Productive Safety Net ProgramAccess to safe and adequate food is a basic human right under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, food insecurity has been a persistent issue around the world for decades. One key country that has suffered from high rates of food-insecurity is Ethiopia, with around 32 million people living in a state of hunger or malnourishment. However, in 2005, the Ethiopian Government implemented a new way to help meet the needs of vulnerable households through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).

Food Insecurity and its Effects on Health

Food security is a vital aspect of health and well-being. The main causes of food insecurity can be attributed to many influences such as low rates of agricultural production, shortage of water and poor sanitation, climate change and natural disasters, among a plethora of other factors.

Furthermore, food insecurity can have significant consequences on communities both in economic terms and in the effect of the physical health of individual members of the community. Research has shown that food insecurity is associated with increased health risks such as cognitive development problems in children, general malnutrition, higher incidents of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and many other ailments.

The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP)

As rates of food insecurity grew across sub-Saharan Africa, the Ethiopian Government created the PSNP in 2005 in order to provide a more productive and systematic approach to aid vulnerable populations. As explained by the World Bank report on the program, “The PSNP incorporates a number of interesting features, such as public works activities geared towards improving climate resiliency; a risk financing facility to help poor households and communities to better cope with transitory shocks and the use of targeting methods that assist the most climate-vulnerable community members to obtain the full benefits of consumption smoothing and asset protection.”

Results and Impacts of the Program

The Ethiopian Government faced many challenges in implementing this program, such as difficulties in balancing female participation in public work programs and household responsibilities. However, PSNP has shown a positive impact on Ethiopia’s food-insecurity rates and therefore further expanded efforts from 2010 to 2014 with improved strategies and implementation tactics.

As a result of these efforts, the PSNP is credited with the reduction of poverty rates in Ethiopia by two percentage points as of 2014. Furthermore, the program successfully benefited more than one million participants as well as their families. Research shows that the program improved both food security rates and led to a reduced number of months households went without sufficient food. Not only did the program positively affect food insecurity rates throughout Ethiopia, but the PSNP also aided in the improvement of the general health and well-being of many individuals.

The Promise of PSNP for the Future

As recognized around the world, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program has been widely successful in aiding the country’s impoverished population and improving Ethiopia’s food security rates. Because this program targets food insecurity through agricultural aid, financial aid and structural aid, these strategies have helped to create a strong foundation for these vulnerable populations. Although this program has encountered obstacles in its execution, the PSNP continues to show promise in combatting extreme poverty and food insecurity throughout Ethiopia.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Starvation in Asia
The number of deaths from starvation in Asia is significant in many different regions, including South-East Asia and South Asia. Several global organizations including the United Nations have come forward to claim that malnutrition and a lack of food distribution are major global issues.

The Facts About Starvation

In 2018, Time Magazine reported that nearly half a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region suffered from starvation. Meanwhile, according to Mercy Corps, nine million people die from starvation every year, which is more than the deaths from malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Whilst the causes of starvation-related deaths vary from region to region, there are common factors that have lead to their increase. Using India as an example, the organization Action Against Hunger lists poverty, low availability of food, disease, climate change and violent conflicts as just a few factors that contribute to malnutrition and starvation rates.

Whilst no one knows the exact number of deaths from starvation in Asia, the website Hunger Notes breaks down undernourishment based on region. According to Hunger Notes, South-East Asia, including areas such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and South Asia, comprising of India and Pakistan, account for the highest percentage of undernourished citizens. Over half (56.5 percent) suffers undernourishment and 27.8 percent of South-East Asia’s population does not have adequate nourishment.

The facts from Action Against Hunger mentioned earlier, provide a clear indication as to why the South Asia region has such a high malnutrition rate. As for South-East Asia, according to a World Bank report, some of the underlying causes of malnutrition for Vietnam include diseases, infections, parasites and a lack of food security. The rate of starvation in South Asia has seen a 6.6 percent increase in growth from 1992 to 2014 in the percentage of the world’s hungry people. The organization explains that both an increase in global malnutrition and an increase in malnutrition in the region have caused this. India alone accounts for 22.3 percent of the world’s malnutrition rate, according to Action Against Hunger. Meanwhile, UNICEF states that the malnutrition rate in South Asia has decreased since published its report. In 2018, the malnutrition rate stood at 27 percent, compared to the reported 37.5 percent in 2014.

Organizations Fighting Against Starvation in Asia

Mercy Corps, Action Against Hunger and Food Aid are helping to fight against deaths from starvation in Asia. The Mercy Corps aims to assist farmers by providing them with what they need to help supply their regions with food and improve sustainability. According to The Mercy Corps, there has been a 17 percent increase in the amount of food on a per-person basis in the last 30 years. The Mercy Corps also states that whilst the world produces enough food to supply the population, the distribution of that food is the real cause of starvation and deaths from starvation both in Asia and worldwide.

Action Against Hunger aims to provide emergency care for malnourished children and help governments give their people clean water and improved nutrition. In 2018, it worked with the Indonesian Ministry of Health on a joint project to help fight malnutrition. In 2018, Action Against Hunger provided over 1,800 people in Indonesia with food security programs and livelihood programs. It also assisted the Indonesian government in creating a Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition Project that helped provide sanitary water to the people of Indonesia.

Food Aid works as a global food pantry, providing unused food to communities in need. It has also helped supply soup kitchens, welfare programs and families with the food necessary to function.

Whilst the number of deaths from starvation in Asia continue to be a part of the larger issue of global starvation, there have been progressive strides towards improving the statistics. The United Nations, however, did warn in its 2018 report that these numbers need to fall much quicker in order for the world to see a significant change in global malnutrition. Several global organizations have been working to help fix the major problem areas, though, such as food distribution, sustainability, hydration and malnutrition among youth.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in MaliAfrica is the only continent in the world in which poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. In a vast country with an undiversified economy, Malian households are especially vulnerable to poverty food insecurity.

Recently, Mali has faced “shocks” to its economic profile, including from a partial drought and internal strife. A 2013 World Bank study found that a 25 percent increase in cereal prices and 25 percent decrease in cereal production would push over 600,000 individuals to food insecurity levels in Mali. In addition, sustainably high population growth rates have risen the number of malnourished individuals in the country.

Effects of Child Malnutrition in Mali

While millions of Malians of all ages are affected by food insecurity, malnutrition is the second highest cause of death of children under the age of five. Almost 900,000 Mali children are at risk of global acute malnutrition in Mali, including 274,000 facing severe malnutrition and at risk of imminent death, according to UNICEF and the World Bank. To put this in the context of the country’s population, a 2013 World Bank study found that 44 percent of Malian households have at least one chronically malnutritioned child.

Malnutrition leads to devastating, long-lasting effects on young people. Research by an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Ana Lydia Saway, shows that malnutrition is linked to higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production. These are all factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life. 

How Mali is Combatting the Issue

Child malnutrition in Mali is a significant concern, requiring action and deserving worldwide attention. But a major problem limiting international assistance comes in the form of funding for aid.

In May, UNICEF reported that limited donor interest in the region has made it increasingly difficult for the organization to provide children with therapeutic food necessary to combat malnutrition. Funding for humanitarian organizations is low, as nearly 80 percent of UNICEF’s $37 million call for humanitarian aid for the year 2018 has not been raised.

“The children of Mali are suffering in silence, away from the world’s attention,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said during a visit to the country this year. “Amid increasing violence, more children are going hungry, missing out on learning and dying in the first days of life.”  

Still, community and international-based organizations are working to mitigate the effects of child malnutrition in Mali. For example, in the capital of Ségou Centre, the local population, with the help of the World Bank and Swiss Corporation agency, is working to provide necessary social services to its commune.

The third phase of this project involved the decentralizing of health facilities, which were starchly underequipped. The commune recently constructed a community health center, showing promising bottom-up action within Mali. Other organizations are helping out to create sustainable progress in development, including Groundswell International.

Furthermore, farmers and processors in Mali have been working together to increase the presence of Misola flour to combat malnutrition. During processing, vitamins and minerals are added to the flour, targeting those with nutritional deficiencies. 

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that Misola can help rehabilitate undernourished children and help those with depressed immune systems. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” Fernand Rolet, co-President of the Misola Association, said. 

Overcoming Child Malnutrition Globally

Rwanda provides a prime example that overcoming child malnutrition is possible. The nation, which has a similar wealth level to Mali, has made progress in lowering malnutrition levels. A 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Access Report found that the level of stunting in young children dropped seven percent from three years prior. In Rwanda, the World Food Programme has been largely active, supplying food assistance such as providing meals for thousands of primary school children.

Combating malnutrition is an ongoing struggle, especially in Africa. Due to poor economic conditions and food scarcity, malnutrition continues to take the lives of thousands of children in Mali each year. Although citizens have founded programs to improve child nutrition and the issue is on humanitarian aid organizations’ radars, it is clear that more effort is needed to eradicate the problem. With continued efforts, child malnutrition in Mali will begin to decline.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

social responsibility marketing
Consumers in 2018 have no problem accessing information. In a time where finding a company’s track record is a mouse-click away, reputation is key. A scandal gone viral can be the only thing needed to affect an otherwise strong company.

In 2017, United Airlines experienced this firsthand. A video showing officials dragging a passenger off a flight lead to uproar across the world. Many wanted a complete boycott of the airline, a frequent result of company scandals.

Most companies are not handling a major PR crisis like United’s. But that does not mean that positive brand image is any less critical to success. Millennial consumers have steadily-increasing purchasing power in the global economy, providing a unique challenge. To appeal to millennial consumers, companies must recognize value differences from previous generations.

Prioritizing social responsibility marketing (SRM) is one of these differences. This strategy focuses on customers wanting to make a difference through their purchases. Social responsibility marketing takes many forms. Sustainable packaging, volunteer-focused ad campaigns and product donations are all possible SRM strategies.

A majority of millennial consumers look for social responsibility marketing when purchasing. This age demographic expects companies to be upfront with social responsibility, spending more on ethical, helpful products. But the shift toward social responsibility is more than an opportunity for a company. For the millions that struggle with food and water insecurity globally, SRM is good news.

Here are the top four ways that social responsibility marketing helps fight poverty.

  1. By Providing Food
    With consumers pushing for social responsibility, ground campaigns are a frequent response. The intention of these programs is to provide aid, such as food and water, directly to those in need. Notable companies have launched major campaigns that do exactly that.
    Kraft Heinz Company set a goal to provide one billion meals by the year 2021. By doing so, Kraft Heinz Company has shown a company priority for social responsibility. Given the impact on global poverty of so many donated meals, the situation is a true win-win.
  1. By Empowering Women
    A branding focus toward social responsibility marketing can provide unique benefits to women. Consumers have pushed companies toward sourcing their products in a socially-responsible way. With increased attention on sourcing, programs to hire women and offer products made by women in developing nations have emerged.
    Coca-Cola launched an initiative to hire five million women by 2020. In the age of social responsibility marketing, this is hardly out of the ordinary for a company to do.
  1. By Helping at the Corporate Level
    Besides helping those in need, SRM helps companies be successful. A company that is socially-responsible can use social responsibility to connect with consumers. By helping improve global conditions, a company creates positive brand associations. These positive brand associations are critical to customer loyalty. With people placing high importance on social responsibility, that loyalty is essential.
  1. By Preserving the Environment
    Changing consumer preferences push companies toward behaviors that help the environment. In practice of implementing an SRM strategy, making products has changed. Processes have become better for the environment and produce fewer pollutants.
    Beyond socially-conscious production materials, basic operations have become better for the environment too. A focus on minimizing waste and maximizing resources has emerged. Recycling and conservation have become standards, not perks. For the environment, this push is long overdue.

On the whole, social responsibility marketing has changed the way companies do business. Consumers continue to demand better practices from companies, and companies are listening.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

food for all africaElijah Amoo Addo was the head chef at a restaurant in Accra, Ghana. It was here he saw a homeless, mentally challenged man shuffling through the dumpster to find food to feed himself, and friends, living on the street. After witnessing the man looking for food, Addo decided that the unused food from his restaurant would no longer be thrown away, but rather be used to feed people in need. This was just the beginning of what was to become Food For All Africa.

Researching Solutions

The first step Addo took in acting out his vision was starting an advocacy group to research the issues surrounding food insecurity in Ghana. Furthermore, he created a social intervention program.

Through this research, Addo learned that the Ghanaian government prioritized the ‘building [of] a sustainable food system’. In Ghana, one of West Africa’s most developed countries, nearly one-third of the population is living on less than $1.25 a day. As a result of the low income, many do not obtain the proper amount of food.

Launching Food for All Africa

After seeing the results of his research, Addo quit his job, opting to apply to the West Africa Regional Leadership Center. With the leadership knowledge and business skills Addo developed, he launched Food for All Africa. Its mission statement is “To create sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable in society.”

Addo and his team at Food for All Africa aim to reduce food waste. They create efficient nutrition systems for low-income communities by redistributing leftover food from restaurants. Additionally, they work with rural farmers to use their produce at urban hospitality companies.

The Food for All Africa organization also facilitates discussions regarding the food supply chain. It considers areas which need to be improved as well as creating a more sustainable food supply chain throughout Africa.

The Far-Reaching Impact of Food for All Africa

Currently, the organization gets $5,700 worth of food from businesses within the food supply chain, each month to contribute to the food bank. Food For All Africa provides about 48,000 meals to people annually.

Food for All Africa is hoping to reach and impact 1 million low-income people by 2020. To help achieve this goal, the organization is working with orphanages, schools as well as vulnerable communities.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

In Tanzania, Africa, many children struggle just to get a meal. Tanzania has suffered from reoccurring droughts throughout the region that make farming difficult and food scarce. However, since 2002, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided school meals of rice and beans for more than 100,000 students a day throughout the country.

With the proper amount of food, the students have more energy and are able to focus on their schoolwork. School attendance rates have increased since the program was installed. The Food for Education program isn’t limited to Tanzania; it has also reached hundreds of thousands of students in Guatemala, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Overall, the program has reached 40 million students in 24 countries.

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program does more than just provide school lunches. It also plants school gardens, teaches farming techniques, and involves parents in cooking and donating food in order to allow local communities to take responsibility for school meals.

Due to the severe droughts in Tanzania, prices for basic groceries have increased significantly. The droughts have also put a large strain on livestock because of the lack of water and pastures. Maize prices rose by 25 percent in a 12-month period beginning in 2016.

The McGovern-Dole Food for Education program doesn’t limit itself to improving the wellbeing of schoolchildren. It helps families of all stages by offering nutrition programs for pregnant and nursing women, infants and preschoolers. These programs are run by nonprofits and the United Nations World Food Program.

The U.S. budget proposal for the next year has zeroed out the funding for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. The meals these students need to thrive in school are now at risk of disappearing, although according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Congress seems to be leaning toward a rejection of the administration’s proposal.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KenyaHunger in Kenya is a prominent issue, with more than 600,000 Kenyans in urgent need of food aid after the region was hit by a drought, which started in February when most farmers were preparing for planting season. The weather has dried up waterholes and rivers leading to crop failure.

The Kenyan government has promised to release 50 million Kenya shillings, or $5 million, to be used to purchase food aid, but the government has yet to release the funds. West Pokot deputy governor Titus Lotee said, “We have started distributing food but the 4,000 bags of maize is not enough,” and called on humanitarian organizations to help fight the hunger in Kenya.

Action Against Hunger has implemented a strategy for 2015–2017 in Kenya in order to address two main pillars: ending the drought emergency and addressing all forms of malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger has strengthened its approach to addressing health problems in Kenya by implementing programs in nutrition, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene. Thus far, 275,552 people have received nutritional support and 25,060 people have accessed safe water and sanitation.

Another charity, Feed the Children, provides access to food, water and schooling in four of Kenya’s counties. The organization focuses on the most vulnerable: malnourished children under the age of five, pregnant and lactating women, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Feed the Children has built water pans and rainwater harvesting systems, which can hold water for up to seven months after the rain stops for the year. The Australian government assisted Feed the Children in building 35 latrines in six schools and supplied 8,000-cubic-meter water tanks to seven schools.

The Feed Hungry Children in Kenya project is providing health clinics, where children are weighed and measured and given food supplements. Poor families are given a food ration of beans and maize each month.

In addition to the two organizations, the World Food Programme works with Feed the Children to serve regular meals to children in 170 schools throughout Kenya in hopes of mitigating the crisis.

These humanitarian organizations will work to tackle starvation and hunger in Kenya until the country’s food availability problem improves.

Jackie Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Food Aid in SyriaIn the first week of August, the U.N. flexed its creative muscle to provide food aid in Syria to internally displaced Syrians by hoisting supplies via crane over the walled-off Jordanian border. The process was monitored by drones on the other side.

The border was sealed following a June attack on the Jordanian military. The border closure is problematic for a number of reasons, one being that the World Food Programme (WFP) and other U.N. partners previously delivered supplies from Jordan to the 75,000 people living the area.

WFP representative and country director in Jordan, Mageed Yahia said that most of the people living in the region are women, children and the elderly. Many of these individuals are sick or wounded, and none of them have regular access to food or medicine.

The BBC reports that thousands of people have been migrating to this point at the border, a heavily entrenched area known as the berm since late last year. The number has ballooned because of strict immigration restrictions imposed by Jordan, limiting those who are allowed to cross. Of the 4.85 million Syrians registered as refugees with the U.N., 655,000 are hosted by Jordan.

Five years of war have left Syria broken, beaten and scarred, but there are still some 18 million people living in the country. Outside of the capital, Damascus, the Syrian people struggle to get by; 13.5 million of them are said to need humanitarian aid.

The war has destroyed Syria’s economy with an estimated cost of $255 billion, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. Unemployment stands at over 50 percent, a 36 percent increase since 2011. And yet, there are still those who have not given up hope.

The WFP and other organizations came together to devise this unconventional program of food aid in Syria in the spirit of providing temporary relief to those on the other side. The partners delivered 650 metric tons of aid to two locations over three days.

Of note, 70-meter-high cranes lifted pallets over the border in Rukban and Hadalat, lowering them into encampments on the other side. Items delivered included food from WFP, bread from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and hygiene kits from UNICEF.

The WFP is calling this operation a “one-off distribution,” and says that a long-term solution is necessary to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of displaced and hungry Syrians in the area. The Jordanian government has said that it will not allow future aid deliveries to the area due to concerns over security.

This instance of food aid in Syria may have been a singular effort, but it provided food to people who had not received aid in months. Furthermore, officials at the U.N. and the WFP are using their best efforts to come up with a sustainable, long-term solution to the problem.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MadagascarAs the weather changes from the 2015–2016 El Niño, its impact is still felt around the globe. For already drought-prone Madagascar, this means continued crop failure and a widespread need for emergency food aid. As rain has failed and market prices have risen, 1.1 million Malagasy have lost their food source, compounding the hardships already felt by many as a result of enduring poverty in Madagascar.

While residents of Madagascar have faced significant periods of drought over the years, failing crops and widespread malnutrition, accompany one of their worst droughts in recent history. By some estimates, over 80 percent of the country has lost a source of steady food supply as a result of those crop failures. The subsequent rising of market prices has compounded the problem.

Food scarcity and market fluctuations in Madagascar mean increased hunger for one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Already, 70 percent of Malagasy people suffer from malnutrition, and the average inhabitant earns $1 a day.

Of those Malagasy people suffering from malnutrition, approximately one million are children. Children under the age of five are quite vulnerable to stunted growth as a result. Due to poverty in Madagascar, such stunting occurs there at one of the five highest rates in the world.

Compounding the many issues related to poverty in Madagascar is the lack of aid they receive. Its isolation as an island nation causes some to argue that inhabitants’ needs are frequently overlooked. The urgency of the crisis can also cause the aid which does arrive to be less effective. For example, for the starving residents of one Southern Madagascar town, when their crops failed they were sent seeds from USAID and the World Food Programme. However, their situation had been rendered so desperate that they were unable to wait to plant and harvest the crops, and instead ate the seeds themselves.

The crisis has been ongoing, with the past three years being marked by rising temperatures and irregular rainfall. Harvest projections predict continued food scarcity through September 2016, and potential crisis exacerbation through to March 2017.

In the face of augmented urgency in Madagascar, the need for emergency food aid is increasingly dire. Dina Esposito, Deputy Assistant Adminstrator to the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (USAID) has announced that the U.S. will provide $8 million in aid to Madagascar as they face the current crisis and disconcerting projections of upcoming harvests.

The current 2016 rainy season has been the worst in the past 35 years in Madagascar, leading to the declaration of a national disaster in the country. However, despite the dire circumstances, hope for aid continues. For some inhabitants in especially hard-hit areas, relief comes in the form of a single daily meal, prepared and offered by nuns.

More broadly, relief and hope are drawn from international aid like that announced by USAID, as well as that already received from the United Nations World Food Programme and other organizations. Through contributions from organizations like these, Madagascar receives food aid, help with cultivation efforts and the opportunity to trade services for food.

Charlotte Bellomy
Photo: World Food Programme

What Causes Famine in Africa
What causes famine in Africa? Over 40 million African lives are threatened by famine and food crisis. A number of factors contribute to widespread and stubborn famine, such as extreme weather, weakening currencies and a failure to mobilize resources.

Although international aid is an imperative aspect of a country’s ability to cope, food aid alone will never solve the reoccurring problem.

“Food aid is focused on short-term emergencies and doesn’t address the causes of the crisis,” according to Poverties, an organization that provides social and economic research. “That’s why even if it’s badly needed in emergencies, a long-term plan is also vital.”

Programs such as The Purchase for Progress and World Food Program seek to develop local farming industries. Investing in agriculture prevents future food shortages and supports a local economy rather than only relieving famine in the short-term.

For international aid to be most effective, it is crucial that it arrives in a timely fashion in predictable amounts and is properly targeted. An earlier response to a crisis builds resilience in a community and is more cost-effective than waiting to treat seriously malnourished people. According to Mail and Guardian Africa, the continent needs at least $4.5 billion for emergency relief.

Across the Horn of Africa and South Sudan, a combination of war and severe drought create food insecurity.

“In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon,” according to World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger. “Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields are often mined and water wells contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land.”

Continuous fighting hinders food aid; the areas that need it the most are the areas hardest to reach due to the security situation. Ethnic discrimination is a factor as well as the region being hit hard by AIDS. The disease causes those weakened by starvation to be unable to fight for survival.

Instability in the market causes food prices to fluctuate, making it difficult for the poor to have access to nutritious food consistently. These spikes in price hit children and the elderly the hardest.

With unrestricted access and thorough planning, international aid can drastically relieve food crisis. Providing resources and assistance to Africans can foster sustainable development strategies specific to the region and its weather as well as boost economic development, preventing famine in the future.

Emily Ednoff

Sources: Poverties, Mail & Guardian Africa, Deutsche Welle, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr