Obesity in African Countries
Obesity in African countries, as well as malnutrition, is a rising issue. There are many documentations that wealthy countries are having issues with obesity, however, people have found that poorer countries in Africa are experiencing problems as well. This article will take a look at some of the potential reasons why African countries are experiencing obesity and malnutrition, as well as what people are doing to create healthier lifestyles in the future.

Causes of Obesity

Obesity in African countries has been on the rise over the past 25 years. BMJ journal studies have revealed that obesity has tripled in Egypt and Ghana since 1995, and doubled in many other countries such as Niger, Kenya and Rwanda. African women are especially at risk, showing rates of obesity much higher than men. One can attribute much of this rise to a few factors.

For much of the urban population, fast food is now readily available and cheaper than buying produce from a grocery store. This is causing problems with more people choosing fatty fast food with little nutrition over more wholesome options.

Along with this, there is a general lack of knowledge about proper nutrition. With more options readily available in stores, people are able to purchase more than just basic produce. However, without knowing how to eat a proper diet, many people choose the cheapest option or simply what tastes best. This leaves a nutrition gap in people’s diets.

 Beyond nutritional issues, there are cultural causes as well. Especially for women, many consider a larger body frame more attractive as they associate it with wealth, success and well-being. This cultural norm can set a dangerous precedent without proper education on true well-being. 

The Malabo Montpellier Panel and Potential Solutions

One program working to reduce obesity in Africa is the Malabo Montpellier Panel. This organization is a group of agricultural experts that strive to improve food security in Africa. It attempts to address the cultural and geographical problems causing obesity by influencing policy in African countries. It achieves this through research that it then reports to key government officials in the form of recommendations for policy. One of its achievements is getting 54 countries to sign the Malabo Declaration. This document states that these countries will strive to halve their current rates of poverty by 2025 through agricultural practices that provide jobs for people. These agricultural practices not only improve the economy making eating healthy more fiscally possible, but also ensure continued and improved access to fresh produce.

Striving for influence through policy advisors is just one way to go about solving obesity in Africa. One other such option is the use of educational programs to attempt to teach people better nutritional habits. People can develop programs and deliver them in urban and rural areas to promote healthy eating habits. Along with these programs, individuals can offer classes that instruct on how to properly cook nutritious food. Creating awareness of new cooking techniques can help expand the options people have for preparing food on a budget.

Lastly, people or organizations can implement programs that emphasize the importance of exercise. With more and more people living in urban areas and living sedentary lives, many people are not getting the exercise they need. Programs can both educate people on the importance of exercise, and provide training on how to properly get the exercise necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Conclusion

Though obesity in African countries is an increasing issue, there are options available that provide solutions. Organizations such as the Malabo Montpellier Panel are already starting to address issues and research solutions. As African countries address the issue, society as a whole will be better off and they will be able to put fewer resources into health care for obesity and more people should be able to contribute to the economy. Education and action could potentially eliminate the problem of obesity in developing nations in no time.

starvation in Africa
In East Africa, hunger is a major crisis. In fact, about 20 percent of the entire African population experiences hunger daily. While the claim that African children die from malnutrition every few seconds is a bit exaggerated, the true number of deaths from starvation in Africa is still quite alarming. Here are the causes and facts about the African hunger crises, as well as potential solutions to ebbing them.

The Causes

Hunger and malnutrition are not instantaneous, and there are many factors involved, such as poverty, drought, conflict and governance. Historically, famines and hunger crises from drought or war have plagued Africa’s poor since 1968. More often than not, extreme weather and climates will yield unsuccessful crops, which in turn subtracts from the profit that families can make from farming.

People suffering from poverty often cannot afford to purchase food, both in quality and quantity. Conflict and violence further instigate the food crisis by causing food insecurities and lessening the availability of food imports and incomes. Lastly, insufficient access to food can also be the result of poor governance and policies. Without proper leadership and guidance from governments, conflict and poverty can affect the quality, availability and affordability of food.

The Facts

As aforementioned, 20 percent of the African population—257 million people—suffer from hunger and famine. In the Sub-Saharan alone, 237 million suffer chronic undernourishment. As of June 2019, nearly 60 million children in Africa are underfed despite the continent’s recent economic growth.

Statistically, nine out of 10 African children do not meet the World Health Organization’s criteria for a minimum acceptable diet, and two in five children do not eat meals on a regular or scheduled basis. Children who suffer from such hunger also experience stunted growth and impaired cognitive development.

In truth, this is due to malnutrition, which is different from hunger in that while a child can fill its stomach with food and water, he or she will still suffer from a lack of essential nutrients that do not exist in the food they are eating. This is true for adults in Africa as well. While the number of starving, malnourished Africans is alarmingly high and ranging in the millions, however, the number of deaths from starvation in Africa is surprisingly low at approximately 400,000 deaths per year.

The Solutions

In order to prevent these numbers from increasing, the poor and the malnourished require accessible, affordable, good-quality food, as well as innovations to improve the harvests. In fact, the nonprofit World Vision has been doing so for over 40 years, providing emergency aid and long-term assistance to African communities and families.

In the event of a food crisis, World Vision offers food assistance, including emergency feeding those who are starving and treating malnourished children. It also provides fresh, clean water and sanitation to those in need. For the long term, World Vision offers business training and equipment to families to prepare them for another onslaught of adverse weather and gives families cash to support and provide for themselves.

In other words, with the right assistance, families and communities can avoid another hunger crisis and ebb the number of deaths from starvation in Africa. People either downplay or exaggerate the hunger crisis in Africa. The truth about starvation in Africa needs to come out.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Aquaponics in South Africa

Aquaponics is an emerging, innovative and resilient method to raise both fish and vegetables concurrently without soil and with little water. Aquaponics combines conventional aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water). The system imitates a natural wetland. The fish waste acts as a natural nutrient source for the plants and the plants filter the water. The water continues to cycle between both as the crops grow.

Aquaponics in South Africa

South Africa is currently experiencing drought conditions. Though aquaponics is new in South Africa, it has the potential of addressing food insecurity on a larger scale. It may serve as an alternative to traditional methods that are less environmentally sustainable. Growing crops traditionally requires fertile soil and large, consistent amounts of water. Traditional fishing leads to the depletion of fish in the ocean. With aquaponics, once the initial water supply enters the system, there is no need for additional water. The plants do not require soil. Climate conditions have little effect on the aquaponics system, though the fish may need a sustained warm temperature.

The installation of aquaponics can be on a large scale for market sale, or a small scale to feed a village. Even a small system can provide a surplus to sell for income beneficial to families living in poverty. Small-scale systems can be set up in a limited space, such as a backyard or a village common area. By 2018, 190 freshwater farms and 30 saltwater farms were in production in South Africa. Many farmers start small because of the start-up costs and may move to a larger system after developing their practice.

What Are the Benefits of Aquaponics?

Tilapia is the most common fish raised via aquaponics in South Africa. Leafy greens (lettuces) are the most common vegetables. Seventy-five percent of the aquaponics systems in South Africa serve the purpose of hobby farming or producing food for subsistence or human consumption, as opposed to producing for market sale.

Goals for those interested in expanding sustainability and food security with aquaponics in South Africa include raising awareness of the benefits and advancing the technology of small systems to improve production. Farmers practicing aquaponics need to develop an understanding of managing water quality, including pH, nitrogen and oxygen levels. Systems can be fully automated or semi-automated requiring more maintenance effort. Moreover, farmers may purchase fish food or use natural manure sources at no cost.

Aquaponics can grow other vegetables including tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, peas and beans. Farmers can harvest plants after one to three months while the fish take 9-10 months to mature. Proponents state that the vegetables flourish and grow more quickly than a traditional garden.

Aquaponics in South Africa Could Help Solve Malnutrition

Aquaponics offers an essential option for those who are at risk of malnutrition, who experience poverty and those who do not have access to sufficient water for traditional farming or gardening practices. An aquaponics system can be set up in rural or urban areas. A basic setup may begin with two repurposed bathtub basins, a water pump and piping or gravel to hold the plants and a properly plumbed system for drainage and recycling of water.

The highly nutritious and organically raised fish and leafy green vegetables provide protein, vitamins and fiber. These high-value crops create a much better alternative to high-starch, low-nutrition foods which may be more readily available when food is scarce. As an added benefit, with a closed water system, no run-off pollutes the environment.

A Need for Funding

In order to continue to boost sustainability and food security goals via aquaponics in South Africa on a larger scale, farmers will need funding to develop the technologies. Scientists are currently studying which systems (tunnels and greenhouses) provide preferable temperatures for different types of fish considering the climate in South Africa.

Though South Africa’s agricultural department plays a role in aquaponics education, proponents ask that the government of South Africa include aquaponics in their agricultural policies so that they may assist with funding. In addition, there is a need for aquaponics education in secondary and tertiary schools to increase knowledge and understanding.

Farmers and entrepreneurs will continue to develop sustainability and food security with aquaponics in South Africa. Aquaponics may provide the solution to climatic variables such as drought. The potential of aquaponics draws fishermen who recognize the decline in fish as a wild resource. In addition, aquaponics eliminates reliance on soil, which becomes depleted of nutrients from overuse. Aquaponics provides highly nutritious food sources that will combat malnourishment in impoverished areas.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

South Asian Food and Security Initiative
The South Asian Food and Security Initiative (SAFANSI) launched in 2010 to fight malnutrition in South Asia. The program has already had two full successful phases and is in the process of planning more. Since 2010, SAFANSI has contributed a great deal to several projects that help decrease malnutrition in South Asia. This article will outline how SAFANSI identified the problem and created 27 solutions. It will also express SAFANSI’s future plans.

Identifying the Problem

The South Asian Food and Security Initiative set out to combat the Asian Enigma, a problem for people in South Asian countries such as India, Nepal and Afghanistan who suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth at levels comparable to poorer countries. Food security is part of this problem. Despite the populace having the means to purchase food, it did not meet its nutritional needs. Furthermore, SAFANSI found that a major issue was that people did not know how to eat a healthy diet. This caused SAFASNI to identify the need for further innovations benefitting food security. These issues caused people from countries with comparatively low poverty rates to suffer from malnutrition.

Creating a Solution

In order to fix the discrepancy in the Asian Enigma, the South Asian Food and Security Initiative funded projects that fit its mission using money from the World Bank and foreign governments, including England and Australia. These projects range from sponsoring studies that investigate causes and solutions to communicating proper nutrition practices. In its 2018 report, SAFANSI listed some significant accomplishments, including sponsorship of 17 published peer-reviewed studies on food security on a household level (cited 75 times).

SAFANSI had also informed seven policies for countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal. These policies support community-based nutrition programs that empower communities to take control of their own nutritional habits. Appealing to the populace, the organization has reached almost 5 million people through news articles and social media posts with information on food education. Another project provided $16 million in aid to pregnant mothers, children under 2 years of age and rural farmers. SAFANSI conducted these innovative projects with an initial investment of only $4.2 million. To continue to address the need for food products with increased nutritional value, SAFANSI funded a project in India to fortify milk with vitamins that provided milk to over 55 million people. These 27 projects that SAFANSI funded over the last three years are by no means, the extent of its efforts.

Continued Efforts

Despite the tremendous efforts over the past nine years, SAFANSI intends to do more. Since SAFANSI’s second phase is coming to an end, planning for a third phase will commence soon. In this third phase, SAFANSI aims to further investigate methods for stunting and waste, as well as beginning to work more with the private sector on projects. SAFANSI wishes to build on its success by continuing to bring together experts to create innovative ideas regarding clean water, agriculture, sanitation and public administration.

Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

12 Shocking Facts About Hunger in the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelagic country of more than 7,000 islands located in Southeast Asia in the Pacific Ocean. Hunger is a very serious problem in the Philippines, affecting a large percentage of the population and causing many serious health concerns. Here are 12 shocking facts about hunger in the Philippines.

12 Shocking Facts About Hunger in the Philippines

  1. More than 33 percent of Filipino children suffer from malnutrition due to hunger problems in the Philippines. The problems with hunger and resulting malnutrition have long-term negative effects on children’s health.
  2. Out of the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines has one of the highest hunger severities. The only country facing a worse hunger situation in the ASEAN is Indonesia.
  3. The most recent Global Hunger Index (GHI) calculated that the Philippines ranks 69 out of 113 countries with a GHI of 20.2. Factors such as undernourishment and health statistics such as weight and mortality rates, and particularly with children, determine the GHI for a country. The higher the GHI value, the more serious the hunger situation is. A GHI value of zero indicates no undernourishment in the population. The Philippines’ high ranking displays the country’s serious struggles with hunger.
  4. With a GHI of 20.2, the Philippines has one of the most serious scores on the GHI scale. However, this score does not place the country into an alarming category. This shows that while the situation is serious, it is not unsalvageable.
  5. There are approximately 520 million malnourished people in the world. The Philippines has amongst the highest number of citizens suffering from malnourishment. The Asian region, in general, has an extremely high malnourishment rate, which includes the islands of the Philippines.
  6. During recent years, effective results against malnourishment in the Philippines have gone down. The high rate and stagnant poverty make it difficult to find positive outcomes for this problem.
  7. High rates of hunger and malnourishment in the Philippines are primarily due to high food costs and a large low-income population. Additionally, the government lacks focus on addressing the problems associated with hunger, such as regional agricultural laws. The Philippines has passed some bills to reduce the hunger problem including the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000. This law mandates “fortifying with essential micronutrients staple food items like rice, flour, oil, and sugar.”
  8. The current strategy for addressing malnutrition in the Philippines is the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN). This initiative has promoted many recent laws and bills. These laws address solving the malnutrition problem in the Philippines on specific levels or issues such as aid and security to small businesses, farmers and fishermen.
  9. The Duterte administration that currently runs the Philippines garnered an increase in foreign investments of 43.5 percent in 2018. While this brings in more money for the Philippines, a significant proportion goes toward building skyscrapers and big business centers, rather than providing methods to increase the sustainable food supply for the poor. A shift toward fixing hunger needs to become the primary focus in order to begin solving the hunger and health problems of the population.
  10. The organization Rise Against Hunger has been fighting hunger in the Philippines since 2011. Rise Against Hunger coordinates the distribution of food and aid to the most susceptible regions around the world. Rise Against Hunger hopes to end hunger in the Philippines and other countries by 2030.
  11. Feed the Children is another organization that strives to improve the lives of Filipino citizens since 1984. Feed the Children hopes to meet the immediate and long-term needs of children and their families. One of its main focuses is providing individuals with food, nutrition and clean water. It has been able to reach approximately 38 communities.
  12. Action Against Hunger has also worked in the Philippines since 2000 with a focus on humanitarian needs. It specifically looks at needs stemming from physical and emotional issues resulting from natural disasters and their consequences on family and living. In 2018, it was able to help 302,014 people with their programs of nutrition and health, food security and water sanitation.

This concludes the 12 shocking facts about hunger in the Philippines. The country has made small improvements, but there is still a long way to go. Many organizations are doing impactful work to bring real change to the Philippines. However, there are other ways to help, such as contacting congressional leaders or making a donation to one of the organizations mentioned.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

More than 40 percent of Sierra Leoneans experience food insecurity. This largely stems from the nation’s high poverty rate—53 percent of the population lives below the income poverty line—and the fact that 60 percent of the population performs low-paying subsistence agriculture work.

Efforts to address food insecurity in Sierra Leone, including those by the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Action Against Hunger, concentrate on combating these root causes and providing food to those in need.

Even though the food insecurity rate in Sierra Leone is still high, it has improved over the last several years, declining from 49.8 percent in 2015 and 43.7 percent in 2018. The percentage of households that are severely food insecure also decreased significantly, falling from 8.6 percent to 2.4 percent between 2015 and 2018. Still, approximately 3.2 million Sierra Leoneans continue to be food insecure and 170,000 are severely food insecure.

Furthermore, malnutrition in Sierra Leone is a persistent problem because of food insecurity. A 2018 survey found that 24 percent of households reported consuming food from less than three food groups in a week. This diet can have a dangerous impact, especially on children as malnutrition affects their physical health and making educational attainment more difficult.  Of note, 31.3 percent of children in Sierra Leone suffer from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition.

3 Organizations Combating Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

  1. The World Food Programme
    The World Food Programme (WFP), active in Sierra Leone since 1968, works to provide aid to those experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as addressing some of the causes of persistent food insecurity in Sierra Leone. Some of the organization’s main goals are ensuring access to food for all, achieving lower malnutrition rates and helping smallholder farmers become more financially prosperous. To accomplish these goals, the WFP provides food assistance to those affected by disasters and emergencies, provides cash assistance to the chronically food-insecure and trains smallholder farmers to strengthen their market access and profits.One of the WFP’s most impactful programs is its school feeding program, which was launched in 2018 in Pujehun and Kamiba, two districts experiencing some of the worst food insecurity in the nation. A significant side effect of food insecurity in Sierra Leone is low schooling rates, especially for girls. To reduce the number of children a family needs to feed, parents sometimes arrange child marriages for their daughters. This effectively ends their education because girls who are married are rarely able to continue going to school.Providing meals at school helps encourage families to continue sending their children to school and helps reduce the associated cost for the family. It also ensures vital nutrition and can help reduce malnutrition and its effects, including stunting of growth. The Pujehun District has a stunting rate of 38 percent, one of the highest in the country, which reflects a significant need for a program like this.

    The school meals are not meant to be a substitute for home-cooked food, but they help ensure that children do not go hungry during the day and provide a consistent source of essential nutrients. The school feeding program reached more than 29,000 children, including 14,000 girls, in its first year.

  2. Action Against Hunger 
    Action Against Hunger has been active in Sierra Leone since 1991. Their programming is focused on improving sanitation, hygiene and water access, as well as food security. To decrease food insecurity in Sierra Leone, Action Against Hunger grows leguminous plants and vegetables to help diversify food and income for farmers. They also develop savings and credit groups to increase financial opportunities for smallholder farmers.In 2018, Action Against Hunger helped a total of 215,433 people, 8,000 of which benefited from food security and livelihood programs. They also strengthened 32 health facilities and helped improve nutrition for mothers and children under 5.
  3. The International Fund for Agricultural Development
    In March 2019, the government of Sierra Leone and the U.N. reached a $72.6 million deal to improve food security and rural income in the nation. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing a $5.9 million loan, a $5.9 million grant and allocating an additional $40.8 million to use for the deal between 2019 and 2021. The additional funds are being provided by the government of Sierra Leone and the private sector. This project seeks to tackle poverty and food insecurity in Sierra Leone by strengthening agricultural systems and empowering farmers.  Women and youth are hoped to make up at least 40 percent of the project in an effort to promote gender equality and provide opportunities for young people.IFAD will invest in agricultural mechanization, water management and irrigation, as well as create field schools for farmers and provide them with opportunities for greater financial security. The goal is to increase production and expand markets to raise smallholder farmers’ incomes, thereby tackling one of the root causes of food insecurity in the nation.

Sara Olk
Photo: Wikipedia

Malnutrition in Mali

A land-locked country in West Africa, Mali has an economy that is primarily based on agriculture. The main crops produced are millet, rice and corn. However, this country-wide reliance on agriculture depends on the weather, which often includes unpredictable rainfall patterns. Inconsistent agricultural production, high population growth and increasing desertification are some of the causal factors that have resulted in the country’s ranking 182nd out of 189 countries in the world on the Human Development Index. Malnutrition also happens to be one of the leading causes of death in Mali. Because of this, many NGOs and governments around the world have funded programs in Mali to help improve living conditions and decrease malnutrition.

Political Instability

Aside from agricultural issues, political instability has also led to severe malnutrition in Mali. Recently, USAID predicted that an additional 868,000 people will require urgent food assistance in 2019. Of these 868,000, 160,000 will be children. Children who are malnourished are at high risk of growth deficiencies; as such, many children in Mali are severely underdeveloped with regards to their height and weight.

Current and Past Progress

However, some progress has been made. From 2006 to 2013, thinness among women of reproductive age and adolescent women decreased by 2 and 4 percent, respectively. Additionally, the prevalence of underweight children (under the age of 5), decreased from 14 percent to 13 percent. Although this may not seem like a significant statistical improvement, 1 percent of the population of children under 5 years old (3.33 million) represents 33,300 children, indicating that progress has been made towards reducing malnutrition in Mali.

In 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama started the Feed the Future initiative, a U.S. funded foreign assistance program that targets specific countries to alleviate global poverty and improve food security. As one of 12 countries selected to receive aid, Mali continues to benefit from the implementation of environmental and nutritional plans. The country has begun to invest in fertilizers in farms across the nation to improve the quality of crop production, and an additional 4.3 million trees have been planted around the country to help make farms more resilient. Additionally, the initiative has encouraged farmers to plant oilseeds, which they can sell for people to use as biofuel and soap. As a result of all of this, the Feed the Future initiative has provided nutritional and humanitarian assistance to millions of individuals in Mali.

Other USAID programs have proven to be of great help in Mali as well, such as the Food for Peace program which has provided $28.5 million of emergency food assistance in the Mopti, Koulikoro and Segou Regions. The program aims to increase the diversity of foods consumed in these regions to decrease malnutrition and make the population healthier.

Today, the Office of Food for Peace (FFP), an organization within USAID, partners with the U.N. World Food Programme, U.N. Children’s Fund and CARE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending world poverty, to provide food assistance in the poorest regions of Mali. As of July 2019, FFP assists 300,000 people with food distributions, supplemental nutrition assistance and asset-building activities. 33,000 severely malnourished children have received ready-to-use food and 124,000 people in the Mopti Region have been provided with programs to improve food security, promote hygiene and provide conflict support.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Project Healthy Children

Global hunger is one of the most pressing and visible poverty-related issues in our world today. People can easily recognize the defined ribs, sunken eyes and bone-thin limbs of starvation. However, there is another side to hunger that is not as obvious: micronutrient deficiency.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A and folic acid. In developed nations like the United States, most people get these critical nutrients from maintaining a well-rounded diet or taking a daily supplement. But it isn’t always that simple in some other parts of the world. In fact, micronutrient deficiency remains a big problem in Eastern and Southern Africa but often does not get the attention it deserves because the effects are not immediately visible. For this reason, micronutrient deficiency has been nicknamed “hidden hunger.”

Hidden hunger has real and long-lasting consequences. Insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals can result in learning disabilities, mental retardation, low work capacity, blindness and premature birth. These deficiencies lower overall health and weaken the immune system, thus making it much harder to survive infections like HIV and measles. They can cause extreme birth defects in children and are the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth.

Background

Clearly, micronutrient deficiency is a pressing issue that deserves the attention necessary to mitigate it. An organization called Sanku’s Project Healthy Children (PHC) is doing just that through a process known as food fortification: essentially, they add critical micronutrients to the flour people already consume.

PHC is based in Tanzania and currently supplies almost 2 million people with fortified flour to help them get the vitamins and minerals they need. Flour is a staple food that many people consume regularly; according to the PHC website, “over 50 million Tanzanians eat maize flour every day,” but more than 95 percent of it is produced without added nutrients in small, rural mills. Countries like Tanzania are in desperate need of better access to micronutrients—here, about 35 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth due to under-nutrition. Project Healthy Children uses the mills and distribution systems already in place to simply add essential micronutrients to the flour with no additional cost for the consumer. This way, people can get the nutrition they need without changing their eating or purchasing habits.

Why Food Fortification?

  1.  It is cheap: Food fortification is very inexpensive, typically costing no more than $0.25 per person annually. In other words, one quarter donated is enough to supply someone with adequate nutrients for an entire year.
  2. It is effective: Improving nutrition can be highly beneficial to overall health, work capacity and productivity. Women who sustain good nutrition before getting pregnant greatly reduce the risk of maternal death and birth defects.
  3. It has a huge payback: The economic rewards of food fortification are astounding. The WHO estimates that the consequences of micronutrient deficiency (birth defects, learning disabilities, premature death, etc.) can cost a country about 5 percent of its GDP per year. Supplying people with critical vitamins and minerals puts less pressure on a country’s health care system and allows for a more productive workforce. In addition, the Copenhagen Consensus estimated that for every dollar spent on nutrition in young children, a country will save an average of $45 and sometimes as much as $166.

The Future of Project Healthy Children

In the past few years, Project Healthy Children has become even more streamlined in its approach to food fortification. A partnership with Vodafone, a mobile network based in the United Kingdom, allows PHC staff to remotely monitor flour mills so that they instantly know when a machine is down or a mill is low on nutrients. The partnership saves money, time and manpower, allowing PHC to run more smoothly.

Project Healthy Children currently helps nourish about 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa but hopes to reach 100 million people by 2025, an ambitious goal that would be instrumental in lifting communities in Southern and Eastern Africa out of extreme poverty.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr