Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr



10 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

Food shortages across Venezuela started to rise in 2013, around the time of President Hugo Chávez’s death. Less than a year later, the nation’s oil-dependent economy began to tank and inflation began to soar. Venezuela could no longer afford the cost of its imported basic goods, resulting in nationwide shortages in food and medicine. While the nation’s instability worsens, people are going hungry in Venezuela. Here are the top seven facts about hunger in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

  1. In 2017, 89.4 percent of Venezuelan households could not afford basic food supplies due to inflation and six out of 10 Venezuelans reported going to bed hungry. In February 2019, peak inflation in food prices hit a staggering 371,545.6 percent and high rates are continuing throughout 2019.
  2. Due to hunger in Venezuela, malnourishment is quite common. The United Nations reported that nearly 3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnourishment in 2018.
  3. Mass weight loss is also common across Venezuela as 64.3 percent of Venezuelans lost weight due to food shortages in 2017. Venezuelans who lost weight dropped an average of 11.4 kg each since the shortages began. 
  4. Available food supplies all too often end up on the black market and are sold by bachaqueros. Bachaqueros buy subsidized goods at government-set prices, then sell those goods at double, even triple, the original price, taking advantage of struggling communities. This illegal practice is exacerbated by Venezuela’s compounded crises.
  5. Without easy access to affordable food supplies, some Venezuelans resort to using alternative resources. For example, the yuca root can replace potatoes, which is a similar, yet far cheaper vegetable. In more desperate cases, scavenging for scraps has also become popular.
  6. Although President Nicolás Maduro has rejected many types of humanitarian aid, including extensive efforts to send food supplies, the government has accepted aid from nonpartisan groups. In 2018 alone, Cuatro Por Venezuela, one of the largest relief suppliers, sent 41,804 pounds of food to Venezuela, amounting to 120,000 standard meals for people in need. These supplies are distributed directly to schools, orphanages, nursing homes and homeless shelters all over Venezuela.
  7. In addition to nonpartisan NGOs, international government groups, such as the European Commission (EC), allocated another €50 million to the crisis in Venezuela, along with additional food supplies and nutritional services in March 2019. 

As food shortages continue and people remain hungry, these seven facts about hunger in Venezuela show that the country is in a clear humanitarian crisis. While there are aid efforts out there, supplies must be sent in as nonpartisan support. So long as aid efforts adhere to this restriction, there is hope for hunger relief in Venezuela.

—Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water Quality in GuatemalaWater quality in Guatemala has become an increasingly important issue because the country is facing one of its worst droughts in decades. The drought has reduced access to clean water, and poor water quality has resulted in the spread of waterborne illnesses throughout the country. Additionally, this lack of water means immense food shortages and increasing malnutrition among children in Guatemala.

Approximately 43 percent of Guatemalan children under the age of five are fatally malnourished, and among rural Guatemalan children this number rises to around 80 percent. It is in rural areas that the drought has the strongest effect, as there is less access to clean water and there are more stagnant bodies of water that increase the spread of disease.

Due to the drought, Guatemala’s disposal of solid and liquid waste in local bodies of water is having a larger impact than ever. With limited quantities of clean water, the waste that is deposited in rivers makes the spread of disease and infection in the population even more rampant. Access to clean water is a major issue facing the country, but there have been some strides in resolving it.

Guatemala was able to reduce the percentage of citizens without access to drinking water to 50 percent, which met the 2015 Millennium Development Goal for access to clean water. In 2016, 93 percent of Guatemalans had access to non-polluted water, which is an impressive statistic.

There are also nonprofit organizations working to improve water quality in Guatemala. Water for People is an organization that focuses on providing clean water to certain communities in impoverished nations. They currently have a number of projects running in Guatemala, one of which is the Everyone Forever program. The program pledges to provide water and sanitation to every single person in those communities, forever. This is a very ambitious project, but it is also incredibly important.

In addition to simply providing clean water to those in Santa Cruz Del Quiche, or San Bartolome Jocotenago, Water for People creates a model that can be replicated by governments to provide water and sanitation for all parts of the nation. The organization also has programs for watershed management and school programming related to water sanitation.

There are also, of course, programs set in place by United Nations agencies such as the Pan American Health Organization, UNDP, and UNICEF. These organizations put in place measures that will raise the living conditions of people in poor communities, primarily through improving water sanitation systems.

Ultimately, water quality in Guatemala is a major issue, but there are improvements being made. Through collaboration between NGOs, the Guatemalan government and United Nations agencies, the issue of water quality and access in the country will hopefully be resolved soon, improving the quality of life for all of its residents.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UgandaLocated between South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while also struggling against the Lord’s Resistance Army, hunger in Uganda is a major issue that the country, as well as 800,000 refugees, are facing every day. Uganda as a whole produces more food than it consumes, but because of the prevalence of poverty in the country, many of its 39 million people cannot afford to buy all of the food they need.

Only 4 percent of households in Uganda have had food security over the past six years. This is related to the food shortages and destitute diets that have also come from dealing with climate change, urbanization, the inconsistencies of Ugandan policies and poor public financing.

Hunger in Uganda has also been caused by the lack of water. A growing population has led to stresses on water and sanitation services. 24 million people in rural areas do not have access to water, which has increased the incidence of water-related diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery. Each week, 30,000 deaths are caused by unsafe water.

The lack of food has led to malnutrition among children, including refugees. It has been estimated that 33 percent of children under five are enduring chronic undernourishment and stunted growth. Only one in three children actually have food to eat during the day, while stunting affects 29 percent of children and rises to 40 percent in certain areas and among refugees.

Organizations like Action Against Hunger have made efforts to help Uganda. They focus on nutrition, health and care practices, and have helped 148,420 people. They have been able to reach some of the most vulnerable children in refugee settlements and treat life-threatening malnutrition. Action Against Hunger has helped strengthen the local capacity while training locals to be able to provide treatment. They have plans to help prevent malnutrition as well as to gather more information on malnutrition in order to prevent it in the future.

The World Food Programme also helps Uganda by providing cash and food assistance to people in need. They have also set up the “cash/food-for-work” program to ensure there is food during the lean seasons. This program helps communities build tree farms, orchards, irrigation systems, water ponds and dams to help them better endure droughts.

While the poverty rate in Uganda has declined from 31 to 19.7 percent, the fact that the population is still growing means that the number of poor people has not decreased. To combat this, the work the aforementioned groups are doing is vital to help Ugandans become self-sufficient in growing food and end hunger in Uganda.

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Yemeni_CiviliansOngoing conflict in Yemen continues to take its toll on the civilian population. According to the United Nations Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 21.2 million Yemeni civilians of the total 26 million in the population are in need of humanitarian assistance.

15 million people no longer have adequate healthcare as a result of the conflict in Yemen. Fuel and medical supply shortages have severely hindered functioning of hospitals and health facilities.

The deterioration of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services further aggravates the situation — approximately 20.4 million people lack adequate WASH services, says UNOCHA.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working with other health partners to “ensure the continuity of health services” in Yemen.

Mobile clinics, for example, serve as “primary healthcare centers” in more remote areas of the country. WHO, partnered with Field Medical Foundation, have set up mobile clinics which specifically cater to the treatment of children between six months and five years of age in Aden, Lahj and Hadramout.

Approximately one million liters of fuel have been delivered to health facilities. The WHO and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been working together to bring water to different regions of the country.

According to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, the conflict in Yemen began in the 2011 Arab Spring.

In an attempt to contain protests within Yemen’s borders, Yemen and its Gulf Arab neighbors made a deal that ultimately led to the replacement of President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

In retaliation, Saleh supported a rebellion by Houthi rebels in late 2014. By January 2015, President Hadi had lost power and immediately made for Saudi Arabia, where he currently lives in exile.

Yemen now finds itself torn between Houthi/pro-Saleh forces in the West and Hadi forces in the East. As the fighting continues, WHO and other organizations continue to make major efforts toward supporting Yemeni civilians caught up in the violence.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: BBC, World Health Organization (WHO) 1, World Health Organization (WHO) 2, World Health Organization (WHO) 3, UNICEF, UNOCHA
Photo: Google Images

According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. currently has trade barriers and financial restrictions, or economic sanctions, of various types against eleven countries, including Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Russia.

Some of the sanctions target only individuals as in Zimbabwe’s case. Russian sanctions, on the other hand, target a range of industries, most notably defense, oil and energy.

U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq from 1991 to 2003 illustrate the impact of sanctions on the populace. Not only were financial transactions, overseas flights and exports banned, but imports were limited strictly to food and medicine. Gross domestic product (GDP) plunged from $38 billion in 1989 to $10.6 billion in 1996 in Iraq. Per capita GDP plunged to around $500 per person from 1991 to 1996, a decline of over 75 percent from the prior period.

Gross domestic product (GDP) plunged from $38 billion in 1989 to $10.6 billion in 1996 in Iraq. Per capita GDP plunged to around $500 per person from 1991 to 1996, a decline of over 75 percent from the prior period.

For Iraqi people, these statistics had consequences on their health and livelihood. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that mortality doubled in children aged 5 and below. People consumed 32 percent fewer calories a day. Half of Iraq’s water treatment facilities ceased functioning, and 59 percent of people lacked access to clean water as a result. Over a quarter of Iraqi health centers closed and three-quarters of hospital equipment broke down.Econimic_Sanctions

People consumed 32 percent fewer calories a day. Half of Iraq’s water treatment facilities ceased functioning, and 59 percent of people lacked access to clean water as a result. Over a quarter of Iraqi health centers closed and three-quarters of hospital equipment broke down.

As salaries declined, many social problems arose. Iraqi citizens had to sell their belongings for food and many had to sell their homes. Crime and divorce rates skyrocketed. Many single mothers were forced into prostitution.

While exact figures are hard to find, a United Nations field office said, “The country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty.” Likewise, debate surrounds the exact number of deaths caused by sanctions but estimates somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.

Less severe sanctions also hurt. The World Bank reports that Iranian per capita GDP fell from over $7,800 in 2011 before sanctions, to under $5,450 in 2014. The Moscow Times said an additional 2.3 million Russians became impoverished through the first nine months of 2015. Sanctions hurt, and yet, the people do not rebel. Leaders stay in power and policies rarely change.

University of Oregon professor James C. Davies “J-Curve” theory of revolutions explains why sanctions often fail to induce revolution. According to this theory, people revolt when reality fails to meet expectations for the future following a period of rising prosperity. An example of this theory in practice can be found in South Korea. Following decades of prosperity, people demanded more political power and freedom in the 1980s and successfully rebelled.

Economic sanctions are powerful in their effect on society, often causing significant problems for citizens within the countries being sanctioned.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency, Global Policy Forum, The Moscow Times, The Nation, U.S. Department of State, World Bank
Picture: Google Images, Wikipedia

Summers are hungry times for the poor of Senegal, who must endure an annual “lean season,” lasting from June to September. Food insecurity caused by fluctuating food prices and unpredictable cereal harvests can leave hundreds of thousands of Senegalese malnourished and ill. Though Senegal’s economy relies mainly on the success of its agricultural sector – nearly 80 percent of the country’s people are employed in the industry, that success does not always translate to adequate nourishment for its 13 million people.

This year, underwhelming crop outputs are largely to blame for the food shortage Senegal is currently facing. Cereal harvests typically produce 20 percent more food than they have this year. As an added effect, the lean season started even earlier than usual this year, extending the period of chronic food insecurity for over half a million people.

Hunger has the power not only to kill and make ill, but also to disrupt families and throw individuals further into poverty. In Senegal, men often leave rural areas to seek food or employment in urban centers, forcing women to bear the burden of childcare at home. Many women, failing to obtain adequate food and water supplies for their families, resort to selling many of their possessions to make ends meet. Still, that is often not enough.

What’s the good news? Senegal is one of the most stable countries in Africa and has been since its independence from France in 1960. That makes it much easier for humanitarian agencies to work with the Senegalese government to implement effective aid programs. Currently, the World Food Programme of the United Nations is collaborating with Senegal to bring food to 675,000 of its people during the lean season.

The food aid strategy Senegal employs is based on a voucher system, in which households receive a monthly voucher they can use to feed their families. The program is very popular among the Senegalese people; one voucher recipient noted that, “from today forward, I will be able to feed my children, prepare rice the way I like it, and also save money to pay back my debts.”

With successful, targeted food aid programs like World Food Programme’s, the people of Senegal may be able to weather what is already the worst lean season of the last five years. Additional foreign aid aimed at Senegal would only extend that effect to even more people.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: World Food Programme, The Hunger Project, Action Against Hunger
Photo: Global Post

Continued sectarian violence in Nigeria resulted in the widespread abandonment of farms. Conflict spreads throughout the country, affecting the agricultural season in rural and often isolated regions. This led to dramatic decline in household food stocks. In addition to farming, the conflict limits “off-season livelihood activities” such as fishing.

This coupled with a predicted shortened growing season to create a potentially devastating food crisis. Consequently, Nigerian government reported as many as one million people facing food shortages in the coming months.

The Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria, which began in 2009, has forced more than 365,000 people to flee their homes and farms. Agriculture generally serves as the primary means of support. Moreover, as refugees, these families have little opportunity to independently replenish their food supplies. According to The Guardian, “violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has caused 60 percent of farmers to leave the fertile region.”

In addition to low production, this conflict led to disruption in trade routes. Those managing the trade fear security, for the products and their lives. As production declines, the prices for staple food rise. These prices rose an estimated 10 percent from last year and more than 30 percent from the five-year average.

Alone, this lack of production has led to serious food shortages. Now, the strain of drought-induced food shortage threatens a full-scale crisis. According to The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the national agricultural sector depends heavily on rain, “with the bulk of its produce cultivated in the north and central regions.” Weather forecasters predict the rainy season to begin in June, though it typically starts in May. In addition, the rain season may end before September. The result: a severely shortened growing season. With a population of 160 million to feed, Nigeria prepares this looming food crisis.

Refugees and farmers affected by the drought cannot afford the drastic rise in prices. Without an independent stock of food, though, these individuals must rely on the market.

In response, farmers are encouraged to use early maturing seeds to help generate a shorter planting season.

However, as Ibrahim Mota of the Dawanau Grain Traders Union shared recently, “Seeds, no matter how sophisticated, have to be planted by humans to germinate.” The Famine Early Warning Systems Network continues to monitor the food supply in this region, encouraging the Nigerian government to alleviate the burden of this conflict on farmers. Without details on the exact tactics to mitigate conflict, families live in constant risk of acute food security.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: The Guardian
Photo: India Times

One of the poorest nations in the world, the Central African Republic (CAR,) sees 90 percent of its citizens survive on just one meal per day. Sectarian and religious violence, primarily targeting the minority Muslim population, only makes matters worse.

Most food trade in the capital city of Bangui is reliant on the imports of wholesale vendors, which are resold by small traders in the marketplace. Muslims, however, own and control these wholesalers, in addition to a large proportion of the agricultural sector as well. And the Muslims are fleeing.

About 40 large wholesalers participated in the market before Muslim leader Michel Djotodia seized power in a coup in March 2013. Less than a year later, only 10 remain. It should not be terribly shocking that Muslims, who live in constant fear for their lives amid ever-increasing violence, are embarking on a massive exodus out of the CAR and into neighboring countries such as Chad and Cameroon.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM,) over 60,000 people have already fled since December 5, 2013, when Christian militias and soldiers exploded into violence.

The Muslim exodus has left farmers without access to seeds, prevented food trucks from crossing the border due to fear of attack and risks an incredible rise in prices as food supplies dry up. If security does not improve soon, the 10 remaining wholesalers claim they will leave as well. Even if they were to stay, profits would be minimal. Over the past two months, sales dropped 90 percent among wholesalers because people can no longer afford to buy the food they need.

Philippe Conraud, Oxfam country director, argues that the combination of people being forced out of the country and the inability for food to come in risks turning the situation into something analogous to a siege. French and African troops, sent to the CAR by the United Nations Security Council, have proven unable to halt the atrocious violence thus far.

In addition to the tumultuous effects fleeing traders have on the country of their origin, neighboring countries must prepare for the economic outcomes of the present circumstances. With at least 30,000 refugees in Chad and 10,000 so far in Cameroon, these neighboring countries have their hands full with the conflict’s humanitarian crisis.

Giovanni Cassani, emergency coordinator for the IOM, touches on the enormity of the problem. 50,000 people can make up a small town. Unless the situation in the CAR improves soon, neighboring countries will have to deal with the long-term economic transformations of a Muslim exodus.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: BBC, Global Post, Washington Post
Photo: Oxfam International

As the world’s population rises, food security declines. The lack of nutrient-rich foods persists across the globe, as land cannot support certain crops due to rising temperatures and unsustainable practices.

In United States grocery stores, the lack of diversity in fruits and vegetables mirrors the lack of diversity globally. “Biodiversity warrior” Cary Fowler reports that 7,100 varieties of apples existed in the U.S. in the 1800’s;  today, 6800 of these species are now extinct.

Why not save the best varieties of crops?

Certain crops could offer traits adaptable to climate change, but may not seem economically viable now. However, in this era of climate change, such options become necessary.

Crop diversity serves as the biological foundation of food; however, this foundation collapses as temperatures rise. To protect this foundation, Fowler and other researchers collect and preserve seeds in a “seed bank” for plant researchers.

Research on these preserved seeds must continue in order to place crops ready for climate change in the fields. In recent years, however, conflict in regions like Iraq and Afghanistan threatened the security of seed banks.

Who bears the burden of climate change?

According to Fowler, the coldest growing seasons will become significantly hotter than the hottest in the past. Climate change affects sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia more than any other regions. Consequently, the burden of rising temperatures falls on the most impoverished regions in the world. At this time, crops in these regions cannot adopt to these mounting burdens of climate change.

In addition, greater variability in precipitation and the delayed onset of seasons induce “climate shocks.” These shocks could threaten plant growth and, consequently, the food security of families across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Fowler predicts a 30% decrease in the production of maize in South Africa by 2030. Maize provides 50% of the nutrition in South Africa currently.

The “mass extinction” of biodiversity does not garner the attention it needs, notes Fowler, because biodiversity seems like an environmental issue, not a human one. However, with climate change posing a significant threat to the biodiversity of crops, food production may need to increase by 70% globally–and nearly 100% in developing countries–by 2050.

Fowler asserts that if crop diversity is not addressed, “we will watch children starve to death on television.”

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: National Geographic Magazine, TED, Scientific and Development Network
Photo: HPJC