Sao Tome and Principe is a small island located off the African coast near the equator. The small island has a population of 190,344 and is the second-smallest country in Africa. The country is often not thought of when it comes to poverty, but about 66 percent of citizens live below the poverty line. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Sao Tome and Principe:

  1. Hunger in Sao Tome and Principe causes ongoing conflicts between the citizens in efforts to find food for their families or themselves. In an effort to end this, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided 43,200 meals to primary school children in the country.
  2. More than one-third of child deaths in the country are caused by undernutrition, mostly from the increased severity of diseases as a complication of such.
  3. Children who up to age two are prone to cognitive development impairment. About 65 percent of newborns in the country do not receive breast milk within one hour of birth. During the period of switching between breast milk and solid foods (between six and nine months of age), 40 percent of infants are not fed appropriately with breast milk and solid foods.
  4. Malnutrition consequently makes the country’s productivity and growth drop enormously.
  5. Causes of undernutrition in Sao Tome and Principe include poor infant feeding, the price of food, and high disease burden. Undernutrition in Sao Tome and Principe increases the chances of falling sick or the severity of diseases. Parasitic infestation often diverts nutrients from the body and can cause blood loss and anemia.
  6. The country relies heavily on imports, but food availability is unpredictable. The infrastructure can be a challenge, as deep-sea ports and landing strips are completely unavailable on days with inclement weather. Even on fair-weather days, importation is difficult, as there is only one airport strip on the island.
  7. The World Food Programme has been present in Sao Tome and Principe since 1976. Education is the organization’s primary goal to help end hunger in Sao Tome and Principe.
  8. The World Food Programme focuses on supporting the government with capacity development activities. The organization’s goal is for the country to eventually provide its national school feeding program without assistance. WFP hopes to gradually give the responsibility of the program to the government.
  9. WFP is also working with UNICEF to improve hygiene and sanitation in schools.
  10. WFP intends to work with the country’s government to integrate nutrition learning in the national nutrition policy.

Paige Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Since Timor-Leste gained independence in 2002, it has made significant improvements in economic and human development. At the same time, while hunger in Timor-Leste has decreased, rates of malnutrition and stunting are still the highest in Asia. The U.N. has provided assistance aimed at stabilizing the government since 2006.

  1. According to Oxfam Australia, 41 percent of people in Timor-Leste live on less than $1.25 a day. Timor-Leste ranks very poorly in GDP and GDP per capita, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. A weak economy and an unstable political environment have made it difficult for residents of Timor-Leste to escape extreme poverty and hunger.
  2. Timor-Leste is a small country with only 1.13 million inhabitants, of which 74 percent live in rural areas. Because residents often depend on local agriculture to supplement their diet, the high instances of drought, flooding and cyclones in Timor-Leste lead to food insecurity.
  3. Persistent food insecurity and hunger in Timor-Leste have resulted in high rates of malnutrition among Timorese youth and adults. In fact, UNICEF reports that 58.1 percent of the population suffers from moderate and severe stunting, affecting the growth of many children and young adults.
  4. Life expectancy for the Timorese population is about 69 years, up from about 61 years in 2002. This increase is largely attributable to reductions in poverty through foreign aid that has led to an increase in the availability of food.
  5. In 2014, Timor-Leste became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to adopt the U.N.’s Zero Hunger Challenge. The program aims to eliminate food insecurity and childhood stunting by improving food infrastructure, increasing the productivity and income of small farm-owners, and lessening food waste.
  6.  Since 1999, the World Food Program has provided supplemental nutrition for the most vulnerable Timorese and worked to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. Eventually, the U.N. hopes to turn the supplementary feeding program over to the government of Timor-Leste.

A recent report by the World Bank indicates that Timor-Leste has made significant strides in reducing poverty and projects that the economy will rebound with high growth rates in the coming years. As more Timorese escape poverty, continued foreign aid will be key to sustaining development and reducing hunger in Timor-Leste.

Yosef Gross

Photo: Flickr


Significant progress has been made on the issue of hunger in Oman, including the country already meeting eight of its Millennium Development Goals. The amount of extreme poverty and hunger has been cut in half in Oman since 1990.

The World Food Program defines hunger as undernourishment, or chronic undernourishment. Undernourishment is the result of chronic hunger, that can result in stunted growth in children, the loss of mental and physical abilities, and even death. Undernourishment affects one in six people around the world today.

Another unfortunate result of hunger is referred to as the “under five mortality rate” or the proportion of children who die before reaching the age of five. Hunger plays a large part in this rate, and Oman reduced it’s under five mortality rate by two-thirds since 1990. In fact, the percentage of children under five who were underweight was 9.7 percent in 2014, compared to 23 percent in 1995.

Maternal health is also a big beneficiary of the fight against hunger. As mentioned, undernourishment can have drastic effects on the health and livelihood of individuals, let alone those who are eating for two. Maternal mortality is a huge problem in countries where poverty and hunger rates are high, and Oman was no exception. Since 1990, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced by 75 percent.

Oman has made such strides in the past two decades, that it is now on the other side of the coin. In 2014, Oman donated $1 million to the World Food Program to be used to fight hunger in Mauritania and Senegal, two countries in Africa that are plagued by drought and constant violence.

Success stories like this on hunger in Oman should be built upon for future progression across the board. Oman was near the bottom, with poverty levels and hunger levels affecting the lives of its citizens. Thanks to collaboration from other countries throughout the world, and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, Oman has come closer to stabilization than ever before.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Sierra Leone
The West African country of Sierra Leone is home to some of the greatest diamond, gold, and titanium mines in the world. Despite this natural wealth, however, more than half of Sierra Leone’s people live below the poverty line. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Sierra Leone:

  1. There are more than 6.4 million people living in Sierra Leone, 52.9 percent of whom live below the national poverty line.
  2. Malnutrition is the greatest cause of child mortality in Sierra Leone, accounting for nearly half of all child deaths. Almost one-third of children under five are chronically malnourished.
  3. Roughly 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the majority of whom rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
  4. Agriculture, however, has faced many challenges in recent years due to lack of equipment, poor quality seeds, deforestation and climate change. Rice production has declined so significantly that only four percent of farmers produce enough to meet their needs.
  5. Due to these agricultural struggles, the country now imports large amounts of food. Between $200 and $300 million is spent each year importing rice alone, harming local agriculture and increasing the country’s vulnerability to global price fluctuations.
  6. Economic development halted between 1991 and 2001 due to a civil war. This has had lasting impacts on the country’s economy, as approximately 1.5 million people were forced to leave their homes and livelihoods.
  7. The Ebola outbreak also worsened hunger in Sierra Leone. Approximately 280,000 people were made food-insecure due to the disease.
  8. In order to encourage young people to attend school, and to increase the education that is vital to rebuilding the country post-war, many primary schools offer feeding programs.
  9. In areas of the country where agriculture is still not providing enough food to feed the villages, food-for-work and food-for-training programs are in place to help support people as the country’s infrastructure is rebuilt.
  10. The World Food Programme runs a number of programs in order to combat hunger in Sierra Leone. Among them is a supplementary feeding program in order to treat malnutrition in lactating mothers and children under five.

While the country is still struggling to rebuild its economy after repeated crises, progress has been made. Numerous programs have been put in place that are making a significant impact in the fight against hunger in Sierra Leone.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Madagascar
While Madagascar was made famous by the 2005 DreamWorks animated movie about talking zoo animals, it is also one of the world’s poorest nations, with four million people suffering from lack of food access.

Drought, cyclones, floods and locust infestation worsen the case of hunger in Madagascar. Natural disasters are likely to grow worse with the continuation of climate change. Madagascar is one of the 10 nations most vulnerable to natural disasters affecting food security and nutrition.

Those who live in southern Madagascar are most likely to suffer from hunger because the lean season takes up a much longer portion of the year. The lean season is the period of time in between the harvest and the first plant of the next season. During this time, poor farmers and their families have little food or income on which to survive.

In 2016, a drought worsened by El Niño, an irregular and complex series of climatic changes, left 1.4 million people in Madagascar desperately short on food. These people are expected to face food shortages through 2017.

Crop failure causes people to take desperate measures to survive, such as selling their livestock and farming tools and moving into the wild to forage. Over 90 percent of Malagasies live below the poverty line.

Chronic malnutrition affects nearly half of all the children in Madagascar under five. Hunger in Madagascar also results in stunted growth in children and high mortality rates. Anemia is one of the biggest health issues in Malagasies facing hunger, with one-third of children under five and women suffering from iron deficiency.

More than six percent of children die before they reach five years old, and 500 out of every 100,000 live births result in the mother’s death. High levels of anemia lead to this high maternal mortality rate.

Despite the bleak outlook caused by hunger in Madagascar, not all hope is lost. The World Food Program (WFP) works in conjunction with 30 other organizations to relieve Madagascar’s most vulnerable regions, including the South and poor urban areas.

This is done through:

  • Providing meals, nutritional information and promoting hygiene for children in schools;
  • Empowering smallholder farmers, who own small plots of land and harvest only a few cash crops, through increasing access to markets and supporting farmers’ associations;
  • Providing relief and early recovery assistance to households affected by natural disasters;
  • Placing food in remote and disaster-prone areas before incidents are expected to occur to prevent malnutrition;
  • Distributing cash assistance and food during the 2016-2017 prolonged lean season;
  • Assessing Madagascar’s vulnerability to shocks, coordinating livelihood activities and implementing community planning exercises.

To help relieve hunger in Madagascar, you can make a donation to the WFP.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Lake Chad_Hunger
A hunger crisis in the Lake Chad basin has unfolded since Boko Haram has left much of Nigeria and surrounding nations in ruins.

The people in the region are facing famine-like conditions due to being forced to abandon their crops to flee Boko Haram. More than eight million people in the Lake Chad basin are currently struggling with hunger. The area is plunging further into food scarcity as more crops go unharvested. Some crops are even being burned as Boko Haram raids and loots villages.

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group that has created unrest with bombings, abductions and assassinations. Its followers believe that the Nigerian government is run by non-believers, and Muslims should be forbidden from taking part in any activities associated with Western society, including voting in elections and participating in secular education.

While the group was founded in 2002, military operations began in 2009 in an attempt to create an Islamic state. The name Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden,” when translated loosely from the Hausa language. The U.S. declared Boko Haram a terrorist group in 2013.

Boko Haram spread its military campaign into the neighboring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The U.N. estimates that 14 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance.

An estimated 480,000 children across the four countries affected by Boko Haram are suffering from acute malnutrition. Basic supplies in refugee camps are scarce, and aid groups cannot reach those in villages occupied by Boko Haram as well as remote areas to offer humanitarian assistance. Of the children in critical need of assistance, U.N. officials estimate that 75,000 could die within a few months.

The hunger crisis in the Lake Chad basin is so severe that Doctors Without Borders physicians have added food to their bags of medical supplies. The U.N.’s World Food Programme delivered aid to more than one million people in December 2016, a sharp increase from the 160,000 people it assisted in October 2016. The World Food Programme is in desperate need of more funding to deliver life-saving assistance to all those in need in the region.

To help relieve the hunger crisis in the Lake Chad basin, you can make a donation to the World Food Programme.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Cutting Iraq WFP Aid
The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) began providing food aid and humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 1991. In October 2016, 1.2 million Iraqis received food assistance from the WFP. However, a staggering 4.4 million across the nation are still in need.

Due to cuts in funding from donor states, the WFP has reduced food rations in Iraq by 50 percent. The move will leave 1.4 million displaced Iraqis without assistance, although the agency is negotiating on how to regain full funding from donors such as the United States, Germany and Japan.

Occupation of the region by Islamic State facilitated the destruction of massive annual barley and wheat harvests, destroying an annual one-third of the nation’s crop yields. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also attributes increasing influxes of internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees, inefficient supply chains, lack of governing infrastructure and cash shortages to be at the root of Iraq’s food supply crisis.

Agencies active in providing assistance include Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration, United Nations organizations and the WFP. These actors constitute the foundation of social protections and safety nets for Iraqi citizens through food distribution, development and financial support.

According to an Iraq WFP aid study on social protections from the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies, Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration granted financial aid of 300,000 dinars (USD$255) to 9,373 families displaced among a dozen countries. This ministry also runs a “human stability” program.

Although cornucopias of vulnerable populations, an absence of adequate legal statutes and corruption are all hurdles to food assistance, there are steps that can be taken to improve Iraqi social protection systems. For example, the WFP recommends “building the capacity of social protection research, increasing the number of beneficiaries and demanding inclusion of the unemployed in social welfare systems.”

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Jordan
Jordan, home to Za’atari refugee camp, is facing a resource crisis. In an already resource-poor, food-deficient country, the influx of Syrian refugees, accounting for almost ten percent of Jordan’s population has added great pressure to the economy. Consequently, one of the biggest problems facing Jordan today is finding a way to feed its swelling population.

With a hike of around 20 percent in food prices, 2016 has plunged many Jordanians into a state of food insecurity. The alarming unemployment rate of 13.6 percent amplifies the problem as fewer people are able to buy the increasingly expensive food. Fortunately, NGOs and international organizations have been markedly proactive in their efforts to assist the food insecure.

On the local level, perhaps the most significant strides towards alleviating hunger in Jordan have been made by the Jordanian Food Bank (JFB) established in 2010. The non-profit has launched multiple projects such as the “Awareness for Hotels and Restaurants” campaign which collects unused food from Jordanian hotels, events, restaurants and others and donates it to families in need. It has also signed an agreement with the Jordanian Austrian Company to combat hunger and assist underprivileged families in local communities. Under the agreement, the Jordanian Austrian Company will provide 25 underprivileged families with food packages every month and half a ton of rice in support of various JFB programs.

Another local organization, Family Kitchen, works on a similar model, collecting uneaten food from hotels and bakeries and distributing them among the food insecure in Amman. Even individuals and groups at the grassroots level are playing their part by introducing initiatives such as Kulluna Ahl, a food bank run by Amman’s municipality and Izwati sandwich shop providing free sandwiches to the poor.

The drive of local organizations in helping the victims of food insecurity prosper is both admirable and necessary. However, factoring in the needs of Syrian refugees, local initiatives simply aren’t enough to combat the entirety of hunger, thirst and deprivation in Jordan. As a result, international organizations have stepped in to fortify existing efforts.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the biggest organization involved in alleviating hunger in Jordan. WFP launched an 18-month assistance program in 2013 to assist 160,000 vulnerable Jordanians affected by the extended economic crisis through cash and food transfers. It is also helping the Jordanian government with implementing a national school meals program to reach up to 320,000 school children in the most vulnerable and food insecure areas. In addition, it is providing food assistance to over 560,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan through electronic and paper vouchers.

International NGOs like Action Against Hunger are also having a huge impact on combatting hunger in Jordan. In 2015 alone, the organization helped 43,906 people in Jordan by providing them with nutritional support, safe water, sanitation and in some cases, enabling them to achieve economic self-sufficiency. The efforts of global organizations like this are vital to the protection of people in vulnerable situations. You can help facilitate their work by donating to Action Against Hunger here.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

High Energy Biscuit
The World Food Program (WFP) High Energy Biscuit is pre-packaged and full of high-protein cereals, micronutrients and vegetable fat and requires zero preparation to be consumed. This food product extends to all groups suffering from hunger — women, children, infants, the elderly, those struggling with disease and communities in rural, underdeveloped regions, such as the Philippines, Kenya, North Korea and Afghanistan.

The biscuits serve as a lifesaving snack to survivors of natural disasters, conflicts and contain a multitude of healthy ingredients to keep individuals, especially children, strong and focused in school.

In 2014, WFP distributed its “biscuit-factory-in-a-box,” which, along with the WFP High Energy Biscuit, contains a variety of foods that are delivered to the world’s hungry. This includes fortified blends, or “mixtures of partially precooked and milled cereals, soya and beans that have been infused with micronutrients for additional health benefits.”

The primarily blended food produced by WFP is corn soya blend, cooked with water to create a warm, nourishing porridge. The blends not only provide protein supplements but also prevent and address nutritional deficiencies. Ready-To-Use Foods are also transported, typically to treat malnutrition among children between the ages of six months and five years old.

These products are easily accessible for poor families who lack access to running water or electricity, as they do not require heat or water to cook. The oil-based, low moisture consistency prevents bacterial contamination and gives them a long shelf life.

The successful impact of the WFP High Energy Biscuit and how much this program has grown since it was initially created has been documented over the years. Individuals who have benefited from the foods include more than 200,000 flood victims from Kenya, as well as 850,000 primary school children in North Korea, where the attendance rate has increased as a result of the incredible amount of aid offered to schools in the local area.

Most recently noted, the WFP High Energy Biscuit made its way to the people affected by the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the city of Tacloban. In the early days of the emergency response, the biscuits made a big difference and served as a light, convenient form of food aid. WFP has extended its operating locations, with one particular factory in Kabul, Afghanistan as the newest supplier for the WFP High Energy Biscuit.

WFP shows workers in new locations how to make the biscuits using local ingredients. This provides food for more people living in impoverished locations while stimulating the economies of these regions.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Pakistan: Fighting A Continual Uphill Battle
According to a  2016 report published by the World Food Programme (WFP), Pakistan produces enough food to feed all its citizens, yet, six out of 10 Pakistanis are food insecure. The worst off are women and children under the age of five, nearly half of whom are malnourished.

A tragic manifestation of this statistic is in the Tharpakar district of Pakistan. Within the first fortnight of 2016, 55 children in this region died as a result of malnutrition, pneumonia and other preventable diseases. Further, at least 650 children have died of the same causes over the last three years.These chilling figures bear more than a cursory investigation.

The International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) food security portal cites the main cause of widespread hunger in Pakistan as “a combination of militant activity, natural disaster[s], and economic instability”. These factors are particularly devastating in a country where the agricultural sector employs almost half the workforce and contributes over a fifth of total GDP.

The destruction caused by the 2010 floods in the Indus river basin bear testament to the catastrophic nature of the aforementioned elements. According to the WFP, the floods left almost 20 million people without access to food, which damaged the country’s agricultural sector. Bloomberg estimates that  sugar, wheat and rice crop worth $2.9 billion were ruined within three months of the flooding. Massive inflation and unemployment caused by militant activities in the region worsened the impact of their destruction.

What can be done for those who suffer the consequences of such devastation? What can be done for the children of Tharpakar, Pakistan?

Government acknowledgment of inaccessibility and insecurity plays a huge role in, at the very least, creating a starting point from which larger policy changes can be affected. Unfortunately, this seems to be a far-fetched goal. According to the Sri Lankan Guardian “Two provincial ministers who visited [Tharpakar] blamed underage marriages and carelessness of mothers for the child deaths…Despite print, electronic and foreign media all reporting the same child death statistics, the government continues to deny the figures.”

Therefore, raising awareness about the problem both in Pakistan as well as on a global level to pressure the government to be more proactive becomes incredibly important. The WFP is playing their part by releasing statistics to be shared on Twitter and other social media sites. In addition, WFP also partners with the Pakistani government in assisting malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, helping over 3.6 million people as of April 2016 through endeavors such as providing staple foods in schools across Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agencies.

An early warning system for disasters such as the flood and subsequent earthquakes in the region would be a huge step forward in ensuring that stored crops are protected from their impact, which would help to combat hunger in Pakistan. And, taking a page from neighbor India’s book, passing a food security bill intended at providing vulnerable populations with subsidized grains could also help reduce malnourishment and insecurity, particularly among children and mothers.

While prospects for improving the situation in Pakistan have looked bleak in the past, NGOs such as Thali, Micro Nutrient Initiative and Action Against Hunger in partnership with the WFP, are making strides in reducing hunger in Pakistan. For the children of Tharpakar, even these baby steps are huge leaps into a healthier future.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr