The United Arab EmiratesThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is leading the fight against malnutrition. Malnutrition refers to imbalances, deficiencies or excesses in a person’s ingestion of nutrients and all-around intake of energy. It can result in several problems, ranging from undernutrition to obesity. As a result, the issues caused by malnutrition can lead to diet-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, various forms of cancer and strokes.

Malnutrition is an issue that affects every country in the world in one form or another. Children are especially at risk, with 45% of deaths among children younger than the age of 5 linked to malnutrition. Malnutrition affects 49 million children around the globe.

COVID-19 caused an upset in the health systems of numerous countries, which worsened the issue noticeably.  By 2022, experts expect an additional 2.6 million children to suffer from chronic malnutrition. There are several programs across many nations working to combat the issue globally. Likewise, the United Arab Emirates built one of the most notable reputations for combating hunger and malnutrition.

Efforts by the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates has previous endeavors fighting against malnutrition. For example, the Crown Prince of Dubai Mohammed Bin Rashid’s “100 Million Meals” food campaign successfully delivered more than 216 million meals to the hungry. The nation refuses to sit still on the issue.

The United Arab Emirates joined the list Reaching the Last Mile. Reaching the Last Mile is a global health fund that works to eradicate diseases affecting lower-income and more marginalized communities. Reaching the Last Mile, which was launched by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, partnered with the U.N. Foundation alongside Ecobank, OnlyOne, ONOMO Hotels and Koosmik to help fund UNITLIFE.

UNITLIFE and the UAE

UNICEF claims that the annual global cost of malnutrition is $3.5 trillion. Reducing global malnutrition by a third could reap economic benefits totaling roughly $417 billion. Director of the Secretariat at UNITLIFE, Assia Sidibe, tells CNBC Africa “Malnutrition really leads to huge economic burden.” Sidibe also goes on to cite how malnourished children will earn 22% less in their adult lives than their non-malnourished counterparts.  The healthcare costs set in motion by malnourishment have a significant financial impact as well.

UNITLIFE aims to combat chronic malnutrition by investing in nutritious food systems, female empowerment and climate-smart agriculture. UNITLIFE largely obtains funds through micro-donations, public-private partnerships and market-based transactions.  These funds accompany official development assistance and domestic resources already at the organization’s disposal.

On top of partnering with UNITLIFE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan donated $2.5 million to the organization shortly after UNITLIFE’s creation. This was a gesture that is representative of the United Arab Emirates’ commitment to tackling the issue of malnutrition.

The United Arab Emirates demonstrated, alongside UNITLIFE’s other partners, a commitment to end chronic childhood malnutrition. This commitment serves as an example of philanthropic humanitarianism. The action taken by the United Arab Emirates and others to fund UNITLIFE may help to spell an end to chronic childhood malnutrition worldwide.

– Brendan Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

The UAE’s Foreign AidMany know the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and natural gas. One of its most popular cities, Dubai, is home to some of the world’s most extravagant and expensive buildings, while artificial islands shaped like palm trees dot its coast. Putting its riches to a good cause, the UAE’s foreign aid program is remarkably well-funded and successful.

5 Facts About the UAE’s Foreign Aid

  1. The UAE’s foreign aid program is one of the largest in the world. In 1970, the U.N. first agreed on its percentage target for official development aid (ODA): 0.7% of gross national income (GNI). Since 1970, growing numbers of developed countries have officially committed to this target. However, most fail to meet it each year. For example, the United States, while the biggest donor in terms of dollar amount, only donated 0.17% of its GNI in 2020, making it one of the lowest contributors in terms of the U.N. ODA agreement. In contrast, since 2013, the UAE has remained one of the highest-ranking ODA donors and has consistently surpassed the 0.7% of GNI target. In 2018, the UAE devoted 0.93% of its GNI to foreign aid.
  2. The UAE’s foreign aid program was private until 2009. Surprisingly, the UAE’s very public devotion to foreign aid only began around a decade ago when it began to submit detailed foreign aid data to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Since then, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with the president and prime minister, have been very vocal and open about foreign aid. This openness has led some to suspect that the UAE intends to improve its global image through its interest in foreign aid.
  3. Most of the UAE’s foreign aid goes to other Middle Eastern and Arab countries. While the UAE has sent foreign aid to hundreds of nations in total, the majority of its foreign aid goes to nearby countries. The UAE makes significant donations to developmental projects and humanitarian aid in countries experiencing violence and natural disasters. In 2015, the majority of the UAE’s humanitarian aid went to refugees in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. These countries, along with Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are consistent recipients of UAE aid. In 2019, UAE foreign aid dropped below the 0.7% of GNI target for the first time since 2012. The preliminary data for 2020 shows foreign aid accounting for 0.48% of the UAE’s GNI. These lower levels of aid may be due to the UAE’s need to devote resources to the fight against COVID-19 within its own borders. The vast majority of the UAE’s aid in 2020 went toward COVID-19 related medical and food aid. In total, 47 countries around the world received COVID-19 aid from the UAE in 2020.
  4. The UAE’s foreign aid likely has some political motivation. After 2013, the UAE’s foreign aid portfolio became less diverse and more focused on a small selection of countries. The UAE claims that its aid “has only humanitarian objectives.” However, there are often clear correlations between the UAE’s political interests and its top aid recipients. For example, in 2013, the UAE’s foreign aid to Egypt massively increased. The country likely increased it in order to support the military coup in Egypt at the time. Additionally, despite Yemen’s pressing need for aid, it did not receive significant aid from the UAE until 2015.
  5. The UAE’s foreign aid officially goes toward “reducing poverty and improving quality of life.” Despite the UAE’s somewhat political motivations, its foreign aid program is both impactful and extensive. Among its top goals for foreign aid, the UAE lists “humanitarian assistance, elimination of poverty, support for children, transportation, infrastructure, government support and empowerment of women.” Much of the country’s foreign aid goes to development projects aimed at long-lasting infrastructure improvements in countries such as Egypt and Afghanistan. It also goes toward aiding refugees in Syria and Yemen or to sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The UAE hosts several large charity aid programs such as the Emirates Airlines Foundation, which has supported various humanitarian aid projects in 18 countries for nearly two decades. One of these projects include the Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship, a mobile hospital currently located in Bangladesh. The vessel provides mobile medical assistance to those in need.

Looking Ahead

Given its clear commitment to increasing levels of valuable foreign aid, the UAE continues as one of the world leaders in aid. Wealthier countries of the world need to follow suit and contribute more to helping struggling nations around the world.

– Anneke Taylor
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Bahrain
Bahrain is an Arab state located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf. The country includes Bahrain Island and around 30 other small islands. Its economy relies on crude oil production and a rising service industry that tourism dominates. While many surrounding countries struggled with COVID-19, Bahrain has adapted well to the pandemic. Not only did the government provide free medical treatment, but Bahrain did this while experiencing Iranian cyber attacks. Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority intercepted 6 million attacks and more than 830,000 malevolent emails from Iranian servers. While Bahrain certainly has challenges to face regarding other regional actors, three critical facts about healthcare in Bahrain indicate a highly successful healthcare program.

3 Progressions of Bahrain’s Healthcare

  1. Healthcare in Bahrain is Universal. While the debate on universal healthcare has recently become a common topic in many Western nations, including the United States, the government of Bahrain has offered comprehensive healthcare since 1960. The system’s services are free for citizens, and non-Bahraini inhabitants receive large subsidizations. The Ministry of Health works alongside the National Health Regulatory Authority and the Supreme Council of Health to provide three tiers of service: primary, secondary and tertiary. With primary care as the cornerstone of healthcare in Bahrain, the Ministry uses its 25 health centers and three health clinics to act as the first line of contact with sick and injured Bahraini people. While this program goes far to expand access to healthcare in Bahrain, that does not mean it is without its fair share of difficulties. Bahrain’s growing population has strained healthcare budgets as the country strives to keep and continue to improve its services. Alongside the growing population, the investment into this program has also increased, but the budget still struggles to meet its increased demands.
  2. Healthcare in Bahrain is Advanced for its Region. With a universal healthcare system, Bahrain’s low-income population does not struggle with a lack of access to healthcare. Not only is access high in Bahrain, but the technology and standard of care far surpass regional actors. The Bahrani healthcare system is one of the most advanced in the Gulf region. Moreover, the country’s facilities are state-of-the-art and have no shortage of doctors, nurses and dentists. Indeed, the standard of care in Bahrain is comparable to the care in Western countries.
  3. Bahrain has Implemented a Vaccine Passport to Help Fight COVID-19. While many countries are still debating the possibilities of a vaccine passport, the government of Bahrain decided to implement vaccination passports as early as mid-February 2021. Bahrain became one of the first countries in the world to use a digital COVID-19 vaccine passport. The country also released its BeAware app that functions as a digital vaccine passport that officials can verify. Health officials expect the technology to aid in tracking and contact tracing to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the country. Moreover, Bahrain has taken decisive steps to overcome vaccine hesitation prevalent in Arab states. For example, Bahrain, alongside the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, has made vaccines mandatory for specific jobs.

Looking Ahead

Even though Bahrain has faced challenges from Iran, its healthcare system has been quite successful. Through its decision to implement universal healthcare, all Bahraini citizens, even those with low incomes, can obtain quality healthcare.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Overseas Filipino Workers
Travel enthusiasts and visitors often cite Dubai as the most dazzling city in the Middle East. Yet amidst all the glamor and luxury in the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers face immense wage inequality and abuse. One of the largest populations of migrant workers hails from the Philippines. Filipino laborers undertake a variety of service jobs in domestic work and hospitality, both of which are vital sectors of the Emirates economy. Yet despite their integral role in the financial stability of the Emirates, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) struggle with a lack of job security and often have no choice but to return home. The economic hardships of COVID-19 have only exacerbated their struggle.

UAE Migrant Demographics

As of 2019, immigrants comprise nearly 90% of the United Arab Emirates’ total population. This is largely because Dubai offers a variety of policies to attract global businesses and international professionals. For example, Dubai established 30 tax-free regions of the city for companies to operate free from restrictions. The Kafala Sponsorship System allows workers from around the world to more easily access job opportunities in the Emirates, but this program has also created conditions in which migrant workers face increased vulnerability and potential risks.

The United Arab Emirates operates as a mixed free economy. Although oil sales comprise the majority of its income, the UAE has branched out into the vacation industry as well as the automation and telecommunications sectors. The expansion of economic sectors such as hospitality, development and trade in the United Arab Emirates have made employment more accessible for blue-collar migrants. The Filipino government in particular has supported labor migration for its citizens, with the Labor Code of the Philippines promoting protections for OFWs. Currently, over 2 million Filipino migrant workers are in the Middle East.

Wealth Disparity

In recent years, the severe maltreatment of Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates has forced the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines to repatriate thousands of its citizens. Several of these individuals suffered abuse from their Dubai employers or were victims of human trafficking.

Household workers, who are usually female, make up 10% of Filipino migrant workers. Among female Filipino domestic workers, sexual abuse and mistreatment are unfortunately quite common. Due to the vulnerable financial and legal status of female Filipino domestic workers, this particular segment of migrant workers often experiences abuse. The Filipino government responded to this by repatriating such female workers from the United Arab Emirates.

Solutions for Overseas Filipino Workers

The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) advocates for OFWs’ rights and addresses the concerns of the transnational community. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) provides programs for migrant workers and aims to prevent potential abuse.

Filipino migrants in economically valuable positions can effectively produce a change for their community. Educated Filipino migrants make up over half of the Filipino migrant population in the United Arab Emirates. As such, they are economically essential to the country’s labor force. Approximately 47% of Filipinos have climbed the ladder to higher positions. These individuals are paving the way for a new rank of Filipino professionals to represent the OFW community.

Generous Filipino residents within the UAE work tirelessly to assist their fellow community members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the service of caring individuals such as Dela Peña, unemployed Filipino workers still have resources to survive through the coronavirus pandemic and access to food through Dela Peña’s program, Ayuda.

Points of Resolution

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates often overlook the impact that OFWs have upon its economy. However, migrant workers have been pivotal to the growth and industry of Dubai and the nation as a whole. With this in mind, the UAE will hopefully recognize the importance of the OFWs and establish laws to uphold their rights. Supporting and encouraging the Overseas Filipino Workers in their endeavors will not only erase the need for their repatriation back to the Philippines but will further strengthen the economy of the migrants’ new home.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in the United Arab EmiratesThe United Arab Emirates’s economy has taken a severe downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving hundreds of workers homeless. Those most vulnerable include migrant workers from India, The Philippines and Sri Lanka who cannot afford to return to their home countries. Concerned individuals are helping migrant workers facing homelessness in the United Arab Emirates.

COVID-19, Job losses and Poverty

Heavily influenced by COVID-19 and lockdown rules, The United Arab Emirates’s economy reduced by 6.1% in 2020 alone, leading to significant job losses nationwide. Furthermore, unemployment hit 5%, an all-time high for the country. The true state of poverty in the UAE is unclear as there is little data on official poverty statistics, with many sources reporting a zero poverty rate, which many believe to be inaccurate considering the incidences of homelessness in the United Arab Emirates.

Homelessness Among Migrant Workers

Every year, people from nearby countries flock to Dubai for work using work or tourist visas, many of which expired during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Unable to afford housing outside of work accommodation, thousands of workers from India, Sri Lanka, The Philippines and other nearby countries have found themselves facing homelessness in the United Arab Emirates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the UAE government “offered an amnesty” for fines issued for overstaying visas, many migrant workers are still struggling without any options. Purchasing an airline ticket home remains out of budget for many and the UAE has been slow to repatriate as the capacity for quarantine centers is limited, causing many to remain homeless in the UAE. The parks below towering skyscrapers have become the temporary homes of migrant workers with nowhere to sleep.

In Satwa, a neighborhood in Dubai, only 25% of migrants still hold jobs and can afford to rent a room. Up to 750 workers who defaulted on their rent now sleep in public parks and parking lots. Furthermore, these newly homeless people are often turned away from restaurants, service shops and other public places due to COVID-19 restrictions.

While the UAE does not keep track of unemployed migrants, the Phillippine Consulate in Dubai estimates that 30,000 Filipinos are now facing unemployment, potentially facing homelessness in the United Arab Emirates at the same time. The Consul General of Sri Lanka reported that a third of all homeless Sri Lankans are yet to be repatriated, leaving 6,000 without shelter or hope of getting home.

Communities Help Migrant Workers

Where the government has been slow to address the issue of homelessness in the United Arab Emirates, some citizens are taking it upon themselves to help people return home despite complications. Due to the UAE’s “strict laws on fundraising,” flights can only be purchased by one donor.

One concerned and compassionate woman, Mahnaz Fakih, has found ways around these laws, searching for donors to sponsor flights. She, in total, has helped around 700 displaced people get home, “including a group of 13 pregnant women from Sri Lanka and Ghana.” Fakih herself has purchased 20 airline tickets and continues to coordinate flights.

While the UAE government has provided no recent updates regarding its plan to fully repatriate the displaced homeless population, the efforts by the local community are significant and inspiring.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo:pixabay

Israeli-UAE Peace AgreementIn recent decades, viewers have been bombarded by news of violence and dysfunction in the Middle East; however, on August 13, 2020, a different sort of headline broke. Instead of another bombing or raid, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a peace agreement brokered by the United States. Although fighting over this area is nothing new, the Israel-UAE peace agreement may be a positive step in the right direction. In light of this momentous occasion, here are the top four things to know about the deal.

5 Facts About the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement

  1. What is the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement? In August 2020, the leader of Israel, the UAE and the United States met to discuss and break ground on initiatives to achieve stability in the Middle East region for the sake of each nation’s citizens and those of neighboring countries. The grit of this deal lies in its ability to prevent Israel’s annexation of the West Bank region, which the nation announced its intention to do earlier in the summer of 2020.
  2. What is the West Bank and why is it home to so much conflict. Tension in the region dates back to the early 20th century after Britain took control of the region. During this time, both Jewish and Palestinian groups were claiming the region as their home. After world war II, many Jewish people began flooding the region to escape from persecution in Europe. This influx would only increase the amount of violence between the two groups as well as British control. The British government continually attempted to draw a plan to please all sides of the conflict but were ultimately unable to do so. This led to the British authorities pulling out of the area in 1948, which then allowed Jewish leaders to declare the state of Israel. Following the creation of the new state, wars broke out. Jerusalem was divided between the area known as the West Bank, which was held by Palestinian forces, and Israeli forces to the East. No peace agreements were drawn up until recently, so the conflict has remained steady regardless of shifting forces.
  3. What implications could this have on the larger area? According to NPR, the only two nations in the Middle East with a diplomatic relationship with Israel are Jordan and Egypt. Given the lack of diplomatic connections holding the region together, violence has been a lasting component of the region. Though this agreement is between the UAE and Israel, Saudi Arabia is directly implicated in the deal as well. Altogether, this deal will draw at least three nations into a deal with one another that will hopefully de-escalate tensions and incentivize cooperation from other nations as well.
  4. What have organizations been doing? The Latet organization has been working in Israel to help mitigate the effects of poverty. According to a study the National Insurance Institute conducted in 2018, about 21.1% of the Israeli population lived below the poverty line. Moreover, almost 30% of those people are children. However, those in impoverished conditions reported to previously have been in the middle class. This indicates that previous socio-economic status has little to do with current placement. The amount of violence occurring between the two sides of this fight is destabilizing the region from a security standpoint. In the midst of this chaos, the Latet organization works to distribute food and other supplies in order to counteract the effects of poverty on individuals. It partners with different groups in order to distribute approximately $25-30 million worth of food to individuals throughout Israel.

The Middle East has been home to a lot of conflicts. However, the new Israel-UAE Peace Agreement gives many a reason to hope for a more peaceful future. The deal itself is only the first step in the right direction, which should help to promote a more peaceful world.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has undergone many transformations throughout the years. This is because of the discovery of oil in 1958. In 1971, after gaining independence from Great Britain, seven different monarchies came together to form the federation that stands to this day. It is already a highly-developed country but continues to modernize and diversify. Moreover, many of the changes have to do with healthcare in the U.A.E.

The Evolution of the UAE

The U.A.E. has historically been very reliant on oil production with the region holding the fifth-largest oil reserve in the world. The availability of oil has been a great advantage to kickstart their economy and help it flourish into the second-largest economy in the Middle East. However, there has been a focus on transforming the oil-based economy into a service-based economy — similar to what is seen in other developed countries. Major infrastructure projects have been completed in the hope of making the U.A.E. a giant in the tourism industry. The country has made great strides from the era of British colonialism with a high standard of living and an estimated GDP per capita of $41,000.

Additionally, in past decades, the U.A.E. has worked to build off its oil-based society. Due to high temperatures, citizens of the U.A.E. are among the largest consumers of energy in the world. The government has looked to expand on alternative energy sources. In 2013 Abu Dhabi opened a major solar power plant, capable of powering up to 20,000 homes. Furthermore, in 2009, construction began on four nuclear power plants; one of them is currently operating.

Healthcare in the UAE

The U.A.E. has many advantages working in their favor when it comes to building a comprehensive healthcare system for its citizenry. As the U.A.E. was able to develop so quickly, consequently it lacks a current, deeply rooted healthcare network. The government can observe the most effective practices and employ the newest technologies. The quality of care in the U.A.E. has made it a hot spot for medical tourism.

In recent years, there has been growth in the private healthcare sector. As a result, healthcare in public hospitals is free for citizens. The government also subsidizes health insurance for citizens. The combination of premium quality care and low costs lead to world-renowned healthcare in the U.A.E. The system has been able to handle COVID-19 patients with relative ease. For example, 66,000 Emiratis have contracted the virus and only 370 have lost their lives.

Migrant Workers Slip Through the Cracks

Furthermore, the U.A.E. has gone through an unprecedented boom in the construction of skyscrapers. To fill their labor needs, the U.A.E. has a heavy dependence on foreign labor. Migrants make up about 90% of the Emirati’s population. Those 8 million migrants are mostly migrant workers from surrounding countries in search of economic opportunity. Employers exploit them while treating them as outsiders. They do not have access to the perks enjoyed by Emirati nationals. Less than 30% of Emirati, companies are required to provide health insurance to employees. Normally, only the most serious injuries receive medical attention. Additionally, construction work is very dangerous in the U.A.E.; between eight and 10 bodies are sent to their native countries, each month.

Although the U.A.E. is a very wealthy collection of states, they have been unable to guarantee quality healthcare for all. Migrant workers overwork for nominal wages. Whether it is by choice or a result of their societal structure, these laborers do not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Matthew Beach
Photo: Flickr

American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

Global Maker Challenge
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity (the Global Prosperity Initiative) launched the second cohort of its Global Maker Challenge in late 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The challenge is an innovation-based contest that brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to present ideas and solutions for promoting global prosperity and improving living standards.

Global Maker Challenge 2019 Themes

The Global Prosperity Initiative partnered with 10 U.N. agencies as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve, a marketplace for social impact initiatives, to select four themes that Global Maker Challenge submissions must follow. This cohort’s themes are (1) Sustainable and Healthy Food for All, (2) Climate Change, (3) Innovation for Inclusive Trade and (4) Innovation for Peace and Justice. Nearly 3,400 participants submitted cutting-edge ideas — including web and mobile applications, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions.

The Finalists

In the end, 20 finalists (five from each section) were chosen by a select group of experts from U.N. agencies, global organizations, digital innovation companies, NGOs and academia. The final projects selected stood out among the rest because they were both affordable and scalable — two characteristics that are critical when working with disadvantaged communities. Limited infrastructure and resources  are often some of the greatest challenges that must be overcome.

Category Objectives and Finalist List

  1. Sustainable and Healthy Food for All: Ideas submitted to this category aim to address issues regarding access to sustainable and nutritious food among growing urban populations, as well as reducing hunger and malnutrition. Finalists presented solutions for storing fresh produce and extending the shelf life of foods. Finalists accomplished this using temperature control hubs and sustainable packaging that reduces waste. Another finalist introduced an idea for a social enterprise that makes affordable and nutritious food more accessible to low-income communities.
  2. Climate Change: Contestants focused on promoting sustainability and efficient resource use to lower carbon emission and eliminate waste. Several finalists addressed the textile industry and how to make its materials more sustainable. Submissions included technologies to create biodegradable textiles from plant-based materials, upcycled plastic and ethical sourcing. Other projects addressed the issue of climate change in different ways, such as generating electricity from wastewater and creating a circulation system to convert compost into fertilizer.
  3. Innovation for Inclusive Trade: This category aims to increase the market inclusivity of rural populations to promote global, economic growth. Finalists introduced several digital platforms that provide access to financial literacy tools and empower small business owners. Ideas included an application providing financial tools and market information to emerging enterprises. Also, platforms for connecting rural farmers to international markets and mapping tools — which increase the visibility of small retailers.
  4. Innovation for Peace and Justice: Contestants provided solutions for displaced populations and refugees seeking essential services and resources. Several finalists focused on making education more accessible. Ideas included virtual reality classrooms for students in underserved communities. Also, technology training and legal services for residents of refugee camps and solar-powered learning hubs. Other finalists presented solutions for improving the quality of life of displaced populations, such as user-managed identification and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) learning technology and games.

Final Pitch

Finalists will present their solutions in a series of virtual pitches, starting in late August 2020 and commencing in early September of the same year — during the Global Maker Challenge Award Ceremony. Prizes include project funding and mentorship worth up to $1 million.

Seeing the Big Picture

The second cohort of the Global Maker Challenge comes at a critical time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable groups lack humanitarian aid, social protection and stimulus packages. Unless action is taken, as many as 50 million people could fall into extreme poverty, as a result of the pandemic. Innovation and collaboration are powerful tools for developing solutions to unprecedented challenges. Today’s entrepreneurs and designers provide hope for overcoming setbacks caused by the pandemic and maintaining progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr