hunger in bhutan

Malnutrition and hunger in Bhutan is nothing new for the country or its policy makers. Although there has been a dramatic decrease in underweight children at the national level, many rural-urban disparities still exist. The Bhutan Living Standards Survey demonstrated that the eastern and southern regions face a higher degree of seasonal food deficit than the westernmost parts of the region. An estimated 37 percent of children showed signs of stunted growth, while almost 5 percent were deemed too thin for their age group.

Starting in 1974, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been helping alleviate hunger and poverty by implementing feeding projects specifically aimed at school children. Currently, the level of assistance has increased and more focus has been directed toward health, agriculture, dietary development and irrigation.

According to the WFP, roughly one-third of the Bhutanese population suffers from food insecurity. High rates of malnutrition are often seen in remote villages, where poverty is overwhelming. An estimated 12 percent of the population is considered poor. In addition, lack of access to markets and essential health services proves detrimental to the welfare of Bhutanese living in the countryside. This common occurrence is due to the high amount of natural disasters in the country. Floods and storms remain a hindrance to receiving adequate food supply, and since the Bhutanese rely heavily on agriculture, it produces a cycle of poverty and starvation.

To combat the ongoing crisis, the United Nations Development Programme has established multiple school interventions to address the problems associated with hunger in Bhutan. In collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan, the school feeding projects provide over 41,000 students in rural boarding schools with two meals a day. UNDP also lends assistance to raise agricultural productivity for rural farmers, as well as find jobs off the farm as a poverty reduction strategy.

With all these programs, Bhutan has seen a 24 percent decrease in poverty since 2000. Although rural areas still have a much higher percentage of the population living with food insecurity and malnutrition, the rates are much lower than in 2000. Thus the first Millenium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 is looking like a more realistic goal for Bhutan.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UN, UNDP, The Examiner, World Food Programme, World Food Programme 2
Photo: Flickr

donate to for hunger
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that around 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world –  that is, one in eight – were suffering from undernourishment between 2010 and 2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million to be exact, live in developing countries.

There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries. Thankfully the number of undernourished people has decreased almost 30 percent in Asia and the Pacific, from 739 million to 563 million.

The decline in hungry people could be accredited to charities that make it their mission to end world hunger. One charity helping alleviate hunger for example treated 42,000 severely malnourished children in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012. This charity is called Action Against Hunger.

Action Against Hunger has 30 years of expertise in specific areas like conflict, natural disaster and chronic food insecurity. It runs life-saving programs in over 40 countries benefiting seven million people each year.

In America, the number one charity to donate to for hunger is Feeding America. Formerly known as America’s Second Harvest, it provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than nine million children and almost three million seniors. Feeding America services all 50 states with more than 200 food banks.

While considering which charity to donate to, a third charity to consider is the Bread for the World Institute. The Institute is a lot like The Borgen Project in that it aims to educate its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. One of the primary goals of the Institute is to end hunger in the United States by 2030.

Thanks to donations and hardworking volunteers, world hunger has been cut in half; however, hunger still kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. For example, Asia currently has the most people on its continent that are hungry, making up about two thirds of the area. In order to stay on track and end hunger by 2030, donations are imperative and any of the charities listed above are rapidly working to make sure the money donated is used in the most efficient way.

– Brooke Smith

Sources:, Bread for the World Institute, Action Against the World, WFP
Photo: flickr

The first of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals is that of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. But according to the recently released 2014 Human Development Report, there are still 1.2 billion people living on $1.25 a day or less with little access to adequate food — and a vast majority of Africans fall into this group.

Here are six facts to know about hunger in Africa:

1. Although Africa is the second largest continent and covers close to one fifth of the Earth’s land area, the 54 countries that comprise the continent cannot feed their people. This is not due to a lack of food but instead a lack of agricultural infrastructure, raised food prices, drought and conflict.

2. In the most recent estimate (2010), approximately 239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry. Out of those, 30 percent were undernourished.

3. There are many mouths to feed. African population growth expanded from 221 million in 1950 to 1 billion in 2009 and is expected to be 4 billion in the year 2100. With such a high population, it is nearly impossible to produce enough food for everyone.

4. Poverty is a cause of hunger, hunger is a cause of poverty. Living under the poverty line makes it extremely difficult to buy food. Without food and with hunger, a person has lack of energy and can develop health problems which mean lost days at work and more medical needs.

5. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 160 million African children are malnourished, and one in five children will never reach 5 years of age.

6. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a major cause of death in women and children. These deficiencies are often referred to as “hidden hunger.” To combat this problem, UNICEF reported that “The WHO, the New Economic Partnership for African Development, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Micronutrient Initiative  and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition” have ensured that two-thirds of the sub-Saharan population now have access to iodized salt and children have been give vitamin A supplements.

While these facts are startling and seem unconquerable, they do not need to be. By moving to action, Africa can put an end to its hunger crisis. Moves to action may include donation to a charity or NGOs, such as The Borgen Project and contacting your state senator and asking them to support increase aid in U.S. foreign policy to end hunger in Africa.

Kori Withers

Sources: UNICEF, NPR, United Nations, World Issues 360, Hunger Notes, United Nations Development Program
Photo: Flickr

With high rates of hunger, infant mortality and population increase, it’s easy to see why the World Hunger Index ranked Comoros third on the list of the world’s hungriest nations. It is just one of nineteen nations still labeled as “alarming” or “extremely alarming” on the Global Hunger Index, leaving 870 million without food.

The Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy Paper produced by the officials of Comoros stated that, “information on the economic environment supports the assumption that the socio-economic situation is deteriorating and that poverty is on the rise.”

Much of this social upheaval has been attributed to what can only be described as an unstable government. Comoros has been the site of 20 coups and attempted coups since its independence in 1975. The newest elected leader, Ikililou Dhoinine, a native born to the islands, took office in May 2011. He looks to spearhead the reduction of poverty by pledging “to stop at nothing in the fight against corruption.” Despite this hopeful claim, the people of Comoros are among the poorest in Africa and heavily dependent on foreign aid.

But others have joined the goals of Dhoinine. Dominic MacSorley, Chief Executive of Concern stated that, “firefighting with emergency aid is not enough.” Comoros conducted its own comprehensive household survey and found that many locals agreed that the way to bolster the economy was to show “importance of recovery in the private sector, particularly in the agro-foods area, to ensure a robust economic growth and achieve a significant reduction in poverty.”

Engagement Communautaire pour le Développement Durable, or the ECDD, has been working toward just that by creating a model of community landscape management integrating improved livelihoods with natural resource management.

Agroecology and Market Gardening were two of the techniques implemented. Agroecology refers to the process of conserving the land while simultaneously respecting ecological principles and learning from nature. For example, learning how the rainforest continually recycles nutrients back into the soil. Market Gardening is the process of growing vegetables to take to market for a profit.

ECDD’s project slogan, ‘Komori ya lao na meso,’ means ‘The Comoros of today and tomorrow.’ It is plain to see that this slogan was embodied at the very hearts of the ECDD efforts. These practices have set a new precedence in the hopeful fight against hunger in Comoros and the world.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: International Food Policy Research Institute, ECDD Comoros 1, ECDD Comoros 2, BBC,, International Monetary Fund
Photo: Flickr

A 1965 study found that 31 percent of children under the age of five who were admitted to hospitals in Tehran during 1965 were suffering from malnutrition, leading to nearly 100 deaths. Moreover, as much as 53 percent of women and girls suffered from anemia around the same time.

Today, though, Iran has the lowest rate of childhood malnutrition in the region that includes the Middle East and North Africa. Roughly four percent of Iranian children are malnourished, a dramatic decrease from the percentages in the 1960s. Adequate vitamin A consumption is the norm, and 99 percent of households consume iodized salt, which provides the iodine necessary for proper brain development in children.

Thus, Iran was remarkably successful in dealing with the malnutrition problem. However, there is still much room for improvement. Iran still demonstrates what one might term “provincial malnutrition.”

For example, the province of Hormuzgan has a rate of underweight children triple that of the country’s average rate. In Sistan-Baluchestan, 21 percent of children will not grow to their full height potential because of malnutrition.

It is a common phenomenon: malnutrition reduction in urban areas and the lack of reduction (or the opposite) in rural areas.

Certain population groups, such as the large Afghan refugee population in Iran, are struggling with food insecurity and higher levels of malnutrition as well. Wasting among Afghan refugee children was found to be 12.7 percent, higher than the urban average. The diet diversity of refugee families is poor, too; around 15 percent of households go without fruits and vegetables for spans longer than a month.

Another population group, the elderly, was also found to have higher levels of malnutrition than the national average.

The reduction of malnutrition in Iran has not been universal, then. And even in urban areas, where people are more food secure, another problem related to malnutrition has appeared—namely, obesity. The obesity rate among children in the cities doubled during the past decade, and obesity is compatible and even correlated with malnutrition.

Fortunately, one expert, Dr. Zahra Abdollahi, the Health Ministry’s deputy for improving nutrition, is working to make the reduction of malnutrition in certain provinces a priority.

Ensuring such a reduction would improve children’s school performance and overall quality of life, according to Abdollahi. It would also improve the health of mothers and newborns, an area for needed improvement across the globe.

One major obstacle these efforts will face is Iran’s increasing population. Iran’s population of over 80 million strains the government’s ability to feed everyone in part because of its heavy reliance on grain imports. Reducing malnutrition requires increasing food security, a requirement that unsustainable population growth makes difficult to achieve.

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, Iranian Journal of Epidemiology, IRNA, World Food Programme, Breitbart, Green Party of Iran
Photo: Flickr

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