hunger in switzerlandSwitzerland is a well-off country with a high standard of living and a low poverty rate. While poverty does exist within the country, food security is not much of a concern due to strong welfare programs. This is because hunger in Switzerland is an issue that the government takes seriously and works hard to improve.

Life in Switzerland

Switzerland has a high overall standard of living, but this comes with a high cost of living that can alienate impoverished people. Both Zurich and Geneva are some of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. Even against other developed countries with similar standards of living, Switzerland is expensive. The average total household expenditure in Switzerland is about 60% higher than the average of the European Union.

The price of living in Switzerland is steep. Swiss health insurance is mandatory by law, monthly rent is relatively high, and transportation and grocery costs are significant expenses. Switzerland also boasts some of the highest salaries in the world, which offsets the costs of living. However, of the 7.9% of Swiss residents living below the poverty line— about 660,000 people—still struggle to afford what they need. However, poverty in Switzerland is relatively low. Government welfare programs help impoverished people get back on their feet.

Welfare Programs in Switzerland

Hunger in Switzerland is rare due to the fact that Swiss welfare payments cover necessities such as food, clothing, housing, health insurance, and other personal needs. Upwards of 270,000 Swiss residents receive some sort of welfare, distributed at the cantonal level to residents living below the country’s poverty line. This amounted to about $2.85 billion spent on welfare throughout the entire country in 2018.

There are several guidelines about who qualifies for receiving welfare and how welfare benefits can be spent. They include housing within a certain price range, cars covered for health reasons or jobs inaccessible by public transport, and welfare not covering expenses for pets. Welfare recipients are not eligible to become Swiss citizens while receiving welfare or for three years after (although the wait is longer in some cantons).

The social assistance programs work to ensure Swiss residents are receiving the help they need to survive and get back on their feet. 8% of welfare recipients need help for six or more years, 20% require assistance for only one or two years, and about 50% receive welfare for less than a year. Aggressive and good quality welfare programs ensure that hunger in Switzerland is a very rare and easily fixable issue.

Global Food Security and Hunger Worldwide

While hunger in Switzerland itself is not much of an issue, Switzerland works hard to assist global food security.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership for agricultural research.  CGIAR is one of Switzerland’s 15 priority organizations for global development. It supports research in 80 countries on food quality and sustainable natural resource management. The goal of their research is to stabilize agricultural production and food supply for a rising global population. The Swiss Federal Council renewed its contributions to the CGIAR in 2019, pledging to contribute CHF 33.1 million or $35.9 million in the 2020-21 period.

Switzerland is dedicated to supporting other countries in facing food insecurity, as shown by the town of Basel which put together the event “Basel Gegen Hunger” in June of 2018. This was the second annual event for the campaign. The event raised funds and brought awareness to the hunger crisis in South Sudan. In six weeks, the residents of Basel raised more than CHF 53,000—close to $60,000—for people affected by the famine.

Hunger in Switzerland is low due to its comprehensive welfare programs. However, the Swiss are dedicated to fighting global hunger. Switzerland addresses hunger domestically and globally through agricultural research, giving money, and spreading awareness.

Kathy Wei

Photo: Flickr

Foldscope Can Save LivesIn 2010, Manu Prakash, a professor at Stanford University, and his student, Jim Cybulski, encountered the same problem in most of their travels. The microscopes provided to them were usually broken or there was a lack of access to them altogether. That is what gave them the idea for the Foldscope. They wanted to create a very inexpensive microscope that could be portable. The duo accomplished their goal and by 2014, they had fully developed the technology called the Foldscope. Foldscope can save lives. It has an enormous amount of uses that can impact developing countries tremendously.

The Foldscope is a portable microscope. Prakash and Cybulski made it so that the Foldscope came as a single piece of thick paper. The user assembles it by snapping out the individual pieces from the paper. It takes fewer than ten minutes to put together. The microscope is fully functional and weighs a total of about nine grams. Because of the inexpensive parts used, the Foldscope costs less than a dollar to produce. Although the Foldscope is very inexpensive, it doesn’t mean it isn’t effective; the Foldscope can magnify up to 2,000 times.

Foldscope Fighting Diseases

Because of the cost and accessibility of the Foldscope, each doctor could potentially have their own personal microscope on them. This is largely important because one of the deadliest diseases in the world, Malaria, can only be detected through a microscope. Without the proper equipment, Malaria goes undetected and kills about one million people per year. It affects at least 300 million people in the world today with 90 percent of them being in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having access to a microscope will impact developing countries greatly as detection will decrease the number of deaths per year. Thousands of children will be saved since Malaria affects them the most. In 2016, malaria took the lives of 300,00 children.

Noma is another disease that has a high chance of affecting children in developing countries. This is a disease that can be prevented if dentists have access to the proper tools and the public has access to dentists. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in these developing countries. The ratio of dentists to the general population in Africa is 1 to 150,000. When there are dentists available, they often don’t have the necessary tools. By providing Foldscopes to dentists in developing countries, dentists can easily identify diseases like Noma that affect 140,000 people per year. This could prevent the deaths of as many as 80 percent of those affected.

Preventing Hearing Loss

In surgery, microscopes are crucial for performing effective operations. This is especially true in surgeries involving the ear. Hearing loss is a prevalent problem in developing nations. The most common cause of hearing loss in these countries is chronic otitis media. Chronic otitis media can include a hole in the eardrum or an infection that won’t heal. It can also include other infections that can lead to the erosion of the walls in the ear. These holes can cause serious side effects like facial nerve paralysis and meningitis.

Chronic otitis media affects at least 65 to 330 million people per year with 90 percent of them occurring in developing nations. Fortunately, this can be prevented through surgery. However, because there aren’t many ENT specialists and most don’t have access to the tools they need, it has become a widespread problem in developing nations. The availability of the Foldscope can save lives and impact developing countries tremendously because they make surgeries are more possible. This could help bring down the most prevalent cause of hearing loss in developing countries.

Increasing Scientific Breakthroughs

Research in developing countries has been improving for years now. Unfortunately, many governments generally don’t have the funds to provide research facilities with the equipment needed. Equipment like basic mass spectrometers can cost between $100,000 and $200,000. This is why it’s important to cut down costs at every opportunity.

Since 65 percent of Africans rely on agriculture to live, agricultural research is some of the most important research being done in developing countries. It’s important that scientists get the equipment they need. Because the Foldscope is a portable microscope, it’s perfect to take out into the field to study crops. Although the Foldscope was designed for portable applications, it has a wide range of potential uses that can impact developing countries greatly.

The microscope detection of malaria in its early stages could save thousands of children’s lives. It could also help dentists in developing countries detect Noma. The microscope can also help ENT specialists prevent hearing loss at an early age, which can help open up opportunities they wouldn’t have. Lastly, the Foldscope is beneficial to scientists in developing countries as it gives them an easy way to study out in the field. All of these potential uses for the Foldscope can save lives and even help the economies of developing countries. Having a healthier population will provide a boost to their economies.

Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

The greatest challenge of a generation remains as the world figures out in the decades ahead how to feed an additional two billion people. Unprecedented population growth, rising incomes in the developing world and a growing need for energy contribute to the increase in demand for agricultural products. Agricultural development is needed now more than ever to meet this demand, but if Brazil‘s success in recent decades is any indicator, development can be improved worldwide to address global poverty.

Agricultural Development or Perpetuated Hunger?

Depending on the actions of the international community, this increase in demand will lead the world down one of two paths. If agricultural production is not increased, millions of people will increasingly be left in a state of perpetual hunger. On the other hand, the increase in demand for agricultural products can be seen as an opportunity for economic development through new food markets in the developing world.

While there is a certain amount of truth to the argument that the global food security problem stems from distribution rather than production, there is also strong evidence that an increase in production is possible — and necessary. Economists predict that as incomes and population rise, the global demand for food will increase 60 percent by 2050. This means that the world will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as they did in the last thousand.

If done properly, agricultural development can be a driving force for economic development and poverty reduction. Research conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggests that global food security is particularly advanced with increases of the agricultural potential of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The benefits are two-fold: the increase in agricultural income for smallholder farmers can lift millions out of chronic hunger, and the increase in production can provide more food to the global market as a whole.

How can a country best facilitate agricultural development? The simple answer is through investment research and training in science-based agriculture. The success story of Brazil best illustrates this methodology.

Brazil’s Success Story

Through investments in agricultural research, Brazil has moved from a net importer of food to one of the world’s largest breadbaskets. Between 1996 and 2006, the total value of Brazil’s crops rose by 365%. The tropical country has now caught up with the “big five” grain exporters (America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union) – all of which are temperate producers.

This astounding progress has been made through the successes of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation – Embrapa for short. Since its founding in 1973, Brazil has doubled its cultivated land and multiplied its agricultural output by six. Antonio Lopes, the president of Embrapa, says that the success lies in the delicate balance between agricultural expansion and land conservation.

Because no model for successful agricultural development in a tropical climate existed previously, Brazil was forced to create its own. First, they increased the amount of ploughable land by adding lime and nitrogen-fixing bacteria to soil that was previously unfit for farming. Second, they introduced a larger-leafed variety of grass and converted part of the new land into pastures so as to allow for the expansion of Brazil’s beef herd. Third, and perhaps most importantly, they converted temperate-climate soybeans into a tropical crop through genetic modification. Last, Embrapa encouraged and integrated new operation farm techniques such as “no-till” agriculture and forest, agriculture and livestock integration.

According to Lopes, Brazil will continue to invest in agriculture research and development for the foreseeable future. Brazil should serve as an example to the rest of the world for the ways in which private and public investment can transform a developing country in the tropics into an agricultural powerhouse.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: InterAction, The Economist
Photo: Guardian