Poverty and Immunity
Poverty emerges as a relentless enemy across nations, holding millions of lives at its mercy. While the implications of poverty on basic necessities have been studied, a consequence lies hidden within the fine lines of public health — the impact of poverty on the immune system. This article delves into the relationship between poverty and immunity in developing countries, exploring the lack of health measures, and how they intertwine to shape the vulnerability of populations. 

Poor Sanitation Leads to Poor Immunity

Two billion people across the world lack access to clean water and proper sanitation measures, while 10% of the world’s population does not have latrines or means of disposing of waste. The outright lack of sanitation in almost all cases results in pollution of water and food resources due to frequent open defecation and improper treatment. Then begins the vicious cycle of illness, as the constant presence of bacteria in communities can be fatal.

With the constant onslaught of diseases due to substandard sanitation, the bodies of impoverished people can grow weaker without nutrients to strengthen them. A study that Parasite Immunology published states that parasites known as helminths modify the immune system of the host, which results in a damaged immune response to vaccinations and other pathogens. 

Malnutrition and Immunity

Nourishing oneself is vital to provide nutrients to the body in order for several different organ and body functions to perform as normal. When a person does not ingest enough proper food, this can cause an entire host of issues for the body. 

Nutrients that the body needs in small amounts are known as micronutrients. They are small portions of vitamins and minerals that produce substances necessary for the development of the body. Deficiencies in these nutrients are common in low-income countries due to the lack of proper nutrition, which can have damaging effects. 

When there is a lack of nutrients in the body, infections that are contracted can prompt an immune reaction, showing another link between poverty and immunity. These infections can cause fever and bodily irregularities. Malnutrition is a major player in how severe an infection is — it is much more severe in those who have a lack of nutrients in their bodies to support the immune system’s counterattack. 

Limited Access to Health Care 

Without money, it is impossible to access health care across the world, especially as treatments evolve and become increasingly complicated. As a result, poor health restricts workers in developing nations from working properly — and this creates a merciless cycle, limiting one’s capacity to work to earn and to help themselves. Furthermore, several studies display that the wealthiest percentage of people are most often in good health because they are able to finance their health care while working. 

Another grave issue that lack of health care poses in developing nations is an absence of treatments for chronic and incurable diseases. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS are extremely common in poor nations, as they often spread unchecked without a timely preventative response. This results in unbridled death rates and a weakening population that cannot take care of themselves. 

With incurable diseases such as coronary heart disease and HIV/AIDS reigning at the top of prevalent diseases in developing countries, a lack of health care can cause the condition of populations to deteriorate. Both of these diseases gradually tear down the defenses of the immune system, and in the long term, carriers will be more susceptible to falling fatally ill from any disease in their path. 

Making a Change

Though the situation may seem bleak regarding the link between poverty and immunity, there are millions of people working to turn it around. Detailed below are three programs that aim to combat the lack of sanitation, widespread malnutrition and lack of health care that so many poverty-stricken people face. 

  • Sanitation: USAID uses the “Global Water Strategy” to reach people in need across all walks of life. The goal of this program is to increase access to sanitation measures and enhance the care of freshwater across the world. Thus far, the program has been able to provide 65 million people with sanitary drinking water, while 51 million people now have access to sanitation services for everyday excrement.
  • Malnutrition: In response to food insecurity crises across the world, USAID congregated to expend billions of dollars of aid to the countries that were most in need. This program, which was officially dubbed “Food for Peace,” provided millions of people who were severely affected by chronic and generational poverty with food during difficult times — whether they were climate-, conflict- or health-related.
  • Health Care: To combat diseases impairing the potential of impoverished populations, the Bridge of Life Foundation aims to build up global health care through programs that eradicate and treat chronic diseases. Since 2006, the organization has trained community health workers to treat their populations, distributed necessary equipment and improved treatment measures across 15 developing countries.

Looking Ahead 

With organizations such as USAID working to allocate funds and resources to populations in need of food and water and The Bridge of Life providing life-saving health care to struggling populations, the state of these populations will improve extraordinarily over time. By empowering communities and providing necessities, it is possible to break down health care disparities and ensure a thriving future for people in developing countries. 

– Divya Shankar
Photo: Pixabay

Secretary Vilsack
The secretary of agriculture in President Barack Obama’s administration, Thomas J. Vilsack, has returned in 2021 to serve in the same position under President Biden. Secretary Vilsack has received recognition for his civil service and efforts to combat global poverty, receiving recognition from the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is also “a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America.” At the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack declared that the U.S. would invest $10 billion to ensure global food security over the next five years. Here are five global food security initiatives that Vilsack supports.

5 Global Food Security Initiatives Secretary Vilsack Supports

  1. Feed the Future. Secretary Vilsack supports Feed the Future, the United States’ program to ensure global food security “by boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future began in 2010 following the 2007-2008 global food crisis. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack supported the Global Food Security Act, a bill ensuring that the efforts of Feed the Future could continue on even after Obama’s end of term. By backing the bill, he expressed his support for sustainable food systems for the world’s impoverished. The Feed the Future program significantly contributes to poverty reduction, reducing poverty by 37% over 10 years in countries like Bangladesh.
  2. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program combats global poverty and hunger through the support of the USDA. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack oversees this program, which supports education and child development in low-income countries, donates “U.S. agricultural commodities” and provides financial assistance for school feeding and community nutrition programs. Overall, the program aims to increase literacy and education to break the cycle of poverty. By overseeing the McGovern-Dole Program, Secretary Vilsack works to ensure that students in need, especially girls, receive the nutrition and support required to thrive in schools.
  3. Food for Peace. Secretary Vilsack also oversaw Food for Peace in the International Affairs Budget during the Obama administration. The Office for Food and Peace began with President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace Act in 1954. Food for Peace aids people in low-income countries and areas of conflict by providing international emergency services, organizing development activities and providing nutritional support. Its development activities shares tools and resources with people in food-insecure areas to end global hunger.
  4. Food is Never Waste Coalition. Secretary Vilsack announced in 2021 that the U.S. would be partnering with the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition emerged from the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” Reducing food waste involves member collaboration to create sustainable food pathways and invest in food loss reduction methods.
  5. School Meals Coalition. While attending the U.N. Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack remarked on collaborating with the School Meals Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child coalition. The coalition strives to provide all children access to nutritious school meals by 2030. In 2021, 150 million students continue to go without school meals worldwide, which sometimes stands as their only meal of the day. The coalition seeks to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing nutrition within education. As a member state of the coalition, the United States will invest in feeding programs to incentivize education globally.

Reducing Global Poverty and Hunger

Secretary Vilsack maintains his efforts to reduce both poverty and hunger through his work in the USDA. By supporting and overseeing various food security initiatives and aid programs, Secretary Vilsack positively impacts the lives of those in need across the world.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in PakistanPakistan is a country that has been the victim of natural disasters and chronic political and economic turmoil. These volatile conditions have led to high rates of poverty and hunger in the country. Here are five things to know about hunger in Pakistan.

Five Things to Know About Hunger in Pakistan

  1. In Pakistan, about 20% of the population is undernourished. This equates to nearly 40 million people who are not getting enough nutrients on a daily basis. This is nearly double the percentage of people worldwide who are undernourished.
  2. Poverty and food insecurity are inextricably linked. Nearly a quarter of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. In 2019, natural disasters like drought and heavy rainfall in Pakistan affected the livelihood of millions of people. In mid-2019, a drought caused acute food insecurity in the populations of seven districts, over one million people.
  3. As high as 40% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty. While 25% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, multi-dimensional poverty takes into consideration a variety of factors beyond just a person’s income. It considers access to clean water, electricity and basic healthcare needs as well as poor infrastructure. All of these factors can impact a community’s access to food.
  4. Undernutrition and malnutrition have led to stunting in 38% of Pakistani children under the age of five. In some regions, the percentage of children who experience stunting is nearly 50%. Pakistani children experience some of the highest stunting rates in the world.
  5. Pakistan actually has a surplus of food. However, instead of being distributed to its own people, much of this food is exported. From mid-2018 to mid-2019, around a half million tons of wheat and more than seven million tons of rice were exported from Pakistan. One in five Pakistani’s are not malnourished because there is a lack of food availability, but because of socio-economic factors that prevent them from accessing the country’s abundant resources. However, even if Pakistani’s had more access to the wheat and rice resources of their country, these crops alone cannot provide a nutritious and sustainable diet.

What is Being Done

In Pakistan, there are several community-driven efforts to fight hunger and, more specifically, stunting. These groups have been able to provide nutrient supplements to more than 700,000 Pakistanis experiencing undernutrition or malnutrition.

In 2020, the Food for Peace (FFP) program, a division of USAID, has provided $2 million to UNICEF for nutrition services for children under the age of five who experience severe acute malnutrition in Pakistan. This number is much less than in previous years. In 2019, FFP provided $18 million to UNICEF and in 2018, the figure was more than $21 million.

In 2018, the Pakistani government pledged to achieve self-sufficiency in food and set a goal of eliminating hunger in the country by 2030. To achieve this goal, the government has put an emphasis on crop diversification, water management and “climate-smart” farming to reduce the catastrophic impacts of natural disasters on food security.

Pakistan is a country that has experienced political and economic turmoil for decades. These conditions coupled with the impacts of natural disasters have made undernutrition and malnutrition a huge concern in the country. While over the past several years the country has implemented initiatives to improve the food situation, the challenges surrounding food security remain and hunger in Pakistan remain a major issue.

– Jessie Cohen
Photo: Pixaby

Why are More People Trying to Cross the Border?
With America’s current politicians, U.S. border security is tighter than it has been in decades. In the spring of 2018, the Trump Administration introduced the zero-tolerance immigration policy to discourage migration into the U.S. The policy required detention of all individuals who crossed the border illegally, with or without children.  This resulted in the separation of children from their parents and their placement in shelters around the country. The U.S., however, halted the policy on June 20, 2018, due to widespread backlash.  The government has been letting thousands of held migrants go free because it lacks enough beds to hold them in detention facilities. However, these implementations have not been successful in deterring people from attempting to illegally enter the country. With the heightened security, why are more people trying to cross the border?

The Decrease in Mexican Immigration

The important thing to note with the changing migration patterns is the demographics of the people. Undocumented immigrants are no longer mainly coming out of Mexico, which is how it has been in the past. In fact, the number of people fleeing Mexico is on the decline.  Since 2007, the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. declined by 2 million. They now make up less than half of illegal immigrants in the U.S. This is due partially to the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the increase in price for human smugglers, but there are other factors too.

  • The economy in Mexico has improved and Mexican employment opportunities are rising.
  • Fertility rates in Mexico have dropped significantly in the last 60 years, from seven births in 1960 to only 2.1 in 2019.
  • Not only are there fewer immigrants, but the Mexican immigrants that are crossing the border have higher education and are more fluent in English than the U.S. has seen in the past.  Mexico is undergoing a demographic shift and a technological transformation that is making it more habitable for its population.

With the decrease in Mexican immigration due to an increase in Mexico’s living conditions, why are more people trying to cross the border? As Mexico increases opportunities, immigration statistics are shifting to the impoverished Central Americans.

Increase in Central American Immigration

In Central American countries, over half of the population lives below the poverty line. The Northern Triangle of Central America, or NTCA, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has one of the highest homicide rates on earth and many consider this area to have some of the most dangerous countries. America is not the only country seeing a huge influx of these immigrants as well. Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica have seen a 432 percent increase in asylum applications, the majority coming from the NTCA.

Over 90 percent of the new illegal immigrants entering the U.S. is coming out of Guatemala specifically. Why are more people trying to cross the border? It is because of the challenges of poverty and violence in Guatemala.

  • About two-thirds of Guatemalan children live in poverty.
  • Over two-thirds of the indigenous population live in poverty.
  • The wealth distribution in the country is one of the most uneven distributions in the world. In fact, the top 1 percent control 65 percent of the wealth, and the top 5 percent control 85 percent. The economic elite is not indigenous either as most members have European heritage.
  • Guatemalans are itching to flee areas ridden with conflicts over land rights, environmental issues, official forced labor policies, gang violence, prostitution and human trafficking, and depressing crop prices that destroy farmers’ ability to make profits.

What the US is Doing to Help Guatemala

Fortunately, the U.S. is working to help improve conditions in Guatemala.  Traditionally, Guatemala and the U.S. have had a good relationship with a few disagreements over human rights and military issues. Guatemala has a strong trade system in place and the U.S. benefits by working to improve conditions there regarding security, governance, food security, civil rights, education, crime reduction and health service access for the people.

The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America put in multiple initiatives including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Central American Regional Security Initiative and Food for Peace. The U.S.’s goal is to spur development in Guatemala and reduce the desire for illegal immigration into the U.S. The Trump Administration proposed to substantially cut funds for the country and to completely eliminate food aid. Congress shot down much of these cuts in the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2019. However, in March 2019, the Trump Administration did suspend all U.S. military aid in the country when the Guatemalan government misused armored vehicles that the Department of Defense provided to combat drug trafficking. The Trump Administration is still actively trying to cut or eliminate all U.S. aid to Guatemala and the NTCA, but Congress remains actively invested in the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America.

– Gentry Hale
Photo: Flickr

what is hunger
Hunger is an easy enough concept to imagine. Most people in the world have experienced it at some level or maybe even gone an entire day without food. But what is hunger at a global level? When starvation and malnutrition are discussed, there is a major gap between the conception of hunger and how those without access to food experience it. In the end, hunger is a systemic problem in people’s lives; those who suffer from it are unable to consistently achieve proper nutrition and face food insecurity.

Facts and Figures

Hunger still affects more than 800 million world citizens. This number reflects about one in every nine people worldwide. Starvation and malnutrition are most common in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment. The continent of Asia contains the highest number of hungry people, while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of malnutrition – one person in every four faces undernourishment. 

Famine: Extreme Hunger

The most extreme cases of hunger on a public scale are famines, where an excess of deaths occurs as a result of starvation or hunger-induced diseases. These diseases are often preventable with a proper diet, but although there is an excess of food worldwide, starvation and malnutrition originate in that food being inaccessible. Lack of access is often caused by a insufficient funding and war within an area, as seen in the South Sudan famine declared by the U.N. in February of 2017.

In daily life for undernourished people, hunger takes the form of reduced meals. In 2011, a drought in a Kenyan herding community caused sickly animals. As a result of not being able to afford enough to eat, one woman’s family was forced to cut back to just one or two meals per day as opposed to three. They also could no longer afford “luxuries” like milk. Even with access to water, there is no money to buy food if crops and animals cannot produce. 

The Costs of Hunger

New research shows that generations down the line will also be impacted by the costs of starvation. While it is well-known that young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition, Columbia University’s 2014 study of genes in roundworms after an initial starved generation found that small changes in an organism’s molecular makeup due to its health can be passed on. This means that even after hunger has been reduced, future generations may still see its effects in their own lives.

Combating Hunger

Fortunately, famine and malnutrition rates have decreased. The Global Goals of Sustainable Development include ending starvation and creating food security and sustainable farming as its number two goal, set to be achieved by 2030. The best strategies for ending hunger are supporting small farmers, targeting infant nutrition and utilizing biotechnology in crop creation.

Additionally, legislative action in the United States Congress is working toward alleviating starvation worldwide. The Food for Peace Modernization currently seeks to make the Food for Peace program more efficient – at no cost to taxpayers – so that it can provide food to nearly nine million more people. Understanding what hunger is can create measures like this worldwide and offer new chances for those suffering from hunger to find relief.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Food For Peace Modernization Act
On March 14, the Food For Peace Modernization Act (H.R. 5276) 
was introduced on the House floor. Though this bill has not received much attention from the media, it is an important piece of legislation that could have a drastic impact on global food insecurity if passed.

The Food For Peace Modernization Act

The Food For Peace Modernization Act is a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) in an effort to reform the Food For Peace program, which was originally signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954. The goal of the program is to deliver healthy food to people all over the world who suffer from malnutrition.

Since its creation, the Food For Peace program has provided aid to over 3 billion people and is widely considered a success; however, lawmakers now address that the effort hasn’t yet reached its full potential.

As it currently stands, the law requires that all food used for foreign assistance purposes has to be produced in the U.S. While this may sound like a good way to promote American farming, it is an extreme burden for the Food For Peace program. Due to the costs incurred by transporting all of the food overseas, only 30 percent of the program’s funds are spent on actual food.

The Food For Peace Modernization act seeks to change this aspect of the law. Instead of requiring 100 percent of food products to be made in the U.S., the revised version of the bill drops this number to just 25 percent. This would mean that the majority of food can be derived from within the countries the program is trying to assist.

The Monetization System

Another part of the law the Food For Peace Modernization Act hopes to alter is the “monetization” system. Currently, NGOs are required to take food which was donated to them by the U.S., sell it in overseas markets, and use the profits to fund their food insecurity programs. However, this process often negatively affects the communities in which the food is sold because it forces local farmers to drive down their prices in order to compete. The new version of the bill (S. 2551) would eliminate this requirement.

Not only will these revisions allow more money to be spent on actually feeding the hungry, it may also boost the economies of the local food markets in impoverished countries and ultimately decrease their dependence on U.S. assistance — all at no extra cost to the American taxpayers.

Overall the hope is that, if passed, the bill will redirect the focus of the Food For Peace program to be on the people who need assistance, rather than the business ventures of U.S. corporations.

Representative Ed Royce (R-CA-39) captured this sentiment in a statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee stating, “Just as aid can’t be an entitlement for those overseas, it shouldn’t be an entitlement here at home. This includes food aid, which for too long has been treated as an entitlement for a handful of shipping companies rather than as a humanitarian program meant to save lives.”

– Maddi Roy

Photo: Flickr

Food Assistance in IraqAn increase in food assistance for Iraq will become a reality thanks to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in Iraq will receive an additional $20 million in emergency food assistance per an announcement from Stuart E. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, made on Feb. 29, 2016, according to USAID.

With this new support, provided through USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), the U.S. government has contributed nearly $623.8 million to support humanitarian activities in Iraq since the 2014 fiscal year, according to USAID’s Iraq-Complex Emergency Fact Sheet.

The new funding will support the distribution of household food parcels, including beans, dry peas, flour, oil and rice — and immediate response rations for vulnerable populations comprising ready-to-eat food items, such as beans, biscuits, canned meat, canned peas and dates according to USAID’s Iraq-Complex Emergency Fact Sheet.

USAID is helping the WFP reach 1.5 million displaced and conflict-affected Iraqis throughout the country according to USAID’s Feb. 29, 2016 press release.

This significant boost in aid has the potential to help Iraqis who were adversely impacted by cuts to the WFP last year. In August 2015, the WFP was forced to cut back food assistance due to a funding shortfall, according to the U.N.

“Unfortunately, lack of funds and the rise in the number of displaced Iraqis forces us to reduce the size of the food rations we provide to tens of thousands of families living outside camps,” said Jane Pearce, WFP representative and country director in Iraq, in an August 2015 press release.

This recent increase in food assistance for Iraq comes at a crucial time. The food and medicine shortage in Iraq resulted in the death of approximately 20 children and older persons in recent weeks according to a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Between December 2015 and January 2016, the price of some food commodities in Fallujah increased by more than 800 percent, according to the WFP; as of late February, a 110-pound bag of rice cost $400 and a 110-pound sack of wheat flour was priced at $550, reported the IOM.

There is hope that this increase in food assistance for Iraq is a sign of more good to come for internally displaced persons living in the country.

Summer Jackson

Sources: UN, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Wikipedia

Changes to Food for Peace to Increase Sustainability
Sixty years after being put into effect, the Food for Peace program faces congressional reform that will lower costs and provide sustainable support for those living in conflict-ridden countries. Currently, law requires that food aid be grown in and shipped from the U.S. – a mandate that increases costs 25-50 percent more than they would be on the current market. Advocates for reform criticize the program for its inefficiency and helping American shipping and farming businesses profit from such programs.

Shipping firms, farms and some NGOs form an “iron triangle of special interests” that have benefited from international aid and attracted criticism from politicians in both parties. Between 2004 and 2013, 88 percent of USAID funding was used to harvest and ship food- a huge cost that decreased the amount of food the organization was able to provide by 64 percent.

A system designed this way is not only inefficient in properly allocating resources, but also counterproductive in affecting any kind of change in the countries that need it most. Daniel Maxwell, professor and research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, commented, “We need to support local agricultural producers and markets, or at a minimum, not undermine them.” Reformers advocate for changing the system to implement locally grown and shipped food resources rather than those from the U.S.

Senators Corker and Coons, who are cosponsoring the reform of the bill, have estimated that such changes could expand the program’s reach by 12 million people and free up $440 million through local, sustainable production. Providing support for local growers and shippers will strengthen local economies rather than keeping them reliant on international resources, empower and employ more people, and create a more sustainable rebuilding of communities.

Eric Munoz at Oxfam America says that a program created 60 years ago is not useful or appropriate for current times. Indeed, when 60 million people per year are in need of food aid, expansion of resources and lowering costs is more greatly needed than ever. Many farmers believe they have a right to profit from food aid programs and would suffer from reforms, but experts estimate such programs amount to only 1 percent of agribusiness profits.

For policy changes that would so greatly impact those in need, lessening the profits of huge farming businesses in the U.S. seems trivial. Worrying about this profit loss is “an inappropriate way of viewing the rationale of providing emergency assistance and foreign assistance, particularly assistance that is meant to address food insecurity in complex crises like Syria or South Sudan,” says Munoz.

Corker and Coon’s reform bill will see congressional debate in September.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN 1, IRIN 2
Photo: Flickr


how many people go hungry?
Hunger and malnutrition plague millions of people globally, but just how many people go hungry?

Statistics show that 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. The vast majority of these hungry people, about 827 million, live in developing countries, where 14 percent of the population is undernourished. Asia currently has the largest number of hungry people, over 500 million, but it is Sub-Saharan Africa that has the highest prevalence of hunger and malnutrition. One out of six children, 100 million children in developing countries, is underweight. Throughout the world, one in four children’s growth is stunted from malnutrition, particularly in these developing countries. Poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths under the age of five, totaling 3.1 million children a year.

Since 1990, global hunger has been reduced by more than 34 percent, but roughly one billion men, women, and children are still food-insecure. Since the federal government began Food for Peace in 1954, more than three billion people in over 150 countries have benefited directly from U.S. food aid. An increase in this assistance would make substantial changes throughout the world. WFP calculates that $3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

The world produces enough calories for every person on earth to eat around 2700 per day for each human. Millions of people go hungry not because food is lacking. Rather, many of these calories are not used to feed humans. One-third is used to feed animals, 5 percent is used in the production of biofuels, and up to a third is simply wasted. The current system in place allows the wealthy half of the planet to eat well while the rest of the world struggles to eat at all.

Many organizations and programs aim to reduce global hunger. Supporting peasant farming is one key factor in this goal, but it is equally important to rein in Western-style culture and the standard the American diet creates.

-Elizabeth Malfaro

Sources: World Food Programme, Bread for the World
Photo: USAID

The decision made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to send financial support to the United Nations World Food Program for the Republic of Djibouti is coming at an imperative time for the country. Djibouti has been experiencing a drought for the past several years and its population, particularly those living in rural areas, is in desperate need of food assistance. USAID has already sent the first installment of the $4 million dollar commitment to Djibouti.

Almost immediately, USAID and its partner, Food for Peace, jumped in to restock Djibouti’s stores of yellow spit peas and vegetable oil. Djibouti is where USAID stores these items for its food assistance programs so it was vital to keep the warehouses fully stocked. As the drought continues, the food situation is expected to become even worse.

This current partnership between USAID and Food for Peace is not the beginning of a relationship between the U.S. government and Djibouti. For the past decade, USAID has been working with the country to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Since 2006, the number of child deaths as a result of malnourishment has reduced from 20% to 0.2% in 2012. This is in part due to USAID’s support of the Famine Early Warning System, a program that observes the country’s food security and raises alerts when the food situation turns for the worse.

This program, and many others that USAID supports, are helping the government of Djibouti to not only recognize famine and hunger, but also learn how to combat and prevent it. While short-term solutions are critical for aiding in ending immediate hunger, USAID is also concerned with long-term solutions, including services that guarantee food for children, pregnant and nursing women, building community gardens, and the overarching issue of reducing poverty.

As for now, USAID’s most recent contribution will be critical for those living through this devastating drought. More food aid will be delivered in the next few months.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Sabahi Online, All Africa
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations