hunger in GeorgiaNestled in the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe, the people of Georgia receive a sufficient quantity of food. However, the population suffers from stunted growth and undernourishment because of the quality of their diet. This leads to a condition called hidden hunger, in Georgia.


Hidden hunger in Georgia results from a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in its accessible food. The people there often do not consume enough protein, iron and vitamin A. This can cause tangible issues. For example, half a million Georgians are malnourished and infant mortality is twice the EU average. Additionally, a significant number of children under five years old are anemic.

Most of the foods that Georgians eat are quite high in starch and have little nutritional value. The two most popular dishes in rural Georgia are fried potatoes and lobio, which is made of boiled beans. Overreliance on these types of foods have made cardiovascular disease the most common chronic disease in the country. Currently, it accounts for 69% of Georgia’s mortality.

The main cause of the dietary insufficiencies in Georgia is a lack of access to meat and meat-based products. Unfortunately, these products are rather expensive at local markets. With the average household income being just $6 per day (⅓ of the population earns only $2.5 per day), the consumption of meat is rather impractical for most people.

Furthermore, the gross domestic product of Georgia was just $16.21 billion in 2018, with a per capita GDP of $4,723. For comparison, the 2018 GDP per capita for the European Union was $35,616.

Although the country’s GDP is growing overall, economic downturns, such as the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the 2015 stagnation and the 2020 pandemic, reduce the value of the Georgian Lari. These kinds of shifts can create vulnerable conditions for Georgia’s population and reduce food security.


Fortunately, governmental and nonprofit organizations across the world are taking steps to improve the dietary standards and hunger in Georgia. Action Against Hunger has had a Food Security Program in the country since 1994, established shortly after the dissolution of the USSR and the collapse of collective farming in the region. It was able to help 5,937 people in 2018.

BRIDGE is a Georgia-based NGO that publishes comprehensive studies detailing the dietary habits of Georgians. It also publishes policy recommendations, which range from developing monitoring systems for the Georgian diet to embedding nutrition into the Ministry of Education’s agenda.

The Georgian Agricultural and Rural Development Alliance (GAARD), of which BRIDGE is a member, was able to register a “Food Security Bill” in Parliament in 2017. This bill aims to reduce Georgia’s reliance on imported food and improve the country’s nutrition self-sustainably.

The Impact of COVID-19

Although the country has only 879 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths as of June 16 2020, the global pandemic may put national food security at risk if another wave of the virus hits the region.

There are some subsistence farmers in the country, but many people buy their food from street markets or bazaars. Places like these are potential hotspots where the virus can spread. However, it is essential that these markets remain open because if they were shut down by a government mandate, many people would struggle to achieve their daily food quantity as well as combat hidden hunger in Georgia.

Hidden hunger presents itself in Georgia due to a lack of essential minerals and vitamins in its available food. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 69% of Georgia’s mortality. COVID-19 has the potential to increase the impact of hidden hunger if markets are shut down. While Georgia is facing a struggle with hidden hunger, organizations like Action Against Hunger, BRIDGE and GAARD are working to improve the quality of food in the country in order to make a positive impact.

– Christopher Bresnahan 

Photo: Flickr Republic of Georgia is a small country located just below Russia and west of the Black Sea. Georgia gained its independence from the USSR in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has a population of almost 4 million people. As of 2010, 9.2% live below the national poverty line, 50% use the internet and about 30% are unemployed.

Georgians’ livelihoods depend largely on cultivating agriculture and mining metals. Over half of the population works in agriculture. Though the country used to rely heavily on imported gas and oil, it now relies mostly on the use of hydropower. But there is another serious challenge facing the people of Georgia. Political and territorial conflicts have created a unique crisis in Georgia where thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, but have not crossed the border into another country. These people are known as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A Fight Over Territory and Displacement

The Georgian government considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia as its territories, while the country also admits that South Ossetia is under the control of the Russian Occupation Army. After the dissolution of the USSR, both South Ossetia and Abkhazia formed separatist movements. This came to a head in a war between Russia and Georgia in Abkhazia in the early 1990s. This conflict caused massive numbers of Georgians, Abkhaz and Russians to be displaced from the region, becoming one of the first major instances of internally displaced persons in Georgia.

A similar conflict occurred again in 2008, where the Russo-Georgian war erupted for five days. The conflict caused thousands of people to become displaced internally. From South Ossetia alone, there were more than 200,000 IDPs. This created a second large wave of internally displaced persons in Georgia.

The hostilities over territory have made it difficult for Georgia to move closer to democratization and globalization. As a result, integration with the West and joining NATO and the EU are among Georgia’s top foreign policy goals. Georgia is also still working on addressing the two waves of internally displaced persons in – one from the conflict in early 1990 and another from The Russo-Georgian war.

Signs of Hope

One Georgian NGO is trying to find some sort of politically neutral peace between the conflict zones. The organization does so through the Geneva International Discussions (GID), building confidence among territories, and negotiating no-arm zones. The largest goal of the Georgia Relations Association (GRASS) is to protect Abkhazia. GRASS aims to protect the Abkhazi language and keep education in one’s native language. Unlike South Ossetia, Abkhazi does not seem interested in integrating into Russia.

GRASS elaborates on a recent victory: “Georgia signed the Association Agreement (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), with the EU in 2014. It came into force in 2016. According to Article 429, the deal does not apply to the regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia; however, the preamble of the same agreement explicitly states that the E.U. and Georgia are committed to providing the benefits of closer political association and economic integration of Georgia with the EU to all citizens of Georgia, including the communities divided by conflict.”

The United States ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, advocates for the demilitarization of conflict zones and borders. Especially in times of a pandemic, these regions must work together to save lives. Officially, the United States recognizes the Republic of Georgia, including the autonomous states, as a sovereign country.

“Everyone is Everybody’s Relative or Neighbor”

“This is a poor country with a small economy, we are all helping each other to survive, I sometimes say – everyone is everybody’s relative or neighbor and we know how to stand by,” Chikviladze said. “I am 31 and I have lived two wars since I was born. We might be used to it, used to extreme poverty, and used to the fact that ‘Big Bear’ [Russia] is always there.”

However, there are further signs of hope for internally displaced persons in Georgia. Legal Aid Service is a state organization that offers legal counsel to IDPs and other vulnerable citizens. Also, IDP Women’s Association “Consent” has a mission to create a peaceful and democratic society, particularly for women and IDPs.

The future of Georgia may be uncertain at the moment, but there is a silver lining when considering the efforts being put towards combatting the IDP crisis.

Annie Raglow
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Georgia 

Georgia, located between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, has made significant progress over the past several decades when it comes to the life expectancy of its nearly 4 million citizens. Since around the 1990s, the country has experienced many health reforms that helped to improve the general health of its population as well as lower maternal and infant mortality rates. However, despite these improvements, Georgia still faces multiple health-related challenges that pose a threat to the life expectancy of its citizens. Listed below are five facts about life expectancy in Georgia.

5 Facts About Life Expectancy in Georgia

  1. According to a survey carried out by the United Nations in 2012, the average lifespan for Georgian women stood at 79 years, while the average life span for men was lower, at around 70 years. The average lifespan in Georgia is expected to increase to 80.6 years for women and 74.1 years for men by 2035. 
  2. As of 2019, the life expectancy in Georgia at birth is approximately 73.66 years. This marks a percentage increase of approximately 20 percent over 69 years. Back in 1950, the U.N. estimated that the life expectancy in Georgia at birth was less than 60 years in total. 
  3. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the probability of death for people between ages 15 and 60 stands at 238 for males and 83 for females. The probability of children dying before the age of 5 per 1,000 births was around 11 in 2017.
  4. Georgia developed the Maternal and Newborn Health Strategy, as well as a short term action plan in 2017 to provide direction and guidance in improving maternal and newborn health. According to UNICEF, the three-year initiative “envisages that by 2030, there will be no preventable deaths of mothers and newborns or stillbirths, every child will be a wanted child, and every unwanted pregnancy will be prevented through appropriate education and full access for all to high quality integrated services.”
  5. In 2010, the leading causes of premature death in Georgia were cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, including ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. It was reported that in 2010, the three most prominent risk factors for the disease burdened people in Georgia were related to diet, high blood pressure and tobacco smoking. It was also reported that the leading risk factors for children who were younger than 5 and people between ages 15 to 49 were suboptimal breastfeeding and the aforementioned dietary risks.

As a whole, life expectancy in Georgia has improved significantly compared to the mid 20th century. With that being said, there is no denying that there is still work that needs to be done in a number of areas including maternal health. Hopefully, with strong investments from the government, life expectancy in Georgia will continue its upward trajectory. 

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

OssetiaDiscussing poverty in Georgia is difficult to do without also acknowledging the sensitive subjects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is extensive debate over how best to describe these regions, but they are described as anything from disputed territories to de facto Russian client states propped up and recognized by few other than Russia itself. As such, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia comes with its own special set of circumstances.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major turning point in the history of this part of the world and it has left lingering trauma in the region. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were relatively well-off parts of the Soviet Union, but following its collapse, they both saw their populations and their standards of living decline. The effect of this collapse is lingering poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia such that a majority of residents view the dissolution of the USSR in a negative light.

The current political situation in both of these territories is far from stable, even after nearly two decades of violence, suspected ethnic cleansing and political turmoil. This presents a unique set of obstacles for addressing poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly in Abkhazia.

Most residents of Abkhazia, regardless of ethnic group, seem to favor total independence with the exception of ethnic Armenians, who support integration into the Russian Federation. If anything, however, Russian influence is strongly cemented into the Abkhaz political sphere, which means that any changes in the status of Abkhazia will lean heavily toward deeper integration with Russia.

South Ossetia is also finding itself pulled more and more into Moscow’s orbit. However, this is less of a problem than in Abkhazia as an overwhelming majority of its ethnically homogenous population is in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The international community continues to debate whether and how to handle this political situation, but few are confident that a solution will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile, however, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains a problem and residents are finding that few in the midst of this great power struggle are attentive to their real and pressing needs.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia face particular challenges when dealing with poverty because of their disputed political status. It is difficult for them to access international markets, but Abkhaz and Ossetian products do not necessarily fare well in Russian markets. It is also worth noting that Georgia also suffers as a result; it has lost access to Russian markets as a result of this political dispute, where prior to the conflict 70 percent of its trade volume was with Russia. The complicated political situation makes it difficult for aid to reach these regions and hinders efforts to collect accurate data.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were a beacon of hope to relieve poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The goal was for tourism to nearby Sochi to help shine a light on these locales and promote tourism there as well. However, this ended when Russia, prioritizing security above all else, closed the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

That being said, there are a number of actors trying to improve the situation and promote economic development in this troubled region. The UNDP in Georgia has made combating poverty, and specifically youth unemployment, a key feature of its work. Promoting youth employment is key because it not only promotes economic growth, but can also discourage young people from becoming involved in political violence.

While Abkhazia and South Ossetia face many challenges that will not abate any time soon, efforts are being made to work around the political situation to bring real change to the lives of the people in these regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are just two reminders that even in seemingly intractable conflicts, poverty reduction is still critically important and can make a huge difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

global health security agendaThe Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a partnership of nations, international organizations and NGOs that are seeking to keep the world safe from infectious diseases and maintain health security as a main global priority. The program launched in 2014 as a five-year initiative to increase country-level health security to stop disease outbreaks at their source.

In October 2017, GHSA was extended until 2024. This extension will allow the global health community to enhance data sharing, preparedness planning, epidemiological and laboratory surveillance, risk assessment and response to infectious diseases and other health issues and threats.

The Global Health Security Agenda has created a set of eleven targets and an assessment tool, which is currently being carried out in five countries: Georgia, Peru, Portugal, Uganda and the United Kingdom. In the organization’s assessment of Georgia, it noted that zoonotic diseases are a problem, as 60 percent of human pathogens are zoonotic. Much of the diseases seen in humans within the country are of animal origin, spreading, for example, through contact with veterinarians. These assessment reports contain information about immunization, biosafety and biosecurity and real-time surveillance among other things.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that global health security strengthens United States security. The CDC works in association with GHSA to combat disease worldwide. The organization currently has partnerships with 31 countries, including the Caribbean, that are working to meet the goals of GHSA. The CDC has established Global Disease Detection Centers around the world, providing assistance to over 2,000 requests for disease outbreaks and creating more than 380 diagnostic tests in laboratories of 59 countries.

GHSA has had success stories in many countries, including Tanzania. The nation’s government is determined to play a role in ensuring GHSA’s success, both nationally and internationally. Tanzania joined the program back in August 2015, and in February 2016, it became the first country to use the Joint External Evaluation to assess its 19 capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health issues.

In a formal event, Tanzania also launched the National Action Plan for Health Security. Held on September 8, 2017, the event was well attended, including guests such as USAID, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

The fight to keep the world safe from disease may still be a long road, but with programs like the Global Health Security Agenda, the future seems promising.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in GeorgiaThe Republic of Georgia was one of the most prosperous nations in the Soviet Union. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union also collapsed Georgia’s prosperity. Conflicts and economic deficits ensued and hunger in Georgia became an issue.

A report by Food Security and Nutrition in the South Caucasus stated that Georgia “cannot ensure the population of the country with stable and high-quality or adequate food, even in non-crisis situations.” Market supply-and-demand largely dictates food provision, relying on the physical presence of food in shops and markets. With 70 percent of food being imported into the country, food insecurity and the quality of goods are ongoing issues for citizens.

Though there is economic growth in the country, it is largely unrelated to food-related industries such as agriculture. Agricultural stagnation contributes to the issue of food insecurity as there is no dependable market. More than 50 percent of the population derives income and sustains themselves from the agriculture industry that only accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s aggregate GDP.

There are a few organizations that aim to minimize and eliminate the extent of hunger in Georgia.

The first is Action Against Hunger. They have been involved with hunger in Georgia since 1994, helping 2,754 people gain economic self-sufficiency in 2016 alone. This economic self-sufficiency can help individuals and families avoid hunger in the current food economy and beyond. The organization does this through a focus on the development of long-term food security programs. In at-risk communities, Action Against Hunger identifies income-generating activities and provides training in conflict resolution as well as encourages community participation in water, sanitation and hygiene programs.

Another organization is the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Their work in Georgia started in 1995 and is concentrated on six priority areas: post-conflict livelihoods and food security, animal health, plant protection, food safety and consumer protection and forestry and fisheries. Overall, FAO puts an emphasis on utilizing natural resources and developing legislation for food safety and trade standards to help the impoverished of Georgia.

Heifer International is another organization that has been supporting Georgians since 1999. They have implemented specific projects in Georgia and within the Caucasus region. In 2007, they launched the Chiauri Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Project and Khashmi Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Project in the Kakheti region.

These organizations, as well as others, raise awareness for Georgians and encourage reform in the country so that widespread hunger does not remain a concern in the country.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

Located in the sub-Caucasus region, Georgia is home to about four million people. Just like many countries in its region, certain diseases are prominent in Georgia. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works close with the Georgian government in order to tackle the top diseases in Georgia. Alongside Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), the CDC focuses on detecting and responding to major disease outbreaks in Georgia, such as measles and rubella. However, the fatal diseases are the ones that are less likely to be detected in day-to-day life. Here is a list of top diseases in Georgia.

Top Diseases in Georgia

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease: Making for 36 percent of deaths, ischemic heart disease is by far the most dangerous of the top diseases in Georgia. It refers to restricted blood flow due to narrowed heart arteries. This results in less blood and oxygen going to the heart muscle. Symptoms include heart attacks, which are often fatal.Roughly 10,000 people per year die from ischemic heart disease in Georgia. For the highest annual mortality rates, Georgia is placed in the top 15 for ischemic heart disease. Experts say that ischaemic heart disease is caused by risk factors such as smoking, poor cholesterol levels and diabetes. There are also genetic and stress factors to the disease. In order to improve mortality rates, Georgians need to watch their eating and smoking habits.
  2. HIV/AIDS: Some top diseases in Georgia are exacerbated by the lack of medical treatment and diagnoses. In 2015, there were roughly 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS is prominent in Georgia due to the lack of diagnoses. If a person goes undiagnosed, they put others in danger of the disease. It is estimated that 48 percent of people living with HIV in Georgia are undiagnosed. The WHO is working closely with the government of Georgia in order to stabilize this epidemic. This includes getting HIV/AIDS patients proper medical treatments and educating Georgian citizens on the disease.
  3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Also known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the top diseases in Georgia, taking the lives of thousands every year. It is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. Symptoms include coughing and breathing problems, which can eventually become fatal if untreated.Smoking is one of the major factors of COPD, with up to 75 percent of people who have the disease either being a smoker or ex-smoker. In Georgia, almost half of the male population regularly smokes, which likely contributes to the high mortality rate of COPD.

Many of these top diseases in Georgia can often be treated through preventable care or healthier lifestyles.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Georgia is a nation well-known for its conflict with Russia over provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. Georgia is a former member of the Soviet Union, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia shortly after it left the Soviet Union. However, neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia is fully recognized as independent from Georgia internationally. Their declarations of independence resulted in conflict with Georgia.

Nine Facts About Refugees in Georgia

1. As of mid-2015, there were more than 250,000 “refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR” in Georgia. This includes refugees, people in refugee-like situations (who have not been formally recognized as refugees), internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and other stateless persons.

3. The 2008 conflict created 150,000 Georgian asylum seekers. Fewer than 1,000 Georgian asylum seekers had been accepted each year globally since the early 2000s.

4. More than 1,400 refugees from other countries were accepted into Georgia in 2015. The majority of them were from Iraq and Syria.

5. Since Russia’s second invasion of Chechnya in 1999, about 12,000 Chechnya refugees came to Georgia. Russia has made claims that Georgia hid Chechnya rebels, but Georgia has deemed those claims as false.

6. The International Criminal Court started investigating the war crimes of South Ossetia, Russia and Georgia in and around South Ossetia in order to bring justice to over 6,000 victims. Still, it is doubtful the victims will receive reparations.

7. There are almost 300,000 internally displaced persons in Georgia due to the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia over the last 20 years. Five percent of the population is internally displaced.

8. During Georgia’s conflict with Abkhazia in 1992-1993, both sides terrorized civilians based on which group they were from and this led to many displaced persons.

9. The EU voted in February to allow Georgians to travel visa-free into the EU for up to 90 days. The EU was concerned this could cause an upsurge in Georgian migrants overstaying illegally, therefore it reserved the right to reinstate visa requirements if needed.

These are just nine facts about refugees in Georgia. Refugees in Georgia are affected by the conflict in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Despite the harsh ramifications from the global economic crisis and major political challenges, Georgia has remained a leader in the Caucasus sub-region for education, specifically in positive student learning. Georgia’s education programs and reforms are recognized worldwide. As of 2014, Georgia has had a secondary school net enrollment of 92 percent, just above the U.S., which sits at around 90.5 percent.

In 2007, Georgia partnered with the World Bank and UNICEF to create the Consolidated Education Strategy and Action Plan. This program ensures early childhood development, preschool education, general education, higher education and non-formal education in Georgia, while simultaneously including education for children with special needs.

Things began looking grim when, in 2008, Georgia was politically challenged by the Russian Federation and suffered internal government issues. Additionally, the Georgian economy was at a low, with almost 60 percent of the population living below the national poverty line and a quarter of the population making less than $2 per day, affecting the education in Georgia.

Nevertheless, Georgia’s government continues to focus on its educational reform. In 2008, the program department of Georgia was established in the Ministry of Education and Science. This agenda prioritizes programs such as the Safe School Initiative and Education Resource Centers. According to the World Bank, enrollment rates have only been improving.

As of 2016, advancement is seen in poverty. Twenty-one percent of the population is below the national poverty line, a staggering difference compared to prior numbers.

UNICEF notes that Georgia likely prioritizes education partly due to the country’s lack of natural resources, which leaves the future of the country dependent on its human capital.

Even still, there are festering problems in Georgia’s system, despite the government working hard to ensure quality education. Severe inequities of the enrollment and attainment rates between the rich and poor persist, likely due to entry fees. Ethnic groups and children with disabilities are lagging behind.

Improvements have been made to make up for this, such as the Education Strategy and Action Plan for Children with Special Needs, but there is still room for progress.

Henry Kerali, the World Bank regional director for the South Caucasus, notes, “Georgia’s prospects to compete in the global economy will largely depend on its ability to produce a highly-skilled workforce via improved teaching and learning.”

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Millennium Challenge Corporation Impacts STEM Education in Georgia
A $140 million compact signed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government of Georgia in July 2013 improves STEM education in Georgia. The compact, including a partnership with San Diego University (SDSU), is increasing the number of professionals in the STEM fields as well as empowering women and reducing poverty.

Georgia suffers from a lack of professionals in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Few women delve into these fields, and gender inequality can hinder economic growth and poverty eradication.

The MCC compact will improve STEM education and raise the earning potential for Georgians. The SDSU partnership with Georgian universities gives Georgians access to earning accredited STEM degrees. Twenty percent of the first class of students in the program are women. The more that percentage rises, the more poverty rates can drop and gender gaps can close.

STEM programs are important for developing countries like Georgia because they give individuals the skills that they need to make critical decisions about problems in our world, such as lowering environmental impact while improving standards of living.

As the former Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research stated, STEM education will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and to help people make decisions that affect global development.

The MMC compact to improve STEM education in Georgia is only one of many compacts that are giving nations worldwide more access to development opportunities. If Congress passes the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act (M-CORE Act), nations would be permitted to enter into a second Millennium Challenge Compact and reap the benefits of the additional development efforts.

In order for nations to get a second compact, one or more of the compacts must meet specific economic qualifications, and the nation must show progress with its current compact. Supporting the M-CORE Act is supporting poverty reduction and increased economic opportunity for developing nations.

If Congress passes the M-CORE Act, the MCC can implement more opportunities like STEM education in Georgia and increase development efforts worldwide.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr