Food Waste in Italy
Each year, about one-third of the food produced worldwide, 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted — enough to feed the one billion people who are malnourished and two billion more. Including food waste in Italy and France, the food wasted in Europe alone could provide for 200 million people.

“The problem is simple — we have food going to waste and poor people who are going hungry,” French politician Arash Derambarsh said to the Independent.

France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from disposing of unsold foods and require them to instead donate the products to charities and food banks. The Italian Parliament has become the second to introduce food waste reform.

In contrast to its French counterparts, however, Italy’s bill rewards supermarkets for helping reduce food waste instead of punishing them for not doing their part.

Current law requires stores to declare each donation five days in advance, preventing supermarkets from giving away excess. Once the new bill becomes law, markets will only need to submit a document detailing what was given at the end of the month. The donations will go to public authorities and non-profit organizations.

The new legislation also allows markets to donate mislabeled food products if the expiration date and allergy information are properly indicated. A food education program for schools, a national awareness campaign and a take-out system for restaurants will follow within the next three years.

According to La Reppublica, 43 percent of food waste in Italy happens at the consumer’s home. Each person wastes an average of 76 kilograms per year, costing the country $18 million. Maruzio Martina, the Italian agriculture minister, said he hopes to increase Italy’s food recovery from 550 million tons to 1 billion.

Many hope the bill will not only reduce food waste in Italy but also benefit the 6 million Italians living in poverty who rely on donations to survive.

The waste-bill, brainchild of Italian member of parliament Maria Chiara Gadda, has received bipartisan support, and was passed in the Senate on August 2.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aidAlthough known as a country riddled with insurgency, drought and political instability, Somalia, the “Horn of Africa,” is steadily improving. In November, in a session of the United Nations Security Council on Somalia, the U.N.’s top diplomat in the region, Nicholas Kay, expressed positivity about the state’s transformation.

Humanitarian aid has been instrumental in the country’s upward trajectory. The 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Somalia, outlined in 2015, seeks $885 million to reach 3.5 million people.

In addition to decreasing extreme vulnerabilities and outstanding crises, the Federal Government and the international community, has set a goal to decrease the number of people who are unable to meet minimum food requirements from eight percent down to five percent of the total population.

The same study has reported that 308,000 children under age five were acutely malnourished and 56,000 children severely malnourished, with an overall burden of 800,000 malnutrition cases.

In addition to malnourishment, the region also remains vulnerable to extreme environmental fluctuation. The U.N. estimates that as a result of the 2015 drought in the region, over 4.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

The good news, however, is that international organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee are responding to the need by expanding humanitarian aid to Somalia.

The organizations are providing food assistance, health initiatives and clean water and sanitation improvements. As of April 15, nearly 60,000 people affected by the drought have received food provided by aid organizations, according to a press release made by the ICRC.

In response to the weather severity and its aftermath, Jordi Raich Curcó, the head of ICRC’s Somalia delegation, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t new or unique; the drought is only the latest example of such cyclical phenomena. We hope our intervention can help some of the affected communities see the drought through.”

In partnership with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations, international players continue working towards peaceful governance and military control within the country.

This support focuses on border control safety, the integrity of refugees and those deported from surrounding regions and human rights violations as a result of local militants.

In making positive steps towards improving the quality of life for the Somali people, regional and international actors remain hopeful that future goals will be met for the betterment of the country.

– Nora Harless

Global Communities Poverty in Ghana
A non-profit organization called Global Communities works to end poverty in Ghana with a 5-point plan in conjunction with USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.

The non-profit organization works in more than 20 countries around the world, with Ghana being a focus of the recent programs. Global Communities, created about 60 years ago, works with the private sector, governments and local communities to provide the “means and ability to live and prosper with dignity,” something it ensures under its organization’s vision.

The Maryland-based organization paired with USAID in support of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to be implemented over the years 2014-2025. The program’s goal seeks to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent over those 11 years. Global Communities has put forth these five goals in hopes of accelerating the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.

1. Provide more opportunities for economic growth through microfinance

Individuals who do not have access to the capital provided by large financial services corporations can gain access to funds through various microfunding institutions. These smaller companies allow a more intimate relationship between the lender and the borrower. Global Communities works through Boafo Microfinance Services in order to provide low-income Ghanaians with the money for new businesses, education and homes.

2. Build a more “resilient” Ghana by improving the nutrition in local diets

In order to reach this goal, Global Communities has partnered with the USAID/Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) program to “reduce poverty and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.” The introduction of the sweet potato in local Ghanaian farms was a successful implementation of the partnership. Both USAID and Global Communities hope to educate communities on the importance of good nutrition instead of just providing temporary relief.

3. Create pathways for urban youth to become financially independent

Global Communities has joined the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative For Employment in opening up the construction sector to Ghana’s youth. In five of the biggest cities in Ghana, the initiative hopes to “reach more than 23,000 youth” by teaching them the skills for employment. Because Africa’s youth makes up a majority of the population, targeting this demographic is the most effective way to reducing poverty in Ghana.

4. Improve access to clean water and sanitation

Working with both the public and private sector, Global Communities is working to enhance the current water and sanitation infrastructure. With focus on “slum communities” in three cities, the non-profit seeks to optimize every individual’s condition while constructing water and sanitation services that can be sustainable. These efforts are paired with USAID’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for the Urban Poor (WASH-UP) and USAID’s WASH for Health (W4H). An important part of the relief is affecting a change in behavior which can help create a poverty-free society that operates without relief.

5. Upgrade local neighborhoods and reinforce political and social institutions

After the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met, a society can begin to upgrade its political, economic and social conditions. Global Communities, with the Bill & Melinda Gates SCALE-UP program, echoes this idea as it reinforces educational and financial institutions for residents in the low-income communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The expansion of government services, such as female inclusivity and public transportation, in those regions is being implemented through the Our City, Our Say project.

Global Communities is just part of a larger non-profit coalition fighting against global poverty in Ghana. The process includes numerous programs with funding from various foreign governments, each generating results through their focus on different parts of the Ghanaian society. Readers can follow the various programs and outcomes on the Global Communities website.

Jacob Hess

Sources: Global Communities 1, Global Communities 2, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Borgen Project

Healthcare in LesothoUNICEF and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) have announced that they will launch four pilot health centers in 2016. As a result, thousands of rural residents may be able to receive basic health care in Lesotho.

The health centers, called One Stop Shops, are an effort to bring HIV, malnutrition, blood pressure screenings, immunizations and infant checkups to the most remote areas of the country. Community members in mountain regions are currently unable to get these services without traveling to district capitals, which is a severe hardship that often deters them from seeking help at all.

“Without easy access to these service providers, they won’t go after these services,” said district council secretary for Maseru, Mamajara Lehloenya. “One wouldn’t take the initiative to go test your high blood pressure (hypertension) unless you are very sick.”

This is a serious problem in a country facing a number of national health burdens. The most recent reports from the World Health Organization indicate that the hypertension prevalence rate is more than 30 percent. HIV affects over 23 percent of the population. At the same time, Lesotho is experiencing an under-five mortality rate of 100/1000 children.

To remedy this lack of accessible health care in Lesotho, which is taking away lives, UNICEF and GIZ are bringing services to the most accessible level of government: community councils.

After the pilot phase is over, agencies hope that One Stop Shop will be a “reliable information hub” where community members can learn what services they can receive near home and how to receive them. One Stop Shop also aims to strengthen the referral network for more technical services offered in the capitals.

Social workers will also be included in the initiative in order to assist residents with government documents, including birth certificates and identification cards, as these are often necessary to receive help outside of local communities.

Empowering rural citizens of Lesotho to take charge of their health is critical to sustainably improving human and economic development in the country.

“By linking them to services that build their human capital – like health and education – a safety net of public assistance programs can help the poor rise out of long-term poverty,” said UNICEF Social Protection Consultant Betina Ramirez.

