Hunger in Cuba
Cuba’s geographic position in the Caribbean leaves it vulnerable to annual natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and heavy rain. Natural disasters have cost Cuba more than 20 billion USD since 2011, a cost that greatly impacts Cuba’s overall food security. Despite this, Cuba has consistently scored “low” (less than 5) on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) since 2005. A GHI score of <5 indicates that less than 10% of the population suffers from hunger, calculated by national rates of undernourishment, child wasting and stunting and child mortality. Hunger in Cuba has stabilized at 2.50% since 2002.

While still under the 10% line and decreasing, Cuba’s child stunting indicators are much higher than its other indicators. In 2005, child stunting was 4.8% higher than the next-highest indicator, child wasting, and still 2.7% higher in 2019. According to Cuba’s Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System, 31.6% of two-year-olds suffered from anemia in 2015.

Social Programs in Cuba

Many social programs in Cuba rely heavily on food importation and foreign aid from Venezuela and the U.S. Up to 80% of Cuba’s food is imported. The majority of food importation, about 67%, goes toward government social programs. This leads to long distribution lines for basic food products like rice, vegetables, eggs and meat. These lines for individual food products can last up to five hours as people wait to purchase groceries with government-issued ration books. Waiting for one ingredient at a time leads to some households choosing certain food products over others and reducing their nutrient diversity.

Fortunately, international and local organizations are also stepping in to help. Here are four organizations working to addressing hunger in Cuba.

  1. The World Food Programme: The World Food Programme (WFP) is working hard to improve nutrient diversity and reduce Cuban reliance on international imports. The WFP provides nutritional and food safety education programs for pregnant and nursing women, children and seniors. The organization also helps local producers and processors of beans improve the competitive pricing of their products. Additionally, the WFP collaborates with the Cuban government to develop a food security analysis program in conjunction with Cuba’s natural disaster response plan.
  2. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere: Smaller organizations strive to help Cuba improve its food security as well. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), for instance, helps Cuban farmers revive farmland and establish sustainable food production practices, which will improve crop returns and overall food security over time.
  3. The West India Committee: Similar to CARE, the West India Committee provides education and training to farmers to help keep farmland productive and efficient over a longer period of time.
  4. The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHR Cuba) has a different approach. FHR Cuba focuses on creating economic incentives to start and maintain small businesses, including livestock and agricultural farms. FHR Cuba gives out microcredit loans between $100 and $600 to applicants for business supplies. Participants are then required to file a monthly report. So far, the initiative has funded 70 entrepreneurs. All have been able to successfully repay their loan as their businesses take off.

Political and Economic Context

Recent political fighting and economic hardships have led to food shortages and new government-issued rations. These go beyond the already-existing food rations allotted per family. Since 2000, Cuba has relied on Venezuelan oil, but economic collapse in Venezuela caused the aid in oil exports from that region to be cut in half. Cuba relied on selling Venezuelan oil for hard currency to trade internationally for products like food.

Additionally, after Cuba affirmed diplomatic support for Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, the U.S. imposed strict sanctions. The U.S. sanctions have caused food prices to soar as Cuba seeks new, more expensive suppliers. Additionally, the national production of food fell in response to the economic crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 and plummeting tourism.

Improving Food Security

Cuba is seeking to improve its future food security by asking citizens to grow their own gardens and produce their own food. Due to how much of food is imported from abroad, very little food is produced in Cuba itself. For example, Cuba missed the mark of 5.7 million domestic demand for eggs by 900,000 eggs in March 2019, while Cuba’s main homegrown agricultural exports are luxuries like sugar and tobacco. Havana reportedly already produces 18% of its agricultural consumption, while other areas are only starting to begin farming and gardening initiatives. As agricultural supplies are also largely imported, Cubans must rely on organic farming techniques like “worm composting, soil conservation and the use of biopesticides.”

In conclusion, while Cuba has a long track record of preventing widespread hunger, the country needs to find new solutions to combat hunger in Cuba in the face of recent challenges like COVID-19 and faltering foreign aid. With the help of economic creativity like microloans and improving competitive bean prices, sustainable farming techniques taught by WFP, CARE and others and measures already in place to reduce Cuba’s reliance on food imports, Cuba has shown that it already has the infrastructure in place to meet these challenges.

Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty In Somalia
Statistical analysis has shown that Somalia has been an impoverished nation for generations and child poverty in Somalia is a particular challenge. Civil war and political instability have contributed to the lack of economic and educational resources in the region. Despite this, economic recovery is not out of the books for Somalia. The current poverty rate is at about 73% with many of its population being under 30 years old.

As a result, children living in poverty in Somalia, as well as their families, have previously had access to poor education and resources. However, these should become possible in the future. Here is some information about the challenges regarding malnourishment and education in Somalia, along with how some are providing aid.

Malnourishment in Somalia

In Somalia’s population under 30, about 2.5 million people are children and youth. In this region of the world, a child under 5 frequently experiences malnourishment. In fact, according to UNICEF, there are about 1.2 million malnourished children in Somalia. At times, if mothers are malnourished, the children can be as well. Globally, about 45% of child deaths are due to malnourishment.

A drought has occurred since 2015, impacting child poverty in Somalia. Moreover, one in eight children die before their 5th birthday and 25% of children have had growth stunts due to malnutrition. With economic development and government solidity, Somali youth and children can have access to clean water, employment, resources and education. Child poverty in Somalia is definitely something that global nations need to pay attention to. A glimpse into the educational factors in Somalia is also an important topic to discuss. There are organizations like USAID trying to help reduce these conditions in Somalia by providing support to the UN Food Aid program in its efforts to transfer food to the Somalian people. Moreover, in 2019, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FPP) provided treatment to 647,000 malnourished children in Somalia.

Child Education in Somalia

According to UNICEF Somalia, improving access to children’s education could be a positive step towards a better future for Somalia. Moreover, the future Somali generation under 30 could have better access to education in the coming generations. A child cannot go to school if their parents cannot fund it or there is no formal education system to allow them to attend. The lack of availability of teachers, resources and financial stability is also a reason why children in Somalia typically cannot obtain an education.

In Africa alone, 235 million children do not receive formal education and about 3 million of those children are Somali. In Somalia, about 40% of children do not attend school.

SEDO (Somali Education and Development Organization) formed in 2001 to raise awareness and provide support for the education system and development in Somalia. It carries out activities to improve knowledge in educational, scientific, social and cultural aspects. It also acts as a platform for the youth to express their want for action.

While child poverty in Somalia is ongoing, some are making efforts to improve education and reduce malnourishment. Through USAID’s efforts to grant food to Somalian people and treat malnourished children, and SEDO’s role in improving Somalia’s education system, hopefully, child poverty will reduce in the country.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Child Hunger in IdlibThe Syrian conflict continues to rage through this pandemic. The locus of fighting has shifted to the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Since 2019, the Syrian government — with support from Russia — has engaged in various bombing campaigns in the region and sent ground forces as well. Idlib is clearly feeling the effects of this violence. The need for aid in the province grows alongside the increasing size of the humanitarian crisis. One particularly important but overlooked aspect of the devastation in Idlib is the rising cost of food. Child hunger in Idlib is a result of the rise in levels of food among the youth due to price increases.

The Issue

Child hunger in Idlib — for infants in particular — has become an area of concern as COVID-19 has become more prevalent throughout the country. One big factor is that food has generally become much less accessible. According to The New Humanitarian, “‘An infant needs one container of formula per week, but the price has risen to $12,’ up from $9 three months ago … For many parents, that sum is out of reach.” This increase in price manifests itself often in the form of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The disease primarily affects children under the age of 5, is highly dangerous and often turns life-threatening. Effects of SAM include a process known as “stunting,” which limits the physical growth in very young children. Stunting and other effects of SAM lead to other problems later in life for these children.

Another frequent issue is malnutrition in pregnant and breastfeeding women. It not only affects them personally but impacts the growth of their infants as well. The New Humanitarian also reports a rise in SAM hospital cases over the summer of 2020. The ratio jumped to 97 out of 1,692 people screened from the January status of 29 out of 2,199. This is likely a lower estimate given the number of people who cannot get screened or don’t have access to testing. Time is of the essence after receiving a SAM diagnosis. Once a child with this condition reaches 2 years of age, they will likely deal with the consequences of SAM for the rest of their life.

Fighting Worsens the Problem

Child hunger in Idlib — and in Syria more widely — is deeply concerning. The issue is compounded by the broader poverty levels and violence that plague the entire country. As a result of the fighting, the majority of  Syrians are internally displaced from their homes.

There is no clear end in sight to the fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian state military. Refugee camps are essentially at capacity and can’t withstand an influx of people if the civil war persists. Additionally, COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, which will likely increase the number of Syrian refugees and displaced persons.

In addition to the housing issue, food scarcity is prevalent in the country. Food options are usually unavailable or unaffordable. As such, many Syrians rely on foreign assistance and aid from NGOs as resources for food.

Aid

There are, however, numerous aid organizations and NGOs working to provide food security and address the growing refugee crisis. They are especially targeting the northwest, where Idlib is located. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is an organization working to expand health care access to those who need it. SAMS also provides meals to both children and adults at risk of food insecurity. Yet another part of their work focuses specifically on care for those with Severe Acute Malnutrition.

SAMS fights against child hunger in Idlib and throughout the rest of the country. They report that in 2019, the last year for which data is available, SAMS performed more than 2.5 million medical services for the Syrian population, at no or greatly reduced cost. Since 2011, they have provided more than $207 million worth of aid and medical resources as well.

SAMS and other similar organizations are vital to the survival of millions of Syrians. However, there is still more to be done. The international community must redouble their efforts to provide resources to those displaced and malnourished. Everyone must work to end the violence that has been a constant in the country for so long.

Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

Education Will Help End Poverty
Education is a luxury many people take for granted, but it is something poverty-ridden families often sacrifice to have. Globally, over 250 million children and young adults are not in school. As a result, around 617 million young children and adolescents around the world are unable to read or do mathematics within the minimum proficient level. Poverty is one of the main reasons for this tragedy and it often comes from generations prior that also lacked schooling. By properly educating new generations, poverty rates could reduce significantly. Here are some ways that proper education will help end poverty.

Health

Estimates have determined that in developing countries, one-eighth of all children are born malnourished and that about 47% of those in low-income countries will continue to experience malnourishment until they reach the age of 5. Poor nutrition is a direct result of poverty and often linked to insufficient knowledge of proper nutritional diets. A study that occurred in 13 different countries found that the standard yearly gain production increased with those with basic education by 8.7%, which in turn increased food security and helped lower rates of malnourishment in children.

Education will help end poverty because, with basic education, parents learn more about how to care for themselves and their families, which in turn leads their children towards healthier lifestyles. Health education gives families have a higher chance of survival and even reduces rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mortality Rate

Education will help end poverty because it is particularly powerful for girls. Education has many effects on girls and women, but a primary impact is that if all women in poverty finished primary school, then the child mortality rate would reduce by almost 17%. This adds up to about 1 million newborns saved every year, but how does saving lives help lower poverty rates?

If more children survive, then families would not feel the need to have more children, thus the size of families would be smaller. If the families were smaller, then families would have more income and resources to go around, thus reducing poverty. For example, sub-Saharan African women with no education have 6.7 births on average, but with access to schools, these women only have 5.8 births. And finally, those studied who had finished secondary education have 3.9 births on average.

With schooling, women could more easily recognize danger signs in pregnancy and be able to seek care faster. Women with more knowledge about their body, pregnancy and childbirth have a better chance of giving birth safely. Records have determined that a child with a mother who had basic education is 50% more likely to surpass their fifth birthday.

Income and Economic Growth

Income is, of course, a huge factor in poverty. Records have stated that if someone has basic education (that is, reading, writing and mathematical skills), this not only has a positive impact on their own income but can also “increase the rate of return on the economy.” Those with education have a much higher chance of getting better jobs with higher wages. Just one year of education can result in a 10% raise in pay. More pay means better, more nutritious food, better access to sanitation, better access to healthcare and better housing.

For example, Vietnam was one of the poorest economic countries in the world due to its 20-year war. However, since 1990, Vietnam transformed its poor and war-torn country into a GDP that grew to 3,303%. Its economic growth rate was the second fastest and the main strategy for this success was the improvement and modernization of its education system. Vietnam is only second to China, which also implemented a new education system, causing it to have the number one fastest GDP growth.

With children attending schools and developing both important skills and abilities, they will one day get better jobs. The more income they have, the more goods and products they consume which benefits the companies. This in turn increases the demand for the production of more products, thus giving jobs to more people and helping the economy grow. These changes and more will be key in eradicating poverty around the world.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Health Care
Venezuela is in the midst of an economic and political crisis. About a third of the children in Venezuela are in need of humanitarian assistance. Rayito de Luz, a nonprofit organization that provides basic necessities to children with cancer in the poorest communities in Venezuela, combats the lack of access to nutrition and health care that extreme poverty causes in the country. Here are five facts about Venezuela’s health care and poverty.

5 Facts About Venezuela’s Health Care and Poverty

  1. Poverty in Venezuela is extremely high. In 2019, an average Venezuelan earned merely 72 U.S. cents a day. Based on this income, 96% of Venezuelans live in poverty and 70% live in extreme poverty. This figure is significantly higher than the poverty rate in 2014, which stood at 48%.
  2. The child mortality rate has risen in Venezuela. According to UNICEF, the crisis that has devastated Venezuela has left children increasingly vulnerable. The under-5 mortality rate was over 24% in 2019, surging from 17% in 2017, reversing a downward trend that had been continuing since 1999.
  3. Child malnutrition is a huge problem. In 2016, the Global Nutrition Report stated that among Venezuelan children, the percentage of child wasting (low weight-to-height ratio) was 4.1%. In 2017, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World stated that Venezuela’s undernourishment rose to 13% from 10.5% in 2005. Additionally, a 2017 report stated that 15.5% of children showed some levels of child wasting, and 20% of other children were at risk of malnutrition.
  4. People are fleeing from Venezuela. In the four years of Venezuela’s crisis leading to the end of 2019, over 4.6 million Venezuelans fled the country. This is about 16% of the population, making it the largest migrant crisis in Latin America in over half a century. This means that medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are fleeing the country as well, causing a shortage of medical professionals.
  5. Venezuela’s health care system is failing. Venezuelan hospitals are struggling to stay open as they face a severe shortage in medicine and other health care equipment. Desperate Venezuelans must buy medicine off the black market in order to survive. With COVID-19, the already-fragile health care system is buckling under the weight of the outbreak. As of early March 2020, only 300 COVID-19 tests were available for the entire country of 30 million people.

Rayito de Luz

Since board member Zeanly Gomez founded Rayito de Luz in 2015, the situation in Venezuela has dramatically worsened. According to Gomez, many children in Venezuela are experiencing malnourishment with different illnesses. The organization provides food, medicine, clothes, toys and school supplies for the children in response to Venezuela’s health care crisis.

Gomez collects donations in Katy, Texas, where it puts items in boxes to ship to Venezuela. The donations take up to four weeks to get to Venezuela before making it to local organizations that distribute them to children with cancer and other illnesses.

With the goal of saving as many Venezuelan children’s lives as possible, Rayito de Luz has helped over 10,000 children in 2020 alone.

– Mizuki Kai
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Brands Fighting HungerAmerica is well known for its quick and easy businesses, from countless fast-food restaurants to convenience stores at every corner. However, while many items from these places are easily accessible and affordable for just about anyone, the nutritional value and healthiness of products available are not always sufficient for a person to thrive. Over thirty-seven million Americans have faced hunger and around fourteen million Americans have a restricted list of foods. Given the lack of healthy options, here are five American brands fighting hunger and making a mission to provide healthy choices for their consumers.

Dollar General

In 2018, Dollar General announced a plan to remodel around four hundred stores to include a refrigerated section that includes perishable merchandise. About four hundred and fifty stores also began to include healthier options such as fruits and vegetables in order to promote a healthier lifestyle to their customers at an affordable price point. Many stores have also pushed to include food options that contain less sodium and higher protein. Since the inclusion of refrigerated merchandise and healthier food options, a nearly seven percent increase in sales was seen compared to a couple of years before the new renovations.

Propel

Technology in the twentieth century surrounds everyone’s daily lives, and impoverished communities reap the benefits from tech as well. Propel is a company that focuses on bettering the financial health of low-income people by providing a technology service that easily allows people to budget and makes money. EBT balances can be checked right on the Fresh EBT app created by Propel, as well as countless useable coupons from many stores. Propel also aids people by providing job opportunities that are legit and safe. By creating a technological feature especially for those who are struggling, Propel has reached around forty million Americans and continues to benefit those who need help.

Daily Table

Daily Table was founded in 2012 by Trader Joe’s former president Doug Rauch. The products available from Daily Table are wholesome and healthy, and best of all, affordable to everyone as many of the products are also available through SNAP. Over forty thousand members utilize the two Daily Table stores to provide food for their families, saving around thirty percent on average when they checkout compared to other stores. Whether it is finding ingredients to make your own meal through learning from Daily Table’s cooking classes or grabbing something quick on the go, Daily Table makes it a priority to provide nutritious meals to low-income people.

Aramark

With public school being the most popular option for American families, nutrition in schools often gets forgotten and overlooked as other priorities get in the way. Aramark is a company that specializes in all things school-related, including providing affordable meals during school. All of the meals are sourced in local areas and pass USDA regulations by meeting nutrition goals. School districts that include Aramark’s food programs see an average of around eighteen percent increase of free and reduced meal applications from parents. By bringing awareness to their children’s affordable school meal options, parents are able to ensure their child of a meal during school hours regardless of the price.

Kellogg’s

Cereal is an American breakfast staple, and Kellogg’s is a popular brand that helps Americans get their days started. Better Days is a program founded by Kellogg’s that aims to aid with hunger by providing nearly four hundred and fifty million servings of food a year. Just in the past year, as hunger rates are at an all-time high due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Kellogg has donated over thirteen million U.S. dollars in cash as well as food to help relieve hunger in impoverished communities. In the next decade, Kellogg hopes to benefit three billion people by providing Better Days for those who need it. Kellogg’s is also partners with Feeding America to help provide nourishment to hungry Americans.

As the United States moves forward in providing food security for struggling Americans, these five brands fighting hunger are contributing to healthy and nourishing products to better the lives of many.

— Karina Wong

Photo: Pexels

SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic
The Sustainable Development Report states that despite the major challenges present in eradicating hunger, the Dominican Republic is moderately improving on its goal of reaching zero hunger. Here are some updates on SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic.

Poverty in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has reduced poverty from 10.4% to 9.5% in just a year from 2017 to 2018. In 2004, the rate was 24.4%. The decline in these figures shows that the malnourishment rate in the country has gone down continuously over 14 years and that the Dominican Republic can complete the Zero Hunger objective if it continues to sustain its current trend. The malnourishment situation in the Dominican Republic has harmed the children of the island. A joint report from FAO, IFAD, WHO, WFD and UNICEF stated that the delay in growth of children under 5 years old was 7.1% in 2019 while wasting or low weight for height in this age was 2.4%.

Approximately 10% of Dominicans are suffering from malnourishment and chronic malnutrition in kids in poverty-stricken homes. According to a report from the 2030 Agenda, 11.3% of kids in households in the lowest wealth quintile suffer from malnourishment in comparison to the less than 7% national average. The report also stated that “… there is evidence that the productivity and income from small agricultural growers are the lowest in the economy.”

Ways to Reach SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic

In order to accomplish the goal of eradicating hunger in the Dominican Republic, the government, along with the WFP, must “[strengthen] the design and implementation of legal frameworks related to food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and disaster risk reduction…” The plan intends that the country will use the “whole of society” method which means “… – involving national and provincial authorities, disaster management agencies, national non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and private sector and other institutions – where no one is left behind.”

The WFP has three goals to accomplish this:

  • The Dominican Republic must strengthen and coordinate the public and private sectors in order to eliminate hunger in the country’s most vulnerable population by 2023.
  • The WFP aims to improve the nutrition status of the most nutritionally vulnerable groups by 2023.
  • It also intends to set up national and local systems to improve and resilience to shocks, adapt to environmental challenges and reduce disaster risks among the vulnerable population by 2023.

Hunger in the Dominican Republic

In 2019, the Global Hunger Index ranked the Dominican Republic a 9.2. According to its rubric, this means the country’s level of hunger-related issues is low, an improvement from the turn of the century when the country received an 18.2. That score meant that hunger was a moderate problem on the border of escalating to a serious issue. The index also reported that the mortality rate decreased slightly. After a brief uptick from approximately 8% in 2000 to 11% in 2005, the prevalence of stunting in children under the age of 5 has decreased to approximately 6% in 2019.

In order to reach SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic, it must adapt to a post-pandemic world, where even the most developed countries are experiencing increased poverty and food disparity as the world struggles to adapt to the new reality.

–  Pedro Vega
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Egypt
With more than 98 million people, Egypt remains the most populated country in North Africa. More than 32.5% of citizens live below the poverty line, making malnutrition and hunger in Egypt pressing issues. The current influx of poverty leaves children and adults without proper education, left to partake in dangerous and under-compensated work such as mining, quarrying and cement production.

The Situation

Although marketplaces are bustling and full, Egypt relies on imported foods. As the world’s largest wheat producer, Egypt is at risk of any drastic changes in commodity pricing and economies. While markets have more than enough fruits, vegetables and bread, most of the population cannot purchase essential grocery items. Without the capacity to control possible economic fluctuations, Egypt’s vulnerability leaves its hungriest citizens without a safety net from their government, let alone their savings.

Egypt’s hunger crisis is an accumulation of many setbacks, including global financial crises, food shortages and disease. Yet another economic or social misfortune has followed each attempted effort towards success. As a result, more than 1.3% of Egypt’s population was living with less than $1.90 to spend per day in 2015; the average American spends $164.55 per day.

How Did This Happen?

Since the early 2000s, Egypt has faced a series of difficulties including the 2006 avian influenza, food and fuel crisis of 2007, economic despair through 2009 and most recently, COVID-19. As a country treading between minor stability and complete poverty, each challenge, both global and local, has severe implications for Egypt and its people.

Hunger in Egypt has roots in food costs; a majority of the Egyptian population can only afford minimally nutritious meals. A 2011 UN World Health Organization study found that 31% of Egyptian children less than 5 years old suffer from stunted growth in comparison to 23% in 2005. Malnutrition not only affects brain development but also contributes to a cycle that perpetuates and exacerbates Egypt’s weaknesses.

Malnourished children cannot perform well in school; malnourished workers are incapable of providing for themselves and their families, making financial and cultural growth seemingly impossible.

Solutions

The prominent changes in Egypt’s condition are a result of the Egypt Vision 2030. As a roadmap to Egypt’s eventual security, Egypt Vision 2030 emerged to increase employment rates, begin food security initiatives, increase clean water access and generate accessible screening and treatment for malnourished individuals.

The mission is that by 2030, Egypt will rank within the top 30 countries for economy size, market competitiveness, human development, life quality and anti-corruption. With such improvements, eradicating hunger in Egypt becomes possible.

Within the economic and social dimensions of the plan, the sixth pillar outlines that by 2030, improvements in health conditions will occur through “early intervention, preventative coverage,” guaranteed protection for the vulnerable and prioritizing the satisfaction of health sector employees.

These extensive efforts have led to program and policy implementation, propelling Egypt to meet its targets. For instance, at the onset of the plan in 2015, the malnourishment rate was 4.5%. By 2030, Egypt hoped the rate would be below 3%. With 10 years until the 2030 deadline, 3.2% of the Egyptian population is malnourished. It is evident that the strategy behind Vision 2030 is effective.

Feeding Children Through Education

A vital pillar of the Egypt Vision 2030 is the National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education. The World Food Programme (WFP) is spearheading the plan to increase school meals’ nutritional value. Though it helps enrolled students, the plan does not benefit children not attending school. The school meals incentivize students to attend, serving as an aspect Egypt tactfully uses to increase pre-university enrollment rates.

The Pre-University Education Plan resulted from new investment and financing strategies to develop curriculum, financial aid, illiteracy and dropout elimination programs, technical teacher training and recurring student assessments to ensure the meeting of international standards. To execute these programs, The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education set a goal to spend 8% of GDP shares on pre-university education by 2030. Currently, that number is at 6%, double the initial percentage that Egypt spent in 2014. Additionally, Egypt’s Ministry of Finance reported an 82% spending increase in education and health. With increased pre-university education attendance, children receive nutritionally balanced meals every day. Health and education funding creates a domino effect, which will eventually lead to the elimination of hunger in Egypt.

The budget increase, in addition to malnourishment, serves Egypt’s education system. Classroom sizes decreased from an average of 42 students in 2015 to between 23 and 16 in 2019. The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education 2030 target was to have an average of 35 students per classroom. Egypt’s strategies prove to be highly successful, as its school attendance numbers are higher than its once-projected targets.

Higher enrollment, smaller classroom sizes and well-trained teachers have replaced Egypt’s dated culture of memorization. This new approach emphasizes individual learning, life principles, and modern technology. Repairing the education systems tears has an undeniable correlation to employment and hunger rates.  In changing the fundamentals of the educational experience, Egyptian students now have proper nourishment. As a result, they can have the brainpower to master skill sets that will earn them stable jobs with livable incomes, thus ending the cycle of poverty.

Aid from organizations like the UN and World Food Programme, in collaboration with the Egypt Vision 2030, can eradicate hunger in Egypt. In breaking the cycle of malnourishment and lack of education, Egypt will continue on its path towards growth, prosperity and stability.

– Maya Sulkin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Brunei Darussalam
Located on the northern coast of the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, Brunei Darussalam is a small state with a population of less than half a million people. As an absolute monarchy, the will of the Sultan largely dominates politics and economics in Brunei. Although it is a developing state, impressive strides have occurred in recent years to reduce hunger in Brunei Darussalam and have demonstrated the country’s potential for future success.

The Situation

In 2014, the United Nations reported that for the past few decades, food security in Brunei Darussalam has been stable and undernourishment has been relatively low. However, there are still several areas in need of improvement.

Food and nutrition for pregnant women and children are in need of particular attention. Estimates have determined that nearly 40% of all pregnant women were anemic, and child malnutrition is especially rampant. With stunting in 20% of children and a further 10% of children underweight, hunger in Brunei Darussalam is a serious problem for both children and women.

Much of the country’s issues with food arises from heavy reliance on imports. With forest covering more than 70% of Brunei’s land area, much of it still untouched and agricultural land is scarce, making up only around 3% of the country.

As of 2019, Brunei heavily relied on imported food from over 90 countries around the world, resulting in high food prices and occasional shortages of supplies. In response, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has declared food self-sufficiency to be a top priority for his administration.

Solutions

So far, the country has achieved much success. Since the Sultan’s drive for self-sufficiency, Brunei has reached nearly 100% domestic production for certain goods, such as chicken and eggs, and is at 80% domestic production for all seafood products and tropical fruits as of 2020. In doing so, Brunei’s government has managed to increase food supplies and self-dependence in the nation, thereby allowing easier and more affordable access to food for Brunei’s population.

Given the status of rice as a staple food in Brunei, the government has also set out to increase Brunei’s domestic rice production. The government-owned corporation PaddyCo has developed hundreds of hectares for rice farming, which projections have determined will return a 700% increase in rice yields between 2010 and 2025.

Sultan Bolkiah’s government has also set out to tackle the issue of child hunger in Brunei. In 2018, the Program Harapan dan Anak Harapan emerged to provide meal plans to 41 of the most disadvantaged primary schools across the country. By 2019, the program was capable of providing food to nearly 12,000 eligible children. Although statistics indicate that certain groups in Brunei continue to suffer from food insecurity, the country has undoubtedly made recognizable and admirable strides to combat hunger.

By focusing on self-sufficiency and addressing child hunger in Brunei Darussalam, the government and people of Brunei are working to make a difference in the most effective way they can. With continued work, the prospect of Brunei eliminating hunger entirely and ensuring food security for all seems to be a very real possibility.

– Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr