Information and stories about United Nations.

Anniversary of the United Nations
In the 75 years since its establishment, the United Nations has led global efforts to promote human rights and eradicate poverty, especially in developing nations. House Resolution 1024, in the U.S. House of Representatives, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and its establishment. The resolution also acknowledges the organization’s role in leading responses to global crises and promoting international peace and security.

The United Nations Purpose

Established in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization that is currently comprised of 193 member states. The primary bodies that make up the U.N. are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and the U.N. Secretariat. The mission of the U.N. is to maintain international peace and unite peoples around the globe in pursuit of a better world. Additionally, the U.N. provides humanitarian assistance to those in need, upholds international law and protects human rights.

The United Nations & Global Poverty Reduction

For decades, the U.N. has been a leader in global efforts to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. The first of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere. In line with this goal, the U.N. has mobilized its member states to dedicate resources to the eradication of poverty. It has facilitated cooperation between countries to support developing countries in particular in implementing poverty reduction programs and policies.

Due to global efforts spearheaded by the U.N., poverty has decreased substantially in the past few decades. For instance, from 1990 to 2015, extreme global poverty decreased from 36% to 10%. However, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening this progress. In addition, the U.N. warns that global poverty could rise for the time in 30 years. Nevertheless, the U.N. is committed to a comprehensive and coordinated, global response to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

House Resolution 1024 (H.Res. 1024)

The purpose of H.Res. 1024 is to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. Another purpose is to call upon the President of the United States to issue a proclamation. As a result, U.S. citizens can observe the anniversary with appropriate ceremonies and activities. The resolution praises the U.N.’s commitment to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and its leadership in addressing global health issues. It also commends the U.N. for its responses to unprecedented humanitarian crises and its essential role in maintaining international peace and security.

Status of the Resolution

On June 25, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ Charter, Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA-13] introduced H.Res. 1024 into the U.S. House of Representatives — recognizing the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the U.N. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Additionally, it currently has 27 Democratic co-sponsors. Moreover, H.Res. 1024 is in the first stage of the legislative process.

H.Res. 1024 commemorates the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. According to Rep. Lee, it is “vital to our global community and essential to realizing a peaceful and prosperous shared future.” She notes that, since its founding in 1945, the U.N. has played a crucial role in conflict prevention, peacemaking, maintenance and the safeguarding of human rights around the world.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Pixbay

Female Peacekeepers
Major social change starts with a shift in mentality, support from the top, persistence and structure. That is why male allies are key to the full realization of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. Without support and encouragement from male leaders, which are often lacking, women will be harder pressed to participate in important political decisions. Women cannot make this change on their own, and neither can men– thus, the solution lies in working together, with men as partners.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

UNSCR 1325 is a landmark resolution that was adopted by a unanimous vote on October 31, 2000. The resolution stresses the importance of female peacekeepers in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, the humanitarian response in war zones or impoverished areas, peace negotiations, and post-conflict civil reconstruction. This resolution brings to light the urgency of providing women a seat at the political table and calls on everyone to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

The Positive Effects of Female Leadership

Women’s leadership is essential in ensuring long-lasting peace and conflict resolution. In fact, studies show that the probability of a peace agreement lasting 15 years goes up by 35% when women participate in its creation. Additionally, there are more agreement provisions for political reform and gender provisions in peace agreements signed by women. Typical peace agreements often do not address gender equality: in fact, of the 1,789 agreements made between 1990 and 2018, only 353 included provisions that address women, girls, or gender whatsoever. Thus, women’s involvement in these agreements could be crucial in addressing more social and gender inequalities.

Female Peacekeepers

Women are vital in peacekeeping. They are necessary in every role, from monitoring human rights to political reconciliation to operational analysis. Women are often first responders during or after conflict and are fundamental in helping to repair devastated economies. Why, then, are they still not totally equal when it comes to political roles in maintaining peace and security? How can this problem be resolved?

The Importance of Men as Partners

One important strategy is to mobilize men. Men acting as partners to women in issues of peace, conflict, reconciliation, and post-conflict reconstruction is essential to closing this gender gap, as men currently have more seats at the political table. Our Secure Future, a nonprofit dedicated to this strategy, is taking the necessary steps to build this partnership in an effort to fully realize the potential of UNSCR 1325.  Their project, Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace and Security, began in 2018 in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. It engages global figures who agree that men must be a part of the solution in the full realization of the 1325 agenda. The project has drafted a Charter and call to action to encourage the full implementation of UNSCR 1325, along with the US Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017. This partnership of men and women will help ensure that women are equally engaged as leaders, planners, and peacekeepers in post-conflict societies.

There is still much work to be done, but the increasing trend of male support for UNSCR 1325 is certainly a step in the right direction. Tackling big issues like gender-based violence and post-conflict reconstruction are not easy feats. They require strong leaders and peacekeepers. They also require both male and female perspectives for optimal success, so conflict-ridden societies cannot prosper until the political playing field is as equal as possible.

Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Aid for Women and Girls
A recent hearing at the United Nations Human Rights Council illuminated the impact of COVID-19 and general global health emergencies on women and girls in impoverished communities, calling for increased aid for women and girls by the U.N.

How COVID-19 Impacts Women and Girls

The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, made a statement to the U.N. Council for Human Rights on the consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic for women and girls stating, “experience demonstrates that insecurity and displacement fuel increases in sexual and gender-based violence, as well as other crimes and human rights violations.”

Testimonies like those shared by the U.N. News Podcast The Lid is On elaborate on the implications of COVID-19. One episode features a Ugandan activist named Zahara who reports that, in addition to increased rates of violence, rural women are currently suffering limited access to education, medical care and community support due to the pandemic.

The Deputy High Commissioner stresses that the situation for many women in poor communities is already critical. She notes that high rates of teen pregnancy, inadequate access to education and high rates of sexual violence in countries like Myanmar and South Sudan have only been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, Al-Nashif called for greater legislation to provide judicial protection and increased aid for women and girls in vulnerable circumstances now and in the future.

Supporting Women through US Legislation

Like Al-Nashif, many members of Congress are pushing for increased aid for women and girls abroad. In addition to legislation providing international COVID-19 relief, bills are aiming to create long-term solutions to the challenges faced by women and girls. For instance, the Keeping Girls in School Act recently passed in the House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate would permit USAID to allocate funds specifically to confront “societal, cultural, health, and other barriers” that prevent girls from receiving a quality secondary education in foreign countries.

Similarly, the Girls’ Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development Act (Girls’ LEAD Act) introduced in the Senate in October 2019 seeks to create opportunities to gain experience in leadership and government through USAID. By expanding programs and aid for girls abroad, supporters of the bill hope to cultivate communities where women in leadership lift women and girls from positions of vulnerability to voices for societal change.

Looking Ahead

The U.N. has made it clear that women and girls in impoverished communities around the world suffer disproportionately during emergencies like the current COVID-19 outbreak. As such, international organizations firmly believe that increased foreign aid is critical. Legislation like the Keeping Girls in School Act and the Girls’ LEAD Act would support long-term assistance to prevent women and girls abroad from these vulnerabilities not just in times of crisis, but in everyday life.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

signpostAs of last year, there were almost 80 million “forcibly displaced people worldwide.” This figure includes refugees, asylum-seekers and others. As refugee communities are in crucial need of proper medical aid to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic, global powers are devising plans to help them. During the early stages of worldwide lockdown, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) proposed a $33 million pandemic-response plan for improving refugee settlements. Objectives include increasing health service availability, spreading reliable and medical-oriented information throughout refugee communities and implementing efficient surveillance systems. 

Although these efforts were a step in the right direction, they are not enough to assist every displaced refugee in the world. Groups like the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) are certainly championing refugees’ needs. However, it does not take a global superpower to make a positive impact on refugee communities; one website has helped refugees during the pandemic through access to information.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Refugees

COVID-19 has impacted refugees and other forcibly displaced people in three major ways:

  • Health: Constantly sanitizing, maintaining social distance and obtaining medical information are luxuries that many refugees do not have access to. As such, a refugee’s health is in constant jeopardy.
  • Income: Refugees working in informal jobs are likely to have been laid off due to the pandemic, and losing work means losing the only financial safety net for a refugee.
  • Protection: Hostile xenophobic and racist sentiments have been directed at asylum-seekers during the pandemic, which makes those seeking refuge in foreign countries targets for violence.

While these three obstacles are preventing many refugees from securing safety, they can be solved with one essential tool—information. Reliable information regarding health, income and protection can help many refugees.

Signpost as Virtual Back-up

Signpost is a non-governmental organization (NGO) and a virtual project that utilizes digital platforms to spread critical information throughout vulnerable communities. The organization has made a large impression since its founding in 2015. It has positively impacted almost two million people. Signpost has effectively helped and communicated with people across eight different countries, which demands fluency in several languages. Accurately conveying information regarding public health services and other needs to refugees using their native tongue has saved thousands of lives.

Everywhere, refugees are struggling to find trustworthy information about COVID-19. In response, Signpost has been reaching out and providing valuable, potentially life-saving, information to refugees. In particular, Signpost has supported the most vulnerable communities in countries like Greece, Italy, El Salvador and Honduras.

  • Signpost in Greece: Signpost has developed an app that has numerous services listed for refugee use such as medical services, transportation and housing. Also, the organization is scheduled to put out a website for current COVID-19 information throughout the country.
  • Signpost in Italy: The organization has given asylum-seekers information about essential services through Facebook, an established panel where users could ask questions and share key information regarding COVID-19. In Italy, Signpost focused specifically on informing refugees about Italy’s healthcare services and policies.
  • Signpost in El Salvador and Honduras: Signpost developed CuentaNos. It is a virtual platform that not only provides vulnerable people with information about housing or protective services, but also about COVID-19 and locations for medical assistance. Signpost also bundled its online resources efficiently to allow refugees accessibility through WhatsApp.

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic, but asylum-seekers and refugee communities are especially disadvantaged since they are displaced from their home country. Signpost, a website, has helped refugees by providing access to important information about dealing with COVID-19. Although Signpost is just one example, technology-based organizations are mobilizing to provide some type of digital support for refugees. Whether help comes via the Internet or in-person, any outstretched hand toward refugees anywhere is a glimmering sign of hope for a better future.

– Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Flickr

food safety in el salvadorThe ability to have access to safe and nutritious food is essential to maintaining life and good health. Unsafe food contains harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria that can lead to more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to forms of cancer. Approximately 600 million people become ill after consuming contaminated food each year, which results in 420,000 deaths and the loss of thirty-three million healthy life hours. Food safety and nutrition are linked to cycles of health. Unsafe food causes disease and malnutrition, especially with at-risk groups.

Education on Food Safety in El Salvador

Women in El Salvador are participating in an educational program supported by the World Health Organization that teaches safe hygiene practices and food safety. The WHO works in collaboration with El Salvador’s government and other United Nations partner organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, UNWomen, and the World Food Program (WFP). The program aims to address foodborne illnesses and poor nutrition by educating local women who then pass on their knowledge to other women in the community.

In preparation for the village workshops, there are two ‘train the trainers’ workshops held to train health promoters who can then go on to educate women in other villages. The women teach others how to host their own educational workshops. Women are chosen as leaders since they play a vital role in food preparation and safety.

Teaching Subsistence Farming

In El Salvador 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 U.S. a day, which makes it hard to buy food.  A large sector of the population lacks the proper education about nutrition needed to grow food themselves. This program provides women with education about farming, specifically focusing on five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables.

  1. Practice good personal hygiene. Good hygiene begins in the home with a clean body, face, and clothes. People must maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of pathogens and prevent food contamination. A toilet or latrine must be used for proper sanitation.
  2. Protect fields from animal fecal contamination. In areas where animals live in close proximity to humans and fields, it is imperative to control the risk of exposure to fecal matter. Exposure to animal feces is correlated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction and growth faltering.
  3. Use treated fecal waste. Waste may be reused as a fertilizer for agriculture, gardening or horticultural, but must be safely handled, treated, stored and utilized.
  4. Evaluate and manage risks from irrigation water. Be aware of all risks of microbial contamination at all water sources and protect water from fecal matter.
  5. Keep harvest and storage equipment clean and dry. Wash harvest equipment with clean water and store away from animals and children. Remove all visible dirt and debris from all products.

Results

After participating in the program, the women involved began to change their lifestyles and safety habits. Women use mesh to protect fields from contamination from animals and can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while practicing food safety. Foodborne illnesses decreased in households where safety measures were practiced. Families that utilized the five keys at home reduced their chances of getting diarrhea by 60% compared to families in communities where these hygiene and safety measures were not applied. Families that began to practice food safety also had a more diversified crop production that contributes to improved nutrition.

 

Many people in El Salvador live on less than $2 U.S. a day and education on nutrition needed to grow food independently is sometimes lacking. In order to address these issues, The WHO, and other organizations, partnered with El Salvador’s government to host workshops on food safety and hygiene practices. While food safety remains an important issue in El Salvador, the workshops positively impacted food safety in the country by decreasing foodborne illnesses in households that applied the safety measures.

– Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

 

Villagers set out to fish in the coastal areas. Ending poverty in all its forms is the first of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Although the initiative has achieved progress toward decreasing the number of people living in extreme poverty, there are still parts of the world lagging behind. This is the case for many isolated and rural regions. Recent innovations in geospatial mapping technology can improve the ability to locate, understand and help these communities.

Geospatial Mapping Technology Contest

The American Geographical Society’s innovational contest, The EthicalGEO Challenge, is creating a dialogue around the ethics of geospatial mapping technology. The initiative calls for participants to enter a three-minute video proposal detailing their idea for a mapping tool that will promote social good.

Seven winners were selected in 2019 for a $7,500 fellowship prize to help them launch their respective projects, which will use location data and geospatial mapping technology to empower vulnerable communities in a variety of ways.

Several fellows’ projects will use mapping technology to tackle social justice challenges — for example, land rights and expulsion in a Tanzania community, exploitation of public health data or environmental protection and sustainability. Another fellow chose to take a more direct approach in addressing ethics by developing a video toolbox that can be used to teach geo-privacy in classrooms. Through their wide range of ideas, the contest winners are shedding light on the versatility and adaptability of geospatial mapping technology.

Geospatial Mapping in Rural Fishing Villages

Fellowship winner Dr. Alfredo Giron-Nava, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is focusing on using geospatial mapping technology to empower small-scale fishing villages.

These coastal regions are often classified as vulnerable because of their high dependency on a single commodity, and can face overexploitation if they lack sustainable fishing methods. Additionally, their reliance on natural resources makes fisheries sensitive to the effects of climate change, which have become more distinct in recent years. Fishing is a critical need but endangered the economic sector in many regions including South Asia, Central America and Mexico’s Gulf of California where nearly 80% of the population experiences poverty.

Giron-Nava proposed a plan to create the first global map on the prevalence of poverty in fishing villages around the world. The mapping initiative is aimed at better understanding the demographics and locations of these fishing communities, particularly those in developing regions where fisheries are essential to the economy.

  • The first phase of the project focuses on understanding living conditions and wages in fishing villages in different regions, using publicly available information from databases and agencies such as the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • In the second phase of the project, this regional data will be compared against each country’s national poverty line, which is characterized by factors such as access to food, housing, adequate sanitation, health services, and education. These findings will be used to create a more detailed, subnational map showing which areas are comparatively experiencing the highest rates of poverty.

Contextualizing data on poverty levels by country is important because it allows for the development of specific poverty reduction strategies that match the social, cultural and economic context of each community.

Information gathered by innovative technologies creates a new lens for the development of social justice policies. A crucial first step to eradicating poverty is understanding the distribution and concentration of those whom it affects. By addressing these key issues in a responsible and ethical manner, geospatial mapping technology has the potential to be a powerful tool for ending poverty in rural and isolated areas.

–  Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Burden of COVIDThe most recent pandemic has wreaked havoc on countries all over the world and has stagnated, or even reversed progress in many developing communities. While officials have been trying to reduce the number of cases worldwide, there have also been many tech developments that help alleviate the burden of COVID-19. Various apps and websites allow us to spread information, contact-trace and even enforce quarantine.

6 Ways Technology Helps Alleviate the Burden of COVID-19

  1. Afghanistan- Without proper guidance, misinformation can spread like wildfire and can be deadly. For this reason, the Ministry of Public Health joined forces with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology to create software that provides health information to Afghani citizens. Corona.asan.gov.af translates virus updates and information into three different languages, making it easily accessible for all people.
  2. Bulgaria- Local IT developers created a free app that connects citizens to health authorities to help ease the burden of COVID-19. Users verify their identity and can input various symptoms they are experiencing. A doctor will then review their symptoms and decide whether or not to send the patient to the closest medical facility for treatment. In addition to this, the app also can predict the future growth and spread of the virus. The developers are also willing to sell the software to other countries for a symbolic one euro.
  3. Germany- A Berlin-based tech startup created an initiative that would work on Android devices in developing countries throughout South America and North Africa. The project, called #AppsFightCovid would display health information on popup ads that already exist on different apps. The ads take info from the WHO website and advocate for frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public. Because of these efforts, underdeveloped communities now have access to important COVID-19 information.
  4. Mexico- The Mexico City government created a screening service that determines how likely a user is to contract the coronavirus. The website also features a map that displays the closest hospitals and how much space is available in each of them. People can also filter the map based on whether they need a general care bed or a ventilator bed. In addition, users can input their symptoms and determine whether or not they require hospitalization. This helps alleviate the burden of COVID by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital patients during a global pandemic.
  5. United Nations- It is extremely difficult to get access to personal protective equipment and accurate information, especially for developing countries. Because of this, the U.N. partnered with the WHO and launched the Tech Access Partnership or TAP. This initiative helps reduce the burden of COVID by connecting expert manufacturers with developing manufacturers in poorer countries all over the world to share resources, knowledge and technical expertise. TAP will also aid countries in creating affordable and safe technology.
  6. Argentina- In hopes of reducing the number of coronavirus cases, a company is looking into enforcing quarantining and social distancing through a tracking app, though it is not yet operational. This would be a way to prevent the spread of COVID since the app would send an alert each time a person leaves their home. In addition, the Argentinian Ministry of Health created an application that allows people to evaluate their symptoms and see whether or not they require hospitalization.

 

Though the novel coronavirus has thrown us all for a whirlwind, many countries are doing their part to alleviate the burden of COVID by using technology. Whether it is through self-assessing symptoms, tracking hospitals or enforcing quarantine, government officials everywhere are trying to flatten the curve through the use of technology.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in North Korea

North 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