The efforts will complement those of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has been working to build capacity in the country, especially in the agricultural sector. UNDP urges that, together, improving health and food security will be critical if Lesotho is to get back on track with the Millennium Development Goals.

Ron Minard

Sources: UNDP, UNICEF, WHO
Photo: Flickr

what_causes_Stunting
What causes stunting? The World Health Organization (WHO) calls growth stunting one of the most significant impediments to human development.

Stunting is described as, low height for age or a height more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

It is estimated 162 million children under the age of five are stunted worldwide.

According to The Future of Children, stunting is an indication of malnutrition or nutrition related disorders. Contributing factors include poor maternal health and nutrition before, during and after pregnancy, as well as inadequate infant feeding practices especially during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and infection.

In a global study, UNICEF explains that nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five are attributable to chronic malnutrition. In one year, that’s a loss of nearly three million lives.

Malnutrition doesn’t only lead to decreased stature. Malnutrition increases the risk of dying from common infections, the frequency and severity of such infections and contributes to delayed recovery. According to UNICEF, the relationship between malnutrition and infection can create a potentially lethal cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional status.

The effects of stunting are lasting and generally irreversible. Children over the age of two who are stunted are unlikely to be able to regain their lost growth potential. In addition, children who experience stunting have an increased risk for cognitive and learning delays.

The effects of malnutrition on a population have broader impacts. Malnutrition perpetuates poverty and slows economic growth. Reports from the World Bank show that as much as 11 percent of gross national product in Africa and Asia is lost annually to the impact of malnutrition.

A study looking at the long-term effects of stunting in Guatemala showed adults who were stunted as children received less schooling, scored lower on tests, had lower household per capita expenditure and a greater likelihood of living in poverty. For women, stunting in early life was associated with a lower age at first birth and a higher number of pregnancies and children.

The World Bank estimates a 1 percent loss in adult height due to childhood stunting is associated with a 1.4% loss in economic productivity. Further estimates suggest stunted children earn 20 percent less as adults compared to non-stunted individuals.

In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a plan to improve maternal, infant and young child nutrition by 2025. Their first target: a 40 percent reduction in the number of children under the age of five who are stunted.

Overall, progress has been made. UNICEF reported between 1990 and 2014 the number of stunted children under five worldwide declined from 255 million to 159 million. Today, that is just under one in four children under the age of five who have stunted growth.

At the same time, numbers of stunting have increased in West and Central Africa from 19.9 million to 28.0 million. As of 2014, just over half of all stunted children live in Asia and over one-third reside in Africa.

Kara Buckley

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, The Future of Children, World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2
Photo: Google Images

malnutrition_in_south_sudan
UNICEF and the World Food Programme announced recently that volunteers will go door to door over the next 12 months in an effort to screen 250,000 children for acute malnutrition in South Sudan.

The initiative will target households in the state of Warrap in Buhr el Ghazi, where an estimated 26,000 children are thought to suffer from life-threatening cases. Volunteers have been chosen from local communities and trained by the state Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and WFP.

“Visiting every single home will help ensure that children who are malnourished or sick will be referred for treatment and will receive life-saving care,” said Vilma Tyler, Chief of Nutrition for UNICEF in South Sudan.

The announcement comes just as the recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification warns that the situation in some areas of the country could escalate to famine levels if humanitarian assistance isn’t delivered by December. Nearly 238,000 children in South Sudan are currently experiencing Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

Widespread food insecurity in the newly formed country has been the result of ongoing conflict between various rebel groups and the fledgling South Sudanese governing body.

Civil war came to a head in Juba in 2013 amidst ethnically motivated attacks, civilian massacres, and the displacement of over 750,000 children as people fled their homes to escape the violence.

Record food prices caused by the resulting economic downturn and unreliable rainy seasons have exacerbated an already dire problem; the number of children facing SAM doubled from the previous year.

With time running out, volunteers are working quickly to triage those in need. Children at risk of starvation will receive treatment at UNICEF-supported health facilities and outpatient therapeutic programs while caregivers will be offered guidance on how to keep children healthy through nutrition, hygiene and sanitation practices.

For children with SAM, initial treatment often means utilizing Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) – 500kcal spreads containing essential amino acids, lipids, and minerals – as their sole nutritional intake.malnutrition_in_South_Sudan

UNICEF is hoping to build on the progress it made in 2014 by prioritizing three strategic objectives: continuing humanitarian intervention in UN Protection of Civilian (PoC) and Internally Displaced Person (IDP) sites, scaling up its Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in hard to reach locations and supporting capacity building by engaging community-based organizations.

Until March 2014, UNICEF primarily operated within United Nations’ PoC and IDP sites, which sheltered only a fraction of the 800,000 people displaced by conflict. Ethnic and gender-based harassment and shifting security situations prevented volunteers and specialists from reaching 90 percent of at-risk individuals across the country.

Still, for 90,000 people, life-saving treatment and sustainable training came just in time. In addition to nutrition services, children benefited from guidance on sanitation and hygiene and were enrolled in school.

The development of RRM revolutionized UNICEF’s reach in the country. Mobile teams of specialists are now equipped to deploy to locations previously inaccessible because of deteriorated security.

During the 34 missions these teams conducted last year, more than 500,000 additional people were screened, and the number of children receiving life-saving treatment for SAM climbed to 93,000.

These teams are also equipped to collect more extensive data on the ground and to implement warning systems, which will alert them to return to communities when progress begins to reverse. UNICEF is hopeful that by ramping up RRM capabilities, they will continue to see more patients.

To prevent recurring cases, UNICEF will step up engagement with community-based organizations with a focus on capacity building. Last year, the organization worked with 88 local organizations to train around 1,900 partners on SAM treatment, infant and young child feeding, and nutrition surveys.

It also supported local working groups seeking to maintain progress in affected areas and engaged the government of South Sudan on water sanitation and national planning.

These efforts will be critical to ensuring that sustainable development continues even after these next 12 months, and UNICEF is hopeful that, for children in South Sudan, it will.

Ron Minard

Sources: IpcInfo 1, IpcInfo 2, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: Flickr, Wikipedia

Guatemalan Drought Creates Food Emergency
Over the last three years, Guatemala has experienced a drought that has taken a hungry nation and made conditions even more severe.

Before the drought, the nation experienced some of the highest levels of “inequality, poverty, chronic malnutrition and mother child mortality in the region.” Almost 50 percent of children under the age of five suffer from chronic undernutrition; that is the highest number in their region and fourth highest in the world.

The drought has now taken what little bit of food supply the region can supply on their own and caused the crops to be stunted or not grow. Also, any food reserves have been depleted. Nearly one million hungry people are growing even hungrier with the drought.

The food emergency was an issue last year as well. On August 26, 2014, a state of emergency was declared in Guatemala after a particularly brutal drought was affecting the nation. The state of emergency was issued in 16 of the 22 provinces and at that time was affecting 236,000 families.

Currently, much of the nation’s population is relying on the government and U.N. handouts to feed their families.

Part of the reason that the drought is so devastating is the lack of improvements to the water infrastructure. The inefficiencies in collecting, storing and then irrigating the rainwater that does come expounds the problems that are associated with the drought.

Organizations are working to help those suffering most from the ravaging drought. The World Food Programme has created programs “geared towards reducing food insecurity, improving the nutritional status of mothers and children under 5 and living conditions of vulnerable groups by increasing agricultural productivity and farmer’s marketing practices.”

They cite two main programs they are conducting in Guatemala:

  1. Country Programme: 45,500 people will be given supplementary food in order to combat the chronic undernutrition, 12,000 subsistence farmers will be assisted and the program will help 3,000 farmers gain access to markets.
  2. Purchase for Progress: This program is working to link a much broader base of farmers and markets together. Also, guidance on best farming practices will be given to help grain quantity and quality.

While these programs may not directly stop the widespread hunger, it is putting food in the mouths of many who need it and creating an infrastructure to ensure that severe food shortages do not happen in the future.

They are also not the only programs that the World Food Programme is working on in Guatemala. There are long-term plans to help the country through future droughts and streamline food voucher distribution to help those hungry right now.

Guatemala has a long way to go. During this drought so many people are suffering from worsening hunger. Unfortunately, this is not a new revelation or situation. The first area that has been addressed is the immediate need to feed the hungry.

But long-term action needs to be enacted. Thankfully, the Guatemalan government understands this and the World Food Programme has programs in place. Hopefully in the future, a drought will not cause such widespread hunger again.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Guatemala: WFP Country Brief, NBC, Trust, WFP
Photo: Flickr

Obesity and Malnutrition
In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and more than 600 million of these adults were obese. While we may often associate the epidemic of obesity with the developed countries, it has spread to the developing world as well.

There is a “double burden” of obesity and malnutrition in developing countries. Food that lacks important nutrients but is high in carbohydrates and sugars has become widely available in the developing world for a very low cost. Families that may not have a lot of money often resort to these food options.

This burden of both obesity and malnutrition is particularly evident in urban areas of poverty-stricken countries. The subsidization of agriculture in combination with multinational companies has made the production of foods with refined fats, oils, and carbohydrates cheap and widely accessible. Furthermore, more than 50 percent of low-income countries lack recommendations for food and beverage consumption.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a guideline for sugar intake. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done.

Potential solutions include taxations of high sugar content products, restrictions in marketing these products, and food industry regulations.

It is essential that the developing world does not repeat our mistakes. More importantly, it is not acceptable for developed countries to supply cheap, low-quality food simply for profit. There is a global accountability and responsibility that accompanies the rise in globalization.

Iliana Lang

Sources: NIH, The Lancet, Oxford Journals, Food Navigator

Photo: Flickr

Malthusianism Theories on Poverty and Aid
Thomas Malthus was a clergyman and philosopher of the late 18th century. His ideas on the causes of poverty and the means by which it could be eliminated were controversial for his time and would probably have been unspeakable in ours. However, his work shaped England’s “Poor Laws,” influenced scientists and philosophers such as Charles Darwin, and remains pertinent today.

Malthus believed that the population would always increase more rapidly than food supply, which meant that large numbers of people would always suffer from starvation and poverty. His calculations demonstrated that while food supply grew at a linear rate, populations tended to grow at an exponential one.

The inspiration behind his ideas came from his work as a parish priest, where he noticed that the numbers of poor people he was baptizing far outstripped the number of deaths he was recording. As a member of a wealthy family himself, he was also struck by the abject poverty and miserable conditions the poor were living in. At the time, almost a seventh of England was on some sort of welfare, but its population was booming.

Carrying out more studies on England’s poor gave Malthus a clearer picture of the problem. Poor families showed a tendency to have more children when their economic situation improved, even slightly, as it had after the industrial revolution. This had the effect of again lowering the average living standard of the entire family.

In this sort of poverty trap, the poor would remain unable to escape their condition. A poor family was also generally more likely to have a greater of number of children because some were always expected to die in their infancy. The solution, Malthus stated, was to encourage the poor to marry later and have fewer children, if any at all. By having children, they would be sentencing more people to live in poverty and starvation.

The way to encourage the poor to adopt this solution would be to eliminate all types of aid. While this would initially be very hard and even cruel, it would eliminate poverty and dismantle the poverty trap in the long run.

What welfare did, Malthus believed, was encourage the poor to marry earlier even when they could not support a family and have children they could not afford. The effect of this was that families continued to be poor and live on the very barest of necessities. England’s Poor Laws, which propped up people who suffered from bad harvests, was creating the very poverty it hoped to eliminate.

Once these practices were taken up, food supply could finally keep up with the lowered population growth. If food supply could not keep up, Malthus believed that three necessary and inevitable things would take place: plague, famine and war. These would once again balance out the population, but at a much greater cost.

Critics have generally attacked Malthusianism from two different angles. One side believes that a small population is not good for a country. The Mercantalists argue that high population growth, even if it results in poverty, is good for the country. It would provide it with people to fight in the army, work in factories and provide cheap services.

Mercantalists did not want the population to earn very high wages or live far above the poverty line—this would stagnate economic growth and weaken the nation. Modern anti-Malthusians also believe that low birth rates are bad for the economy because the workforce would not be able to support its older population.

Other critics of Malthusianism believe that his proposed solutions are not the best way to tackle poverty. They are needlessly inhumane. Human ingenuity can come with with solutions to expand food supply to meet population needs. Norman Borlaug, the mind behind the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, is cited as an example. He created strains of corn and wheat that had much higher yields than before, saving millions from starvation.

Neo-Malthusians, as modern proponents of Malthus are called, say the current statistics speak for themselves. Populations in almost every developing country are growing rapidly as they become wealthier and advancements in medicine keep more children and older people alive. In the last 110 years, the world’s population has grown from 1.6 billion to 7.2 billion.

But 805 million worldwide go to bed hungry, and most are from developing countries. A fourth of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically malnourished. More than 750 million lack access to clean water, which leads to 850,000 deaths per year. In major cities, such as Mumbai, half the population are living in wretched and slum-like conditions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, this number reached 61 percent. Most poor people continue to have more children than they can afford to take care of.

While the poor continue to have high fertility rates, they will continue to be poor. Neo-Malthusians advocate for better family planning, a change in societal expectations and norms, greater access to contraceptives and more education about conception to reduce the poor’s fertility rates.

Radhika Singh

Sources: Orion Magazine, Population Connection, Economist, BBC
Photo: Flickr

Interview With Anthropologist on Malnutrition in Kenya
In Kenya, over 1.5 million people are facing food shortages and high levels of malnutrition. Most of these people live in the rural areas, particularly in northern Kenya. The fact that these people are so far away from the more industrialized areas of Nairobi and Mombasa means that they are both more difficult to reach, and easier for a country to ignore. Some people live away from areas that are accessible by any sort of road and many people are only reachable by dirt roads, which are often treacherous.

When some people are reached the food is often things such as beans and corn, which do not offer all of the nutrients that people need.

To find out more, I talked to anthropologist Professor Jon Holtzman about his research regarding nutrition in Northern Kenya.

Q: What nutritional research have you done in Kenya?

A: I studied the Samburu in Nothern Kenya. They are pastoralists. They traditionally rely on their herds.

Q: What did you find in the gender differences in nutrition?

A: Both men and women were less well off as they aged, but men tended to be more adversely affected by aging. They tended to get more malnourished as they aged.

Q: Why do you think these differences occur?

A: There’re generally food shortages among the Samburu and although men have more political power, women control the distribution of food in the house. The food is sometimes scarce.

Q: How has the rising population changed the nutrition of the Samburu?

A: They no longer have enough cows to rely on the products of their herds, particularly milk. In 1950 there were probably about 50,000 Samburu and they had about 350,000 cows, so each person could get enough milk. Now there are about 200,000 Samburu and about 200,000 cows, so it isn’t possible to get enough milk. They just sell livestock to buy things like maize meal, which aren’t very nutritious and are low in key nutrients, such as protein.

Q: How is this affecting the health of the Samburu?

A: Generally they are very thin, and their growth rate is reduced. They are very vulnerable to diseases associated with poor nutrition, such as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Q: What sort of assistance would be best to help this population?

A: It isn’t an easy problem to solve. More support for health care and programs that bring new and sustainable economic activities to remote areas could be the best hope.

Groups like UNICEF and USAID are doing work to try to help people with low access to nutritious foods and potable water. But without the necessary funding, there is only so much that can be done.

Clare Holtzman

Sources: UNICEF
Photo: Flickr