Malnutrition in MadagascarMadagascar, a small island off the coast of Africa, is the fourth-most malnourished country in the world. Malnourishment can harm the immune system, bone structure and organs of the body. Below are five facts about malnutrition in Madagascar and solutions to malnourishment.

5 Facts about Malnutrition in Madagascar

  1. Natural disasters cause food insecurity. Madagascar experiences dangerous cyclones, floods and droughts every year. These natural disasters leave poor citizens in crisis (Phase 3) and emergency (Phase 4) phases of food insecurity, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network’s Integrated Phase Classification. This means that families struggle to have the minimum amount of food necessary for survival, and they experience high or very high acute malnutrition. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) is one organization that provides humanitarian aid to Madagascar. In addition to emergency food resources, FFP also introduces malnutrition recovery techniques and food-for-assets tasks in which a household member receives a supply of food in exchange for help with water management. As of 2019, USAID estimates that the regions of Madagascar that are hardest hit by natural disasters will decrease to the stressed (Phase 2) phase of food insecurity, thanks to humanitarian assistance.
  2. Malnutrition worsens the measles outbreak. As the measles outbreak continues to worsen in Madagascar, children are at the highest risk for disease. Seventy percent of deaths caused by measles complications are of children ages 14 and under, and nearly half of the child-aged population in Madagascar is still susceptible to the highly contagious disease. Direct Relief is working with the Ministry of Public Health to decrease malnutrition in Madagascar and to fight against measles. They have implemented Vitamin A vaccines to treat children with measles, and the vitamin also improves nutrition. Since 2013, Direct Relief has been present in Madagascar to help during epidemics and to support child health.
  3. Stunting is a dangerous effect of malnutrition. Stunting occurs when a child grows up to be too small for his or her age due to a lack of necessary nutrients in infancy. Infancy is a critical stage of development, and if a child is not properly nourished, he or she will face irreversible challenges throughout his or her life. For example, stunted children tend to have difficulty focusing on tasks. If a child is stunted, he or she will earn 26 percent less income than average. This is dangerous for Madagascar because seven percent of gross domestic product is lost due to malnutrition. World Bank initiated a 10-year Improving Nutrition Outcomes Program to decrease malnutrition in Madagascar by providing nutrient interventions in infancy. The goal is to decrease malnutrition by 30 percent.
  4. Anemia is another dangerous side effect of malnutrition. Regions of Madagascar with the highest levels of anemia also have the lowest consumption rates of healthy, iron-rich foods, suggesting a link between anemia and malnutrition. Anemia in children can lead to developmental delays and decreased adult productivity, but anemia in pregnant mothers can lead to early delivery, low birth weight and even infant death. USAID currently treats anemia in Madagascar with iron folic acid (IFA) supplements for women of reproductive age. Since its implementation, anemia in women has decreased from 46 percent to 35.3 percent. In children, anemia has decreased from 68.2 percent to 50.3 percent.
  5. The World Food Programme is working to improve conditions. The World Food Programme (WFP) provides humanitarian aid in Madagascar in many forms to combat malnutrition. So far, they have reached 650,000 of the 850,000 people living with food insecurity. The organization brings nutritional and cash assistance to those living with malnutrition, daily school meals for children and seeds in order for families to plant crops. The WFP may have saved the country from plunging into famine, but more can be done to eradicate malnutrition in Madagascar.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

10 Disturbing 10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty
Global poverty is one of the most pressing issues currently facing the international community. Individuals mired in poverty often lack access to clean food and water and many do not receive proper health care or education. Listed below are 10 of the most disturbing facts about global poverty.

10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty

  1. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The world’s current population is roughly 7.5 billion people meaning that almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. This $2.50 often has to support not just single individuals but entire families.
  2. Approximately 2.4 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. This is often a result of poor infrastructure and a lack of monetary investment by governments into adequate sanitation facilities. These conditions often lead to individuals engaging in unsanitary practices such as open defecation, which can lead to the contraction of diseases like diarrhea and cholera. Developing countries, however, are looking at developing many technologies to help improve sanitation. One such technology is the Janicki Omni Processor (JOP), which turns human waste into clean, drinkable water. The JOP has been successfully implemented in Dakar, Senegal and is likely to expand into other countries in Africa soon.
  3. About 1.5 billion individuals worldwide have inadequate shelter. This has a number of causes including lack of job and education opportunities. Many of these individuals live in slum settlements in large cities like Mumbai and Cairo.
  4. More than 757 million adults worldwide are illiterate. Many poverty-stricken individuals do not have the resources to receive a proper education, which limits their future job and income prospects. This, of course, perpetuates the cycle of poverty. However, organizations are doing significant work to help solve this problem. In 2015, the nonprofit organization, Worldreader, launched the Read to Kids initiative, which reached 200,000 families across India. The initiative leveraged the increasing popularity of mobile phones in the country by creating a free app that provides users with an expansive library of books.
  5. Currently, 780 million people live without access to clean water. Many of these individuals have to resort to drinking dirty, contaminated water, which can result in the transmission of numerous harmful waterborne diseases. To make matters worse, this water is often far away, requiring long journeys to obtain it. This prevents individuals from attending schools or working, furthering the cycle of poverty. With that said, afflicted countries are making good progress towards ensuring more individuals have access to clean drinking water. Much of this progress has come via the implementation of technologies like rainwater catchment systems and sand dams, both of which have proven to be effective, sustainable solutions for communities throughout the developing world.
  6. Sixty-four percent of the world’s extreme poor lives in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There are various hypotheses as to why these five countries have such high rates of poverty. Many point to corruption, as well as poor government policies and inadequate education systems as the main culprits. However, countries are making progress towards the alleviation of many of these issues. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has received praise for his anti-corruption efforts while in office; additionally, the government of the DRC has made major strides in its educational system over the past 17 years (70 percent of children now complete primary school, compared to 29 percent in 2002).
  7. There are more than 820 million chronically malnourished people worldwide. While the world produces enough food to feed everyone, the distribution of this food is grossly unequal. Individuals in rural communities suffer the most as they often have to resort to growing their own food (subsistence farming) due to the lack of accessible, affordable food sold nearby.
  8. Approximately 1 billion people do not have access to proper electricity. While electricity is readily available in most wealthy, industrialized countries, hundreds of millions of individuals that go without this luxury every single day. However, initiatives such as the Electrify Africa Act (2016) are aiming to change this. The EAA will provide 50 million people throughout sub-Saharan Africa with access to reliable electricity by 2020.
  9. More than 3 million people worldwide die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. While coverage has improved in recent years, many individuals still do not have access to proper health care to receive critical vaccinations. As a result, preventable diseases such as measles and tetanus, as well as whooping cough, have persisted in many developing countries.
  10. Children make up more than 40 percent of the world’s extreme poor. Child poverty is one of the biggest contributors to the poverty cycle as children who grow up poor are unlikely to be able to obtain a quality education, meaning that when they have children, their children will likely be in the same situation that they were once in. Preventing this cycle is one of the main areas of focus for poverty reduction campaigns around the world. UNICEF’s Schools for Africa Initiative is a good example of these efforts. By helping to build schools and train teachers, the initiative has provided more than 21 million children with the opportunity to pursue an education.

While the list above detailing 10 of the most disturbing facts about poverty may be slightly depressing, there is hope for the future. Since 1981, the percentage of the world population living on less than $1.25/day has decreased by nearly 30 percent. In addition, new technologies and agricultural practices promise to make it easier than ever to obtain access to clean water and nutritious food. However, as detailed in this article, billions of individuals still suffer from extreme poverty every day; as such, it is imperative that progress continues towards eliminating global poverty.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Malnourishment has decreased
In many parts of the world, malnourishment has been a fatal problem — not just for children, but also for communities. Today, malnourishment has decreased but continues to affect children globally. Despite this prevalence, strides have been made and malnourishment is becoming less and less detrimental for people, children especially, in numerous parts of the globe.

Facts of Malnourishment

Malnourishment involves a dietary deficiency — a poor diet may lead to a lack of vitamins, minerals and other essential substances. Too little protein can lead to kwashiorkor, symptoms of which include a distended abdomen. In addition, a lack of vitamin C can result in scurvy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 462 million people worldwide are malnourished, and possess stunted development due to poor diet; this affects 159 million children globally.

Stunting in Senegal

When this millennium began, malnourishment was highly prevalent in most poor countries across the planet. In Senegal, however, stunting affected as many as 30 percent of children under five years of age. Stunting in growth is the result of long-term malnourishment.

In Senegal, stunting has life-long consequences such as: the reduction of cognitive abilities, limited school attainment, decreases in adult wages and can make children less likely to escape poverty as adults. The solution to these outcomes lies in holistic monitoring and feeding.

Within the globe, 1 in 4 children are stunted in growth; today, Senegal has a rate of 19 percent of stunted children. This makes it the lowest rate in any sub-Saharan African nation. Thanks to efforts from the Nutrition Policy Coordination Unit in the Prime Minister’s office — who worked with local governments, public service providers and NGOs — nutrition services have been delivered to in-need communities and households.

The services included health education, breastfeeding promotion, infant and young child feeding counseling, monthly weighing sessions, micronutrient supplementation, conditional cash transfers, targeted food security support and more.

Importance of Good Nutrition

The best chance a child has for growth is in access to good nutrition; child survival and development both stem from a healthy start. Children who are well nourished are more equipped to grow, learn and participate in the community, and are also much more resilient in the face of disease or disaster.

Malnourishment is often linked to nearly half of childhood deaths under the age of five; this figure calculates roughly to about 3 million young lives a year. For millions of children, chronic malnourishment results in stunting, irreversible physical and mental growth.

The first 1,000 days of a mother’s pregnancy are when malnourishment begins to take hold of the child; thankfully, by focusing on these first 1,000 days, UNICEF has helped cut the number of children affected by stunting by nearly 100 million since 1990.

First Steps of Progress

Now more than ever, millions of children’s lives are being saved on a grand and global scale. Within the last decade, malnourishment has decreased despite its continuance to globally affect children.

This progress is only the beginning — the start of the first 1,000 days to help prevent malnourishment from taking life away from those who’ve yet to begin to live it. To continue in the fight for the children is to continue to allow life to be at its best.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

GNH in BhutanIn 1972, the fourth King of Bhutan declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. This idea has since shaped the nation and was included in the constitution in 2008.

Defining GNH in Bhutan

Bhutan, as a developing country, has designed Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a more holistic measurement of progress and prosperity of a country. Specifically, GNH in Bhutan is based on equitable social development, cultural preservation, conservation of the environment and good governance. This special method of political quantification emphasizes wellbeing over material growth, environmental conservation and sustainability over economic growth.

Some doubt the possibility of creating a nation full of a happy population. However, Bhutan’s minister of education Thakur Singh Powdyel has that “GNH in Bhutan serves as an aspiration, a set of guiding principles through which we are navigating our path towards a sustainable and equitable society”.

Ever since elucidating the ideal of GNH in Bhutan, the government has laid out national policies on the grounds of sustainability. Namely, the country has pledged to remain carbon-neutral and set at least 60 percent of its landmass under forest cover in perpetuity. Moreover, Bhutan prohibited some profit-making commercial activities in forests, like export logging, and also established a monthly pedestrian day that bans all private vehicles from roads.

Demonstrable Success

This visionary model has since demonstrated long-run success both economically and socially. According to the Bhutan Living Standard Survey 2007 Report, the nation successfully met a number of key Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. Bhutan’s policies halved the number of children wasting or stunted, and the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation. In addition, the nation has experienced strong and stable growth over the past 25 years.

The real growth in 2006-2007 was 8.5 percent and the GDP per capita was $1,313. Likewise, the Human Development Index was improved as well, from 0.325 in 1984 to 0.581 in 1995. This increase was unparalleled among all Least-Developed Countries and shifted Bhutan to the status of a Middle-Income Country. But overall, how effective has it been for Bhutan to lay GNH as the foundation of its national political agenda?

Challenges Remain for Bhutan

Despite its aspirational guiding principles, Bhutan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 25 percent of its population living on less than $1.25 a day and 70 percent living without electricity. The nation also grapples with rampant violent crime, gang culture and volatile global food prices.

The deep roots of poverty still linger in Bhutan and its people are nowhere near the top rankings of the U.N. Report of Happiness of Countries in 2017, with the ranking of 97. Journalists’ Association of Bhutan executive director Needrup Zangpo told NPR that the outside world “glamorizes Bhutan but overlooks a list of problems besetting the country.”

Bhutan still struggles with socio-economic problems like a widening income gap, youth unemployment and environmental degradation. On top of that, the mysterious reputation of Bhutan being a contented country has attracted many international visitors, which is aggressively encouraged by the government, at the expense of the local environment and culture.

It is difficult to truly quantify happiness, but the wellbeing of the Bhutanese population can indeed be encouraged by simultaneously caring for the environment and the economy.

– Heulwen Leung
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Puerto RicoPuerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, exacerbating the hardships already faced by the people of the island. According to the 2016 U.S. Census, of the island’s 3.4 million people, 44 percent live in poverty. Due to the combination of these circumstances, hunger in Puerto Rico has increased.

However, much attention has been brought to the difficulties on the island resulting from the hurricane, leading to widespread relief efforts from individual volunteers and nonprofit organizations. Together, these groups are working to help Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rico is a United States territory, yet, as recently as September 2017, only 54 percent of Americans knew that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens as well. This complicates the aid and relief efforts from the U.S. government that Puerto Rico is eligible to receive, making volunteer efforts to alleviate hunger in Puerto Rico even more important.

10 Facts About Hunger in Puerto Rico

  1. Before the 2017 hurricanes, Puerto Ricans were four times more likely to be food insecure than the U.S. average. The Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico is the island’s main anti-hunger program and helps feed low-income residents.
  2. After Hurricane Maria, 85 percent of Puerto Ricans were food insecure. This means that the vast majority of the island’s population did not have a reliable means to access nutritious meals. This percentage continues to drop as essential utilities, such as electricity, are restored on the island.
  3. The availability of food in supermarkets was limited after the hurricane, and the food that was available saw high price surges. To combat this, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked the Department of Justice to investigate and sued the supermarket chains that increased their prices.
  4. One mayor estimated that 5,000 residents faced starvation. The government did not allocate adequate food resources for each person, preventing them from accessing the appropriate quantities of food. Federal aid, farming and volunteer food efforts worked to combat this problem and bring food to the island.
  5. Hurricane Maria destroyed about a quarter of Puerto Rico’s farmland, making it difficult to grow crops long-term. The U.S. Department of Agriculture worked to assess the damage and make sure people received food.
  6. Eighty percent of the current crops were destroyed by Hurricane Maria, which equals $780 million lost. Crops such as plantains, coffee, sugarcane and citrus fruits were destroyed. However, some farmers were able to maintain some areas to feed themselves when no other food sources were available.
  7. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $1 billion in aid and more than four million meals. They have also provided clean, safe drinking water.
  8. #ChefsforPuertoRico provides meals to thousands of Puerto Ricans. It is run by celebrity chef Jose Andrés alongside Puerto Rican chefs to ensure access to food each day.
  9. Volunteer efforts are ongoing. High school students worked to assemble easy to cook, nutritious and allergy-free meals to send to Puerto Rico as recently as February 2018. The meals they assemble stay good for up to three years before cooking, which makes them easy to transport.
  10. Even with these efforts, more aid is still necessary. Federal aid alone has not been sufficient and increasing the resources sent to Puerto Rico would help ensure sufficient healthy food access for all the residents of the island.

Even though hunger in Puerto Rico increased after the devastating hurricanes in 2017, the numbers are now decreasing, largely thanks to volunteer efforts and island restoration. Further, rebuilding opens a possibility to develop an environmentally and socially sustainable island that could alleviate the high rates of hunger and poverty, allowing Puerto Rico to endure the effects of a future hurricane more easily.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in South SudanSince 2013, political unrest in South Sudan has created a wave of violence, forcing millions from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. According to the International Rescue Committee, the violence has left approximately 10,000 dead and displaced more than two million South Sudanese people, or one in three.

Among the displaced, about 65 percent are children under the age of 18. About 19,000 children were recruited into militias, according to a UNICEF press release. The enduring violence has disrupted the economy, education system and healthcare and has caused severe malnutrition in South Sudan.

According to the UNICEF press release, more than one million children, which is more than half of the youth population in South Sudan, suffer from acute malnourishment. With no real progress in sight, malnutrition is expected to worsen in the coming year.

“In early 2018, half of the population will be reliant on emergency food aid. The next lean season beginning in March is likely again to see famine conditions in several locations across the country,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Mark Lowcock to the OCHA security council.

Causes of Malnutrition in South Sudan

Besides flooding, which has displaced more than 100,000 people, the primary suspect causing malnutrition in South Sudan is the ongoing conflict. Destroying villages and separating families, the violence has created devastating consequences for the citizens of the African nation.

The threat of being killed or recruited into militias has forced millions from their homes and away from their farms. Now living in crowded refugee camps, and with a decrease in crop production, thousands of people are almost entirely reliant on humanitarian aid.

Not only does the violence cause millions to seek refuge and halt crop production, it also prevents humanitarian aid from reaching much-needed parts of South Sudan that suffer from food insecurity. According to OCHA, humanitarian aid will not be entirely successful until the conflict ends and allows organizations like UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee access to the malnourished people of South Sudan.

Thus far, 95 aid workers killed in South Sudan, 25 of which were killed in 2017. These unfortunate acts are the ones that hinder NGOs and other organizations’ abilities to send aid.

Aid Contributions

UNICEF has treated more than 600,000 people in South Sudan for malnutrition and aims to give about $183 million in aid during 2018. Furthermore, the World Bank’s South Sudan Emergency Food and Nutrition Security Project plans on giving about $50 million to help supply food and assist farmers in increasing their crop yield. Finally, the International Rescue Committee has helped in South Sudan by establishing clinics focused on addressing health-related issues, including malnutrition.

While these organizations and others are fighting malnutrition in South Sudan, violence has greatly affected their ability to assist. Constant warfare has left villages and farms deteriorated and has strained the already limited amount of food.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, voiced his concern for the future of South Sudan when he and Lowcock initiated an appeal for an additional $1.5 billion in funding to combat the worsening conditions in South Sudan.

“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” Grandi said. “For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid.”

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

cost to end malnutritionThe United Nations (U.N.) estimates that there are currently 795 million undernourished people in the world. With the help of the global community, it is possible to significantly reduce this number. The necessary steps to addressing food insecurity depend largely on the cost to end malnutrition.

Hunger: Not an Issue of Scarcity

When the U.N. implemented the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, one of the targets was to end hunger and malnutrition across the globe by 2030. While the target seems impossible to achieve, the reality shows that food production is not the problem. Since 2012, the amount of food produced globally has been enough to feed the world’s population. Furthermore, the growth of food production continues to outpace population growth.

Hunger is not caused by food scarcity but by other complex issues such as poverty and inequality. These problems are all linked and an approach to ending malnutrition must address poverty, inequality, climate change and other related issues across the globe.

The Cost to End Malnutrition

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has found that the cost to end malnutrition will be an extra $11 billion each year until 2030. This includes an additional $4 billion per year of investments from donor countries, which is a 45 percent increase over current donations. The remaining $7 billion per year will come from the affected countries themselves.

The IISD has created five main categories for which the additional investments will be used for. The categories are as follows:

  1. Social Safety Nets – such as food stamps and other government programs.
  2. Farm Support – including subsidies for seeds, tractors and other costs necessary to produce food.
  3. Rural Development – working to improve infrastructure and market access.
  4. Enabling Policies – passing government policies that will help those suffering from malnutrition.
  5. Nutrition – addressing concerns such as stunting, wasting and anemia.

It will take a combination of all five of these categories to meet the United Nation’s goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. While the estimated cost of $11 billion a year in additional funds is a tall order, it can be accomplished with a coordinated global effort.

Eradicating malnutrition goes hand in hand with ending poverty and creating a more equitable world. There is an opportunity to put an end to the injustices faced by many around the world. However, in order for that to happen, countries around the world must understand the cost to end malnutrition and make this cause a higher priority.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Dubai CaresIn September 2017, philanthropic organization Dubai Cares celebrated their tenth anniversary. The global nonprofit was founded by Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Its mission is to provide education to citizens from countries where educational opportunities are sparse.

Currently, Dubai Cares has facilitated educational programs in 45 countries. According to The National, this has had a positive effect on 16 million youths. The organization has also partnered with other global organizations, like UNICEF, CARE International and the World Food Programme. Along with these, Dubai Cares has joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other nongovernmental organizations to influence the global community’s commitment toward better educational practices.

When the charity was first formed, it focused on funding educational programs created by others. After hiring Chief Executive Al Gurg, Dubai Cares began constructing their own solutions.

Dubai Cares operates under the belief that education is a fundamental right that should be available to everyone regardless of race, gender or religion. Lack of education is one of the biggest causes of global poverty. The organization is particularly interested in promoting education for girls around the world, 62 million of whom are not in school.

Over the past 10 years, Dubai Cares has built or renovated over 2,000 classrooms and trained nearly 64,000 teachers. The organization acknowledges, however, that there are many things that affect education beyond the schools or quality of education.

One of these issues involves health-related problems, including malnutrition and disease. To combat these, Dubai Cares has invested in providing healthy food, clean water and effective hygienic practices to students. Another issue that severely affects education is military conflict within the country. One recent philanthropic mission the organization undertook involved educating children dealing with national violence in Columbia.

The continued successes of Dubai Cares have cemented it as a pinnacle in the fight for global education.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Why is Burundi PoorBurundi is a small East African nation located near Rwanda. Unfortunately, 58 percent of the population is chronically malnourished. Only 28 percent are food secure. With a GDP per capita of $818, it is the third poorest nation in the world. How is this nation one of the hungriest in the world, and why is Burundi poor? There are several reasons Burundi is poor and hungry. Below are four.

1. Conflict

Burundi has been involved in a cycle of civil wars since they obtained independence from Belgium in 1962. The nation has recorded five episodes of civil war that have claimed more than 500,000 lives and have produced about a million refugees. Consequently, this cycle of war has created an extremely unstable political environment. What is more, the latest two civil wars—one from 1993-2005 and another in 2015 after the controversial reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term on a technicality—further crippled Burundi’s economy.

Conflict hinders agriculture, the backbone of Burundi’s economy. In fact, 90 percent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Due to Burundi’s civil war, poverty increased from 48 to 67 percent of the population between 1994 and 2006. Rising food prices (including a 28 percent increase in 2007-08) affect families’ livelihoods and increase their susceptibility to repetitive natural threats. These threats include flooding, droughts, landslides and the impact of climate change.

War has also impeded manufacturing. For example, the 1993-2005 civil war caused manufacturing production to decline by an average of 13 percent per year between 1993 and 1997.

Finally, war economies are short-term oriented. Even when wars end, post-war economies must overcome a destroyed infrastructure, a devastated productive sector because of allocating resources to fund the war, lack of funds and a dearth of moral standards. These facts make it easier to understand why the rate of investment in the Burundian economy declined during the 1993-2005 civil war years. The rate of gross investment declined from 17.5 percent in 1990 to a mere 5.6 percent in 1998.

Why is Burundi poor? The continuous cycle of violence and war has been a major detriment to Burundi’s economy and has increased the amount of people in poverty in the country.

2. Inefficient Management of Public Finances and Resources by the State

The state of Burundi regularly interferes with the economy. It subsidizes fuel and rations subsidized electricity. The government also influences other prices through state-owned enterprises and agriculture-support programs. Economic freedom is not allowed, and this weakens entrepreneurial activity. The state also takes away private property from citizens.

Whys is Burundi poor? Poor economic planning and management from the government prevents economic growth.

3. Little Land to Support the Growing Population

Burundi is landlocked, and its population is continually increasing. Land is the greatest source of conflict in Burundi. The country is overpopulated and rural, so land is valuable because it is a source of agriculture. Land is a source of life and death. In fact, 89 percent of the population are subsistence farmers and depend on the land to grow food for their families.

In his study, “Why Has Burundi Grown So Slowly?” Janvier D. Nkurunziza cites a 1998 study from the Entequete Prioritaire (EP 1998) that stated the average farmer in rural areas of Burundi walked an average of one hour to get to the nearest marketplace, and it took them 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery. In addition, there is only one market day per week in many rural areas, and there are no storage areas for perishable produce. Because of this, farmers have no incentive to create surplus. EP1998 data further shows that Burundian producers consume on average 64 percent of their own food produce. The farmers farm to survive, not to grow wealth.

Why is Burundi poor? With a fast-growing population and too little land to house them all, resources and livelihoods are more difficult to acquire and improve.

4. Droughts and Other Natural Disasters

Burundi has suffered from an unusually high number of natural disasters. Droughts, torrential rain, floods and hailstorms have been particularly destructive in recent years. Disasters have contributed to the displacement of communities; the destruction of homes; the disruption of livelihoods and the further decline in food and nutrition security.

Other effects of the disasters include decreases in land productivity and an increase in crop pests. Regions affected by recent natural disasters are also at risk for permanent food insecurity and weak nutritional conditions. Overcrowded areas (about 270 inhabitants per km2, and up to 400 per km2 in the most densely populated areas) have also contributed to greater food and resource scarcity in affected areas.

Why is Burundi poor? Natural disasters through an already impoverished nation into a state of crisis, causing food shortages and displacement.

The history of conflict and leadership in Burundi has had long term consequences for the state of poverty in the country today. The recent decision by several western countries to discontinue aid to Burundi to compel its state to genuinely reform systemic issues that contribute to conflict is not helping poverty in the interim. However, humanitarian aid programs such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF offer hope that someday, the Burundian people will overcome the perpetual cycle of poverty through compassion and help from their fellow man. Burundi has a long journey ahead on the path to reform. Understanding its history helps answer the question: why is Burundi poor?

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Hunger Within Poland
One of the main challenges Poland faces today is malnutrition. Hunger in Poland is an issue every third child between the age of 7 and 15 suffers from, according to research done by Poland Human Resources.

In Warsaw, over 23,000 children suffer from malnutrition.

When diet fails to supply the body with the essential nutrients it requires, malnutrition results. This lack of nutrition exists predominantly in developing nations, but malnutrition is also an issue in developed nations. Protein-energy malnutrition, for instance, generally occurs in underweight children. In Poland, this type of malnutrition is seen in 1 percent of men, more than 3 percent of women and in 13 percent of children.

Poverty is the main cause of malnutrition and hunger in Poland. Nearly 7 percent of the Polish population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many of the poor have unhealthy diets, causing deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iodine. Infants, teenaged girls and women are particularly vulnerable. Iron deficiency is also a problem in Poland, seen in about one-quarter of children and pregnant women.

The Polish Central Statistical Office recently released a report which reveals deteriorating living conditions for the working class. The report shows that more than half a million children suffer from hunger in Poland, as well as severe malnutrition. Other highlights from the report:

  • In 2009, 2.2 million Polish people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.
  • Over 170,000 Polish children suffer from malnutrition, which has slowed their growth and development.
  • More than 260,000 children start their days without breakfast. Additionally, more than 70,000 children only eat what they receive at school because they lack food at home.
  • One in five Polish children is malnourished.

These statistics are particularly relevant in small villages, where there are high rates of unemployment and social helplessness. Most of the children suffering from hunger and malnutrition have families that are at the edge of poverty.

The Polish government has focused on improving economic conditions for its people in recent years. It must do more to eliminate hunger and malnutrition for its children.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr