Mental Health in GuyanaGuyana is a small country located in South America, bordered by Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil. It is expected to have a higher GDP growth than other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The country received higher predictions since oil reserves, located near the northern coast, generated massive revenue, drawing the attention of neighboring nations. In response, Guyana and its neighboring countries have established Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) to secure consistent returns for future generations. Despite the implementation of SWFs, indigenous people residing in rural areas “continue to receive poor social services, inadequate education and lower incomes,” stated the World Bank. Interweave Solutions, an online nonprofit, provides a “Success Ambassador” program to Guyana and other developing nations to teach them self-reliance, increase business prosperity and create mental health solutions through community groups.

The Cycle of Poverty and Mental Health

Mental health is a term that continues to gain popularity as a buzzword, both domestically and internationally, within various communities. The earliest studies that observed the relationship between poverty and mental health were Langner and Michael’s 1963 N.Y. study, which helped solidify the sentiment that poverty is both “a cause of mental health problems and a consequence.” The lack of resources to create mental health solutions means a child living in poverty will be emotionally stunted into adulthood. Adults living with unaddressed mental health issues struggle to cope and engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking.

About 40% of Guyanese people live in poverty, lacking access to essential resources to address their mental health concerns, potentially increasing the risk of homelessness. The Department of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana implemented the Mental Health Protection and Promotion Act 2022 (“the Mental Health Act”) to reduce homelessness by these measures. The Government of Guyana also implemented a $5 million infrastructural upgrade to the Night Shelter, a 24/7 refuge for vulnerable people.

Interweave Solutions: Building New Leaders

Established in 2008 by two brothers, Lynn and Dean Curtis, along with David Curtis (son of Lynn), Interweave Solutions is an international nonprofit organization that works with developing nations to transform ordinary citizens into self-reliant community groups. The nonprofit organization is teaching different people in more than 50 countries, including Guyana, how to create their own small businesses and contribute to the growth of their nations and communities through a program called “Success Ambassadors.”

Interweave Solutions: Building a Counseling Community

The initiative also has a program called  “Counseling in the Streets,” which is dedicated to providing “a viable, sustainable option that can help those who confront mental health issues, those with family members and friends who struggle and anyone who would like to become more emotionally self-reliant.” The “Counseling in the Streets” program equips local leaders with user-friendly materials, training and consultation, empowering them to serve as group facilitators and peer counselors. The aim is to enable these leaders to “provide self-directed, interactive and highly effective therapy and emotional support for anyone who may be experiencing mental health or emotional struggles.”


Mental health solutions continue to develop in Guyana. In 2022, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) evaluated Guyana’s National Mental Health Plan 2015–2020. The evaluation disclosed that the country successfully attained various objectives outlined in the plan, such as heightening health awareness in communities, delivering quality care within community settings and establishing civil society organizations. The PAHO Guyana country office set goals to accomplish by 2030, pledging “its support for the provision of ongoing technical cooperation for improved mental health outcomes in the country.”

– Luis Lujano-Garcia
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Cycle of Poverty
Poverty and homelessness spread throughout the world, despite efforts being made to alleviate these issues. Social psychology studies explain factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty, as well as what to focus to prevent them. Below are 10 facts about the cycle of poverty for consideration.

10 Facts About the Cycle of Poverty

  1. Homeless and poor people often elicit a neural reaction of disgust, according to fMRI studies conducted by looking at brain activity. These studies were done by psychologists Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske. This creates a process of dehumanization. These outgroups (i.e. impoverished persons) are considered to experience different complex human emotions, which feeds into acceptance of poverty. People in poverty can be viewed as responsible for their situation and not being “as human” as more privileged people, Harris and Fiske found.
  2. In a certain way, media attempts to humanize these people by giving personal stories of homelessness or poverty. However, this has a backfiring effect. Media over-exposes human suffering to the point of desensitization, leading citizens to ignore it and decrease caring attitudes, according to studies conducted by psychologists Elizabeth Paluk, Eldar Shafir, and Sherry Wu.
  3. Most poverty alleviation methods focus on only one factor, such as income per capita. However, poverty should be assessed not only by economic factors, but social, moral and political as well. “The use of income alone draws policy attention away from the underlying causes of poverty and processes that perpetuate poverty and obscures the social and health dimensions of poverty,” social psychologists Parthiban Gopal and Nor Malina Malik stated.
  4. Evaluating poverty in Malaysia, Gopal and Malik found out that women who escaped poverty relied on herself, planned long term, took risks, used her resources and was courageous about trying new ventures and possibilities to make life better. Programs should not just provide aid for those in need but should facilitate mechanisms of self-reliance that teach people in poverty ways to take risks and use their resources to escape the cycle, according to Gopal and Malik.
  5. The cycle of poverty perpetuates disease due to inaccessibility to resources and poor living environments, that in turn perpetuates the cycle of poverty due to inability to work and costs of treatments.  According to Health Poverty Action, diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria account for nearly half of all child deaths globally. These are very treatable diseases but are often life-threatening in impoverished areas.
  6. Health Poverty Action (HPA) is a global project that strives to relieve health issues in impoverished countries. In Ethiopia, 7,412 women were able to access government health services in the areas this organization works. This represents an increase of 38 percent since the start of the project in 2016. In Nambia, for example, HPA facilitated a 55 percent reduction of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases compared to 2016.
  7. According to Gopal and Malik, the main causes of urban poverty were the low level of education, lack of job opportunities, large family size and lack of access to social facilities. Organizations such as the HPA, that are providing more health, reproductive and education access to these impoverished areas can help break this cycle.
  8. The lack of jobs in rural poor environments causes the poor to migrate to urban areas in hope of finding jobs, furthering perpetuating urban poverty. Therefore, policies should focus on creating more employment opportunities in rural areas as well.
  9. The World Bank is partnering with China, where employment opportunities have been flourishing, to promote job creation and economic development in struggling countries. They work with developing countries’ governments to advise them in creating a better economy and society for the poor, according to Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President of Development Finance.
  10. Climate change also gravely affects impoverished countries. In Africa, where the years of life lost to climate changes are predicted to be 500 times higher than in Europe, two-thirds of the workforce work in agriculture. However, countries can adapt to this by reducing their emissions and promoting a more sustainable way of living. HPA suggests wealthy countries, like the U.S., need to step up and set an example for developing countries.

These 10 facts about the cycle of poverty can improve understanding of this important issue. It is important to understand humans unconscious bias of dehumanization towards impoverished people so that they can consciously change it.

In order to reduce poverty, solutions must focus on the multi-dimensional causes of poverty. It is also vital to examine examples of people who have escaped the poverty cycle. Projects like HPA are facilitating much positive change by increasing accessible health services and reducing poverty in countries around the world. With a greater focus on sustainable living and more funding for programs like HPA, organizations can combat the global poverty cycle.

Anna Power

Photo: Flickr

Ending Modern Slavery One App at a TimeApproximately one in four people will be affected by a mental health disorder in their lifetime. There are strong links that show that living in poverty can take it a severy toll on one’s mental health. This article will examine poverty’s toll on mental health.

What is mental health?

By definition, mental health is the condition regarding one’s psychological and emotional well-being. Mental health affects how one thinks, feels and acts. It can also dictate how someone copes with stress, their ability to relate to others and decision making. The most prevalent examples of mental health disorders are anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug use, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and eating disorders. According to, some factors that can contribute to mental health issues include:

  • Biological factors– genes, brain chemistry
  • Life experiences– trauma, abuse, etc.
  • Family history of mental health problems

The term ‘Mental Health’ has been around for quite some time, but it has gotten a reputation for being abused. There have been many cases over the years where people self-diagnose or lie to get out of particular circumstances. Because of this kind of abuse, some people don’t believe in mental health disorders at all. Although there is a vast variety of mental health issues, these disorders do exist and should be taken seriously.

Everyone is different just like every health condition differs. There are some people who suffer from anxiety on a low spectrum, which can sometimes be maintained in-house, while there are others who suffer from anxiety on a high spectrum and may undergo daily panic attacks. This would be an example of someone who may need psychiatric help or medication.

How does poverty affect mental health?

Poverty is considered a significant social determinant of mental health. Poverty is a perfect example of a life experience that can affect one’s mental state. Physical health and wellness isn’t the only hardship that people in poverty endure. Being subjected to an impoverished environment where money, food and shelter is uncertain can lead to mental health complications.

Although the idea of poverty being the cause of a mental illness is fairly new to science, there is evidence of a connection. According to National Public Radio, people that live in poverty appear to be at a higher risk for mental illnesses and show lower levels of happiness. It has been difficult to study people in poverty for statistical purposes, but the studies that have been done do exhibit signs that when financial circumstances are drastically affected, there’s a rise in rates of depression.

How People in Poverty Are Affected

It’s a proven fact that living in poverty for any significant period of time automatically increases risk factors for health and mental problems. The vicious cycle of poverty comes with the constant stress of finances- worrying if there’s enough money to eat and practicing bad eating habits because processed food is cheaper than healthy food.

Stress is an immediate link to mental issues, such as depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, multiple personality disorder. The rates of violence tend to also be higher among those that face economic tension. There are some cases where mental illnesses can be the cause for people to fall into poverty.

For people who have experienced poverty early in life, their risk of a mental illness is higher. Poverty’s toll on mental health for children can lead to higher rates of delinquency, depressive and anxiety disorders and higher rates for psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

Although poverty’s toll on mental health is known, it’s still unclear how to best break this cycle. Perhaps more research will allow for solutions. Considering poverty doesn’t have to be a life-long condition, it is very possible for mental illnesses brought on by poverty to be alleviate if the people affected can be helped out of poverty.

Kayla Sellers

Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction
Almost half of the world’s population lives in poverty, defined as having under $2.50 per day. Even more striking, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty, which means having under $1.25 per day on disposal. Most concerning, there are over 1 billion children exposed to substandard living conditions.

Several international organizations, such as the IMF, World Bank, and UN, work with governments and other organizations in the world’s poorest countries on daily basis. Their common mission is poverty reduction in poor countries and, ultimately, to end all forms of poverty once and for all.

However, what are the actions currently being implemented? Where can further attention and action be allocated to effectively alleviate poverty?

International Organizations and Governments

The weakest links are evidently countries that lack abundant natural resources, such as sub-Saharan African countries. These countries, such as Cameroon, Benin, and Angola, are home to the poorest people and their governments are unable to raise tax revenues or foster financial resource mobilization. Development of these countries could be achieved through a set of resources such as private investments and development financing.

Coordination with governments to address issues directly linked to the poorest of their population is vital. The Bolsa Familia program in Brazil exemplifies this notion, as the program has established a direct cash transfer to the poorest families. Over 48 million families are enrolled and this has led to extreme poverty dropping from 20.4 million in 2003 to 11.9 million in 2009. That is a staggering 8.5 million people who have been lifted from the severe poverty.

Facets of Poverty – Basic Needs

Typically, poverty is associated with one’s financial situation. Nonetheless, there are several other facets to poverty that must be addressed if extreme poverty, and eventually poverty altogether, is to be eradicated. Of these basic needs, five stand out in poverty reduction in poor countries:

  1. Quality education
  2. Access to healthcare
  3. Water and sanitation
  4. Economic/financial security
  5. Child participation

Improving the well-being of the world’s poor enables them to break the cycle of poverty. Providing a greater home environment and adequate nutrition fosters the success of children in school and of adults in training, which boosts their economic position. One example is Colombia, where education can be the gate key to breaking the cycle of violence and poverty and promoting economic growth on all cylinders.

On Data

In an increasingly data-driven world, developing countries can greatly improve their data on poverty, and by doing so, clearly identify where the poorest citizens live and what their exact needs are. In this way, they can allocate their resources effectively. Crucial improvements include the monitoring of different facets of poverty other than income, while encompassing more dimensions to the problem (social, economic, etc.).

There is much work to be done to resolve the unfortunate effects of poverty. However, solving the persistent problem requires striking straight to the roots.

Collaboration between international organizations, governments and other groups, updating and improving data as well as providing basic needs are all must-do’s in the fight against poverty reduction in poor countries.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura

Photo: Google

Poverty in the WorldAccording to Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO,“Poverty is about money, but never just about money”. Read further to understand what poverty in the world looks like today. 

Understanding Poverty

  • Around the world, 3 billion people have $2 to live on per day. The World Bank defines those people as the ones who live below the poverty line.
  • Fighting poverty in the world means understanding human rights.
  • Unfair distribution of income affects poverty dramatically.
  • 29 million children live in poverty in North Africa and the Middle East. Without help, they can be trapped in a three-generation poverty cycle and develop future cognitive problems.
  • Nonprofit organizations have a key role in giving the needy a voice.

If poverty were addressed as a violation of human rights, the needy in the world would have a more fair fight for better living conditions. Understanding poverty takes a more comprehensive approach than just labeling the poor as those who are deprived of food or a roof over their heads.

Poverty in the World

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the U.N. in 1948, the five families of human rights are:

  1. Civil
  2. Political
  3. Cultural
  4. Economic
  5. Social

The UNESCO report on Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right states that poverty infringes social rights because it deprives citizens of meeting their basic needs such as education, healthcare, housing and proper nutrition.

The fight to abolish poverty in the world does not solemnly belong to those who suffer it but also to citizens of all nations. The people who live in poor nations deserve the same living standards enjoyed by those in developed nations. Governments also have a crucial role in defending the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves.

“Were such justice to exist, there would no longer be a single human being dying of hunger or of diseases that are curable for some but not for others. Were such justice to exist, life would no longer be, for half of humanity, the dreadful sentence it has hitherto been,” reflects Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago.

Unequal Wealth Distribution

Fighting poverty also means understanding the concept of inequality and its consequences for the global economy. Poverty is inherently connected to wealth distribution in nations.

The report on Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right also stated in 2010 that about 1.2 percent of the world income is distributed to a surprising number of 3 billion receivers, while an astonishing 1 percent of rich countries’ citizens receive 80 percent of the same income.

UNESCO World Social Science report listed one of the factors that influence the distribution of income: the concentration of wealth in the hands of business owners is unfairly higher compared to the laborers’ pay. Also, wages are not increased to meet the economic demands of inflation and the high cost of living in underdeveloped countries.

North Africa and the Middle East have an astounding 29 million children living in poverty as stated in a UNICEF analysis. They are deprived of basic human rights mentioned earlier, such as education, proper nutrition and healthcare. These children live in impoverished conditions with no potable water and lack of vaccination. They also support their families to earn the income that further keeps them from attending school.   

They could be trapped in a three-generation poverty cycle if leaders don’t give their families opportunities to increase their income.

Poverty and Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition is another key factor that directly affects education in the Middle East and North Africa. Underdeveloped children have a higher risk of performing poorly in school just because they didn’t get the necessary nutrients that play a key role in brain development. 

Children in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Iraq and Syria are extremely affected by the lack of nutrition and one in four of them will be physically and cognitively impacted by a poor diet.

There is also a relevant connection between the quality of a nation’s workforce and children’s nutrition. When children get a well-balanced diet, they develop stronger cognitive skills. These skills will help them assimilate the knowledge gained through education. The Middle East and North Africa countries need these future professionals to stabilize the economy.

How Nonprofit Organizations Alleviate Poverty

Global leaders have a responsibility to provide children with adequate living standards to meet the fundamental human rights.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states, “We must break down the walls of poverty and exclusion that plague so many people in every region of the world. We must build inclusive societies that promote participation by all. We must ensure the voices of all those living in poverty are heard.”

Getting involved in the fight for poverty is within anyone’s reach. Nonprofit organizations can make influential connections between the needy and the people who can make a difference. Poverty can only be eradicated if the ones affected by it have a voice.  

Nonprofit organizations can educate people about how poverty affects poor nations. They work in liaison with agents of change such as UNESCO, providing them with a closer look at poverty-stricken communities. 

A nonprofit organization called Potters for Peace helps communities in Central America by giving them the tools to get easy access to filtered water and thereby reducing waterborne diseases. They train poor communities on how to make low-cost ceramic water filters that purify 1.5 to 2.5 liters per hour. It has also helped 37 factories in 25 countries around the world via filtering technique innovations.

Projects like this can only continue with the help of supporters from around the world. Reducing the effects of poverty in the world is everyone’s responsibility. The fight to stop the vicious cycle of poverty belongs to citizens of the globe.

– Nijessia Cerqueira
Photo: Flickr

donated bicyclesBicycles are essential to communities in developing countries. A bicycle provides an advanced mobility that allows for heavier loads, faster trips, less wear and tear on the body and, happily, the chance for recreation. A person’s day will include more accomplishments in less time.

Bicycles mean productivity. And donated bicycles mean opportunity.

Getting the Donated Bicycles

Entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations alike have become forces in mobilizing citizens with donated bicycles. Mike’s Bikes, a California-based bike shop, partners with other area businesses and organizes bike drives to fill shipping containers full of used bicycles and spare parts. Like Mike’s Bikes, Bicycles for Humanity ships bikes and parts in containers, and both organizations outfit the containers so they can become bike shops for the village in which they land. Bicycles for Humanity even refers to their containers as Bicycle Empowerment Centers.

World Bicycle Relief produces new bicycles, known as Buffalo Bikes, through monetary donations. They are built specifically for the rugged conditions of the particular region, with puncture-proof tires and a heftier frame for carrying more cargo. Bicycles Change Lives also produces new bicycles, naming its program Qhubeka, a Nguni word that means, “to progress,” or, “to move forward.”

Creating Jobs

Bikes for the World also ships donated bicycles and parts in large containers. The organization focuses on Africa, Central America and the South Pacific, and works with partners like the Village Bicycle Project in Ghana and Sierra Leone and the Madagascar Community-Based Integrated Health Project (MAHEFA) in Madagascar.

In El Salvador, the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) has built up an impressive bike shop, and an equally impressive program for training at-risk youth to work in it through the reconditioning, repair and maintenance of bikes. CESTA runs EcoBici, the training program aimed at helping young people build skills and stay out of gangs.

Donated bicycles are so vital that, as the youths learn to eventually manage their own shops, they find themselves at the center of their community with positive engagement and interaction. For people of all ages, the village bike shop has become an integral component in developing countries as a productive hub for societal and industrial activity.

Healthcare Workers and Their Patients

Remarkably, bicycle transportation improves health in rural areas, and not just for the rider. Amid the health crises in regions of Africa, trained healthcare workers and volunteers do all they can to visit patients in their homes and in hospitals, but are often traveling on foot.

In Zambia, one community volunteer, Royce, works to help citizens of her village by testing their HIV/AIDS status and educating them on prevention and treatment. Before she received her bike, she would walk seven kilometers each day to visit three patients. Now, thanks to World Bicycle Relief, she travels on two wheels and visits 18 patients, including vulnerable children, in a single day. “I’m always happy when I ride my bike,” says Royce. “People in my community recognize me.  They say, ‘There goes our caregiver on her bike.’”

Elsewhere in Zambia, three healthcare volunteers, Gertrude, Robert and Francis, who work to prevent and treat malaria in their region, enjoy a similar experience when they are recognized on their bright orange Buffalo bikes, painted so for the 1500 health workers in the area.  “When they see the bikes,” says Robert, “they know we have come to fight malaria.”

Statistics at World Bicycle Relief show that the over 138,000 Buffalo Bike-mobilized healthcare workers can reach 45 percent more patients and travel four times further than was possible on foot.

Education and Empowering Girls

The greatest challenge for most children wanting to attend school in developing countries is simply getting there. World Bicycle Relief statistics point out that the attendance of a student with a bicycle increases up to 28 percent, while their academic performance increases up to a dramatic 59 percent. And for girls, completing their education means they are six times less likely to become child brides.

For one 15-year-old girl, Ethel, a two-hour trek to school across rough terrain is now a 45-minute bike ride. Being on time helped her become a confident and exemplary student. Ethel even began using her bicycle to transport fellow classmates to school.

Education is key for the progressing dimensions of developing nations, including breaking the cycle of poverty. From 2009 to 2016, over 126,000 students have received Buffalo Bikes through World Bicycle Relief.

The advantage of mobilization by donated bicycles for workers, healthcare volunteers and students is tremendous. It also reaches farmers and small business operators who can travel greater distances with more wares to sell. It reaches citizens like businessman Ernest in Ghana, who gets his work done earlier in the day and can now coach a local youth soccer team in the time he’s saved. It reaches 14-year-old Koketso, who says there is now a cycling club at her school and that she’d like to take cycling up as a sport.

“With my bicycle,” Koketso says, “I can visit a lot of places that I have never seen before.”

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr


Donate to Fight Poverty


Poverty is a complex, multidimensional topic that has many factors. Different aspects of poverty affect each other and oftentimes continue to reinforce the negative aspects. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated by so many factors: poor health and education outcomes, not enough capital, vulnerability to life changes and lacking a voice to participate in society.

First, health is important not only because it prolongs one’s lifespan, but also because it directly affects one’s income earning potential. It gives people the energy to focus on activities that can contribute to a higher earning potential such as school work, running the business or farming. With a higher income, people can move on from subsistence living and onto a life of purchasing goods they are interested.

Second, education is important because it teaches one to make wise health decisions, that will ultimately contribute to a better health outcomes and eventually higher incomes. The cycle of poverty is often perpetuated because there is a direct lack in education. For instance, people will not use clean sanitation practices have a higher chance of getting inflicted with a disease such as diarrhea or dysentery. Having a sickly body will prevent a child from attending primary school, for oftentimes they need to walk several miles. Instead of walking with a body in that kind of state, a child will most likely stay home, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Next, consumption is indicated by how much purchasing power people have, whether they buy food for sustenance or other material goods for pleasure. Consumption is dependent on the amount of income. However, higher income is not necessarily practical to measure because money has different purchasing power and prices are always changing.

Vulnerabilities refers to the level of risk that a household or individual is likely to experience an episode of health or income poverty over a given time. The more vulnerable a person is, the greater their chances of being affected by any number of risks, including violence, natural disasters and quitting school (whether due to no money to pay for tuition or too ill to attend classes). It is likely that the more vulnerable people are, the less cushion they have to recover quickly.

Lastly, giving a voice to the poor and ability to participate in society is vital to lifting them out of a cycle of poverty. Hearing their concerns allows us to pinpoint their needs and help them reach the health and education levels necessary to thrive.

According to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, an important aspect of addressing poverty is to allow people to expand their capabilities to do what they want, simply because doing what one wants holds value in it of itself. So whether a woman or man wants to live farming for the rest of his life or pursue a medical degree, all those have value. All they need is agency, which is the opportunity available for them to pursue their life path.

Efforts that help the poor reach higher health, education and income levels, or protect them from their vulnerabilities or give them a voice are all vital dimensions in ending the cycle of poverty.

– Christina Cho

Sources: Stanford University, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

causes famine africa
A food security crisis is considered a famine when, according to the United Nations, “20 percent of households face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.”

Famine exacerbates the challenges of people in poverty and pulls many into the cycle of poverty. This is especially problematic in Africa. Among other nations, famines have been identified in Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. The following are three causes of famine in Africa.


1. Conflict Causes Hunger in Africa

When a government is engaged in war, whether civil or with another country, the leadership of a country must divert funds from some sectors to military expenditure. In some cases, funding is removed from development, leaving the population especially vulnerable to natural disasters or the effects of conflict on agricultural production.

When a natural disaster—such as drought—affects a region, the problem can quickly transform into a famine, and the local and national government are left without the funding to address the problem. Natural disasters can also lead to competition over scarce resources, which cause conflict and high levels of food insecurity, or famine.

2. Climate Change

Climate change directly affects food production, which can create widespread food insecurity and famine. For instance, rising temperatures reduces crop yields by reducing photosynthesis and soil fertility. Higher temperatures, too, increase the survival rate of weeds and diseases that reduce agricultural output.

Increased rainfall and droughts destroy cropland and prevent production entirely. In 2007, heavy rain destroyed a quarter of Bangladesh’s rice crop and over one million acres of cropland.

Extreme variation in weather and intense affects of climate change such as rising temperatures, rainfall and droughts prevent farmers from making accurate predictions regarding agricultural seasons. This, in turn, affects the output of food from farmers, which increases food insecurity. High food insecurity both motivates conflict, as mentioned before, and increases the likelihood of famine.


3. Donor Country Politics

Because of alternative political interests, such as addressing infectious diseases or donating to another part of the world, donor countries can fail to give aid to prevent famine. According to The Guardian, Famine Early Warning Systems and the Food Security Nutrition Analysis Unit predicted the 2011 famine in Somalia. Had the international community responded, a quarter of a million people could have avoided death.

The Guardian argues that United States geopolitical interest in Somalia in 2011 led to a withdrawal of aid, which aided a growing famine. It was only after widespread media attention of the famine that Somalia received a significant amount of humanitarian aid and was able to appropriately deal with the crisis. While humanitarian aid can alleviate the consequences of famine, removing aid at the wrong time can also be one of the causes of famine in Africa.

The three causes of famine listed above is far from a comprehensive list of causes of famine in Africa. In fact, the causes of famine are complex and often have several causes contributing to both the initiation and rapid spread of famine. Aside from conflict, climate change and lack of international response, lack of response from the domestic government and rising prices of food also potentially contribute to famine. Clearly, the causes range from local, to international, to natural or environmental.

Beginning to understand even some of the causes of famine, though, contribute to solving part of the causes and preventing as widespread of problems in the future.

– Tara Wilson


Sources: United Nations, The Guardian, Beyond Intractability, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Photo: English Online