Posts

Poverty in Guinea-BissauGuinea-Bissau is a small West-African country with a population of fewer than 2 million. It is bordered by Senegal to the North, Guinea to the East and South and the Atlantic Ocean to the West. The country gained its independence from Portugal in 1974. Since then, its political history has been marked by continuous instability and frequent coup d’états. Moreover, Guinea-Bissau, suffers from high levels of poverty, economic fragility and a dire lack of medical and nutritional resources, ranking it among the poorest nations in the world. Here are five key facts about poverty in Guinea-Bissau.

5 Facts about Poverty in Guinea-Bissau

  1. Poverty in Guinea-Bissau is a widespread issue. In fact, more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. This figure was slightly less but still high at 50% in 1991. Poverty in Guinea-Bissau disproportionately impacts women and children, specifically those between 15 and 25 years of age.
  2. The country faces a high risk of infant mortality. At 4.75 children born per woman, Guinea-Bissau ranks 17th in the world in terms of fertility rates. Similarly, the country has high maternal and total infant mortality rates at 667 deaths per 100,000 live births and 51.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively.
  3. Agriculture is a primary, yet relatively unprofitable industry. Guinea-Bissau’s economy heavily depends on agriculture, yet lacks other critical infrastructure. Though the country is rich in unexploited mineral deposits and offshore oil, cashew production constitutes 80% of its exports. In addition, 82% of the labor force works in agriculture, leaving very little development prospects for the industrial and service sectors. A weak legal system, corruption and a turbulent political climate also contribute to the country’s position as a transit location for cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe.
  4. An alarming amount of children suffer from malnutrition. Approximately 27.6% of the country’s children under five are stunted, and low birth weight rate registered at 21.1% in 2015. A significant portion of adult women also suffer from anemia. Further complicating health conditions is the country’s comparatively high HIV prevalence rate of 3.3%. It also has a low hospital bed density rate of 1 bed per 1,000 people.
  5. Guinea-Bissau suffers from poor educational outcomes. In particular, illiteracy is strikingly high: nearly 71% of women and 45% of men over 15 years of age are illiterate. Schools in the country are continuously threatened by teacher strikes and flooding. In the 2016-2017 school year, for instance, strikes in primary schools resulted in 92 lost teaching days.

Fortunately, organizations such as UNICEF continue to work to improve living conditions in many areas of Guinea-Bissau. For instance, in an effort to address malnutrition and poor health outcomes among the children of Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF has been working closely with the country’s Ministry of Health. This can clearly be seen through UNICEF’s provision of Vitamin A and deworming supplements for children under 5. In the area of education, UNICEF in partnership with other organizations, led efforts in training schoolteachers and school inspectors in coordination with the country’s Ministry of Education, targeting indications like education quality and retention rates.

Despite its strategic location and natural resources, Guinea-Bissau remains far below its economic and social potential. Poverty in the West-African nation has clearly constrained its ability to make tangible progress in several developmental indicators. To alleviate the long-term implications of its political instability, food insecurity, and child health among others, it is essential that poverty in Guinea-Bissau remains within the focus of international aid and development initiatives in the future.

– Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Innovations
Since the 1990s, world leaders have made tremendous progress in their efforts to unite and lead the fight against world poverty. However, poverty remains a prominent issue worldwide. Only five countries have achieved the goal of allocating one percent or more of their federal budgets toward foreign aid. The United States is not among these countries, despite surpassing the next eight countries combined on military spending.

The Big Picture: Poverty Around the World

Statistics are useful indicators of how poverty affects certain regions, but to further understand global poverty, it is also important to explore the living conditions for individuals under the poverty line. Lack of clean water, sanitation and nutrition leads to harsh living conditions for poverty victims, rendering them vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. In some parts of the world, children march on their feet for hours a day to locate and bring back drinking water.

Funds allocated to underprivileged areas can massively improve conditions for people living in poverty. For example, funding can be used to improve education, which leads to higher levels of self-sufficiency and reliance. Beyond funding, aid can also come in the form of poverty innovations — technology or other creative inventions that bring resources to those in need. Here are five poverty innovations designed to help the world’s poor.

5 Impactful Poverty Innovations

  1. LifeStraw: Access to clean water is vital to alleviating poverty and improving living conditions. Not only is clean water important for drinking, but it can also be used for bathing, washing clothes and performing general sanitation. One in nine people worldwide — 785 million people — lack access to safe water. LifeStraw is a portable water filter that turns contaminated water into safe drinking water. It does not require any batteries, and it uses a hollow fiber membrane. 3.4 million children have received a year’s supply of drinking water through a program organized by the company.
  2. KickStart Irrigation Pumps: A majority (80%) of Africa’s poor are small-scale farmers. These farmers frequently go hungry during periods of drought. KickStart offers tools such as the MoneyMaker Max, an irrigation pump that sprays 16 gallons of water a minute and pulls from water up to 23 feet deep. KickStart has sold nearly 350,000 products so far.
  3. Plumpy’nut: This is a therapeutic food supplement that helps children with severe malnutrition. More specifically, it’s a calorically-dense and nutritious paste wrapped in a foil packet. The paste is made of peanuts, as the name suggests. It’s easily replicable and responsible for “significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa.” Products like Plumpy’nut have the potential to save children’s lives in particularly poor parts of the world.
  4. Life Sack: Another tool aimed at solving the world’s water crisis, Life Sack is a shipping container that can be used to hold grains. Once the food is stored, Life Sack functions as a water purification kit that is powered by solar energy.
  5. The Hippo Roller: This invention addresses the problem of carrying water. The Hippo Water Roller eliminates the need to carry water, instead allowing individuals to push a barrel filled with water. By the end of 2015, 46,000 Hippo rollers were provided to communities across at least 20 countries.

The fight to end global poverty requires not only financial support from wealthy nations but also innovations that improve the living conditions of the world’s poor. While the innovations listed above improve water collection, irrigation and nutrition for poor individuals, increasingly creative inventions will be necessary to eradicate poverty across the globe.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Côte d'IvoireFollowing the conclusion of a civil war in 2011, the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, has experienced economic growth rates averaging around 8% per year. Despite its growth, the nation still struggles with endemic poverty and hunger. It ranks 165 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Under President Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire has focused on the economy and the middle class, launching an ambitious National Development Plan in order to transform Côte d’Ivoire into a middle-income economy by 2020. Ouattara’s government has also made some strides to combat severe hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly regarding child care. Côte d’Ivoire’s fast economic growth is admirable. However, it is also crucial to understand the problems afflicting the world’s most vulnerable people, such as hunger, and not just economic growth.

7 Facts About Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in combating one of the worst consequences of widespread hunger: stunted growth in childhood. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of stunting and wasting for children under the age of five dropped to 21.6% and 6.1%, respectively. The average rates for developing countries are 25% and 8.9%.
  2. Another area of progress in combating hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is in promoting the exclusive use of breastfeeding for babies. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 12% to 23.5%
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP) has worked with the Ivoirian government to combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire at the childhood level. The WFP distributes school and take-home meals at primary schools across Côte d’Ivoire. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the organization was set to expand its coverage to 125,000 schoolchildren in insecure zones. 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire has also experienced success in fighting severe food insecurity. This issue had previously disappeared from the country before returning in 2019. The overall food insecurity rate has declined from 12.8% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2018.
  5. Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire employs over half of the labor force and takes up 84% of the arable land. Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire largely grow cash crops, such as cocoa. (Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.) A successful harvest is vital for Ivoirians to be able to feed their families. To that end, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has distributed agricultural kits throughout the country in an effort to improve productivity and competitiveness.
  6. Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is significantly impacted by the fact that 46% of people in Côte d’Ivoire live below the poverty line ($1.22 per day). Poverty is concentrated in the North and the West, which are more rural and insecure. Food insecurity is a bigger issue in these areas. It is more difficult to implement food distribution and agricultural aid programs there.
  7. The WFP gave Côte d’Ivoire a Global Hunger Index of 25.9 which indicates a “serious” problem. Such a ranking stems from the triple threat of malnutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition. Overnutrition is a newer problem that disproportionately affects the adult women population. However, malnutrition and undernutrition in Côte d’Ivoire have deep roots in food insecurity. The issues stem from a high dependency on the quality of the local harvest and a widespread lack of support among small farmers for food crop production.

While poverty and hunger in Côte d’Ivoire remain endemic, the government and a variety of international organizations have made significant progress in their struggle. This is particularly true at the childhood level. Developing market competitiveness and advancing economic growth is necessary. However, it is important to assist those who need the most help, like those who experience severe hunger and malnutrition.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Indonesia
With the population estimated at over 250 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. It has been enjoying strong economic growth in the past decades and it is the largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Despite the impressive economic growth, however, it is still a lower middle-income country. Hunger in Indonesia continues to be a significant issue.

Poverty and Hunger in Indonesia

Poverty is still concentrated in rural areas, with 14.3% of the rural population living in poverty in 2014, accounting for more than 60% of the total poor. Additionally, challenges of high food prices and unequal access to food remain unresolved, despite increasing trends in food production and availability. As a consequence of poverty and food scarcity, 19.4 million Indonesians are unable to meet their dietary needs.

A 2019 report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Research Institute (IFPRI) found that about 22 million people suffered from chronic hunger in Indonesia between 2016 and 2018. Despite the strong growth that Indonesia has made in the agricultural sector, many families across the country still engage in traditional agricultural activities that are low-paid. This leads to hunger and stunting in children.

The Double Burden of Malnutrition

The impressive economic growth has brought about substantial improvements in many aspects of human development in Indonesia. The mortality rate of children under five has dropped from 85 out of 1000 births in 1990 to 31 in 2012. The prevalence of underweight children is also low at 5.4%.

However, the stunting rate in Indonesian children remains widespread. Approximately 37.4% of children under five in 2013 suffered from stunted growth. Stunting in children, a sign of chronic malnutrition, comes with lifelong consequences. It interferes with other development processes of the body, including brain development, which has damaging effects on intelligence, performance in school and productivity at work later in life.

Malnutrition can have detrimental effects very early on in life. When children receive inadequate nutrition in the womb, they become more prone to obesity when their body consumes more food. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. This is the double burden of malnutrition that Indonesia faces. It is estimated that 8.9% of adult women and 4.8% of men are obese, while 8% of the women and 7.4% of men in Indonesia have diabetes. Additionally, more than 1 in 4 women of reproductive age suffer from anemia.

The negative effects of malnutrition are not only felt by the individuals suffering from them but also by society as a whole. It is estimated that losses due to stunting and malnutrition account for 2-3% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Efforts to Decrease Hunger

In an effort to secure food for low-income households, the government of Indonesia set up a program called Raskin to deliver subsidized rice monthly to the most vulnerable households. Under this program, the eligible households could purchase 15kg of rice each month for a fifth of the market price. Each year, the government distributes 3.4 million tons of rice to a target population of 17.5 million people. With the annual budget of $1.5 billion, Raskin is Indonesia’s largest social support program.

The government also coordinates with nonprofit organizations globally to help combat hunger in Indonesia. Due to its size and geography, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, which cause food security in many communities. The World Food Program (WFP) is working closely with the Indonesian government to improve nutrition and the quality of food. It also helps mitigate the effects of natural disasters on food security by providing policy advice and technical assistance.

Moving forward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations continue to make hunger in Indonesia a priority. With continued efforts, hopefully the nation will be successful in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger in Indonesia.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Project Healthy Children

Global hunger is one of the most pressing and visible poverty-related issues in our world today. People can easily recognize the defined ribs, sunken eyes and bone-thin limbs of starvation. However, there is another side to hunger that is not as obvious: micronutrient deficiency.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A and folic acid. In developed nations like the United States, most people get these critical nutrients from maintaining a well-rounded diet or taking a daily supplement. But it isn’t always that simple in some other parts of the world. In fact, micronutrient deficiency remains a big problem in Eastern and Southern Africa but often does not get the attention it deserves because the effects are not immediately visible. For this reason, micronutrient deficiency has been nicknamed “hidden hunger.”

Hidden hunger has real and long-lasting consequences. Insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals can result in learning disabilities, mental retardation, low work capacity, blindness and premature birth. These deficiencies lower overall health and weaken the immune system, thus making it much harder to survive infections like HIV and measles. They can cause extreme birth defects in children and are the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth.

Background

Clearly, micronutrient deficiency is a pressing issue that deserves the attention necessary to mitigate it. An organization called Sanku’s Project Healthy Children (PHC) is doing just that through a process known as food fortification: essentially, they add critical micronutrients to the flour people already consume.

PHC is based in Tanzania and currently supplies almost 2 million people with fortified flour to help them get the vitamins and minerals they need. Flour is a staple food that many people consume regularly; according to the PHC website, “over 50 million Tanzanians eat maize flour every day,” but more than 95 percent of it is produced without added nutrients in small, rural mills. Countries like Tanzania are in desperate need of better access to micronutrients—here, about 35 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth due to under-nutrition. Project Healthy Children uses the mills and distribution systems already in place to simply add essential micronutrients to the flour with no additional cost for the consumer. This way, people can get the nutrition they need without changing their eating or purchasing habits.

Why Food Fortification?

  1.  It is cheap: Food fortification is very inexpensive, typically costing no more than $0.25 per person annually. In other words, one quarter donated is enough to supply someone with adequate nutrients for an entire year.
  2. It is effective: Improving nutrition can be highly beneficial to overall health, work capacity and productivity. Women who sustain good nutrition before getting pregnant greatly reduce the risk of maternal death and birth defects.
  3. It has a huge payback: The economic rewards of food fortification are astounding. The WHO estimates that the consequences of micronutrient deficiency (birth defects, learning disabilities, premature death, etc.) can cost a country about 5 percent of its GDP per year. Supplying people with critical vitamins and minerals puts less pressure on a country’s health care system and allows for a more productive workforce. In addition, the Copenhagen Consensus estimated that for every dollar spent on nutrition in young children, a country will save an average of $45 and sometimes as much as $166.

The Future of Project Healthy Children

In the past few years, Project Healthy Children has become even more streamlined in its approach to food fortification. A partnership with Vodafone, a mobile network based in the United Kingdom, allows PHC staff to remotely monitor flour mills so that they instantly know when a machine is down or a mill is low on nutrients. The partnership saves money, time and manpower, allowing PHC to run more smoothly.

Project Healthy Children currently helps nourish about 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa but hopes to reach 100 million people by 2025, an ambitious goal that would be instrumental in lifting communities in Southern and Eastern Africa out of extreme poverty.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Health Outcomes in Madagascar

Off the coast of Mozambique, 80 percent of Madagascar’s population lives in extreme poverty. In these conditions, malnutrition thrives, increasing the population’s susceptibility to diseases that are no longer fatal elsewhere, like tuberculosis and diarrhea. USAID estimates that 100 children in Madagascar die daily from common preventable diseases. One NGO, PIVOT, is trying to make a difference in health outcomes in Madagascar.

Health Care in Madagascar

In 2014, Madagascar boasted the lowest reported per capita health spending in the entire world, $13.56. Even though the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights declared health to be a basic human right, 50 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and one in seven children die before the age of five in Madagascar. Further contributing to poor health outcomes in Madagascar, the country’s national health policy often demands that patients locate drugs and the money to pay for all services before seeking treatment.

Such a policy, with no possibility of delayed payment, often disincentives impoverished people who need care from seeking treatment. Health policies like this, coupled with poor a transportation infrastructure, make delivery and distribution of medical care and supplies very challenging. In rural villages in Madagascar, community health clinics are often a two to 12 hour hike depending upon the village. For those struggling with illness, such a hike is often not an option.

PIVOT’s Solution

In southeastern Madagascar in the Ifanadiana district, PIVOT “combines accessible and comprehensive health care services with rigorous scientific research to save lives and break cycles of poverty and disease.”After they establish a model health system in this district, they hope to export it to all of Madagascar and eventually resource poor areas all over the world.

Located in a mountainous rain-forested area in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region of southeastern Madagascar, the Ifanadiana district is home to over 200,000 people. In 2014, Ifanadiana’s mortality rate for children under the age of five was more than double the rate for the rest of the country — coming in at 1,044 per 100,000 live births. PIVOT selected the Ifanadiana, saying, “if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

Partnered with the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Partners in Health, Centre Val Bio and Harvard Medical School, PIVOT began in January 2014 to establish a model health district in Ifanadiana. While many of these partners seem logical, dealing with humans has been a change for Centre Val Bio, formerly a biodiversity research lab who was central to establishing the Ranomafana National Park in Ifanadiana. Madagascar is known for its extreme biodiversity; species live there who live nowhere else in the world.

Targeted at improving health outcomes in Madagascar, PIVOT’s model health district consists of a clinical program within a tiered system of community health centers, regional centers and hospital care. Their clinical programs include Emergency, Patient Accompaniment, Malnutrition, Tuberculosis, Maternal Health and Child Health. Within this clinical structure, PIVOT is pursuing an aggressive data collection program. The health indicators they are focusing on are focusing on Maternal Mortality, Under-Five Mortality, Lifetime Fertility, Composite Coverage Index and the Percentage of People Covered by PIVOT.

As of 2017, PIVOT was reaching 37 percent of the Ifanadiana district. By 2018, they were covering 61 percent of the population and as of 2019, 70 percent benefited from their services. PIVOT hopes that 2022 will mark complete coverage and a total implementation of Ifanadiana as a model health district under PIVOT’s protocols. PIVOT’s own data suggests that from 2014 to 2017 they oversaw a decline in both the maternal mortality rate and the under 5 mortality rate. The maternal mortality rate declined from 1,044 to 828 and the under 5 mortality rate fell from 136 to 114.

Working with the Ministry of Health, PIVOT is helping to implement pilot fee exemption programs. According to their data, only one-third of patients accessed facilities where point-of-service fees were in place; however, with the introduction of fee exemptions the use of healthcare increased by 65 percent for all patients, 52 percent for children and 25 percent for maternity consultations. The fee exemption pilot program cost on average 0.60 USD per patient. Currently, external donor support is essential to the survival of these programs.

Due to a successful democratic election in 2014, international sanctions were lifted which in turn opened the door to increased health spending from national and international sources. PIVOT seems to be making a difference in the Ifanadiana district, and hopefully their revolutionary model health district will spread to the rest of the country reshaping health outcomes in Madagascar as a whole.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in venezuelaA humanitarian hunger crisis has struck the country of Venezuela. The economy has hit rock bottom and moderate to severe child malnutrition in Venezuela has reached 11.4 percent for children under the age of five. The World Health Organization states that a threshold of 10 percent must be surpassed in order to declare a crisis, and Venezuela has well exceeded that threshold. Venezuela’s continuously unstable economy is to blame for the decrease in food and the increase in hunger.

When Venezuela struck massive amounts of oil during World War I, its economy skyrocketed. Its success with oil reserves led to a blossoming economy that assisted in providing its people with what they needed to thrive. However, Venezuela had only relied on the income from the oil industry to fuel its economy. With no economic backup plan, Venezuela was heading down a path of economic destruction.

Venezuela’s economy began its dramatic decline in the 1980s. After the oil price collapse and the accumulation of internal and external government debts, it became apparent that the country had a major financial burden to address. Economic policies to solve this issue were failing and the government was falling deeper into corruption, causing more economic instability.

The coming years would not be any brighter for Venezuela. Ongoing economic mismanagement led to increasing poverty levels. Venezuela went into a recession in 2014, invoking more worry for the country and putting more pressure on the government to make the right economic decisions. The government’s dysfunctional way of solving the country’s money problems eventually led to the worst economic decision to date.

Venezuela’s inflation levels became one of the highest in the world, reaching a record high of 800 percent in December 2016. This hyperinflation came after the Venezuelan government’s decision to enact an internal embargo on food imports, completely cutting off outside sources of food and causing massive food shortages. These food shortages caused an increase in food prices to an unattainable amount. People could not buy food anymore, as a basic food basket could cost up to 16 times the amount of minimum wage.

A popular food item bought in Venezuela is cornmeal. Used to make an arepa, the previous cost of a two-pound bag of cornmeal was 190 bolivars. Now, the cost is 975 bolivars per two-pound bag. This astronomical increase in price hinders the ability to purchase the essential ingredient to make a wholesome meal.

Food shortages directly affect child malnutrition in Venezuela. In just four short years, child malnutrition has gone from three percent to as high as 13 percent in some parts of Venezuela. Families are scavenging the streets to find any morsel of something edible, or standing in line all day only to receive two to three morsels of food to feed their entire family. Today, eight in 10 families eat less than before, and six in 10 families go without food on a regular basis.

Business Insider conducted an interview with Venezuelan resident Lilian Tovar. She weighed in on her personal experience with hunger, stating “If we eat breakfast, we don’t eat lunch, if we eat lunch, we don’t eat dinner, and if we eat dinner, we don’t eat breakfast.” Compromise has become a mindset of the Venezuelan people, deeply affecting both themselves and their children.

Malnutrition can have a lasting effect on a child’s life. When there is limited access to food, children can become deficient in nutrients needed for proper body development. Some of the 20 essential nutrients needed for a healthy body include calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, boron and manganese. These nutrients are found in many plant-based foods and grains. Unfortunately, these products are not easily found, and if found they are at a price that no family can afford. Therefore, a child who is lacking these essential nutrients has a higher risk of bone growth problems and will likely never reach their full growth potential. Inadequate nutrition can also lead to a weak immune system, allowing the body to become more susceptible to diseases and infections later in life. In the worst cases of child malnutrition, normally involving gastrointestinal infection, death is imminent.

Caritas, a crisis-centered organization whose work is now heavily dedicated to Venezuela’s malnutrition crisis, states that “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.” Caritas’ thorough research studies across the four Venezuelan states of Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zuliahave have led to their decision to put their full foot forward in rehabilitating the country.

Caritas’ main priority is children under five. They supply malnourished children with food supplements that include protein and iron. Children are brought into Caritas’ makeshift facilities for regular nutrition check-ups in order to provide them with nutritional and medical attention.

Caritas is sending out a desperate plea for the sake of child malnutrition in Venezuela. Their efforts cannot be accomplished alone. Families are suffering and every day more children are being diagnosed with malnutrition. This is now a worldwide cry for help, a call to action and a need for involvement. To eradicate child malnutrition in Venezuela, this call must be answered. Children are the future and with the help of the people, the future is what these children will see.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Hunger Within Poland
One of the main challenges Poland faces today is malnutrition. Hunger in Poland is an issue every third child between the age of 7 and 15 suffers from, according to research done by Poland Human Resources.

In Warsaw, over 23,000 children suffer from malnutrition.

When diet fails to supply the body with the essential nutrients it requires, malnutrition results. This lack of nutrition exists predominantly in developing nations, but malnutrition is also an issue in developed nations. Protein-energy malnutrition, for instance, generally occurs in underweight children. In Poland, this type of malnutrition is seen in 1 percent of men, more than 3 percent of women and in 13 percent of children.

Poverty is the main cause of malnutrition and hunger in Poland. Nearly 7 percent of the Polish population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many of the poor have unhealthy diets, causing deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iodine. Infants, teenaged girls and women are particularly vulnerable. Iron deficiency is also a problem in Poland, seen in about one-quarter of children and pregnant women.

The Polish Central Statistical Office recently released a report which reveals deteriorating living conditions for the working class. The report shows that more than half a million children suffer from hunger in Poland, as well as severe malnutrition. Other highlights from the report:

  • In 2009, 2.2 million Polish people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.
  • Over 170,000 Polish children suffer from malnutrition, which has slowed their growth and development.
  • More than 260,000 children start their days without breakfast. Additionally, more than 70,000 children only eat what they receive at school because they lack food at home.
  • One in five Polish children is malnourished.

These statistics are particularly relevant in small villages, where there are high rates of unemployment and social helplessness. Most of the children suffering from hunger and malnutrition have families that are at the edge of poverty.

The Polish government has focused on improving economic conditions for its people in recent years. It must do more to eliminate hunger and malnutrition for its children.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Zimbabwe

Thousands of children are facing starvation and hunger in Zimbabwe due to the worst drought in two decades. According to the World Food Programme, nearly four million Zimbabweans are struggling to meet their basic food needs.

Zimbabwe is considered a food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 on the Global Hunger Index. Although food insecurity affects people of all ages, it is even more detrimental to children.

Studies show that proper nutrition is critical to children’s physical and emotional development. Children struggling with hunger are more likely to repeat a grade in primary school, experience impairments in language and motor skills, or have social and behavioral problems.

In Zimbabwe, only 17.3% of children between the ages of two and six receive the recommended minimum diet for adequate nutrition. A child suffering from malnutrition is more likely to contract diseases, such as HIV, or suffer from stunting. Currently, one in every three Zimbabwean children suffers from chronic malnutrition or stunting. Stunting alone contributes to more than 12,000 deaths per year.

Hunger in Zimbabwe has become a major issue, particularly for low-income families and their children. Struggling families are often pressured to accept a dowry for their young daughters. This provides food for the rest of the family, as well as a potentially more food-secure situation for their daughter.

Approximately one out of every three girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday. Girls living in the poorest 20% of households were more than four times as likely to marry before the age of 18 than those living in the wealthiest 20% of households.

Both poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe have resulted in an unsafe environment for children.

In order to combat hunger in Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme has implemented the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). The three primary focus areas of the operation are disaster response, food assistance and nutrition.

The disaster response and risk reduction program are designed to support food-insecure households affected by severe drought during the growing season.

Food Assistance for Assets provides cash and in-kind transfers, along with activities that promote self-reliance. It empowers vulnerable communities to move away from a dependence on food assistance.

The health and nutrition promotion is responsible for the Moderately Acutely Malnourished treatment, which assists pregnant and nursing women and children under the age of five. A stunting prevention program was also established in the same district.

With the help of the World Food Programme and other international organizations, hunger in Zimbabwe is decreasing and children are able to live healthier and happier lives.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr