Information and stories about United Nations.

Hunger in North KoreaNorth Korea, one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the world, has faced chronic food shortages since the mid-1990s when hundreds of thousands of people died due to severe famine. The international community responded by providing food assistance until 2009 when aid began to decrease significantly due to North Korea’s policy of “self-reliance.” These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea will reveal how dire the situation is and what government initiatives and NGOs are doing to help.

10 Facts About Hunger in North Korea

  1. North Korea’s climate ranges from temperate, with rainfall during the summer, to long, bitter winters. During the short growing season, drought, heatwaves and flooding have caused crop failure, creating widespread food shortages. North Korea’s total food crop production for 2018-2019 is estimated at 4.9 million metric tons, the lowest since the 2008-2009 season, according to a U.N. food security assessment.
  2. In addition to climate conditions unfavorable for agriculture, North Korea faces a shortage of farming products such as fuel, fertilizer and equipment. This has resulted in low food supply and limited dietary diversity, forcing families to eat less or cut meals.
  3. These unfavorable climatic conditions and the worst harvest in 10 years have resulted in a hunger crisis. More than 10 million North Koreans are suffering from severe food shortages and malnutrition, according to the U.N. This equates to about 40 percent of the total population.
  4. Young children are among the most vulnerable to malnutrition. One in five North Korean children are malnourished and about 20 percent experience stunted growth. Malnutrition, contaminated water and a shortage of drugs and medical supplies are the main causes behind stunting, or a failure to develop physically and cognitively, in North Korean children.
  5. According to Kee Park of the New York Times, sanctions on the capital city Pyongyang contribute to the hunger crisis. Under U.N. resolutions, North Korea is heavily sanctioned because of its nuclear weapons program. Park writes that these sanctions are “punishing the most vulnerable citizens and shackling the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to them.” Due to sanctions on iron, textiles, seafood, oil and coal, lost income and rising food prices will result in more North Koreans facing hunger.
  6. Despite U.N. sanctions, the U.N. is attempting to raise $111 million for health, water, sanitation and food security needs for 6 million North Koreans. Through donations from Sweden, Switzerland and Canada, about 10 percent has been raised thus far.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing food assistance to North Korea since 1995. Every month, the WFP provides foods fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals, such as cereals and biscuits, to around one million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, all of whom are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
  8. In 2018, UNICEF screened 90 percent of North Korean children for malnutrition and identified cases were later treated. Vitamin A supplements were provided to more than 1.5 million children and micronutrient tablets were distributed to more than 28,000 pregnant women.
  9. First Steps is a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization that is implementing innovative solutions for fighting hunger in North Korea, such as its Sprinkles program. The program’s aim is to prevent child malnutrition by delivering micronutrient powder to children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The powder is packaged in sachets and then added to food. According to First Steps, Sprinkles is a proven and cost-efficient method of preventing and fighting vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  10. These various forms of assistance have made significant progress in reducing levels of child malnutrition. The percent of children suffering from stunted growth has dropped notably from 28 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2017.

Although there has been recent progress, immense humanitarian challenges remain. Despite the fact that vast amounts of North Korean citizens are without basic necessities, the government has declined offers to renounce their nuclear weapons program in exchange for assistance. These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea reveal why a strengthened approach to solving food insecurity is required.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

 

The Link Between Poverty and Tourette’s SyndromeGlobally, one in every 100 people lives with Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a neurological disability categorized by having one or more vocal tics or repetitive sounds an individual makes and cannot control. Some tics can be as simple as blinking and grunting while some individuals live with more complex tics. In order to be diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), the individual must start displaying their tics before they turn 18. People who have Tourette’s Syndrome cannot help the movements or noises that they make, and they can become even worse when under stress. Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome make life much more difficult because higher stress levels have more of an impact on individuals with TS.

Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome

A recent study showed that individuals with TS experience more psychological stress than individuals without. Poverty, which is already a stressful factor, has a more negative effect on individuals with the disorder. This study showed high amounts of psychological stress eventually lead to severe depression as well as an increase in tics and their severity. This is often seen in individuals facing both poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome. Limited access to medical care and the stress caused by their financial situation are ultimately making their condition worse.

Individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome struggle with finding jobs. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Disability, 80 to 90 percent of the disabled population in developing nation’s is unemployed. In Asian and Pacific countries, there are 370 million disabled individuals. Statistically speaking around three million of those people will have Tourette’s Syndrome. Being unable to find work only exacerbates the situation and continues the cycle of poverty and stress.

Access to Medical Care

Many impoverished areas lack access to proper medical care. Many developing countries have very limited access to hospitals and doctors’ offices. Much of the resources offered by nonprofits and NGOs are equipped to help with HIV/AIDS support and common illnesses. They do not have the equipment needed to support and treat individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Furthermore, people below the poverty line cannot afford medication. Impoverished people make up nearly 70 percent of the uninsured population. So, when they need medications for disorders such as Tourette Syndrome, they have to pay out of pocket. For many families facing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome the medicine is out of their price range and not a top priority. The most common medication used to treat TS is risperidone. Without insurance, the retail price can be anywhere from $20 to almost $90 for 30 tablets depending on the dose, making it a monthly expense that some people cannot afford.

For some people, medicine does not help control their tics. Instead, they benefit from a therapy treatment called CBIT. Short for Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, CBIT is a type of behavioral treatment that helps individuals develop actions known as competing responses to help either slow or reduce their tics and severity. More severe cases of TS might need deep brain stimulation. This is a surgical procedure where an electrode is implanted in the brain and sends shocks to alter the activity of the brain’s circuits, essentially restarting them and decreasing the tics. As of 2019, however, these treatments are only offered in the United States.

Organizations Helping with Tourette’s Syndrome

One organization assisting with TS globally is the Tourette’s Association of America. The website has access to research, resources, support, advocacy and webinars. Another organization is Tourette’s Around the World. It is a U.K. based website that provides links to all of the global websites that help and support individuals with TS. On the website, there are links to websites from more than 20 countries that provide information on support and treatment in those areas. However, there are no websites specifically addressing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Contrary to what is shown in the media, Tourette’s Syndrome is not an uncommon disorder. With exceptions to extreme cases, it does not inhibit a person’s ability to work. Because of this negative media portrayal many people with TS struggle to find work. This contributes to global poverty and leaves individuals without access to basic necessities or proper medical treatments and medicines. Although there are organizations working towards ending the negative stigma, negative media portrayals are still inhibiting individuals and leaving them excluded from the workforce, creating a link between poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

charitable soccer player
People know soccer players for their athletic ability and worldwide fame, but more often than not many soccer players use their platforms as an opportunity to help those in need. Three charitable soccer players that worked toward improving the quality of life in developing countries include Mohammed (Mo) Salah, Sadio Mane and Marta Viera da Silva (Marta).

Mohammed Salah’s Work in Egypt

A Nagrig, Egypt native, Mohammed Salah currently plays for Liverpool in England’s Premier Football League. In 2018, the Premier League awarded him the Golden Boot. He was also the top scorer for Egypt in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Mo Salah serves as an inspiration to young soccer players all over the world as a charitable soccer player, but the impact he had on his home country is resounding. An article in The Conversation addressed Salah’s reciprocal relationship with the youth of Egypt. Mo Salah inspires the youth despite political tension and a growing trend of Egyptian youth feeling disenfranchised.

In Egypt, 7.3 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. The inability to access clean water can lead to dehydration, causing illnesses such as diarrhea. In Egypt, almost 4,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea every year. In 2018, alongside his father, Mo Salah launched a project near his hometown of Nagrig to develop a sewage system. This system will provide clean water to people living in this village. Mo Salah provided nearly half a million dollars for this project, and this is not the only time he gave back to his country. In the past, Mo Salah donated to the Long Live Egypt Fund, in order to fund the construction of a school, hospital and ambulance in Nagrig.

Sadio Mane’s Work in Senegal

Another charitable soccer player and teammate of Mohammed Salah on the Liverpool team is Sadio Mané. Born and raised in Senegal, Mané grew to become an incredibly successful soccer player. In 2019, The Premier League awarded Mané the Golden Boot. The Confederation of African Football also awarded the Senegalese National team, which Mané captains, the team of the year in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Mané’s relationship with Senegal goes far beyond soccer, and throughout his career, he continuously gave back to his home country through various kinds of donations.

As a developing nation, Senegal struggles to offer advanced health care and schooling to all of its citizens. Currently, 39 percent of Senegal’s population lives in poverty. Furthermore, preventable diseases like malaria are the prominent causes of death, and one in five children are underweight. Conditions remain poor when looking at education as well. Forty percent of Senegalese children work to help their families instead of going to school, and the literacy rate for Senegal is at 49.7 percent. These statistics are even more severe for those living in rural areas.

Charitable soccer players like Mané play their part it giving back and improving living conditions in their country. In 2018, Mané donated money to fund the building of a hospital in Banbali, Senegal, one of the many rural villages in the country. He also recently visited Banbali to view the completion of the construction of the school he donated 200,000 euros. In an official presentation of the school, Mané’s uncle, Sana Toure, read a speech on Mané’s behalf, stating, “Education is very important. This is what will enable you to have a good career.” Other charitable works on behalf of Mané include donating one hundred soccer jerseys to orphans in Malawi, providing 50,000 Francs a month to families in Banbali and funding the building of a Mosque and soccer stadium in Banbali as well. Mané also recently cleaned the bathroom of a mosque he regularly attends in Liverpool, England.

Marta Vieira da Silva’s Partnership with the UN

Another charitable soccer player, Marta Vieira da Silva, is possibly one of the best female soccer players of all time. At the age of only 15 years old, she represented Brazil in the Women’s World Cup. She was in every single Women’s World Cup since. Throughout her career, FIFA awarded her player of the year five times, and she received the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for her 2007 performance in the Women’s World Cup. Marta’s outstanding skills are the reason she is not only one of the best female soccer players, but also one of the best soccer players of all time. In 2018, Marta became the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport. Upon being appointed, Marta said “I know, from my life experience, that sport is a fantastic tool for empowerment…Through sport, women and girls can challenge socio-cultural norms and gender stereotypes and increase their self-esteem, develop life skills and leadership.” Marta worked with the U.N. since 2010 as part of the U.N. Development Programme, encouraging sports in schools.

At the end of her last game in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Marta gave a speech encouraging women to take leadership roles in sports. In the post-game interview, Marta said, “Women’s football depends on you to survive. So think about that. Value it more. Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end.” This message aims to inspire young women to stay involved in sports. In the sports world, women often receive less pay than men, and women and girls in developing nations often do not receive the same opportunities as those in developed nations. Women and girls in developing nations may face discrimination and ridicule because of social norms and religious beliefs. In Turkey, for example, women’s soccer leagues face a lack of funding and participation as well as harassment during games.

In the developing world, sports are often one of the key ways that communities stay together. According to South Africa UNICEF, schools reported an 80 percent decline in violence in schools participating in a sport for development program. Marta is a charitable soccer player, who as a U.N. ambassador aims to open doors for women and girls in sports, which will not only benefit them but their community and country as well.

Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

peace and stability in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The government estimates that 43.6 percent of the country’s total population in rural areas lives below the national poverty line. According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, about 2.9 million Afghans are internally displaced, 22 percent of whom fled their homes in 2016 alone.

Despite improvements over the past decade, Afghanistan, maintains the lowest educational outcomes in South Asia. The country continues to lag in average educational attainment compared to other low-income and fragile countries. Moreover, girls fall further behind in educational outcomes. As of 2013-14, only 20.3 percent of Afghan women above the age of 15 are literate. The major cause of poverty and the lag in primary education in Afghanistan is the ongoing conflict that has lasted for over three decades.

Instability and Conflicts in Afghanistan

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the country endured many conflicts that stunted its ability to prosper and improve. For the past 20 years, the Taliban government became the leading cause of poverty and the prevention of peace and stability for Afghanistan.

After the refusal to turn in terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to the United States after the 9/11 attacks, the extremist military organization joined countless conflicts with the U.S. whilst refusing any ethical attempts toward peace. Nevertheless, many provided aid to the Afghan people and looked for a peaceful solution.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit and at the donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Brussels in 2016, Afghanistan received reassurances of continued international assistance for its security and development needs. The United Nations is part of this group of leaders as it deployed a team in the ground called the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA, which Afghanistan leads, promotes security, stability and development in Afghanistan. It looks forward to peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and armed opposition groups.

USAID is another organization that works toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. The agency provided food security by implementing an agriculture program that increased agricultural productivity and rural employment. It also provided access to a healthier lifestyle for Afghans by getting health care professionals and introducing people to healthier habits. The ability to build roads, schools and clinics is a huge step toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. USAID is helping make Afghanistan a better place for younger generations.

The Afghan Institute of Learning

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) shares in USAID’s goals and made great strides toward a sustainable future for children. The AIL helps local people set up centers of learning and provides high-quality teacher training and administrative skills training so these centers can thrive. The centers give the Afghan people the opportunity to have literacy skills. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at 31 percent of the adult population. AIL addresses this issue by giving children education from preschool and having discussions with adults about current world problems. Children who study at AIL’s learning centers joined government schools at age-appropriate grade levels. Gaining literacy is life-changing for adults and children who often go on to study other subjects increasing their capacity to support themselves.

Many other organizations are addressing the increasing poverty rates and helping toward achieving peace and stability for Afghanistan. As the Afghan government and other international governments involve themselves, there is hope for Afghan people.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Eggs & Bread in LondonBased in Walthamstow in East London, Eggs & Bread is a cafe like no other. It boasts “the smallest menu on Wood Street” that includes boiled eggs, jam, porridge, tea and coffee. Eggs & Bread in London is a “pay what you like” cafe, whereby those who overpay for a cup of tea and a boiled egg allow the less well-off to eat for free, or pay a reduced rate for breakfast. A report written by U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extreme poverty and human rights stipulated that homelessness is on the rise in London, austerity being the main cause. ​

Austerity is a Mindset

“Austerity is a mindset, which is now fully reflected in how the government operates,” Alston reports. The evidence seen on the report points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering. Because of this, people have been relying more on food banks and charities for their next meal, which makes Eggs & Bread in London even more special.​

Thirty-seven percent of all children, 24 percent of all working-age adults and 19 percent of all pensioners live in poverty. While the poverty rate fell over the last few years, the depth of poverty increased.

London, the Capital of Poverty

London remains the capital of poverty in the United Kingdom. Another factor that adds to this is the high rents paid by half of all households who rent their homes. Those who rent from a private landlord have long faced high rents. More recently, housing association and council tenants have seen their rents go up rapidly. This is also due to wealth inequality, predominant in London.

Wealth inequality, which is higher than income inequality, increased over the years. Wealth for someone just in the top 10 percent is now 295 times higher than someone in the bottom 10 percent. In 2010–12 it was 160 times higher, a significant increase.​

As inequality in the capital rises whilst wages stagnate and many are forced to food banks to feed themselves and their families, social ventures like Eggs & Bread in London become ever more vital. As Eggs & Bread’s website states, “Everyone’s welcome, no matter if you are a city broker or simply broke.”

These sorts of cafes existed before, such as the Brixton Pound and The People’s Fridge, but the sheer amount of attention Eggs & Bread has had bodes well for its success, and will hopefully inspire other like-minded projects. With an estimated 28 percent of Londoners living in poverty, Eggs & Bread aims to balance out the inequality seen so often in big cities.

If one wants to pay, the donation box is discreetly placed next to where one puts the dirty plates. If one can afford to put something in the box, one can also pay for the breakfast of others who might not be able to pay. As Eggs & Bread in London states, “Everyone deserves a good start to the day.” ​

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr