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State of Hunger in North Korea 
Hunger in North Korea is a well-known issue. While the picturesque depiction of the country’s capital city Pyongyang might show the improved food conditions of North Korea’s elites, food shortages still loom over the poor, rural populace. Multiple factors such as North Korea’s climate and governmental mismanagement contribute to the state of hunger in North Korea. The famine of 1990, for example, is one of the most well-documented famines in North Korea’s history.

The Causes of Food Shortages in North Korea

Just like many other aspects of North Korean life, the central government distributes the country’s food. In 2017, the U.N. estimated that 17.5 million, or 71.5 percent of the population, relied on the North Korean government’s pubic distribution of food for their family. The Food Procurement and Distribution Authority of the North Korean government sets average monthly rations for the upcoming month. According to this recommendation, the North Korean authorities review food availability in the country, and after this, they make decisions on whether the country needs to import food. However, recent statistics suggest that food rationing became more challenging between 2018 and 2019. Compared to the average of 1,529 kcal per day rations in 2018, an average North Korean family received 1,393 kcal per day in 2019.

The North Korean famine of the mid-1990s demonstrates the extensive damage food insecurity can have on a country’s population. North Korea suffered a major famine due to multiple factors including the fall of the Soviet Union, over-fertilization of farmland, multiple natural disasters and mismanagement of the food distribution system. Some researchers estimate that 600,000 to 1 million people died because of this famine. At the time, this was at least 2.3 percent of the North Korean population.

People know the children who grew up during this time as the Lost Generation. These children suffered from growth defects such as stunting, wasting and malnutrition due to the state of hunger in North Korea at that time. In September and October 1998, a joint survey that UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) conducted found that 62.3 percent of 1,762 North Korean children experienced stunting. However, the surveyors cautioned that they did not randomly select the children they surveyed. 

The Continuing Hunger

The impact and continuation of the great famine still shadow over North Korea. In 2019, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 10.1 million people in North Korea are either food insecure or in urgent need of food assistance. The same report pointed to multiple factors such as international sanctions, environmental conditions and governmental mismanagement as roots of hunger in North Korea. Historically, the North Korean government responded to the agricultural shortage by importing most of its food from other communist countries such as the Soviet Union and China. However, the Soviet Union and many other previously communist countries adopted the market economy. As a result, this made it much harder for North Korea to rely on the previous socialist-style barter system which supplied much of its food production and raw materials for its industry.

A Solution to Alleviate Hunger in North Korea

Food aid to North Korea is more than a simple international aid. There are multiple countries sending aid to North Korea, including China, South Korea, Russia, Canada and numerous other European countries. South Korea fulfilled its promise to donate $4.5 million to the WFP in 2019. In addition, South Korea announced that it will further provide 50,000 tons of rice as food aid to North Korea. The United States used to be the biggest provider of food aid to North Korea between 1995 and 2008. It provided over $1 billion in assistance, about 60 percent of which was food aid. However, the accountability of the North Korean regime’s use of this food aid is troubling.

Many skeptics of the food aid to North Korea believe that much of the past aid only fed North Korean leaders and the country’s military. David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, still asked the international community to support food aid to North Korea. Beasley said in an interview with the Guardian that “the concerns have been about not helping the regime. We make the case: don’t let innocent children suffer because of politics.” Beasley’s statement highlights the moral conundrum that many aid providers face when sending food aid to North Korea. However, the question of accountability is not something that one can ignore. In 2019, a North Korean farmer testified that she and her family did not receive or benefit from the food throughout the years.

The state of hunger in North Korea is both a humanitarian and a political issue. Donors of food aid to North Korea wish to help the starving populace of North Korea. However, the same donors also want to hold the North Korean regime accountable. On the one hand, people of North Korea are still suffering from malnutrition. Meanwhile, there are signs that the North Korean government is only providing food and aid to its rich and elite populace. However, the international community also hopes that the devastation of the great North Korean famine will not repeat itself. Many hope for the day when hunger will be a story of the past in North Korea.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in the DesertThe desert is an ecosystem that does not have adequate moisture and nutrients to grow food. People living in these areas often rely heavily on food imports because of this lack of fertile soil. Approximately 5 percent of land in the Middle East and North Africa regions has sufficient amounts of water. That small amount of viable land has suffered mismanagement, resulting in shortages and limitations in agricultural regrowth after natural disasters and war. Fortunately, scientists and organizations around the world are developing ways to boost food security in the desert. Luckily, there are two programs in Syria and the United Arab Emirates that are attempting to feed people in arid regions.

Hydroponics in Syria

The prolonged war in Syria has destroyed the once-booming agricultural industry, diminishing food security in the desert. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated the loss of the agricultural exports sector to be around $16 billion. This number does not include the destruction of fertile land and crops that fed the people of Syria.

British scientists brought green technologies to Syrian refugee camps to promote food security in the desert. Through these programs, refugees learn how to grow crops where fertilized soil is not available. This process uses recycled materials like mattresses; another process uses an indoor planting technique called hydroponics. Hydroponics is a growing technique that uses nutrient-rich water mixtures instead of soil to grow fruits and vegetables.

These projects allow people in refugee camps to become self-sufficient in terms of agriculture. Individuals can use these skills for future gardening and farming once resettled. The project has taught almost 1,000 people sustainable agriculture practices such as growing tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in refugee camps. Using technologies to grow vegetables in places with infertile land will help individuals and countries develop sustainability.

Pure Harvest in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates has a climate of severe heat. The high temperatures and harsh conditions present serious issues for conventional farming methods. Due to this extreme climate, the country imports roughly 80 percent of the total amount of food consumed. The emergence of sustainable and innovative agriculture occurred from the need for alternative farming methods.

Pure Harvest began the pursuit of climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouses in 2016. This company aims to help the UAE become more self-sufficient in the government’s efforts to improve food security in the desert. In 2018, the company’s soccer field-sized facility in the Abu Dhabi desert produced its first tomato plants. Since then, it has produced approximately two tons of tomatoes per day.

The success of the first greenhouse has gained positive attention around the world. More desert communities are interested in building greenhouses to increase food security in the desert. Not only do these greenhouses allow crops to grow in arid parts of the world, but they are also producing enough of a surplus to create an agricultural market economy to the desert.

The war-torn areas and severe climates pose threats to food security in the desert, and technology is a crucial tool for mitigating these threats. Innovative methods such as hydroponics in refugee camps and building greenhouses on infertile land are just the start of a transformation that will provide more self-sufficiency and food security in the desert.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in KenyaKenya and other nations in East Africa are under siege from a plague of billions and billions of locusts “in numbers not seen in generations,” according to the Washington Post. The locusts are from Somalia and Yemen, where conflict inhibits governments from stopping the locusts’ breeding. Meanwhile, climate change has caused unseasonable rains in East Africa, which is in the locusts’ migration path, the destination of which is lush feeding grounds further inland. Here is more information about the plagues of locusts in Kenya.

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The desert locusts have been a problem for East Africa since the beginning of 2020 if not sooner. The U.N. anticipates that the problem will worsen by the summer. Specifically, some project the number of locusts to multiply 500 times by June 2020. This is the greatest locust threat that Kenya has experienced in the last 70 years, and the U.N. fears that more countries are at risk too.

The Causes of the Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The plague of locusts is due to a confluence of factors, namely climate-change-related events and armed-conflict, which exacerbated the issue. The locusts, which first ravaged the arid counties of Mandera and Wajir in north-eastern Kenya, came from Ethiopia and Somalia.

The weather in Kenya and elsewhere in the region has been unseasonably wet and hot due to climate-change-related cyclones in the Arabian Peninsula in May and October 2018. These conditions are perfect for generations of locust eggs to breed and hatch.

Climate change has worsened the locust problem because it has caused the warming of the Indian Ocean. This is responsible for increased and more severe tropical cyclones in the area. Furthermore, the warm temperatures aid the locust eggs in hatching and the winds help the locusts to spread. In addition, people cannot spray insecticide to control the locusts while it rains.

The Plague’s Effects

The most devastating effect of the plague of locusts is that it threatens the food security of the Kenyan people and the surrounding sub-region of Africa. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) considers desert locusts to be one of the most dangerous flying pests because they can fly long distances and thus migrate in a short period of time.

Each locust can eat its own weight in food every day, so when a swarm the size of Luxembourg descends upon Kenya, that is a huge problem. In fact, that number of locusts can eat the same amount of food as 10s of millions of people. The plague of locusts is a threat to the Kenyan economy, which is dependent on its agricultural exports. In 2019, the agricultural sector made up 26 percent of the country’s GDP. Due to these economic problems, Kenya’s currency could depreciate, which would be catastrophic.

International Response

The U.N.’s FAO has called on the international community to provide aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, malnutrition” from the unprecedented and devastating swarms of locusts. According to the FAO, aerial control, meaning insecticide that an aircraft sprays, is the only way to deal with the locusts, which local and national authorities have not been able to adequately deal with.

Kenya and other nations in East Africa are facing a perfect storm of climate-change-related weather events and conflicts in surrounding countries that have led to an unprecedented plague of locusts with the potential to cause famine. This locust plague is evidence of how climate change causes real damage to humans, most frequently from developing countries. Thus, the world must address the root cause of climate change to prevent catastrophic events like this from happening in the future.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

How Desert Locusts Impact Global Poverty
With the rainy season falling upon Africa, a number of countries are rushing to take action against a catastrophic swarm of desert locusts currently in several regions. This swarm might be the most destructive of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia and the worst that has hit Kenya in over 70 years. People can predominantly find the insects in regions across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have the ability to eat their own weight in food, which poses a challenge to crop production in arid climates. Rain and planting seasons begin in March, meaning that efforts to contain infestation must happen quickly before the situation becomes too drastic and the locusts impact global poverty too severely.

Read more below for information on what desert locusts are, their impact on global poverty and the preventative measures that affected countries must take in order to address the destruction that will cut across these regions in 2020.

Desert Locusts

Desert locusts are the oldest and most dangerous migratory pests. They are short-horned insects that are part of the grasshopper species, but they differ in that they have the ability to alter their behavior in order to migrate across large distances. These migrations can easily become highly concentrated and mobile.

These locusts usually travel in swarms, containing up to 40 million insects that can consume enough food for 34 million people in a short period of time. They are able to stay in the air for a long time, meaning that they can regularly cross the Red Sea at a distance of 300 kilometers.

These swarms have already crossed into areas like Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. They typically form under heavy rain conditions, where they travel in search of food. Desert locusts are among the most destructive migratory pests because they not only threaten food security but economic and environmental development as well.

People can spray them with pesticides as a control measure, but it is not always preventative. Both humans and birds regularly eat them, but not enough to reduce swarms of a large size. Current environmental conditions that cause frequent droughts, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and floods have created the perfect atmosphere for locusts to breed.

Locusts’ Contribution to Global Poverty

Desert locusts primarily reside in the arid deserts of Africa and near east and southwest Asia and the Middle East. This poses a severe challenge to herders and may potentially cause communal conflict as herders move in search of pastures and other grazing lands.

Desert locusts consume as much food as 20 camels, six elephants or 350,000 people in a day. It is in this way that locusts impact global poverty because with large invasions in east Africa, where 2.5 million people are already facing severe hunger, there is a clear challenge in regards to the global poverty epidemic. The food crisis will deepen and grazing lands will no longer be able to sustain sufficient crop production, which will lead to an even more economic downturn for several African countries.

Solutions

The quickest vehicle for prevention is spraying pesticides or biopesticides in the air. Natural predators exist, but desert locusts can escape pretty quickly due to their mobility.

The United Nations (U.N.) has publicly called for international aid in alleviating the destruction that will inevitably arise from these swarms. Desert locusts will compromise food security all over Africa, which will, in turn, lead to higher poverty rates as people scramble for food. Its office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has allocated about $10 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund. This will help fund aerial operations that can enforce infestation control better.

The Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) is currently calling to raise about $76 million from donors and other organizations in order to limit how desert locusts impact global poverty. So far, it has raised approximately $20 million, which is largely from the U.N.’s emergency fund. The numbers should increase as the locusts travel larger distances and spread to more areas.

Desert locust swarms are growing at an exponential rate. Projections determine that they will increase by 500 times in East Africa by June 2020, which invokes even more of a humanitarian crisis as food shortage will impact millions of people.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Locust Swarms in Ethiopia
Brutal locust swarms have been decimating the food supply of Ethiopia and other African nations. Over 40 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP comes from agriculture, specifically the cultivation of grains like wheat and barley. Locust swarms attack the food supply of the livestock as well, of which Ethiopians consume at a much higher standard than most developing countries. Ethiopia consumes 15 kilograms of meat annually, 50 percent of which is beef. Locust swarms plaguing East Africa have the potential to create a famine that threatens to starve the people of Ethiopia. Here are some facts regarding the locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia recently.

7 Facts About the Locust Swarm Crisis in Ethiopia

  1. The locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia threatens to plunge several Eastern countries into famine. The United Nations (U.N.) has released a call to action, asking other nations around the world to provide $76 million for relief efforts in order to spray the affected areas with insecticide. This is one of the only ways to quell this impending famine.
  2. Ethiopia is no stranger to this kind of epidemic, as a similar influx of locust swarms preyed upon nearly 100 percent of green plant cover in Northern Ethiopia back in 1954. This locust swarm, along with extreme drought that year, plunged Ethiopia into a year-long famine.
  3. The locust’s ability to fly over 150 kilometers in one day makes it a traveling crop reaper. A single locust swarm, containing 40 million locusts, can consume the amount of food required to feed 35,000 people in a single day. This is the largest locust swarm Ethiopia has faced in 25 years.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in order to monitor prime breeding locations of locusts to effectively eradicate them before a full-blown infestation comes to fruition. USAID also backs the research of naturally-occurring pest control agents over harmful chemicals.
  5. USAID aids in coordination with national authorities in order to quickly locate swarm locations so every party has the preparation to eliminate the swarms. Local farmhands and herdsmen often alert locust control staff when people have spotted locusts in a particular area, playing a primary role in the prevention of locust swarms. Locusts tend to destroy crops very quickly, so it is important for locust control staff to know whether it is necessary to intervene with the local sightings and data they collect.
  6. Biologist Arianne Cease believes that the practice of overgrazing livestock creates more severe locust swarms. The land management that farmers implement creates a humid climate that is perfect for spawning locusts. Cease says that farmers should feed crops to their livestock that are optimal for that specific animal and not for locusts. For example, locusts thrive on a high carbohydrate crop, such as the grain that farmers grow in Ethiopia, while a sheep thrives on a high protein crop. Therefore, selecting the right crop and not overgrazing can decrease the severity of swarms, according to Arianne Cease.
  7. Dr. Cease has begun working with over 1,000 Mongolian farmers at a university for agriculture in order to implement these farming strategies, all with the hope of decreasing locust swarm sizes, such as the city-sized swarm currently plaguing Ethiopia.

One locust swarm can threaten Ethiopia’s entire food security. With the right precautionary measures like selective crop growing, moderate grazing and reporting locust sightings to international and local authorities, Ethiopia and the rest of the East African nations that these swarms plague can work together to mitigate the destruction that these pesky insect swarms caused.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

Droughts in Zimbabwe
Temperatures in southern Africa are notable for their fluctuation which commonly causes climate disasters. These disasters are particularly devastating to Zimbabwe’s rural population of approximately 16 million people and its substantial community of farmers. The country’s landscape has suffered significant damage from unprecedented weather, particularly droughts. Efforts to scale up governmental assistance have skyrocketed since January 2019, which has accounted for much of the rise in the price of basic commodities. Below is a brief history of droughts in Zimbabwe, the many implications that they cause and the solutions that different aid efforts have come to.

History of Drought

Zimbabwe has a long history of droughts, which have cumulatively caused an increase in poverty. On a regional scale, droughts often result in crop failure, loss of livestock and wildlife and power outages. A report from the World Food Programme indicates that as of 2019, an estimated 2.3 million people suffered from poverty as a result of the country’s worst hunger crisis thus far. Citizens turn to government officials to assist in food shortages, and while weather within the region is a determining factor in food production, it is mostly up to different organizations to provide varied forms of food security.

The country’s worst drought happened in 1992, which many consider the most destructive one Zimbabwe faced in the 20th century. Water shortages forced the shutdown of many industries and schools. Due to poor harvests that year, regions across southern Africa faced a short-term supply in their food reserves. Zimbabwe’s food shortages caused a ripple effect, with aggravated food production compromising foods like corn to countries like Mozambique, which relied on Zimbabwe’s exports. Due to low rainfall, communal area farmers did not have any suitable locations for food production.

Solutions and Aid

Shortly after the regional drought, the humanitarian agency Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) worked with Zimbabwe in order to build developmental programs that would increase accessibility to clean water and food. Programs that pilot cleaner VIP latrines, reinforce sexual and reproductive health and develop financial advocacy should increase household income, alleviate food insecurity and improve better access to markets.

In 2016, Zimbabwe declared a drought disaster as an estimated five million people faced food shortages. Shifts in weather patterns were a direct result of El Nino and La Nina, which refer to the periodic changes in sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

The International Rescue Committee works to alleviate many of the economic struggles in Zimbabwe. Started in 2008 after a devastating cholera outbreak, the organization provides support to those afflicted by natural disasters. It will extend its strategy action plan to 2020, continuing to transfer direct cash transfers to low-income households, provide vouchers to farmers, assist in getting more food for livestock, deliver medical and emergency supplies, drill deeper wells and rehabilitate water plants.

The World Food Programme also plans to assist up to two million people in 2020. By March 2020, predictions determine that nearly 59 percent of rural households—5.5 million people—will be food insecure or in poverty. An estimated $173 million is necessary to allocate support to these regions. Many are saying that the hunger crisis will peak during the first three months of 2020, which is elevating the level of urgency for funding.

Recent Drought

Zimbabwe experienced another drought in December 2019, which ignited the worst hunger crisis the country has faced in nearly a decade. It has entered a “Phase 3” food crisis, which is just two steps below large-scale famine. Predictions estimate that this will extend into 2020, as poor macro-economy and germination rates continually affect crop production. In November 2019, farmers received only 55 percent of normal rainfall. Livestock losses have reached 2.2 million people in urban areas and 5.5 million in rural ones. An emergency operation is underway by the World Food Programme in order to assist the 7.7 million people who plunged into hunger. Partnerships with UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are leading to more international efforts for resilience programs.

Implications of Drought

These droughts carry many logistical implications, leading to economic struggles as inflation rates go up, farmers undergo crop failure and food supplies grow scarce. Clean water, medical supplies and nourishing foods have become inaccessible and render much of the population food insecure and poverty-stricken.

Droughts in Zimbabwe hold many implications for the country’s current hunger crisis. Varying aid efforts are slowly pushing the region to a progressive standpoint. The limitations of food security, when it comes to natural hazards like droughts, illustrate a need to offer more aid to regions stricken by climate disasters. Efforts to mobilize aid in southern African are essential to curbing economic decline and creating sustainable communities.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

environmental factors affecting impoverished communities
The environment can have profound effects on impoverished communities by being a huge force in either aiding or hindering developing countries. Those facing extremely impoverished conditions often rely almost solely on the health of their environment in order to sustain a clean, resourceful and plentiful living environment. An abundance of varying environmental factors like temperature, average rainfall, wildlife, water sources, soil nutrients and pollution levels can contribute to the general well-being of citizens in impoverished communities. Meanwhile, a lack of resources that could improve significant environmental factors in comparison to the more advantaged higher-class community can put impoverished communities at an automatic disadvantage. The quality of water, the availability of natural resources and the vulnerability to natural disasters are all aspects of how the environment affects impoverished communities.

Quality of Water

Water sources available to a community can come in many forms and are critical to the everyday life of communities in poverty; the quality of local water sources and the resources available to maintain good quality water are examples of how the environment can have an effect on poor communities. Citizens of impoverished communities often cook, clean, drink, fish, irrigate their crops and bathe in shared water sources. This shows just how critical the quality of this water can be to an entire community.

Low-infrastructure regarding water filtration and purification can cause an increase in health problems. One of these health problems can be cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease common in impoverished communities due to water contamination. The accumulation of trash, dumping of hazardous materials and daily reliance on a source of water can cause contamination.

Availability of Natural Resources

Natural resources also assist in a community’s prosperity and serve as an example of how the environment affects impoverished communities. A rural community often relies on natural resources like agriculture and soil quality, livestock and genetic diversity and forests and fisheries for multiple reasons. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed the positive effects of maintaining natural resources in impoverished communities. The study successfully expanded access to land in South Africa, increased access and management of forests in Bolivia, supported the sustainable management of watersheds in India, improved access and management of fisheries in Samoa and enabled the poor to be a part of the carbon market in Mexico. The FAO study also exhibits that an increase in natural resources can increase job opportunities for local citizens. More consideration and funding for natural resources, as well as education, can increase the well-being of an impoverished community.

Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

An impoverished community often faces increased vulnerability due to the devastating effects of natural disasters. Some natural disasters are hurricanes, tornados or tsunamis. The World Bank study reports that the effects of natural disasters cost the global economy $520 billion a year. This estimate is 60 percent higher than any previous estimate once it properly considered impoverished communities. Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable because there are few prevention and action emergency plans due to improper resources. Stronger government support and improved technology to better prepare for upcoming disasters could decrease the risk of detrimental effects.

A significant disadvantage low-class communities face compared to higher-class communities occurs because of an extreme lack of infrastructure, funding towards protecting natural resources and governmental prevention and action plans in the event of a natural disaster. Studies by the FAO and The World Bank demonstrate the importance of even one factor of the environment that affects impoverished communities. Once impoverished communities can put more focus into taking care of the environment, they can start building themselves from the ground up.

– Kat Fries
Photo Credits: Google

Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr