Hunger in TunisiaAccording to the Global Hunger Index of 2022, Tunisia ranks 26th out of 121 countries in terms of hunger levels. A 6.1 score indicates that rates of hunger in Tunisia are low. However, according to the World Food Program (WFP), “a stagnant economy, high unemployment rates, regional disparities and dependence on cereal imports challenge the ability of the most vulnerable to ensure an appropriate, nutritious diet.” Tunisia is facing “overlapping nutrition problems,” such as obesity and vitamin and mineral insufficiencies. The WFP estimates that about 28% of pregnant or breastfeeding females and children younger than 5 suffer from anemia. As a result, more attention is needed to address malnutrition in Tunisia.

A Dependency on Imports

A 2019 article by Aymen Amayed says “Tunisia is not self-sufficient in terms of food production: more than 50[%]of the food the country consumes is imported.” Although the importing of food products allows Tunisia to meet the country’s food needs, and even though the government provides subsidies for specific basic food products, affordability is still an issue. Amayed explains that “because many agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers are imported, locally produced food is also subject to price pressure and fluctuation related to currency exchange rates and other uncertainties of international trade.” Also, the planting of imported seeds and trees depletes local varieties of crops.

Extreme weather patterns also exacerbate the situation. Tunisia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document created in 2015 predicts that droughts will decrease the land area used for cereal crops by 200,000 hectares and will reduce the land area for arboriculture by 800,000 hectares by 2030. There will be a 30% decrease in “available land area for rain-fed cereal production,” resulting in the country’s GDP shrinking by 5-10% by 2030.

Impacts of the Russia-Ukraine War on Malnutrition in Tunisia

Due to the war in Ukraine, food dependence in Tunisia has become a major issue. The impacts of the war in Ukraine on the global food system have long-term consequences. Tunisia’s current food insecurity issues originate from “agricultural, economic and social policies introduced by successive governments since independence and which are directly related to global food systems,” Arab Reform Initiative says. For example, instead of strengthening the production of local cereal crops, Tunisia’s government increased cereal imports.

Despite the problems related to malnutrition in Tunisia, the WFP is working to help the government address these issues through the Tunisia Country Strategic Plan (2022–2025). The WFP will help to strengthen and expand state-run school feeding programs with the goal of reaching 260,000 vulnerable Tunisian children.

The government acknowledged the importance of school feeding programs in improving education, nutritional and developmental outcomes; therefore, in 2019, it expanded the budget for the school feeding program to $16 million annually.  Furthermore, the “WFP is providing technical assistance in establishing a national food security monitoring system that can inform efforts to make the national social protection system and safety nets more inclusive and shock-responsive.” The Strategic Plan aims to accomplish two main outcomes:

  1. Expand economic opportunities for at risk-groups in vulnerable areas to increase their shock resiliency by 2025.
  2. Improve the capacity of specific “national institutions in Tunisia” to establish “school meal and inclusive shock-responsive social protection” initiatives to reduce food insecurity.

Through continued reform commitments from the Tunisia government, hunger in Tunisia can reduce.

– Olga Petrovska
Photo: Flickr

Plumpy’Sup Fights Malnutrition
Around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are related to malnutrition and most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, also known as developing countries. Seeking to counter this statistic is Plumpy’Sup, one of the latest innovations in nutritional science. Plumpy’Sup fights malnutrition through its one-per-day sachets that provide a convenient and accessible route to necessary nutrients.

Understanding Malnutrition

Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in energy intake. While many think of malnutrition as solely relating to undernourishment, according to WHO, the term malnutrition refers to three different groups of conditions:

  • “Undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age)”
  • “Micronutrient-related malnutrition, which includes micronutrient deficiencies or an excess of micronutrients”
  • “Overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, which include heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers”

A Far-Reaching Threat

Since one or more forms of malnutrition impact every single country in the world, fighting malnutrition has become a global issue. In 2020, the WHO estimated that, globally, more than 149 million children under 5 suffered stunting, 45 million endured wasting and 38.9 million were overweight.

Links Between Poverty and Malnutrition

Another threat that malnutrition posed is its strong relationship to poverty. This concerning link between poverty and malnutrition is cyclical, as malnutrition reduces the population’s economic potential in order to induce poverty. In turn, poverty reinforces malnutrition by increasing the risk of food insecurity. This explains why areas with chronic poverty have higher malnutrition rates. Thus, although malnutrition reaches the entire world, those living in poverty face an even more significant burden.

The relationship between malnutrition and poverty particularly concerns children. Micronutrient deficiencies may result in adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight babies. These babies have an increased risk of impaired health and educational performance. Such impaired health, including illness susceptibility, contributes to poverty due to increased health care costs.

Additionally, poor educational performance in malnourished children may result in less schooling. Since education is a known pathway out of poverty, such decreased education contributes to the cyclical nature of poverty.

The Formula for Success

Hope in the fight against malnutrition can be found in Plumpy’Sup, a Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) that Nutriset designed to treat moderate acute malnutrition in children older than six months. Plumpy’Sup fights malnutrition using a peanut formula that comes in one-per-day sachets that are ready to eat and that people can consume in small quantities to supplement a regular diet. The ingredients in the formula include iron, sodium, vitamin A, vitamin D and more.

Plumpy’Sup is a flexible product that can treat malnutrition in various contexts, according to Nutriset’s website. Plumpy’Sup typically fights malnutrition in emergencies but one can also use it at home or in nutritional programs. The lipid-based dietary supplement, which has a high vitamin and mineral content, could provide hungry families with an option for fighting malnutrition in areas without electricity or clean water.

Ultimately, as Plumpy’Sup fights malnutrition, it provides a glimmer of hope for feeding the malnourished and stopping the cycle of poverty. Despite the pervasiveness of malnutrition, innovative food products such as Plumpy’Sup could be the start of a new chapter in global food security.

– Sarah DiLuzio
Photo: Flickr

About Hunger in Zimbabwe
The Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Once known as the “Jewel of Africa” for its “vibrant industries, an internationally-acclaimed social security net and abundant natural resources” after its independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has seen a dramatic decline in its economy and development. This has led to increasing rates of food insecurity and concerns about hunger in Zimbabwe. In 2020, Zimbabwe endured one of the most severe food crises in decades due to compounding issues such as “poor agricultural seasons, hyperinflation, failed economic and agricultural policies and the consequences of Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic.” As a result, more than six million Zimbabweans required urgent humanitarian assistance.

Causes of Hunger in Zimbabwe

  • Poor Weather Conditions: In March 2019, Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe causing cyclone-induced rains, catastrophic floodings and massive landslides. Then, six months later, the country dealt with “extreme drought in the middle of peak farming season.” This crisis came amid recovery “from the major 2014-16 El Niño-induced drought.” Zimbabwe’s economy is significantly agriculture-based with subsistence farmers making up about 75% of the population in 2020 and holding the responsibility to produce most of Zimbabwe’s food sources. Such back-to-back climate-related disasters are detrimental to the production of maize, a water-intensive crop and the principal food crop, and overall harvests. Due to poor rains and erratic weather conditions impacting livelihoods, during the 2019-2020 lean season, about 5.5 million rural Zimbabweans suffered from food insecurity.
  • Hyperinflation: In June 2019, the Zimbabwean government passed a law “banning the use of the U.S. dollar for local transactions and instead implemented the Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWL) as the only acceptable national currency.” A lack of “faith in the new currency” and a general non-acceptance of the ZWL by suppliers left retailers unable to purchase “basic food imports.” These factors have caused the prices of goods to skyrocket. Hyperinflation and the currency shortage mean that many households cannot afford to meet their basic food needs with the cost of maize “more than doubling in June” 2020.
  • Widespread Poverty: This series of economic and climatic shocks has caused poverty to rise sharply. The national poverty rate in Zimbabwe rose “from 32.2 % in 2001 to 38.3 % in 2019, growing at an average annual rate of 10.32%.” Furthermore, the extreme poverty rate jumped from 30% in 2013 to 42% in 2019 with those living below the extreme poverty line doubling “from three million in 2011 to 6.6 million in 2019.” The World Bank says that rural people account for 90% of Zimbabwe’s extreme poor, with children making up 1.6 million of the extremely impoverished.
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic: The onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns delivered another economic shock to the country, worsening the unemployment and poverty rates. In July 2020, a survey by the World Bank revealed that “nearly 500,000 households had one member who had lost her or his job” due to the business closures from the lockdowns. By June 2020, 23% of the most impoverished people and 20% of the non-impoverished, all of whom had employment before COVID-19, “had lost their jobs,” compounding the already high unemployment numbers. The pandemic itself pushed 1.3 million Zimbabweans into extreme impoverishment, plummeting the numbers to 7.9 million extremely impoverished Zimbabweans. The loss of jobs and income means more people lack access to staple foods and basic resources.
  • Malnutrition: Nutrient deficiencies are prevalent throughout Zimbabwe with “eight of Zimbabwe’s 59 districts” having an unprecedented acute malnutrition rate of more than 5% in 2020. Moreover, Zimbabwe’s Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2019 reveals that women and children bear the brunt of this crisis as one in four children younger than five faced stunting and the “risk of impaired physical and cognitive growth.” Furthermore, Zimbabwe stands as one of 10 nations whereby more than 80% of children between six to 23 months do not consume the minimum acceptable diet in 2020. As a result of poverty and its consequences, such as hunger, some children drop out of school and face child marriages. In addition, impoverished females are at higher risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence because they lack economic independence.

Initiatives to Curb Hunger in Zimbabwe

Immediate reform and initiatives are necessary to address concerns about hunger in Zimbabwe on a large scale. One such initiative is Mary’s Meals, a charity organization aimed at providing meals to the world’s impoverished children each school day. Since its founding in 2002, Mary’s Meals has spread across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, South America and Eastern Europe and now provides meals to more than two million children for “every day they attend school.” Mary’s Meals began working in the rural Tsholotsho District of Zimbabwe in 2018 and has since provided more than 73,000 children with nutritious daily meals.

Room for Growth

The Republic of Zimbabwe is on the road to recovering from the hurdles delaying its growth. Fortunately, the World Bank predicts that Zimbabwe could “have an economic rebound in 2022 with a bumper harvest expected to ensure most rural families have enough to eat and leading the economy to 3.9% growth.” With continued commitments to improving hunger in Zimbabwe, the country can propel onward into prosperity.

– Divine Adeniyi
Photo: Flickr

two-care-programs-using-water-to-alleviate-conditions-of-poverty-in-africa
CARE is a nonprofit international organization that has worked for 75 years to create better lives for the underprivileged. In 2020, CARE implemented 1,300 projects that reached 90 million people across 100 countries. The organization’s work focuses on women and girls because it believes that poverty will not undergo eradication until all people have equal rights and opportunities. Two CARE programs in Africa are helping reduce poverty in several different ways.

About Water+

CARE uses many different approaches to help countries all around the world. One approach is Water+, which focuses on using water to alleviate contributing factors of poverty. This program links water to more than just hand-washing and clean drinking water. In order to make the most significant impact possible, it focuses on the connections between water and many other systems, including agriculture, education and nutrition.

In 2013, 14 studies occurred in low-income countries on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions that found that WASH interventions improved the height-for-age scores in children below the age of 5 years old. This is significant because malnutrition is the surface cause for stunted growth. However, by improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene, the nutrition of the children improved. The direct link between nutrition, hygiene and poverty means that CARE’s Water+ programs are effectively able to alleviate many contributing factors of poverty.

Water+ puts in extra effort to ensure that the water services it provides receive proper maintenance and financing once they are in place so that they will be sustainable. In 2019, CARE’s Water+ approach has directly impacted 8 million people throughout 56 countries. Here is information about two CARE programs in Africa working to improve circumstances regarding poverty and clean water.

She’s SMART

In sub-Saharan Africa, women have limited access to land, water and education, yet they make up 50% of the workforce and are responsible for a large portion of agricultural labor. She’s SMART impacts poverty in Africa by working with female farmers in Mali, Malawi and Ghana, helping them grow more food by using Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA). Women farmers in Mali restored around 225 acres of land to productivity using techniques they learned from the WaSA project.

Women are also receiving encouragement to use CARE’s Village Savings and Loan model because having savings allows them to borrow money for any needs they might have. The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are currently part of a 12-year strategy to support 65 million people as they form groups by 2030. The savings groups usually contain 15 to 25 people that meet up to “save their money in a safe space, access small loans, and obtain emergency insurance.”

Overall, women in Mali report that they retrieve water for their fields half as often since implementing the WaSA techniques and they saw an increase of 18% in their annual income. In Malawi, the women saw a 27% increase in their income, while Ghana saw a 27% decrease in the costs of production. Thanks to She’s SMART, 36,000 women across these three countries have learned to grow and prepare healthy vegetables, and how to use wastewater to reduce the amount of labor for water collection.

CARE’s Nutrition and Hygiene Project

Each year, malnutrition is responsible for almost 50% of child deaths globally. Therefore, it is important to improve sanitation and provide access to clean drinking water in order to prevent communicable diseases that can lead to malnutrition. The CARE Nutrition and Hygiene project lessens the impact of poverty in Africa by improving the nutrition and health of pregnant women and children under the age of 2 years old in Mali by implementing nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and agricultural interventions. The project takes multiple approaches including helping farmers to produce more nutritious foods, improving the treatment of malnutrition and educating communities on healthy nutrition.

As of August 2019, 48,364 children under the age of 5 years old had improved their nutritional status, 277,838 people had access to an improved sanitation facility, more than 180 communities received open defecation free certification and 9,000 farmers had applied new management or technology practices and increased their food security. At the end of the program interventions in 2019, the project reached 173,000 children under the age of 2 years old, along with 68,300 pregnant and lactating women and 17,500 farmers and their households. There was also a 70% decrease in the prevalence of underweight children.

The Good News

These two CARE programs in Africa were both successful and made an impact on many lives. Past programs also include Glarciares+ which worked to help communities better adapt to changing weather in Peru, and the School Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene plus Community Impact (SWASH+) which focused on “increasing the scale, impact, and sustainability of school water, sanitation, and hygiene (SWASH) programming in Kenya.” Currently, CARE is implementing Rural Access to New Opportunities in WASH (RANO-WASH) which aims to “create solutions for sustainable and equitable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems so people can live healthier lives and preserve the environment” in rural parts of Madagascar. With continued efforts, CARE will have a positive impact on communities by focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene programs to alleviate poverty for years to come.

Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Kids
Jason Sudeikis, star of the hit Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso,” is working with Abbott, a U.S. multinational medical device and health care company to end malnutrition in kids all over the world. Sitting down with the Today Show co-hosts, the actor discussed his involvement with Abbot and what made him decide to fight malnutrition in children. Sudeikis stated that “I’m just here to use the platform that I’ve been granted [with] this groovy job that I have, to just support what [Abbott] is doing to help kids with malnutrition, to help with the education of it and ultimately the prevention of it.”

How Does Abbott Plan to End Malnutrition in Kids?

Sudeikis through his role as a paid spokesperson for Abbott helps raise funds to develop new technology for Abbott that will educate kids on malnutrition and ultimately prevent it. The actor has appeared alongside Abbott during an event at the New York Stock Exchange in October 2021 to show support for children’s health after Abbott announced a partnership with the Real Madrid soccer team to support the health and nutrition of children around the world.

Malnutrition is a worldwide problem that global poverty exacerbates. Due to a lack of resources and food insecurity, 690 million people are hungry with one in five children suffering from malnutrition worldwide.

The company has launched its Abbot Center for Malnutrition Solutions. The Center will focus on reducing malnutrition around the world, especially for vulnerable populations, such as mothers, infants and young children, aging adults and people that lack access to good nutrition.

Abbott has invested $45 million annually to help identify, treat and prevent the worldwide problem of malnutrition. Statistics show malnutrition in kids can cause stunting, being underweight and wasting with 149 million children suffering from stunting. This means they have fallen under the healthy height for the age. Of those underweight, 462 million are below a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Abbott’s Work Around the World

The company works in 160 countries and has created medical devices to address malnutrition with the advent of the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) z-score tape, which helps detect malnutrition among children around the world. The MUAC z-score tape detects the risk of malnutrition in kids by examining age-specific, color-coded indicators.

Abbott also offers countries the necessary funds to fight malnutrition through its Abbott Fund. For instance, Abbott is helping to fight malnutrition in Haiti by investing $10 million to build a facility in hopes to build local capacity and stimulate the local economy with the help of Partners in Health (PIH). Abbott has provided 50 Abbott specialists from science, manufacturing and engineering to help construct the facility. It also provided more than 14,000 hours of volunteer technical support. The facility will provide Nourimanba, a nutritious, peanut-based food product, for severely malnourished children through 12 PIH hospitals and clinics throughout rural Haiti for free. This will contribute to the health and well-being of two thousand children with severe malnutrition.

Another example of Abbott’s fight against malnutrition has led to the advancement of clinical nutrition in China and Vietnam through the Abbott fund. The result was training for 6,500 health care professionals to provide better care for patients and reduce the malnutrition risk for children admitted into Shanghai Children Medical Center (SCMC) by more than 80%.

Support the End of Malnutrition in Kids

Abbott is fighting malnutrition in kids around the world through its innovations and celebrity partnerships. However, it is important to remember that there are ways that individuals can support the end of malnutrition in kids. It is not necessary to be an Emmy award-winning actor to help end global poverty and malnutrition in kids. Congress has introduced the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, which individuals can support by emailing or contacting their representatives.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

Nigeria's Food System
Currently, Nigeria stands as the most populous country in Africa at approximately 200 million. The United Nations (U.N.) projects a short-term baby boom in sub-Saharan Africa. However, as Nigeria’s population increases, it food systems cannot keep up. In fact, 60% of Nigeria’s population lives below the poverty line. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 20% of Nigeria’s population suffers from moderate acute malnutrition, and another 6% experiences severe acute malnutrition. In a country that dedicates 78% of its land to agriculture, how is this possible? Here is information about Nigeria’s food system along with measures to improve the situation.

Nigeria’s Need for Sustainability

Periodic droughts and floods affect rural areas lacking infrastructure. In addition, the northeastern conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, which began in 2009, significantly impacts Nigeria’s food system. According to the U.N.’s Resolution 2417, hunger perpetuates conflict and vice versa. War and displacement can also interrupt food systems. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s struggle mainly occurs in rural, agricultural areas.

As of July 2021, Nigeria’s conflict displaced 2.9 million people. Medecins Sans Frontieres describes the conflict as a “war without wounded” because many Nigerians suffer malnutrition. The WFP found that 4.4 million Nigerians required food assistance from June to September 2021. Along with aid that international organizations like World Food Programme, Medicins Sans Frontieres and UNICEF are providing, Nigeria is working to develop its food system in other ways.

Nigeria’s Food Systems Summit Dialogues

Nigeria works to support itself by participating in the United Nations’ first Food Systems Summit, which launched in September 2021. The Summit aims to create sustainable food systems adhering to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In preparation for the Summit, Nigeria began its Food Systems Dialogues in February 2021. Vice President Osinbajo stated that the meetings serve to “effectively articulate feasible pathways to sustainable, resilient, and equitable food systems for Nigeria.” Nigeria intends to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade.

The Food Systems Dialogues gathered Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; U.N. representatives; bipartisan political representatives and non-governmental organizations. With more than 4,000 participants, the discussions considered issues and goals for improving Nigeria’s food system. Some stakeholders in attendance included rural citizens, women, private businesses and youth groups. The meetings resulted in 50 short and long-term actions drafted in the “National Pathways to Food Systems Transformation.”

Improving Nigeria’s food system involves reforming land tenure systems, developing food systems pathways, investing in alternative power and paving rural roads. Infrastructure development remains key in developing Nigeria’s human capital and reducing poverty. For instance, Nigeria only has 60,000 kilometers of paved roads. Paving roads would increase food accessibility and ensure better agricultural pathways. Moreover, Nigeria also intends to provide opportunities for youth and women. More than half of Nigeria’s population is between 15 and 64 years old. Investing in youth and women would benefit future agricultural workers and impact population growth.

Looking Ahead in Nigeria

Fulfilling the actions that the Food Systems Dialogues have laid out would greatly benefit Nigeria. Without change, Nigeria will continue to struggle to feed its population. Revamping Nigeria’s food system would curb population growth and help to bring 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. Further participation in the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit will enable Nigeria to adopt agricultural methods from other member states. Nigeria’s pre-summit efforts prove its willingness to pursue a sustainable food system.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Wayuu Artisans in Colombia
La Guajira, an arid peninsula located on the northeastern border of Colombia and Venezuela, is home to an indigenous clan known as the Wayuu. This region is one of Colombia’s most impoverished and underdeveloped regions, and poverty in La Guajira remains incredibly high. With Venezuelan refugees and local coal mines depleting resources, the Wayuu rely on ancient weaving techniques to support their communities. Min and Mon is a company that empowers Wayuu artisans in Colombia to rise out of poverty by utilizing their craftsmanship skills and culture.

Who Are the Wayuu?

In the desert of La Guajira, the Wayuu reside in traditional housing structures called rancherias, or huts built from palm leaves, mud and dried cane. Indigenous to Colombia, these clans are typically matriarchal. In other words, women hold important political, spiritual and economic roles. As others typically expect women to preserve the traditions of their tribe, young girls prepare for this task as soon as they begin to menstruate. Over the course of several months to a year, girls go through a ritual known as confinement during which they may only contact their female family members or prominent women in the community. During this time, they inherit Waleker — the gift of weaving.

Wayuu, meaning “people of the sun, sand and wind,” communicate their ancestral roots through the act of weaving and trade handwoven goods in exchange for food or money. Due to drought and extreme poverty, the Wayuu tribe has had to transition from a self-sustaining agricultural economy to finding jobs in local factories or the service sector. The inequality present in rural areas of Colombia has deeply affected indigenous communities and ravaged their access to basic resources. With a poverty rate of roughly 84%, the Wayuu suffer from high infant mortality rates, child hunger, drought and a lack of opportunities to progress.

Hanging by a Thread

While rural areas across Colombia experience extreme poverty, the Wayuu remain disproportionally affected due to their proximity to the Venezuelan border. At the turn of the century, many Colombians flocked to Venezuela in search of promising economic opportunities. However, the current Venezuelan humanitarian crisis has prompted many to flee the country and return to Colombia. The presence of smugglers operating in the desert has created an influx of refugees settling in or around La Guajira, thus forcing the Wayuu to share already limited resources with a growing population.

The Cerrejón coal mine, which has been operating in the area since the 1980s, exacerbated this problem. As the world’s 10th largest mine, daily drilling operations, explosions and water demand have run La Guajira dry. Cerrejón uses nearly 4.2 million gallons of water per day, running an already tight supply very low and leaving the coal dust to contaminate what remains. In 2019, only 68.2% of people had a water connection and 96% lacked access to clean water as existing wells were either dried up or polluted.

Malnutrition in La Guajira

Limited resources have also led to an increase in malnutrition, making conditions especially difficult for child poverty in La Guajira. Human Rights Watch estimates that one out of every 10 Wayuu children under the age of 5 die of hunger; a rate that is six times higher than the national average. In 2019 alone, La Guajira accounted for 7% of the country’s deaths from malnutrition. Corpoguajira, an environmental agency in the area, reports that three-fourths of families face food insecurity with many children eating roughly one meal a day. While various organizations have attempted to work with the government to initiate change, the lack of a proper census withholds accurate case data on deaths from malnutrition and dirty water.

Weaving a Legacy

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, policy amendments have emerged to help regulate emergency sanitation concerns and provide access to necessities. Though this has helped indigenous communities to an extent, it has done more to isolate them from nearby cities that they relied on in the past to do business. Without an outlet to trade their handwoven goods, the Wayuu tribe has had to find other ways to make money.

One such way has been the partnership between Wayuu artisans in Colombia and company Min and Mon, which has allowed Wayuu artisans in Colombia to reach an international audience. Founded by a “husband and wife team,” Min and Mon is committed to preserving Colombian traditions of craftsmanship and is inspired by the ancient leathercraft native to the area. Min and Mon have newly partnered with Wayuu communities, commissioning them to produce unique designs crocheted by tribes in La Guajira. Not only has this project been able to support Wayuu artists but it has given them a crutch on which to grow their businesses and provide for their families.

In aiding poverty reduction in La Guajira, Min and Mon empower Wayuu bagmakers to continue a sacred tradition passed down for generations. Though the fight to end poverty in rural regions of Colombia wages on, giving communities a chance to help themselves is a step in the right direction.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

WFP in Venezuela
In April 2021, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reached a deal to distribute food to vulnerable school children in Venezuela. The program ambitiously seeks to help 185,000 students in 2021 alone and 1.5 million children by the end of the 2023 school year. Since schools in Venezuela remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and teachers can pick up rations at their local schools. A monthly ration consists of nine pounds of lentils, 13 pounds of rice, one pound of salt and one liter of vegetable oil. The WFP additionally manages its own supply chain and partners with local teachers and nongovernmental organizations to distribute food. Once schools open again, the WFP in Venezuela will also teach school faculty about food safety.

First Shipments Arrive

Recently, the first shipments of food arrived in Maracaibo, Venezuela. The stockpile includes 42,000 packages of food for this month. The WFP in Venezuela targets children under six deemed to be the most food insecure. Originally, the program began in the state of Falcón and intends to expand to other Venezuelan states gradually. The first set of rations went to a total of 277 schools in the state of Falcón.

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 96% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line. The country is heavily reliant on the export of natural gas and oil. In fact, oil makes up one-quarter of Venezuela’s gross domestic product (GDP). As oil prices dropped dramatically in 2014, Venezuela began to undergo an economic crisis. Between 2014 and 2016, oil prices had decreased from $100 to $30 per barrel. Since 2015, over 5 million Venezuelans have left the country in search of better opportunities, according to the United Nations. Additionally, Venezuela’s GDP reduced by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019.

Venezuela was once the second-largest producer of oil in the world, behind the United States. Venezuela was also a founding country of OPEC in 1960. The country has had a long history of dictatorships and consolidation of the oil industry, which the state and a select few companies controlled. Some believe that the current president, Nicolás Maduro, underwent reelection through undemocratic means in 2018. In January 2021, after Maduro had claimed victory in the election, candidate Juan Guaidó argued that Maduro had won illegitimately. The United States and several other countries acknowledged Guaidó’s victory.

Although exact figures are unknown, the WFP estimates that one-third of Venezuelans do not have enough to eat. Furthermore, approximately 16% of children suffer from malnutrition within the country. About 7 million Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian aid.

The Importance of WFP in Venezuela

The WFP in Venezuela is much needed as the country struggles economically and fails to provide for its citizens. WFP representative Susana Rico said that “We are reaching these vulnerable children at a critical stage of their lives when their brains and bodies need nutritious food to develop to their full potential.” Hence, this program will be instrumental in providing the necessary resources to underserved young children.

– Kaylee DeLand
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Malnutrition in NepalChild malnutrition in Nepal, a relatively small nation in Asia, has been a persistent issue. The lack of food throughout the country has significantly contributed to illness and death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. Though there have been multiple failed government attempts to reconcile the food supply, Nepal is slowly finding its way back to proper nutrition for children with the help of organizations such as UNICEF.

Child Malnutrition in Nepal

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Nepal ranks as the 148th most impoverished country in the world out of 189 countries. It continues to struggle with low general well-being because of civil unrest, a difficult geographical landscape and poor infrastructure. A combination of these factors has also impacted food availability. Food that is available often lacks the nutrients necessary for children to maintain proper health and growth. As a result of malnutrition, children battle stunted physical and mental growth, severe weight loss and compromised immune systems.

In addition to poor nutrition, many children are also exposed to contaminated water, which can lead to chronic diseases. According to the Nepali Times, a recent Johns Hopkins University survey showed that severe malnutrition impacting children younger than 5 could cause 4,000 childhood deaths a year due to insufficient food from lack of income caused by the pandemic. A quarter of Nepal’s population already lives under the poverty line. The pandemic has pushed more families closer to impoverishment.

The Solution

Due to multiple failed government efforts to help assist families, it is clear that part of the issue lies in the poorly structured national, provincial and local governments. Though the government has made efforts to tackle malnutrition in Nepal, including the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan that led to major strides against child malnutrition in the past, the issue persists.

To combat child malnutrition in Nepal, UNICEF has partnered with the government of Nepal in order to treat malnourished children with nutrition response and recovery actions. It has also taken the initiative to educate and provide resources for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nutrition education aims to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring infants receive essential nutrients.

Furthermore, UNICEF is helping the government of Nepal to strengthen its response to prevent more malnutrition in the country. Nutritional assistance is also provided in the form of micronutrient powder for children and iron folate supplements for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

The Road Ahead

Though child malnutrition in Nepal has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still hope. With help from UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, Nepal has a chance to address this persistent issue. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize child malnutrition in Nepal.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Gojira's activismThe Yanomami indigenous reserve in Brazil is roughly the size of Portugal, though fewer than 200 healthcare workers serve the area. The effects of malnutrition and malaria among indigenous Brazilians have taken a severe toll on children. Indigenous populations are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. Epidemiologist Andrey Cardoso told The Guardian that the COVID-19 death rate is higher in indigenous children younger than 5 compared to the same age group in the general population. Deteriorating healthcare is just one of the issues indigenous people in Brazil face. Rampant deforestation and attacks from illegal gold miners have also plagued these groups. These issues have resonated with a heavy metal band, Gojira. Gojira’s activism has spurred people to raise more than $300,000 in support of the indigenous Brazilian rights group, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Illegal Gold Mining

Violent attacks have been a growing problem for indigenous Brazilians. Land conflicts in Brazil hit an all-time high in 2020 with more than 1,500 cases, 656 of which involved indigenous Brazilians. Illegal gold miners have been particularly aggressive toward indigenous groups. In May 2021, unlawful gold miners invaded the Munduruku indigenous reserve, setting multiple houses ablaze.

In another attack on the Yanomami people, illegal miners “opened fire with automatic weapons” during three consecutive days of violent fighting. Illegal mining has also led to severe deforestation in the region with more than 3,000 acres of forestland cleared in the Munduruku reserve in January and February 2021 alone. Additionally, reports indicate that more than 1,700 acres of land have been degraded in the Yanomami reserve from January 2020 till May 2021.

Brazilian Indigenous Healthcare

The effects of the attacks comprise just a portion of the problems that plague indigenous groups in Brazil. A 2019 report requested and funded by UNICEF reveals that, in the Yanomami areas of Polo Base de Auaris and Polo Base de Maturacá, roughly 81% of children younger than 5 were chronically malnourished. Poor access to nutritious foods was highlighted as one of the causes.

Overall, healthcare access in these regions is also poor. Member of the Indigenous District Health Council, Junior Yanomami, told El Pais that healthcare groups had not visited the village of Maimasi for six months at one point. Not only were many residents stricken with malaria, but several children suffered from malnutrition and verminosis — a disease caused by parasitic worms. In total, fewer than 200 healthcare workers cover the 28,000 Yanomami and Ye’kwana people in Brazil, highlighting the lack of health support in the areas.

Gojira Assists

Upon learning more about the problems plaguing indigenous people in Brazil, Gojira partnered with the activism support website, Propeller, to host an auction of heavy metal memorabilia in support of the largest indigenous rights group in Brazil, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. Gojira’s activism auction came after the band released its single, Amazonia, in support of The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

The auction, which featured personal memorabilia from heavy metal icons like Metallica, Slayer, Slash and Tool, raised more than $300,000 for the indigenous rights group. In another successful effort by the band, Gojira’s activism also garnered support and awareness for an important cause. “Words are great, music is great, but action is something concrete,” Gojira drummer, Mario Duplantier, told Louder Sound.

Inspiring Activism

Hopefully, Gojira’s activism marks just one way in which indigenous groups in Brazil begin to receive the support and fundraising needed to combat the major issues they face. In addition, Gojira will hopefully serve as an example of how other famous groups can use their platforms to make an impact in struggling communities around the world.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr