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The Czech Republic is a Parliamentary Republic bordering Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country was founded on January 1, 1993, following a political revolution, and peacefully splitting from the former Czechoslovakia. In 2020, the Czech Republic ranked as the eighth safest country in the world. The country also reports a 2.4% unemployment rate and healthy GDP growth over the past five years. The latest Eurostat data also shows that the Czech Poverty rate is 3.4%, the second-lowest rate in the EU. However, the well-being of the Czech Republic’s citizens may decline as a threatening drought continues to plague the country and coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty & Hunger in the Czech Republic

In a 2017 study, the Czech Republic Hunger Statistic was 2.5%. This means that 2.5% of the population’s food intake was insufficient to meet basic dietary requirements. Meanwhile, the World Hunger Statistic is around 11%.

Despite the Czech Republic’s success in the fight against poverty, the country has some areas of weakness. For example, the Czech Republic’s wage gap is larger than other European countries. Women tend to earn about 22% less than men. As a result, a disproportionate number of women, especially single mothers, fall below the poverty line.

Additionally, the Czech Republic’s relatively low poverty rate of 3.4% is somewhat misleading. The poverty rate considers the standard of living within the Czech Republic. Sociologist Daniel Prokop uses Luxembourg to exemplify why this can be misleading: “the median [income] in Luxembourg is twice as high as in the Czech Republic. Therefore, the poverty line is twice as high, making it easier for low-income workers to fall below it.” So, countries with higher median incomes have a higher standard of living. Since the Czech Republic has a lower relative poverty threshold, an impoverished citizen in Luxembourg may not be considered impoverished in the Czech Republic.

Working Through a Long-term Drought

The Czech Republic is experiencing the most threatening drought in 500 years. The drought began in 2018, and it escalated to a climate crisis in April 2020- right in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a fear that the continuation of the drought in the Czech Republic will cause mass famine.

Scientists are using an ESA satellite to monitor the drought and soil conditions, keeping the country’s agribusiness sector stable. Well-organized agricultural systems are preventing major catastrophe in the present. Yet, crop yields are expected to continue shrinking in the upcoming months. The biggest concern, however, is the impending water shortage. The Ministry of Environment in the Czech Republic has implemented over 15,000 projects across the country to build pipelines for drinking water, preserving dams and reservoirs and much more.

COVID-19 Impacts

Thankfully, the Czech Republic has handled COVID-19 wisely from the start. They were the first country in Europe to issue a mask mandate, sending the notice on March 19, 2020. So far, there are no significant deviations from normal malnutrition and poverty rates due to the pandemic. Despite a couple of recent clusters in the eastern parts of the country, heavily populated cities such as Prague (population: 1.3 million) are seeing consistently low infection rates as of late July. Many citizens’ lives have returned to normalcy, with schools and buildings re-opening and commerce flourishing.

Tomorrow’s Outlook

Organizations ranging from small local projects to large NGOs are working to combat poverty and hunger in the Czech Republic as the drought and COVID-19 continue. For example, the Prague Changemakers organizes volunteering projects by recruiting local citizens. Together, they cook and distribute food to the local homeless population.  Additionally, Naděje is an example of a larger NGO. Naděje was founded in the 1990s following the revolution and their organization’s goal is to serve the homeless. Naděje began by serving food in railway stations. Soon, the NGO expanded to building homes and shelters across the country. For their first major project, Naděje established day centers for the homeless to get food, creating two hostels for men and one for women.

Ultimately, responsible governmental action and the work of NGOs like Naděje have provided stability to the Czech Republic in an uncertain time. Hopefully, their work in the Czech Republic will continue to keep COVID-19 and the drought under control. It seems other countries should take notes as unemployment, hunger, and poverty rates remain relatively low in the Czech Republic.

Ruhi Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Morocco is a water-scarce country. It is greatly impacted by the effects of rapid desertification, poor water management and high susceptibility to droughts. Water resources in the country have fallen by about 71% since 1980. In rural communities it is common for families to rely on one water source, meaning water scarcity can have profoundly negative impacts on Morrocan families and their livelihoods. Drought, in particular, occurs on average once every three years and can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of Moroccans. About 51.5% of the Moroccan population is negatively impacted by droughts. With drought on the rise, sustainable water management is integral to the development of the economy. As a result, an organization called Dar Si Hmad is stepping in to use CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

The citizen’s organization ‘Social Watch’ identifies the poor management of scarce water resources as a serious aggravator of rural poverty in Morocco. Farmers and women in Morocco are particularly burdened by the effects of water scarcity. Forty percent of working Moroccans are employed in the agricultural sector and 70% of farmers struggle due to the impact of frequent droughts. Women in rural communities in Morocco spend on average 3.5 hours a day seeking and carrying water, restricting their time in pursuit of other activities.

CloudFishing to Solve the Water Crisis

Dar Si Hmad, a female-led non-governmental organization (NGO), is taking an innovative approach to solving the crisis of water scarcity and alleviating poverty in Morocco. The NGO’s vision is to “enable sustainable livelihoods and create opportunities for low-resource communities to learn and prosper.” It is pursuing this vision, in part, by using ‘CloudFishing’ to combat poverty in Morocco. CloudFishing is an approach to solve the water crisis by utilizing the abundant resource of fog. In Morocco, fog gathers from the ocean and is captured in the mountainous landscape for about 140 days out of the year. Dar Si Hmad uses fine mesh to ‘fish’ for droplets of water within the fog which, once it accumulates, drops into a basin and is then filtered through a process of solar-powered UV, sand and cartridge filters.

The water collected by Dar Si Hmad is piped to 140 households providing approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco with access to sustainable clean water. Dar Si Hmad has developed into the largest functioning fog collection project in the world and is directly contributing to poverty alleviation in the country. The project is partly funded by USAID in Rabat, Morocco. Sustained foreign aid from the U.S. is integral to the organization’s continued success. CloudFishing has a positive impact on women in the community who now have more time to devote to pursuing economic activities to help them rise out of poverty. Sustainable access to water also allows poor farmers to have more stable livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty in Morocco.

Looking Forward

While clean water is a human right recognized by a number of international organizations and countries, in water-scarce Morocco it has become a luxury. Dar Si Hmad is continuing its work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to build two new CloudFishers to provide water to 12 additional rural villages in Morocco. Dar Si Hmad plays an integral role in providing solutions like CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Hydroponics Fight Hunger
In the past 40 years, droughts have impacted more of the world’s population than any other natural disaster. Their intensity and occurrence have increased, and the developing world bears the brunt of consequences including hunger, environmental damage and economic and social instability. Agriculture, in particular, a sector that supports 40% of the world population’s primary livelihoods, suffers from worsening droughts. In Eastern and Central Africa water scarcity and population growth dually affect food security to an increasing degree. The CEO and founder of Hydroponics Africa LLC, Peter Chege, is helping introduce the innovative and cost-effective method of hydroponic farming in Africa to help improve food security.

How Hydroponic Farming Fights Hunger

Hydroponic systems rely on dissolved nutrient additives to grow food in contained water structures rather than soil. These systems use water 90% more efficiently than traditional agricultural production methods because the closed systems recycle water. Using this method of production, farmers can precisely control pH and nutrient levels in the water to optimize plant growth. Furthermore, vertically stacked hydroponic systems can increase crop growth density and production rates.

Hydroponic systems support crop growth in drought-stricken areas with poor soil conditions that would typically prohibit productive farming. The potential for greater crop output means hydroponics fight hunger by combatting food-insecurity and improve the livelihoods of low-income farmers.

Introducing Hydroponics to African Countries

Chege, a chemist out of the University of Nairobi, founded Hydroponics Kenya in 2012 to market hydroponic systems to Kenyan farmers as an affordable alternative to purchasing livestock feed. His company was the first to market hydroponics in East Africa. Since its foundation, his company expanded into Hydroponics Africa LLC and began to produce and install crop-and fodder-growing hydroponic systems in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Additionally, there has been growing governmental support to increase the overall use of hydroponic farming in Africa.

Hydroponics Africa partners with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It receives support from Kenya’s Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. The Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)—an organization that aims to improve the productivity of small farms and promote water management technologies—has also issued Hydroponics Africa a “proof of concept grant” to help hydroponics fight hunger in Kenya.

Hydroponics Africa has sold more than 365 greenhouse units and 700 fodder units, which have helped to save 500 million liters of water and support 6,000 tons of crop yields. The company has also trained over 20,000 people on hydroponic farming techniques.

The Benefit to Low-Income Farmers

Hydroponics Africa LLC creates customizable hydroponic systems using local materials and markets them toward small- and mid-size farms. The systems require no previous user experience, no thermostat nor electricity and minimal user input. The system prices currently range from $100 to $4,800. Additionally, the company is working with local banks to make these systems accessible to low-income farmers through loans. For example, payment options include 0-20% upfront costs and a monthly payment plan per system. The costs are justified by the increased crop yields for subsistence and sale that the hydroponic method promises.

Hydroponic farming helps fight hunger in areas poorly suited to traditional agriculture. Companies like Hydroponics Africa LLC have the potential to revolutionize agriculture for low-income farmers in drought-stricken countries. The emergence of hydroponic technology may be a life-changing solution to food insecurity exacerbated by population growth and drought.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Honduras
Honduras is one of the countries of the Northern Triangle. Home to a large portion of Central America’s population, Honduras lies between El Salvador and Nicaragua. While 60% of Hondurans live below the poverty line, there has been promising economic development. However, due to the instability of natural disasters and trading, hunger in Honduras remains a significant concern.

Food Security

Due to poverty, hunger has become a lasting issue in Honduras. According to the Food Security Portal, approximately 1.5 million people in Honduras endure “chronic food insecurity.” With 36% of the population in extreme poverty, food security is difficult to achieve. Many cannot afford proper nutritious meals and often rely on fast food or small portions of food. Approximately 7.4% of children are underweight and 21% of adults who suffer from obesity. The country also does not provide its citizens with adequate education on proper nutrition.

Crime in Honduras often leads to more hunger. In 2017, the UN reported that Honduras had the fourth-highest homicide rate in the world. Partially dominated by gangs, around 2.7% of Hondurans were internally displaced from 2004 to 2018. Due to this additional obstacle, the government prioritizes eliminating criminal activity before food insecurity. However, according to studies conducted in neighboring country Venezuala, hunger often leads to crime and crime fosters hunger. This cycle highlights the need for programming to address hunger specifically. 

The Pandemic and Drought

The Honduran government implemented restrictions due to COVID-19 that are negatively affecting the economy. The government shut down all borders, preventing refugees to flee, restricted hospitals to treating a limited amount of patients, implemented curfews and narrowed the opening of shops. Many people who suffered from other prevalent sicknesses lack proper treatment. The food crisis prevents people from extreme poverty from eating, causing further malnutrition. This also prevents local businesses from earning enough to buy food and hinders people in poverty from affording food while unemployed. The pandemic will stifle the country’s economic boom by -2.3% in 2020 and a predicted -3.95% in 2021. 

Furthermore, severe weather conditions and climate change often disturb the agriculture of the country. The Dry Corridor of the country suffered from a four-year-long drought that continued into 2019. In addition, “erratic rainfall” caused 80% of crops to deteriorate in 2015. The mountainous terrain of farmland, tropical climate and dry weather often strain efforts made by the government to improve food security.

Mitigating Hunger

Humanitarian organizations are focusing their efforts on mitigating hunger in Honduras. Along with the World Food Programme (WFP), the government of Honduras implemented Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR) to determine approaches to alleviate hunger. WFP came up with a list of strategic outcomes for 2030 including year-round access to nutritional food for students enrolled in primary school, as well as for households affected by natural disasters. In addition, organizations like ChildFund International work provide food to children in need and educate them on healthy eating habits.

Although Honduras has some setbacks, the country is working to improve food security. Moving forward, it is essential that humanitarian organizations and the government of Honduras continue to make food security a priority, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Though many areas of Africa are developing thoroughly and implementing infrastructure, food security still remains an issue. Internal displacement, environmental factors and price fluctuations in countries like Ethiopia can be devastating. Predictions from the Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan estimated that about 8.1 million people became victims of food insecurity in 2019. Additionally, although about 2.2 million people have been internally displaced in Ethiopia as of May 2019, government operations allowed for the return of approximately 1.8 million people to their areas of origin. These seven facts about hunger in Ethiopia will give an overview of both the issues facing the country and the measures being taken to provide a solution to the food shortages.

7 Facts Concerning Hunger in Ethiopia

  1. In 2019, there were about 8 million people in Ethiopia that needed some form of aid or assistance. Of that total, approximately 4.2 million were children. Not everyone could be reached, however. The aid supplied in 2019 was only projected to reach about 3.8 million people, 2 million of which were children.
  2. Seasonal rains are often delayed in the Ethiopian region, which can lead to drought. Much of the affected population are subsistence farmers and are, therefore, unable to grow crops during this time. Insufficient rainfall to meet standards for crops occurs often, and as recently as the 2017 rainy season. The BBC estimates that droughts can cause the yield for crops to decrease to only 10% of what is expected for a regular season.
  3. Cultural biases, including those towards males, make the challenges already faced by the general population heightened for women and children. Because resources are traditionally directed towards men first, approximately 370,000 women and children in Ethiopia are in need of dire aid due to issues like severe acute malnutrition.
  4. To cope with the hunger crisis in their country, many Ethiopians have been forced to sell some of their assets. Traditionally, respite for Ethiopians is found through selling cattle for a decent sum. However, due to the prices of cattle falling during a famine, families are forced to forfeit their houses, gold, and even their land.
  5. An estimated $124 million was required to adequately serve and protect Ethiopians from hunger and famine in 2019. Due to the novel coronavirus and other health issues arising, these numbers could rise in the wake of the pandemic. Serving the healthcare sector directly benefits the issue of hunger as well.
  6. Organizations like World Vision, Food for Peace (FFP) from USAID and Mercy Corps are acting throughout Ethiopia to provide the necessary resources for surmounting the famine. Investigations and studies of the government’s safety net are being conducted to ensure the safety of the citizens in the future should famines arise again. Additionally, consortiums are periodically being held to provide food assistance to those Ethiopians facing acute food insecurity.
  7. Mercy Corps specifically recognizes education as a barrier to effectively fight famine and poverty in general. The organization’s efforts are concentrated on diversifying the prospective methods of financial gain for Ethiopians so that droughts will not completely wipe out their only source of income. Additionally, the organization is working in health-related facilities around Ethiopia to educate workers on the treatment of malnutrition.

Though Ethiopia has struggled to meet the needs of its people with regards to food supply in the past, current aid and education from foreign nations are assisting in the ultimate goal to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. The issue of hunger in Ethiopia is an immense one to tackle, but with work to develop and improve agricultural techniques for individual farmers, the country can collectively improve the situation.

– Pratik Koppikar
Photo: World Vision

food insecurity in ethiopia
Despite the fact that Ethiopia has a stronger economy than many other countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, it still remains one of the world’s least developed countries. In 2017, Ethiopia ranked 173 out of 189 countries and territories in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI). Food insecurity contributes to a lack of development in Ethiopia.

Drought, Conflict, and IDPs

Drought is one of the principal sources of food insecurity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently suffering from the lingering effects of past droughts. There have been two devastating droughts in Ethiopia since 2015, which has forced many out of their homes in search of food and basic services. Droughts are a primary factor in the creation of internal refugees, or internally displaced person (IDPs) in Ethiopia.

Currently, nearly three million Ethiopians are categorized as IDPs. In addition to drought, the number of IDPs has increased due to a surge in ethnic violence, particularly along the Oromiya-Somali regional border. Nearly 600,000 individuals from the Oromiya and Somali regions have become IDPs.

The combination of drought, displacement, violence and underdevelopment has resulted in widespread food insecurity in Ethiopia. Due to this, roughly 7% of the population relies on food aid. The U.S. Government has been heavily involved in battling food insecurity in Ethiopia. Currently, food insecurity and under-nutrition are two of the greatest economic hindrances in Ethiopia.

Here are five things you need to know about the United States’ involvement in addressing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

5 Ways the U.S. Helps Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

  1. “Feed the Future,” an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, has been one of the more successful programs in promoting food security in Ethiopia: Feed the Future worked in different areas in Ethiopia from 2013 to 2015 and reduced the prevalence of poverty in those areas by 12 percent. Additionally, in 2017, those who were reached by Feed the Future generated $40 million in agricultural sales and received $5.7 million in new private investment. The economy and food security in Ethiopia are closely intertwined because the nation’s economy is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture-led economic growth, therefore, has been one the primary missions of Feed the Future within Ethiopia.
  2. The US has focused on restoring Ethiopia’s potato and sweet potato supply due to its high source of Vitamin A as a means of reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia: In June 2016, The USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) supported the International Potato Center (CIP) to assist drought-affected farmers in planting potatoes and sweet potatoes. Due to this support, the CIP was able to provide sweet potato seeds to nearly 10,000 farmers and trained more than 11,300 men and women on various ways to incorporate this vitamin-rich vegetable into more of their meals. The USAID/OFDA continues to support programs that promote the development of critical agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, in Ethiopia.
  3. Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) are working in Ethiopia to help manage issues of malnutrition: The USAID’s OFDA and UNICEF have partnered together to deploy MHNTs in order to provide malnutrition screenings, basic health care services, immunizations and health education. The team also offered patient referrals when necessary. In 2017, 50 MHNTs provided 483,700 individuals in the Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia with life-saving health and nutritional services.
  4. Humanitarian assistance has been essential in reducing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children: Although USAID provides resources to help treat SAM, 38 percent of children under five still have stunted growth due to malnutrition. As of March 2018, 31,066 children were admitted and treated for SAM. Approximately 30 percent of these cases were in the Somali region due to the region’s issue with ethnic violence and drought. Significantly more assistance is needed in the Somali region in order to sufficiently manage malnutrition.
  5. Humanitarian assistance has been one of the primary reasons Ethiopia has not entered into a state of emergency for food insecurity: Although increased rainfall and a reduction in disease outbreak have helped minimize food insecurity in Ethiopia, the country would be much worse off without the help of humanitarian aid. Currently, Ethiopia is in crisis, which is phase three of five on the food insecurity scale. The phases include minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and famine. Experts from the Famine Early Warning Systems Networks report that “Ethiopia would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance.”

Looking Forward

The need for humanitarian aid will increase as Ethiopia’s population rapidly grows. Currently, Ethiopia ranks second in Africa for the number of refugees the country hosts. Nearly 100 percent of these refugees originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Ethiopia currently hosts over 920,262 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of May 31, 2018.

The number of asylum seekers in Ethiopia will continue to grow because Ethiopia has an open-door asylum policy. As Ethiopia’s population continues to grow due to this policy, food sources will become increasingly strained. The need for humanitarian assistance to promote sustainable agriculture and farming practices, therefore, has become essential for reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in mauritania
The country of Mauritania is located in West Africa. It encompasses a land area of 1,030,700 square kilometers and has a population of more than 4,600,000. This makes it the 11th largest African country in terms of land area and 40th in terms of population. Despite its vast size, Mauritania is experiencing a devastating food and nutrition crisis, along with a horrific drought, that is making hunger in Mauritania more acute than it has been in years. The following is a list of the top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Mauritania

  1. Hunger is a serious problem: According to the 2018 GHI, Mauritania ranks 88th out of 119 qualifying nations in regard to the number of malnourished citizens within its borders. It has a score of 27.3 on the GHI Severity Scale. Thus, Mauritania is in the category of other countries, like Bangladesh and Burkina Faso, with serious levels of hunger.
  2. Drought cycles: Mauritania is located in the region of Africa south of the Sahara called the Sahel. This region consists of semi-arid grassland and has provided the continent with cash crops like cotton and millet. However, the Sahel receives extremely inconsistent rainfall and has suffered cycles of drought for thousands of years. The drought the Sahel currently endures has occurred since the 70’s. Because this drought is a regional problem, the lives of millions in countries outside Mauritania – like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal – are struggling through this drought as well.
  3. Managing drought: In a national report for Integrated Drought Management, Sidi Bobba, Director of Operations and Weather Forecasting and Sid El Kheir Ould Taleb Ekhyar, General Manager of M’Pourié Farm, say that Mauritanian authorities are employing strategies to minimize the impact of Mauritania’s current drought. Some of these strategies include encouraging Mauritanians to diversify their crops and use organic manure. Other strategies are using crops that are resistant to drought and focusing on farming techniques that promote the economy of the soil water.
  4. Reliance on imports: While fish, iron, natural gas, oil, copper, wild animals and gold are all natural resources that Mauritania has in abundance, many Mauritanians specialize in farming and pastoralism. Unfortunately, these sources of income are vulnerable to environmental shock. And because 80 percent of Mauritania’s land is desert that cannot be used for agriculture, this lack of arable land, combined with drought, has made Mauritania into a nation that depends on foreign imports to feed its citizens. In a good agricultural year, 70 percent of Mauritania’s food supply is imported, but in a bad agricultural year, 85 percent is imported.
  5. Cases of acute malnutrition: In January, UNICEF reported that 130,000 children, including 32,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, would require nutritional care and treatment this year. UNICEF also reported in a Humanitarian Situation Report that 24,521 children with severe acute malnutrition (11,770 girls and 12,751 boys) were admitted for treatment throughout Mauritania. This is 76 percent of the estimated 32,244 cases of severe acute malnutrition for 2018.
  6. Pregnant women and malnutrition: UNICEF also reported that 31,000 pregnant and lactating women would require nutritional care and treatment this year. The same report that reveals the number of Mauritanian children treated for severe acute malnutrition also reveals that 32,876 pregnant and lactating women have been offered aid at community health facilities. And 4,373 pregnant and lactating women were treated for acute malnutrition.
  7. Extreme poverty: Mauritania is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a GDP per capita of $4,500. As one of the poorest countries in the world, around 25 percent of Mauritanians live on less than $1.25 per day. This extreme poverty hinders many Mauritanians from accessing health and education services.
  8. Water production: Even though Mauritania is now working towards a solution to its water shortage, the African Development Bank Group reports that Mauritania has been able to meet only half of its estimated daily drinking water requirement of 100,000 m³/day for more than a decade. Its production level is only around 55,000 m³/day from the only available aquifer in the southwestern Mauritanian city Trarza.
  9. Malian refugees: Thousands of Malian refugees, escaping the 2012 coup and civil unrest, have entered Mauritania and the ongoing conflict in Mali continues to bring even more. The UN reported that in March there were 58,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania. In addition to needy Mauritanian citizens, these refugees also rely on food assistance. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) give cash-based food assistance to around 55,000 Malians who live in the Mbera refugee camp in southeastern Mauritania.
  10. Malnutrition a key issue: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has formed a chart that reveals the risk factors that drive the most death and disability combined in Mauritania. This chart ranks malnutrition as the chief risk factor from 2007 to 2017.

When one considers these top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania, one might not be able to see a bright future for this country arising any time soon. But with the work of organizations around the world who are both providing aid to Mauritania and raising awareness of its food and nutrition crisis, one can hope that one day hunger in Mauritania will no longer be an issue.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

korea sharing food
The end of World War II brought the division of North and South Korea. The fragmented region became occupied by the United States in the south and by the Soviet Union in the north. While both nations now hold sovereign status, they are still not on good terms. An area that spans the width of both countries and is roughly two and a half miles long separates the north from the south today. This zone, called the demilitarized zone (DMZ), is rarely crossed to travel from one country to another. That has changed recently, though.

Potential for Change

On Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that they will give North Korea 50,000 tons of rice to offset rising malnutrition rates in the region. South Korea sharing food with its neighbor marks the first humanitarian venture across the DMZ to provide food aid in North Korea.

Historically, North Korea has faced numerous issues providing the proper nourishment to their population. Here are a few quick facts on North Korean malnourishment:

The Bleak Facts

  1. Roughly half of North Korea’s population of 24 million live in extreme poverty. North Korea holds the lowest spot on world personal freedom rankings. Poverty, coupled with a lack of freedom, has led to very poor living conditions for its citizens.
  2. One-third of children in North Korea have stunted growth because of malnourishment.
  3. The Global Hunger Index ranked North Korea tenth from last, stating the hunger levels seen in this country are a serious health threat. One-third of children are thought to have their growth permanently stunted due to malnourishment. The lack of food not only affects children, it has also dropped life expectancies by five years.
  4. North Korea has lost hundreds of thousands of people to malnourishment due to historical famines. The largest, which occurred in the 1990s, had a disputed death toll that varied widely from 800,000 people to 3.5 million. This famine, although it killed several hundred thousand, if not millions, has never been acknowledged by the North Korean government.
  5. Currently, the country is facing the worst drought in a decade, which led to a 1.36 million ton shortage of grain. This shortage forced the North Korean government to reduce rations to only 11 ounces per person daily. If nothing is done to counterbalance the food shortage caused by this drought, up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of needing food aid in the next few months.

A New Precedent

These facts paint a bleak picture of life in North Korea, yet South Korea is trying to offset this growing problem by offering food aid. South Korea sharing food is an act of good faith aimed at improving relations between the two countries. The possibility of South Korea sharing food in the future with its estranged neighbor depends on North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program and improving ties between the two countries.

An act of humanitarian aid between two divided countries gives hope that someday food, not fences, will be shared between the two countries and that the world will see a unified Korea sharing food.

-Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

water quality in SomaliaFor a country whose entire eastern border is an ocean, water quality in Somalia is a longstanding worry for the nation’s citizens. According to UNICEF Somalia’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) studies, of the nearly 15 million people living in Somalia, only 45 percent of them have access to clean water. Only one in four people have access to adequate sanitation facilities within a reasonable distance of their homes.

WASH has linked the lack of clean water and sanitation facilities to the rising disease rates in Somalia, most notably, the widespread prevalence of widespread waterborne diseases such as diarrhea that account for more than 20 percent of deaths of children under five. Additionally, the lack of clean water is heavily correlated to malnourishment, which over 300,000 children in Somalia are currently suffering from.

While having clean drinking water is imperative to survival, the disposal of wastewater (water used for cooking, bathing, sewage and other uses) is nearly as important to providing a safe and clean environment for Somalians to live in. Considering that the infrastructure to dispose of wastewater is severely lacking in Somalia, and the fact that most Somalians rely on rivers and rainwater for water (natural sources which are highly prone to contamination by wastewater), it is little surprise that so many Somalians lack adequate drinking water.

Estimates indicate that it would cost $1.5 billion to provide clean water to all Somalians that would not be dependent on weather patterns, droughts or possible contamination by wastewater. While by no means a small sum, it is also not an outrageous one, and one that is being decreased by efforts to improve Somalian irrigation techniques, harvesting and storing cleaner rainwater, as well as other methods to help Somalia use less water more efficiently.

These efforts, however, are only made tougher due to the twofold threat of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of rural Somalia, where the lack of clean water is felt most severely, and the harsh drought and famine that is currently sweeping the country. While food and water supplies are already running low, al-Shabaab puts up blockades and refuses to let aid workers assist the starving and thirsty people. In March, the Somali prime minister reported that over a hundred people had died as a result of the drought, and that number has likely only continued to worsen as concerns over the water quality in Somalia continue to linger.

Organizations such as UNICEF have stepped up to combat the water shortages by providing medical services and other necessities. Most pressingly, UNICEF was providing over 400,000 people with daily water as of early 2017. Members of the group hope and plan to increase that number fourfold and provide water vouches to well over a million people.

USAID has already committed more than $300 million towards humanitarian assistance in Somalia for 2017. Much of that money is devoted to assisting the UNICEF WASH programs and activities already underway; however, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has involved itself in an attempt to address the emergency caused by the drought through other initiatives. This assistance is key to helping those affected survive the droughts and allow time for more sustainable solutions to be put in place to improve the water quality in Somalia.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr