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Water Supply in CubaAlthough Cuba is known for its water-filled landscapes, like the many rivers and turquoise springs that bubble up from time to time, the country faces issues with the water quality and supply. The water supply in Cuba has been affected due to a recent drought, resulting in a struggle to provide clean, fresh water to its citizens.

Over the past three years, Cuba has been facing one of the worst droughts of the century. This drought is affecting nearly 50 percent of the land in Cuba, and it is caused by a climate pattern known as “El Niño”. The El Niño phenomenon is when trade winds off the Pacific Ocean bring warm weather that quickly heats surface water. This effect has occurred in previous years but has increased drastically over the past three years.

Water reservoirs and dams have been affected, with some dams even falling below 50 percent capacity. Out of the 168 municipalities in Cuba, 141 have been directly affected by the effects of this drought. Havana, Cuba’s capital city, relied on tanker trucks from neighboring areas to help provide water to 120,000 people that were in desperate need in mid-2016.

Not many people consider how this drought is affecting day to day life for Cubans. Many families must purchase filtered water since the water supply in Cuba has decreased due to the drought, and this filtered water is not cheap. The average cost for 5 liters of filtered water is 15 Cuban pesos, which is equivalent to $15. This can be a financial burden on a family who has to ration this water for drinking among all its members, as well as to clean vegetables and fruits to eat.

The high price of water also means that many families can’t provide enough water for their pets or livestock, so animals are dying and getting sick all throughout the country.

The soil itself has become damaged as well, with some reports saying that nearly 75 percent of the soil is drier than desired. This has greatly affected the agricultural production, with many farms producing less than 50 percent of what they usually grow. This now means that not only is there a limit on water, but on food as well.

Cuba and the European Union have been working on a solution to not only solve the current drought problem but also to stop future droughts from becoming this large of an issue. The World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Mivimiento por la Paz have all partnered with the European Union and Cuba to develop these solutions.

Currently, the European Union is providing €600,000 in funding for two projects being developed in Cuba. The first project’s goal is to strengthen the preparedness plans in Cuba as well as the response and early warning systems.

The second project will focus more on a technical solution, by increasing the hydrological networks to increase the water supply in Cuba, as well as increasing its meteorological capacity so they can anticipate these patterns sooner.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in MicronesiaMicronesia is a nation in the western Pacific totaling 270 square miles, but its roughly 600 islands are spread out over an area nearly five times the size of France. Due to the unique geography of Micronesia, it faces special challenges– social, economic and governmental.

In the mid-1980s, Micronesia and the United States negotiated a Compact of Free Association that provided the island nation with $100 million per year and its citizens with the right to live and work in the United States. In return, the United States was granted exclusive rights to use the islands of Micronesia as naval and military bases. A similar contract was renegotiated in 2003, this time for 20 years and $3.5 billion to be paid to Micronesia over to course of the contract.

While this compact has certainly been mutually beneficial, Micronesia has become dependent on foreign aid and investment, leaving their economy undiversified and the country unable to adapt to adverse situations, which is why it is now so important to figure out how to help people in Micronesia.

In 2016, Micronesia began to experience one of the worst droughts in the country’s recorded history. Many atolls and islands were ill prepared for this, having few catchments of water, often just enough for a few days or weeks. The drought, caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, severely damaged Micronesia’s crops, which has led to food shortages.

It has become imperative to find out how to help people in Micronesia. Many organizations have been assisting the region, but help is needed. The International Organization for Migration has gathered significant funding from multiple sources and used such finding to provide clean water, technical training and relief from the worst effects of El Niño.

The United States, New Zealand and Australian governments have combined to donate roughly $240,000. While this is a good step and certainly one in the right direction, the people who were affected by the drought across Micronesia and the U.S. Marshall Islands are in need of more funding in order to recover.

Severe drought is one of the first signs of what is to be a continuous problem for Micronesia. The country is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. The real answer to how to help people in Micronesia is not through short-term donations and provision of aid, though that is necessary and admirable in itself. Instead, the true solution can only be to work diligently to mitigate the effects of climate change for the sake of all nations, especially our less fortunate and more vulnerable neighbors.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Micronesia Poverty RateAccording to the Asian Development Bank, the Micronesia poverty rate has reached 41.2 percent this year. Out of the Asian Pacific countries, it has the second highest poverty rate.

Additionally, while the percentage of the population that lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2000 was 46 percent, it declined to 17.4 in 2013, according to The World Bank. While the Micronesia poverty rate is seemingly high, the middle class has been expanding in recent years.

As of 2000, the richest 20 percent owned 65.9 percent of the wealth, while the middle classes owned about 27 percent of the wealth. In contrast, in 2013, the richest 20 percent owned about 48 percent of the wealth, while the middle class owned 37 percent. The poorest 20 percent have also increased their earnings from 1.4 percent of the wealth in 2000 to 5 percent in 2013.

The wealth inequality trend has also decreased in Micronesia in recent years. At 63.3 percent in 2000, the trend dropped to 42.5 percent in 2013. The Gross National Income (GNI) has increased around $100 from 2015 to 2016.

However, the GDP growth has slowed from 3.8 percent to around 2 percent in the past year. The decrease in growth was due to a drought in 2016, which led to water rationing, emergency shipments of water and increased health concerns. El Niño caused the drought itself.

Earning around $20 million annually, the fishing industry is the main source of income for Micronesia. The market value of tuna in the region is around $200 million per year, but Micronesians don’t take advantage of this resource. As of right now, agriculture is a vital component to the economy because of the contributions it makes to per capita income, export earnings and subsistence production. The agriculture and fishing industries make up 42 percent of the GDP for Micronesia.

To decrease the Micronesia poverty rate, there is promise in the tourism industry especially considering the abundance of marine and natural beauty. What is currently hindering the tourism industry, however, is the limited air transportation, land-use issues, and competition with surrounding islands of similar atmosphere.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr


The poor water quality in Venezuela has caused health concerns throughout the country.

Venezuela’s water has, in recent years, been very poor quality, even coming out of faucets with a yellow color, reports Ana Carvajal, a worker at the Universitario Hospital in Caracas specializing in infectious diseases. Venezuelans are seeing a spike in a variety of illnesses, especially diarrhea. The lack of clean water is also bringing about skin issues such as scabies and folliculitis. Stomach illnesses have also spread due to the water quality.

Beyond water pollution, the country is also facing a severe water shortage. The 2016 drought brought on by El Niño put major limits on water consumption, resulting in today’s current use of water trucks. However, as water official Tatiana Noguera accounts, these trucks are often robbed by gangs.

Unfortunately, it comes with little surprise that Venezuelans must resort to desperate measures in order to maintain water. Residents often purify water with vinegar, and carefully ‘recycle’ it from the kitchen to toilet. Some collect and recycle rainwater, as well.

Other consequences come in the form of limited electricity. Because 65 percent of Venezuela’s electricity relies on the Guri Dam, which has maintained low water levels, the country has undergone severe power shortages. Even Venezuela’s time zone has been altered in order to increase the amount of sunlight during the day by an extra 30 minutes.

Just like his predecessor Hugo Chavez, President Nicolas Maduro has not taken substantive action in order to counter this water pollution or shortage. Taxi driver Luis Felipe Pedroso comments on the lack of water: “On the days when it comes, it’s only for a few hours and it’s very dirty. This is unbelievable. The government hasn’t taken any measures to solve these problems.”

If the poor water quality in Venezuela is not addressed soon, diseases are likely to spread further. Given citizens’ limited access to medicine, this has seriously negative implications, especially considering the issue is one that is easily preventable. Therefore, the country’s leaders must take immediate action in order to secure the health of their citizens.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

El Nino And The Hunger In Papua New Guinea
Since the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon in mid-2015, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been struggling through frost, drought and widespread food and water shortages. The ENSO — a period of unpredictable fluctuations in temperatures and currents of the wind and sea — disrupted food production and ruined the livelihoods of the many who live there. Food prices had already sharply increased by the end of 2015. The limited availability of food supplies in the markets makes for an even higher risk of starvation and suffering, in addition to the regular problem of hunger in Papua New Guinea.

As one of the poorest countries in Asia, PNG has 37 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Diseases like malaria are taking an increased toll. People are already weakened by the hunger in PNG, making it difficult to fight off sickness. The weather phenomenon also devastated the crops last year due to frost and drought, leaving farmers with nothing to eat.

According to the World Food Programme, as many as 700,000 people in PNG are in need of food assistance. Hunger in Papua New Guinea has also been overlooked, as the government has not issued any requests for assistance or declarations of emergency, even though staples like sweet potatoes were destroyed by low rainfall throughout 2015. Frosts from July through October continued to damage crops the following year. In October, there were several local villagers who said they walked through red dust– something that is unseen in the area.

Although the government began investigating reports of deaths, especially due to hunger, many badly affected communities have yet to receive aid. The slow response is due to the fact that PNG has a rugged terrain. Many villages and communities are only accessible by a multi-day trek from the next town over, or by aircraft that is flown by a pilot trained to land on small strips in the middle of the jungle.

Several World Food Programme groups have been offering food aid since the ENSO hit in 2015. With the world working together as a whole, charity organizations have raised enough money and helped grow enough food to feed more than one million people in PNG. At this rate, PNG is expected to be out of its ENSO drought by 2020 and back to standard living rates, although those are well under the national poverty lines as well.

PNG’s villagers are starting to witness more green fields, running children, happy families and liveliness being restored into the country. They will soon be back to where they were, fighting the usual hunger in Papua New Guinea, and pushing for better lifestyles.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr

Southern Africa_Food
Particular regions of southern Africa are currently grappling with food crises caused by record-setting droughts. On top of this, a new crop-eater is singling out these vulnerable areas. In doing so, the crop-eater’s presence causes concern for a new food crisis in southern Africa.

The pest is called a “fall armyworm,” though it is far more caterpillar-like than that of a worm. The first report of an infestation came from South Africa’s agricultural department in early February, when they noted its arrival and unfamiliarity.

The fall armyworm does not originate in Africa and is instead proven to come from the Americas. Experts believe the invasion may have arrived on ships of maize imported from the Americas during the El Nino between 2015 and 2016. The same El Nino jumpstarted the droughts that southern Africa is still currently wrestling through.

Farmers have likened the infestation of this new, strange pest to “one of the 10 plagues in the Bible […] It’s widespread and seems to be spreading rapidly.”

Indeed, there are several problems caused by the fall armyworm that may induce a new food crisis in southern Africa.

The Dangers

  1. While the fall armyworm feeds off of a variety of crops, such as cotton, soybean and tobacco, it is primarily targeting southern Africa’s primary food staple — maize.
  2. An armyworm-infested crop is not noticeable until it’s too late. The pest conceals itself from farmers by digging straight into the stem of the maize. Up to three-quarters of the crop can be destroyed without visibility.
  3. The worm has spread to six countries in eight weeks. The armyworms eventually develop into moths that are capable of traveling long distances. Each moth can lay up to 2,000 eggs, and each egg has a rapid life cycle.
  4. The fall armyworms are invading right on the heels of a horrific drought. A food crisis in southern Africa on top of an already-existing food shortage could be catastrophic.

Currently, the fall armyworm has traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique. New reports are currently developing in Nigeria and Ghana. Unfortunately, the Americas—where the fall armyworm originates—first reported infestations in 1957 and have still been unable to find solutions to eradicate them. They are considered second only to the red locusts in terms of the amount of damage they are able to inflict.

The most farmers can do now is try to control the invasion through pesticides and careful watch for larva in the leaves of their crops.

In the meantime, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is holding an emergency meeting on this matter later this week in Zimbabwe.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr

Resilience and Readiness: Preparing for Natural Disasters in Myanmar
Over the past 20 years, 139,515 deaths have resulted from natural disasters in Myanmar. Myanmar has experienced more of these fatalities than almost every other nation, with the exceptions of Haiti and Indonesia. In order to better prepare for and combat future consequences of natural disasters, Myanmar is working to improve its disaster training and community resilience practices.

The aftermath of natural disasters takes a toll on any nation but is generally worse in low-income nations. Myanmar’s floods in summer 2015, for example, caused 132 deaths, destroyed 1.2 million acres of rice and resulted in economic losses equaling 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Another 400,000 lives were disrupted by flooding in summer 2016, with additional damages to 400,000 acres of paddy fields. Such frequent and widespread damages necessitate policies of prevention, rather than reaction.

Myanmar has committed to a region-wide funding system to promote disaster preparedness. The fund “is an expression of the solidarity shared within the region, as well as recognition that preparedness is less costly than response,” said Poonam Khetrepal Singh, the U.N. World Health Organization’s director for the Southeast Asia Region. This funding will allow Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries to invest in the infrastructure and human resources needed to improve disaster preparedness.

Recent conferences and training seminars have further sought to change the attitude of response to one of prevention. Training has been conducted through the Adaptation Fund’s project entitled, “Addressing Climate Change Risks on Water Resources and Food Security in the Dry Zone of Myanmar.”

This project seeks to enhance disaster preparedness through community-based prevention practices. Protecting against the effects of natural disasters in Myanmar is also embedded in the Constitution, and Parliament has discussed and approved prevention plans for the 2016 El Niño heatwave. Integrating this narrative into legislation presents a genuine commitment to institutionalizing preventative measures.

Preparation for natural disasters in Myanmar is especially important in the country’s Dry Zone. Plagued by scarce water, thin vegetation cover, severely eroded soil and chronic poverty, residents are very limited in their livelihood opportunities. By taking preventative measures to enhance development and minimize the risks of future disasters, the Adaptation Fund’s project and other resilience-oriented training prove dedication to mitigating disaster-related effects.

The International Day for Disaster Reduction, observed this year on Oct. 13, marked a call for collaboration on disaster preparedness and reduction. In his 2016 message, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon encouraged governments and civil society members to work together towards the common goal of risk reduction. The pursuit of disaster training and community resilience shows a commitment to proactive climate action and changing attitudes of disaster response to disaster prevention.

McKenna Lux

Photo: Flickr

Southern Africa After El Nino
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will contribute $127 million in humanitarian aid to Southern Africa to combat the effects of El Nino in the region. Funding from the U.N. and NGO partners will go to Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to combat drought and rebuild the region.

El Nino is the warming of the Equatorial Pacific that leads to increased rainfall in some areas and drought in others. USAID reports indicate that the funding will address the many needs of those harmed by the long-lasting effects of the phenomenon. These needs include health support, food assistance and treatment for people with HIV.

USAID also aims to provide Southern Africa with improved health, food and agricultural aid. However, Southern African countries still appealed for $2.8 billion to feed the millions of people affected by the drought.

The gap between what the region needs and what other nations have promised is not enough, especially since the number of those in need will increase as food becomes more scarce.

South African countries are not the only ones facing harm from El Nino. According to The Guardian, many countries in five continents are in states of emergency and are dealing with food insecurity. For example, Central America is suffering from the worst drought in decades.

El Nino will only become more difficult to predict, and could even double in its frequency over the next few decades due to human-induced climate change. An international effort to aid nations dealing with El Nino is necessary, especially from those nations who have contributed the most to carbon emissions.

Communities impacted by El Nino need more resilience to help them combat the ever-evolving phenomenon. Increased humanitarian aid from USAID and international programs will help those struggling through El Nino deal with the unpredictable future.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

Seven Facts About Hunger in Peru
In the South American country of Peru, culture runs deep. From the Andes to the Amazon rainforest, nearly half of the Peruvian population is of indigenous descent. Many of these people still hold ancestral beliefs and even practice traditional Incan medicine. Unfortunately, even the strongest Peruvian medicine men are not immune to the effects of hunger.

Here is a list of facts about hunger in Peru:
1. Up to 5.2 million Peruvians are vulnerable to food insecurity.
Food insecurity occurs when there is unreliable access to an affordable, nutritious food source. This can be caused by recurrent natural disasters, international commodity market fluctuations or limited purchasing power.

2. Peru is prone to natural disasters.
Whether a flood, drought or earthquake, it could happen in Peru. All of these disasters can destroy crops and cause people to lose access to food sources, significantly affecting nutrition.

3. El Niño is no friend to Peru.
Occurring between every three and seven years, El Niño has a warming effect. This warming causes fish stocks that Peru relies on to fall. Additionally, the weather pattern causes a variety of other natural disasters like droughts or severe flooding. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), these disasters can reduce Peru’s economy by up to five percent, drastically lowering the nutritional status of many citizens.

4. Cold waves are equally damaging.
With yearly cold waves come the deaths of not only hundreds of thousands of livestock, but crops and even people. These losses decrease the availability of food and labor and increase hunger in Peru.

5. Malnutrition affects 500,000 children in Peru.
Despite significant improvement in recent years, certain rural areas still see malnutrition rates of up to 35 percent of children under five years old.

6. Anemia may be just as prevalent.
Up to 46 percent of Peruvian children under the age of three years old are affected by anemia. Both malnutrition and anemia are products of widespread insufficient access to food, unhealthy eating patterns, lack of childcare, improper nutrition and low education levels.

7. The WFP is taking action to fight hunger in Peru.
Rather than providing food or money assistance to Peru, the WFP is now providing support to the government in order to implement food and nutrition programs as well as protect and strengthen current food security. A few of the ways these measures are being executed include advising school nutrition and meal planning, emergency response assistance and planning, and public education of ways to fight anemia in communities.

Hunger in Peru does not have to be devastating, and it is likely that with help from organizations like the WFP, Peru can make a strong comeback in the fight against hunger and its causes.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

El Nino

In response to the El Niño weather phenomenon, The Elders have asked that world leaders take initiative in filling the $2.5 billion gap in funding. This funding is necessary to alleviate the global effects of El Niño on poorer communities.

The Elders and their Cause

The Elders are a group of activists and advocates brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. They work together, using their influence and experience, to promote human rights, peace and justice on a global scale.

Their attention has turned toward the problem of human-induced climate change due to the effects of the El Niño weather event. This year brought the strongest El Niño yet, which led to numerous droughts and severe flooding in many areas.

While the weather pattern itself is over for the year, the aftermath is still very much present and widespread. A lack of water in many areas caused extensive crop loss and increased food prices.

Food shortages are running rampant in eastern and southern Africa as over 26 million children lack food security and 1 million suffer from severe malnutrition.

Food shortages, however, are not the only concern. El Niño also warms bodies of water, which in turn contributes to the spread of the Zika virus, a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

All of the issues associated with El Niño could lead to mass migration as communities are forced out of their regions by uninhabitable weather and poor health conditions.

Aid Options

The Elders have recommended two steps that governments can take to aid victims of El Niño.

The first step is to financially assist governments of climate-vulnerable countries by developing contingency plans and creating safety measures in the event of another climate-related crisis.

The second step is to create and agree upon a “concrete road map” at the United Nations Climate Conference. This road map will hopefully lead to funding the $100 billion annual commitment to climate action in developing countries by the year 2020.

The current climate crisis requires immediate aid but The Elders believe that El Niño also needs a long-term response.

Kofi Annan, chair of The Elders, addressed the most recent El Niño event in a letter to all world leaders.

“I am confident that your country will play its part in ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable people are protected now and into the future,” said Annan.

This sentiment reverberates to those struggling through El Niño’s devastation and serves as a reminder that global solutions require global support.

Jordan R. Little

Photo: Flickr