that actually produce the majority of the world’s food supplies.

There are nineteen countries that the Global Hunger Index name as having “alarming levels of hunger.” However, there are three countries in particular that top the list — the three hungriest countries — harboring the greatest number of people suffering from hunger.

This Index takes into account three main indicators: the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight, and the mortality rate for children under five years old.

The first is Burundi, with 73.4 percent of its population undernourished. Over 50 percent of Burundi’s population of 9.85 million live below the poverty line and nearly 35 percent of the adult population are completely out of work.

The second is Comoros, with 70 percent of its people undernourished. Comoros, a collection of three small islands off the coast of Mozambique, has a population of only 800,000. However, half of this small population lives below the country’s low poverty line.

The third is Eritrea, with 65.4 percent of its population undernourished. The country is located at the horn of Africa, and although it has experienced significant economic growth in recent years, no progress has been seen when it comes to the country’s dire hunger crisis.

Why are these countries struggling? Severe hunger in many of these regions is a product of immense political strife, economic turmoil, violent conflict, as well as other particular circumstances.

For example, although the amount of underweight children in Burundi has decreased within the past decade, 15 years of civil war has plagued the nation with extreme poverty, which reflects directly on the nation’s economic and nutritional well-being. Nearly 58 percent of Burundians remain chronically malnourished.

Comoros has also experienced immense violence in the form of nearly 20 attempted and successful coups since gaining independence in 1975. Eritrea has lived through intense political isolation under President Isaias Afewerki, who led the country in a 30-year war with Ethiopia.

Regardless of the causes, more action is needed to alleviate the suffering of these 870 million starving people, and especially in the three hungriest countries. The international community is beginning to focus greatly on prevention of future food crises in addition to responding to the current one. Dominic MacSorley of the organization Concern stressed that, “Aid agencies, governments and international organizations need to learn lessons from the past and boost future protection measures to reduce the impact of extreme weather events and other hazards on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

– Cambria Arvizo

Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, All Africa, Ecointersect, Global Citizen
Photo: Action Against Hunger

The world currently produces enough food to sustain the entire global population, yet nearly a billion people around the world still suffer every day from hunger. The U.S. alone could end global hunger with only $30 billion a year — a mere fraction of the $530 billion the U.S. spends annually on the military.

If we have the power to feed the world, it begs the question — why is hunger still such a monumental problem?

The primary and most obvious cause of hunger is poverty. While enough food exists to feed the world, a significant portion of the population still live in such abject poverty that they cannot afford even the most basic food items.

This creates an incessant poverty trap. The global poor can’t feed themselves or their families, so they become weak and malnourished which makes them unable to work. In turn, they fall deeper into poverty. This phenomenon is affecting millions of people around the world. Any solution to hunger must also be in part a solution to poverty.

Another major cause of hunger is natural disasters and climate change. Storms and droughts — both of which are on the rise — damage crops and lead to massive food shortages. Often, the poorest countries are the ones least equipped to deal with these disasters, and the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change originate from the richest countries.

One way to remedy this problem is to increase foreign investment in agriculture. By establishing adequate infrastructure, cultivating the land properly, managing water usage and ensuring storage facilities are used effectively, the fallout from natural disasters can be handled much more easily.

Unfortunately, most poor countries lack the resources and the knowledge to shore up their agricultural sector by themselves. However, foreign investment in the agricultural sector of developing countries would go a long way towards helping them becoming self-sustainable. A U.N. study found that investments in agriculture reduce hunger five times more than investments in any other sector.

Finally, war represents another major cause of hunger. The most war-torn areas in the world also tend to suffer the most from hunger. In war, food is often used as a weapon. Farms and livestock are ravaged in an effort to starve the opposition into submission. In Africa, countries with the most conflict — like Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo — are often the hungriest. On the other hand, in more peaceful countries — like Ghana and Rwanda — hunger is on the decline.

There are a number of insidious causes to the problem of global hunger, but the good news is that all of them are preventable. First and foremost, the problem of hunger must be tackled by facing poverty head-on. From there, we should turn our attention away from feeding impoverished peoples through aid, and towards helping them become self-sustainable.

– Samuel Hillestad

Sources: WFP, Global Concerns Classroom, DoSomething, FAO
Photo: OoCities

hunger in tajikistan
Hunger in Tajikistan is a major challenge. The World Food Programme reports one third of the country is affected by food insecurity, while the World Bank casts Tajikistan as the poorest former Soviet country in the Central Asian region. Only seven percent of the land in Tajikistan is capable of producing food, and that number is reduced by consistently harsh winters. Low-income combined with reduced access to food means thousands in Tajikistan go hungry.

After achieving independence from the Soviet Union, Tajikistan fell into civil war in the 1990s and the result was high levels of hunger and poverty that permeate the country to this day. AnneMarie van den Berg is the Deputy Country Director in Tajikistan for the WFP. She explains the WFP sponsored school feeding programs which combat hunger in Tajikistan.

“Tajikistan is a landlocked country and a net importer of food, which means that the country has been particularly hard hit by the high food and fuel prices,” AnneMarie describes why Tajikistan is suffering.

The WFP program provides hot meals for primary school children in the areas hardest hit by the food crisis. Beginning in 1999, 5,000 school children were served meals. By the 2007-2008 academic year, that number had increased to 265,000 primary school children. Another program was also implemented which rewards attendance for secondary school girls with food to take home to their families, 105,000 girls were able to take advantage of that in the 2007-2008 school year.

The effect has not only been higher nourishment levels among the children, but also higher concentration and school performance. Many children come to school without having had anything to eat, and find it difficult to maintain focus throughout the day. Both teachers and parents agree the hot meals provided by the WFP improve the children’s education quality.

The school feeding program directly impacts the lives of children such as Matona, age 10, and her brother Hofiz, age 9. Matona and Hofiz live in Kalai-Sheikh, a village in eastern Tajikistan. On March 21 the children, with the rest of the country, celebrate Navruz, the Central Asian New Year. They are particularly excited about the traditional Navruz dish, Sumalak. In school, Matona and Hofiz water wheat seeds on metal plates and watch as they grow into green shoots.

“The greatest joy of all for Mastona and Hofiz on this holiday is the return of their father, Firuz Bekov, from Moskow. Firuz is one of the half-million Tajik migrants in Russia working as laborers to send money home to their families,” writes the WFP.

— Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Examiner, World Food Programme 1, World Food Programme 2, Global Voices
Photo: The Feed

hunger crisis in south sudan
This fall will not be a bountiful season for the world’s youngest country, according to recent warnings from several British foreign aid agencies. Four million people – including 50,000 children under five years old – are likely to be left hungry from August through November as South Sudan undergoes what its president, Salva Kiir, describes as “one of the worst famines ever.”

Political unrest in South Sudan has been rampant for over six months as warring factions fight to secure control of the government. The turmoil has already left thousands dead, caused nearly a million people to flee some of South Sudan’s more violent areas, preventing farmers from planting crops. Civil strife also complicates the distribution of foreign aid, making the upcoming famine even more dangerous for South Sudanese people.

The dangers aren’t stopping humanitarian organizations from trying to mitigate the effect of the imminent hunger crisis in South Sudan. The agencies that predicted this crisis are the same ones that predicted the famine that swept through Somalia in 2011. Having learned from the event in Somalia that public interest is crucial to financing this sort of humanitarian work, those agencies are trying desperately to drum up significant media coverage before South Sudan’s food crisis takes effect.

Lack of public awareness of Somalia’s famine – which was the worst of the century – left humanitarian organizations lacking in both private donations and government support. If such organizations are more successful this summer in obtaining the necessary finances necessary to implement targeted food aid programs in South Sudan, they could save hundreds of thousands of lives. The United Nations currently has approximately 40 percent of the funds it would take to prevent the food crisis, but over a billion dollars is still needed.

In June, South Sudan led The Fund for Peace’s list of the world’s most fragile nations. Because a famine as huge as this one can only further weaken the nation, it’s imperative that aid organizations do as much as they can to prevent such a food crisis from occurring in the first place.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: BBC, Aljazeera, Care
Photo: Youth Ki Awaaz