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Education is one of the very few opportunities for poor people living in impoverished, underdeveloped countries. Basic education programs provide children with the skills necessary to acquire employment, as well as basic knowledge pertaining to health, hygiene and disease prevention. And yet, according to the U.N., 250 million children — even those who have spent at least four years in school — are not able to adequately read, write or count.

While many factors play into this staggering statistic, hunger is a key culprit when it comes to the millions of uneducated children worldwide. Here’s how hunger hurts learning:

1. Children who are malnourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year, which means 160 missed school days.

2. Vitamin A deficiency, which is directly linked to malnutrition, is the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness in developing countries; The World Health Organization estimates that each year, 500,000 children go blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency. Blindness makes it increasingly difficult for children to learn alongside their peers.

3. Malnutrition intensifies the symptoms and effects of diseases, such as malaria and measles. Children who are unable to combat these diseases lack the physical capacity to attend school and learn.

4. Malnutrition stunts not only physical, but also mental development, in young children, preventing them from reaching their full human and socio-economic potential as well as their potential to learn.

5. One out of five children born from an under-nourished mother is born with low birth weight. Low birth weight in children is linked to mental retardation, learning disabilities and blindness, all of which may prevent a child from receiving an education.

Hungry children suffer not only from malnourishment—and the litany of other harms it causes—but also from the incredible disadvantage of not being physically well enough to learn. Global education and global hunger are not mutually exclusive issues. A brand-new school with ample resources in Tanzania, for example, is useless without a classroom full of healthy children who are ready to learn.

Expecting Malaria-infected children to attend school and absorb information from excellent basic education programs is also impractical. We have a global responsibility not only to support education programs in third-world countries, but also to ensure that children are able to take advantage of the incredible opportunities education holds for them.

Due to the difficulty of learning while hungry and ill, in order to provide effective education, it is crucial that aid programs also address the global health and hunger crises in impoverished countries.

Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: World Hunger, UN.org, UN.org, Hellen Keller International
Photo: Your Mind Your Body

scaling_up_nutrition
Countries around the world are joining efforts in a program called Scaling Up Nutrition to improve the way malnutrition is being treated. By using nutrition-specific interventions and nutrition-sensitive approaches, Scaling Up Nutrition is on the path to decreasing nutrition problems that have horrible effects on societies.

The program consists of governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers. Together, the program can provide all the necessary resources to decrease malnutrition globally.

Scaling Up Nutrition was founded on the principle that all people have the right to nutritious food. The program has a focus on improving women’s and maternal health. Studies show that proper nutrition is essential during the 1,000 days from the start of pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this time frame can lead to stunted growth and impaired cognitive development. Scaling Up Nutrition aims to prevent these from happening by expanding the knowledge and resources for women during and after pregnancy.

Their nutrition-specific interventions include support for exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age, fortification of foods, micro-nutrient supplementation and treatment for severe malnutrition.

Malnutrition is not caused solely by the lack of access to proper food. Recognizing this, the program is also incorporating nutrition-sensitive approaches. These include things like agriculture, empowering women, clean water and sanitation, education and employment, health care and support for resilience.

By combining all these facets that go hand-in-hand with malnutrition, Scaling Up Nutrition is able to work as a united front to put the proper policies forward, implement effective programs and provide necessary resources for the improvement of malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a core problem that can have severe consequences on individuals, families and entire societies. Poor nutrition often coincides with poverty. By improving nutrition around the world, Scaling Up Nutrition is taking a large step toward eradicating poverty around the world.

— Hannah Cleveland 

Sources: Scaling Up Nutrition, UN
Photo: National Grocers

hunger_in_pakistan

Hunger in Pakistan has killed many people and affected the lives of many more, especially children. After a drought hit the Tharparkar district of Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province earlier this year, at least 132 young children died, many as a result of malnutrition.

The problem of hunger in Pakistan is not limited to Sindh Province, however. While Sindh certainly has the highest rates of malnutrition and least access to food, Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey reported that 58 percent of all Pakistani households were food-insecure.

Malnutrition is also widespread; the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey found that 24 percent of Pakistani children under 5 exhibited “severely stunted growth.”

Why is hunger such a prevalent issue in Pakistan? Some of it has to do with past inflation of wheat prices in the late 2000s, as it was more difficult for people to afford domestic grain. Infrastructural difficulty, such as providing electricity to flour mills, also poses a problem.

Still, the largest factor causing food insecurity in Pakistan is the nation’s own government and its policies that hinder food production and distribution.

Take, for example, the deaths from the drought: the government did not work to distribute food until after the crisis. As the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network reports, “the government didn’t act until [it received] reports of children dying” last December, even though animals had been dying since October and rainfall was decreasing. Moreover, government-run hospitals and clinics in the region have been constantly understaffed, making it difficult to get medical care to those who needed it.

Other government policies affect all of Pakistan, not just Sindh. Under the Corporate Farming Ordinance, the Pakistani government leases large tracts of land to foreign investors looking to stockpile crops for their own countries. This takes valuable land away from local farmers while keeping the food away from Pakistani citizens that need it.

The government of Pakistan seems to prioritize profits over its people. During the inflation of wheat prices in 2008, the government increased its wheat exports, depriving many hungry people of food. Even today, much of the wheat that large corporate mills produce leaves the country.

In reality, Pakistan should be capable of providing its citizens with enough food to survive, and there should not be as much food insecurity as there is now. Arif Jabbar Khan, Oxfam’s Pakistan director, affirmed that “missing public policy action and persistent economic inequalities are the main causes of malnutrition,” not droughts or famine.

How can hunger and malnutrition be reduced in Pakistan? Foreign aid providers may be able to earmark funds for the redistribution of grain to poorer areas, and this aid could be cut if the government does not comply.

Nevertheless, political pressure to change food distribution policy must come from within Pakistan itself. The citizens of Pakistan must demand change and hold elected officials responsible for their actions in the polls if the system is to be fixed.

 — Ted Rappleye

Sources: The Guardian, South Asia Masala, Triple Bottom-Line
Photo: Tribune

what_is_poverty
Before becoming an advocate to fight to end global poverty, you should understand what poverty actually is.

What is poverty? There are plenty of textbook and Google definitions for poverty.

Miriam-Webster defines poverty as “the state of being poor.” The definition works, but poverty is so much more than words on a page; it is a living, breathing problem that millions of people live with every single day.

Another dictionary definition for poverty is “the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.” When you think about that in terms of human life, it can sound clinical, cold or cruel to refer to other humans as “inferior” or “insufficient” simply because they are living in poverty.

The world works that way. Many people question those who live in poverty and how some of them have “nice” things when they can barely afford simple goods like food or clean water. Other people view impoverished people as dirty or beyond help.

Poverty is people who live on a dollar a day, people who can’t find shelter, people who are dying from curable diseases all because they can’t afford treatment. Poverty is the fear that you will not make it to the next day.

When people think of poverty, they often think about people in Africa or just people who don’t live in their immediate country. However, poverty, even extreme poverty, is not localized to just the African continent. There are people struggling, suffering and barely getting by everywhere.

In America, one in six people struggle to make ends meet; to have just enough food and health care to feed and take care of their families. Over 600,000 people in America alone suffer from extreme poverty; the lack of shelter, food, health care and income.

So, what is poverty, because poverty is more than being poor and it’s more than having nothing to your name. Poverty is being terrified of not being able to make it to the next day without having something else taken from you and not being able to do anything about it.

The image of poverty is often a cruel and unforgiving one, but there can also be hope in the people who hang on day after day.

These people are the reason for the fight to end global poverty. The fight is for the people who hang on to life and struggle for the chance to one day be free of their demons and for the people who couldn’t make it, so no one will ever have to feel like them again.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Feeding America, Google Definitions, Merriam-Webster, New Nouveau
Photo: Productive Flourishing

In the past two decades, Vietnam has made incredible progress. Not long ago, it was considered a developing country; however, since the introduction of the Doi Moi reforms of 1986, Vietnamese per capita income has increased from $100 to $1,130 (USD) in 2010. The population rate of poverty decreased from 58 percent in 1993 to a much smaller 14.5 percent as of 2008, a figure that continues to diminish yearly. Vietnam‘s economy has progressed impressively. With the embrace of free market reforms and an influx of foreign development and investment, its private sector has enjoyed immense job growth. The nation swiftly achieved half of its 10 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and will likely reach an additional two MDGs within the next year. It is clear to the international arena that Vietnam is well on its way to both modernization and economic prowess. According to UNICEF, Vietnam’s MDG of focus was one aiming to eliminate food poverty. Efforts to achieve this goal meant food poverty rate decreased by over 66 percent — going from 25 percent in 1993 to just 6.9 percent as of 2008. To put this statistic in a perspective, about 15 percent of the U.S. population exhibited food poverty in 2012. Despite these encouraging improvements, malnutrition in Vietnam remains a serious concern. The country’s large child population — numbering approximately 26 million — still suffers disproportionately from malnutrition. Currently, one-third of all children in Vietnam under 5 years of age experience stunted growth resulting from chronic malnutrition. Additionally, 20 percent of this young population is regarded as malnourished and under healthy weight baselines. As the country continues swiftly on its progressive trajectory, steps must be taken to combat these statistics and lower the high incidence of child malnutrition. As the nation’s economy is heavily based in agriculture, it exports huge amounts of produce. Some argue that portions of this surplus could be easily directed toward child malnutrition, resulting in a significantly healthier and happier population. As the Doi Moi continue into the next few years, hopefully this MDG will be reached. – Arielle Swett Sources: Feeding America, World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2 Photo: UNICEF

Ranking 182nd on the Human Development Index (the 6th lowest ranking on the planet,) Mali is recognized as one of the most nutritionally unstable and under developed countries in the world. About four in 10 children under the age of 5 are underweight, and one in four people are as well. As a study from 2014 indicates, over 1.5 million people are not sustained by a regular supply of food.

This landlocked country is often afflicted by droughts and insect infestations, which deplete the crops upon which they often rely on for food. While malnutrition in Mali afflicts the entire population, it is the second largest killer of children under the age of 5.

In her intensive ethnographic study of Magnambougou, Mali, “Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa,” however, Dr. Katherine Dettwyler suggests that rather than poverty, a lack of education surrounding nutrition is the main root of malnutrition in infants and young children. It is the mothers’ misunderstanding that it is not simply enough to give children food, but in the early stages of development, it is crucial to distribute the right kinds of food.

On one of her visits to Mali, Dettwyler examined a little girl with kwashiorkor, of which the primary symptom is swelling all over the body and particularly in the abdomen. The disease is a result of protein deficiency combined with a high caloric intake and often appears when the child cannot sustain the same level of protein intake after being weaned.

The mother who summoned Dettwyler called the disease “funu bana,” meaning “swelling sickness,” and believed her daughter caught it from another child. She begged Dettwyler for medicine to cure her daughter despite Dettwyler’s assurance that all her daughter needed was to have a higher quantity of protein slowly introduced to her diet.

Dettwyler also offers an anecdote regarding misconceptions about nutrition that occurred when she brought her young daughter Miranda to Mali. When the two were eating with some of the villagers and Dettwyler gave her piece of chicken to her daughter, she was immediately questioned. One man explained that good food should not be wasted on the young, because they have their whole lives to eat, while the old should be honored because they will soon die. Dettwyler, however, tried to explain that children should be the ones to receive the better food because they need the protein to fuel their growth.

Moreover, a large reason for the high child mortality rate due to malnutrition is because adults often have trouble identifying the signs of malnutrition. In her ethnography, Dettwyler notes that “people simply get used to the way children look. If the typical child is mildly to moderately malnourished, then that becomes the standard… normal is what you’re used to” In addition to providing emergency relief, Dettwyler, along with Action Against Hunger, argue that the key to combating malnutrition in Mali is education, and that teaching Malians how to identify malnourished children will be an enormous step in the process.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: Action Against Hunger, Dancing Skeletons, WFP
Photo: Flickr

poverty in africa
A new report released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims the Feed the Future program has bettered the lives of millions of people who suffer from poverty and chronic hunger. In 2013, Feed the Future reached 7 million farmers, teaching them how to achieve a higher crop yield by using new technologies, and provided vital nutrition to 12.5 million malnourished children.

The program, which is the U.S. government’s global health and food security initiative, was established by the Obama Administration in 2010 and aims to reduce extreme poverty and starvation around the world. Feed the Future asserts hunger and poverty are inextricably linked and cyclical, and breaking this cycle will promote global prosperity and stability. Currently, the initiative focuses on 19 countries, which were selected based on level of need, opportunity for partnership, potential for agricultural growth, opportunity for regional synergy and resource availability. These countries are located in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Feed the Future is led by USAID, and works alongside other federal agencies, including such organizations as the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. African Development Foundation, to achieve its goal of reducing poverty and hunger by at least 20 percent in each area that the program is established.

In order to break the poverty cycle, the program establishes important relationships with impoverished countries to strengthen their agricultural growth, empower women, educate people on proper nutrition and eco-friendly farming and create partnerships between the private sector, civil society and research community. By working on the ground, Feed the Future has made real, tangible progress.

Countries where Feed the Future has achieved the most success are Senegal, Bangladesh and Honduras. In Senegal, dependence on food imports has fallen significantly, specifically in regard to rice. The country’s rice imports have fallen by more than 20 percent and the country has grown enough rice to feed 400,000 Senegalese for one year. In Bangladesh, rice crop yields increased by 20 percent, and in Honduras, horticulture sales increased by 125 percent, which enabled more than 4,300 families to move above the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

In addition to these advancements, Feed the Future has also brought in billions of dollars of fundraising. For agricultural progress in African countries alone, $7 billion in private sector funds were raised. The organization also holds events, such as symposiums and summit meetings, to educate audience members on different branches of the initiative, and meet with world leaders to discuss further advancements of Feed the Future.

According to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Feed the Future is not only “pioneering a new model of development,” but “delivering results that are changing the face of poverty and hunger.” The full progress report released by USAID can be found here.

– Taylor Lovett

Sources: All Africa, Feed the Future, The New York Times

1,000_days_campaign
Since conflict started in the Democratic Republic of Congo, children have been fleeing the violence to Rwanda and into the hands of another challenge: malnutrition. The state of food security and proper nourishment in Rwandan refugee camps is becoming dire as nearly 44 percent of children under 5 face serious chronic malnutrition.

However, the Rwandan government is making strides to welcome its new residents with open arms and humanitarian aid. Under the command of Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, the Rwandan government launched the “1,000 Days in the Thousand Hills” campaign back in September of 2013 to combat malnutrition in both its refugee camps and its local population. With the help of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), the 1,000 days campaign was implemented first in the Kiziba camp in Western Rwanda, then in all five refugee camps in the country.

The mission of the campaign: combat malnutrition using programs that make populations more self-reliant and educated on proper health. The approach: provide children with the proper nutrients for the first 1,000 days from birth until the child’s second birthday and establish local community efforts to produce more nutritious food.

The 1,000 Days campaign in Rwanda is not unique. In fact, similar programs have been implemented in a variety of other locations including Ethiopia, Indonesia and Guatemala. But what makes Rwanda’s campaign special is its focus on integration. Like all of MIDIMAR’s programs, the 1,000 Days in the Thousand Hills campaign aims to connect the refugee and local populations by using their combined forces to solve mutual problems. All practices used in the local population are being used in refugee camps and vice versa.

What are these practices? As established, the campaign seeks to make populations at risk more self-sufficient while still receiving help to reduce malnutrition. Programs include setting up kitchen gardens and animal breeding programs. At the start of the campaign, 315 kitchen gardens were set up and 151 families received rabbits to breed, eat and sell. The hope is to make refugees and local populations independent with livestock and farming techniques that provide them with greater nutrients.

On top of this, the 1,000 days campaign aims to provide children with the necessary sustenance for healthy development and nutrition from day one until age 2. This allows children to escape malnutrition and stunting of growth and to have better immune systems and brighter futures. The program achieves this goal both by putting more food into the community and educating parents on what counts as fortified and healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits and milk. In addition, the campaign seeks to spread awareness on the warning signs of malnutrition and the diseases associated with the condition.

All of this culminates in two results: first, it brings children out of risk of malnutrition by providing them with necessary protein from the start. Second, it pulls populations into a state of food security by providing sustainable ways of harvesting good food.

The program is set to end in October of 2016, but many strides towards success can be taken by then. With any luck and lots of hard work, malnutrition will cease to be an insurmountable problem facing refugees in Rwanda.

– Caitlin Thompson

Sources: All Africa, Doctors Without Borders, Ministry of Disaster Management, Relief Web, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Health, World Vision International, 1000 Days
Photo: Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Health

 

Soybeans and Global Food Security
A recent study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California has shown that soybeans can be re-engineered to grow in more arid environments without losing standard crop yield. If the new varieties prove durable, the cultivation of soybeans in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will help address food insecurity issues in the region. Here are five reasons why soybeans are important in addressing global food security:

1. Food production must increase by 70 percent to meet the world’s food needs by 2050.

There are a number of factors that will affect global food security in the coming decades including: population increase, movement away from rural areas and toward urban centers, food production and climate change.

Today, undernourishment affects 870 million people worldwide. Between now and 2050, there will be an additional two billion people on our planet, with around 24 million children pushed into hunger due to food security issues.

2. Soybeans are one of the world’s most important protein crops.

Soybeans have a protein content of over 35 percent, as well as healthy unsaturated fats and carbohydrate fibers, making them some of the healthiest food sources around. They are also one of the least expensive sources of protein when compared to eggs, milk, beef and cow peas.

Due to the use of soybeans in both the food and animal feed industries, soybean farmers can earn a substantial amount of cash because the crop can be successfully grown at a low cost of production.

3. Modifying soybeans can address both climate challenges and food insecurity.

In a recent study led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL,) computer models have been applied to look for a super soybean. The research study determined that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yield by 7 percent without using more water. The study also demonstrated that soybeans can be redesigned to use either 13 percent less water, or reflect 34 percent more light back into space without reducing crop yields–good for both food security and climate change.

While other geo-engineering solutions for climate change tend to be expensive, such as spraying sulfates into the upper atmosphere in order to reduce incoming sunlight or loading the ocean with iron in order to increase plankton photosynthesis, modifying annual crops is inexpensive and can be implemented quickly.

4. Soybean cultivation is growing in Africa.

Research by the University of Agriculture Makurdi in Nigeria in collaboration with the International Institute of Agriculture (IITA), aims to help improve the lives and livelihoods of small-hold farmers in the drought-prone areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by providing more durable soybean varieties that can stand up against more arid conditions. Like the redesigned varieties in the JPL study, new varieties being promoted in Africa can help increase crop yields without using more water.

Soybean production remains relatively isolated in Africa, with Nigeria as the largest soybean producer, followed by South Africa and Uganda. However, the new, more durable varieties may allow for more countries to begin cultivating soybeans, helping improve the health of their populations as well as reducing local poverty.

5. Soybeans could have a long-term impact on poverty.

Food and water security will be a major national security focus in the coming decades as both climate change and population increases affect food production worldwide. Countries lacking basic food resources to feed their growing urban populations may become hotbeds for conflict, unrest and terrorist activities.

While many solutions for food insecurity should be addressed and considered by lawmakers, scientists and farmers alike, soybean technology is a first step in addressing the needs of poverty stricken regions by providing a modified crop that can meet multiple goals.

Re-engineered soybeans are an innovative (and healthy) way to help address local food security issues worldwide. Not only do they provide a good food source, but their wide use in products from oils to food to animal feed guarantee a lucrative market for local farmers. Reducing poverty through innovative changes in the way staple crops are traditionally grown is an economical and feasible way to bring food security, in light of climate and population challenges, to developing regions of the world.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Daily Trust, United Nations Conference on Trade And Development, Intech, NASA, VOA News, World Food Programme, Stop Hunger Now
Photo: HD WAll IMG