Posts

combat extreme hungerIn Kenya, hunger and food security are two of the most dire issues faced by impoverished communities. The locust swarms that plagued countries in the Horn of Africa in 2020, devoured millions of hectares of crops resulting in significant food loss. The incident also served to illuminate the precarious insecurity of the food supply in the region. This gave way for creative solutions to combat extreme hunger in Kenya and other African countries alike.

A Promising Solution

The massive inundation of locusts in regions where food is scarce also served as a concrete reminder of the relative abundance of biomass from insects in Africa. This abundance of biomass from insects presents a promising solution for Kenya — use insects to combat hunger by converting them into food products.

Eating insects has a long history in tropical and subtropical climates due to the large populations of insects. Kenya is no exception. Though locusts were long considered a valuable food source, they should not be eaten now due to the widespread usage of insecticides to curb locust outbreaks. However, other related insects like grasshoppers can be eaten. Countries like Kenya can potentially use insects to combat extreme hunger.

Nutrition

Among the millions of undernourished people in Kenya, lack of protein is the main cause and one of the most important areas to focus on to reduce malnutrition.

According to the Global Hunger Index, 24.2% of people in Kenya were undernourished in 2018. In the same year, roughly 26% of children under the age of 5 had experienced stunted growth due to malnourishment.

Insects are an extremely good source of proteins and essential amino acids. Insects like grasshoppers and locusts contain more protein per ounce than traditional forms of protein like beef, chicken or sheep.

Stable and Efficient Production

The production and harvest of insects for consumption provides a stable and efficient method of food production. It takes only three months for crickets to grow to their fully matured state.

Studies have also shown that insects are as efficient as poultry in converting feed into biomass. In addition, insects can feed on waste byproducts such as manure. Both of these facts mean that insect farmers in Kenya will not need to spend much time or money on providing feed to their insects.

Environmentally Sustainable

The cultivation of insects consumes less water and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than the cultivation of other sources of protein like livestock. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, insect cultivation is believed to be less likely to result in zoonotic infections.

In Kenya, where insects such as termites are already commonly foraged for consumption by humans, the mass production of insects could combat extreme hunger. Insect cultivation has the potential to provide a cheaper, more efficient and stable solution.

More research and development must occur before entrepreneurs and activists in Kenya can roll out products like insect protein powders, cricket-based flour or just plain fried insects to Kenya’s hungry. Nonetheless, the value of insects presents a possible solution that can be considered to combat extreme hunger in Kenya.

Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

2020 Global Hunger Index resultsCalculating world hunger statistics is no easy task. The United Nations estimated that in 2018, more than 820 million people suffered from food shortages all around the globe. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is an organization that studies world hunger trends in developing nations and publishes yearly reports on the statistics. The organization uses child mortality rates, youth undernutrition numbers and food supply totals provided by agencies such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and UNICEF, to produce a hunger index for each nation. Depending on a nation’s index, they are placed on a scale of hunger severity of low, moderate, serious, alarming and extremely alarming. The 2020 Global Hunger Index results have been released and show promising developments for Sub-Saharan Africa.

2020 Global Hunger Index Results

In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, 11 nations are rated as alarming, 40 are serious, 26 are moderate and 48 are low. This means that there are no countries considered extremely alarming when it pertains to hunger. While there is still much work left to be done to feed the world, the 2020 GHI results are hopeful. Both the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were previously rated as extremely alarming but have experienced drastic improvement over the last year. Action Against Hunger works tirelessly in both the CAR and DRC and deserves recognition for the status improvements.

Hunger in the Central African Republic (CAR)

Fighting hunger in the Central African Republic became a priority of Action Against Hunger in 2006. Currently, more than 450 team members are present in the CAR helping to secure food and water for the most vulnerable communities. In just 2019 alone, Action Against Hunger provided these vital resources for 342,516 CAR citizens. The work has allowed the CAR to move out of the hunger category of extremely alarming. A majority of people living in the CAR are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. If the 2020 Global Health Index category change is to remain a permanent one, Action Against Hunger is part of the reason why.

Hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is another African nation to see improvement in its 2020 Global Hunger Index status. Similar to the CAR, Action Against Hunger has become an integral part of ensuring food accessibility for the DRC’s impoverished communities. The global nonprofit has worked in the DRC for almost 25 years and now deploys 472 team members to carry out help. Food, medical supplies and water sanitization are necessary for the Congolese to survive. Within the past year of 2020, 1.2 million people in the DRC received help from Action Against Hunger. That means that over 10% of the DRC’s population depends on Action Against Hunger to live. The GHI improvement for the DRC stands as a testament to the work being done by Action Against Hunger for over two decades.

Zero Hunger

The 2020 Global Hunger Index results are only a snapshot of where the world is in the fight against hunger. There are still hundreds of millions of people suffering from food insecurity. However, the GHI results show hope that food shortages may someday be a thing of the past. With Action Against Hunger and other similar organizations helping to fight hunger, strides have been made in the area of global hunger.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in India during COVID-19
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s struggle with malnutrition has been playing out behind the scenes. Despite consistent economic growth, nutritional deficiencies have plagued India’s adults and children for years. Nearly 50% of children do not receive adequate nourishment and more than 50% suffer from anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. Efforts by the state have improved the situation over time, but malnutrition in India remains high compared to other developing countries. Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse as India’s cancellation of its school lunch program leaves children, who usually rely on these supplementary meals, at-risk. In addition to damaging the economy and people’s ability to buy food, the COVID-19 lockdown has halted state-run services that previously helped people in need access nutritious meals. Recognizing the severity of malnutrition in India during COVID-19, efforts are starting to ensure Indians, especially women and children, fulfill their nutrient requirements.

History of Malnutrition in India

Malnutrition is not a new issue in India. It has been consistently prevalent despite the country’s economic development. In 2019, India ranked 102 of 117 countries in the global hunger index and its hunger situation was labeled as “severe.” Furthermore, India’s childhood malnutrition rate is twice that of sub-Saharan Africa. In this same vein, 45% of children suffer from stunted growth due to their lack of sufficient nutrients necessary for development.

Though adults also suffer from malnutrition, the issue largely affects children. This is because of the lasting implications of malnutrition occurring during development.

Malnutrition in India’s children is attributable to many factors. These include lack of access to nutritious foods, inadequate care practices and pregnant women’s inability to gain sufficient weight. These circumstances can lead to a multitude of consequences. For example, decreased chances of survival for children younger than 5 years old, increased susceptibility to illness, impaired learning abilities and decreased productivity in children and adults, to name a few.

These effects not only affect individuals but can also become detrimental to the growth and prosperity of a society or country. When childhood development suffers impairment, their education and potential to contribute to India’s productivity decreases. Ultimately, this affects long-term, economic growth. India acknowledges that it is in the state’s interest to solve this issue. Therefore, the Indian government has attempted to address malnutrition by creating several aid services.

Initiatives to Combat Malnutrition

Since malnutrition has been recognized as an issue crucial to India’s development, India has led developing countries in the fight against malnutrition.

India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), a program funded by the central government and UNICEF, formed in 1975. The initiative aims to tackle malnutrition by providing primary healthcare and supplementary food to children between the ages of 3 and 6. Also, their mothers would receive the same care. In 2010, the ICDS expanded with the addition of the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) program. This expansion strives to improve health and nutrition for pregnant women.

Another government-led effort to combat malnutrition in children is the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education. This is also known as the Mid-Day Meal scheme. This program provides children in school with meals. Ultimately, this improves both their food security and nutritional status.

Additionally, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issued regulations in 2018 for fortifying common foods like rice, wheat and milk to enhance their nutritional quality.

These programs convey the state’s recognition of the severity of malnutrition in India. Also, the necessity of improving conditions for thousands of residents. Between 1990 and 2019, child mortality decreased from 3.4 million to less than 1 million. However, despite this significant progress, malnutrition persists.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted access to nutritious meals for all Indians. Yet, this is especially true for children relying on supplementary meals. Under normal circumstances, children were guaranteed at least one nutritious meal under India’s government-funded school lunch program. After the imposed lockdown (to prevent the spread of the virus), about 115 million children, dependent on school lunches to fulfill their daily nutrient requirements, no longer had access to this service. Supplementing its current food program, India planned to use a phased approach to reopen schools in September 2020. The nation has announced it will expand its school food program to include breakfast and midday meals. These initiatives aim to reduce malnutrition in India during COVID-19.

While India’s government has been attempting to combat its persistently high childhood and adult malnutrition rates for years. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made the situation even more urgent. As India loosens COVID-19 restrictions, it is imperative that children and women once again gain access to crucial services. Ensuring their nutrient requirements are met is paramount. Furthermore, recognizing the enormity of malnutrition in India during COVID-19 and beyond, India must push more efforts to protect the health of its people.

 – Angelica Smyrnios
Photo: Flickr

Updates on Hunger in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, situated on the Indian Ocean. It is the second-largest island country in the world. Today, this island nation is facing a major food crisis and ranks 64 out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. As of 2015, around 28% of the island’s population, nearly 4 million citizens, suffered from hunger. Here are some updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Root of the Issue

A significant factor in Madagascar’s famine rates is its weather. The island is prone to periodic droughts, cyclones and unpredictable rainfall. From 1980 to 2010, the country experienced 35 cyclones and five long drought periods. Moreover, it experienced five large earthquakes and six epidemics during the same period. This type of environment makes it very difficult for farmers to steadily produce adequate crops for the country’s residents. Due to food insufficiency, 47% of the citizens suffer from malnutrition — one of the highest rates in the world.

Recent Updates on Hunger Rates in Madagascar

The hunger rates within the last three years have not decreased. Conversely, the percentages continue to rise. In 2017, Madagascar’s famine rates increased by 1.4% to 44.4% from 2016. In 2018, two destructive cyclones caused flooding around the coastal areas of Madagascar. This affected roughly 200,000 citizens and displaced 70,000. During the same year, unpredictable rainfall dropped food production for around 80% of citizens. Fortunately, in 2019, livestock prices began decreasing due to the higher availability of food. Similarly, the price of rice decreased slightly since 2018 — suggesting modest improvements in the country’s food supply.

Solutions from International Organizations

While the government has struggled to control Madagascar’s famine rates, other organizations have stepped in to aid the country with its food crisis. These organizations provide necessary resources to people across the island and representing positive updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a U.N.-sanctioned organization, is providing agro-pastoral support to rural families in western Madagascar. The aim is to increase productivity in farming systems and improving farmers’ incomes. The FAO also is collecting and analyzing data on food security and agro-weather conditions to help farmers prepare for potential natural disasters. Importantly, these disasters would include climate-related crises. Also, the FAO supports government efforts to incorporate nutrition awareness programs into education systems.

As a temporary solution, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has paid trucks to deliver resources, such as clean water, to villages prone to contaminated drinking water. UNICEF also carries out routine health checks for children. In 2015, the organization began reporting high percentages of children suffering from malnutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) also came up with a short-term solution to address Madagascar’s hunger crisis. In 2016, within famine-affected areas, the WFP gave $20 each month to families to buy resources they could find. Also, it distributed nutritional supplements to children.

Final Outlook

Overall, the famine statistics in Madagascar do not seem to be dropping. This is primarily due to the country’s geographic location. The island is more prone to natural disasters and the government does not have any long-term solution that can certainly decrease the country’s current high famine rates. Yet, with the continued support from international organizations, there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Madagascar.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in NigerNiger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a country in Western Africa. It neighbors Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, and it spans just over 1.25 million square kilometers of land. Niger has faced several violent conflicts in the past. Some of the battles still pose a threat to the country and its 22.3 million inhabitants. Issues regarding inadequate healthcare are one of the several socio-economic problems Nigeriens live with on a day-to-day basis. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Niger.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Out of 189 countries reviewed, Niger ranked the lowest on the United Nation’s 2019 Human Development Report. The major contributors to the ranking were the country’s life expectancy at birth and the average number of years of schooling. With a life expectancy of 62 years and only two years of education, Niger’s underdeveloped health and education facilities significantly strain them.

Global Hunger Index (GHI)

The majority of health problems stem from malnutrition and inadequate food supply. The Global Hunger Index score provides insights into the critical aspects of healthcare in Niger. The GHI comprises four categories to determine a country’s score: under-nourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. The higher the GHI score, the more hunger and health issues within the state.

Additionally, Niger’s GHI score in 2000 was at an alarming 52.1 and steadily decreased throughout the years. Five years later, in 2005, the score dropped to 42.2 and is currently at the country’s lowest score of 30.2. A significant decrease in the overall GHI score is because of the individual declines in each category.

Over the years, under-nourishment decreased from affecting 21.6% of the population to 16.5%. Child stunting decreased by approximately 15%, and child wasting decreased by 6% and child mortality decreased by about 14% over 20 years.

Progress Throughout The Years

Furthermore, the healthcare facilities within Niger still lack investments. Through funding and continuing to struggle to provide Nigeriens with quality health, the country has come a long way. It has been almost 20 years since the start of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. With that, Niger has significantly increased the average life expectancy, literacy rate and poverty reduction initiatives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Niger to have a life expectancy of 46, a literacy rate of 17% and extreme poverty for 60% of the population in 2005. Since then, much progress has been made in all categories. In 2019, the United Nations and the World Bank reported Niger’s life expectancy as 62, literacy rate as 30% and an extreme poverty rate of 41%.

 Overall, healthcare in Niger still lacks adequate funding and consists of several underdeveloped facilities. However, the country’s continuous work with international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID and more has led to a steady betterment and progress.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

countering hunger in Estonia
Estonia is a country located in Northern Europe, directly below Finland. Throughout the 1980s, it was under the illegal control of the U.S.S.R., but Estonia officially declared its independence on August 20, 1991. However, the country had been heavily dependent on the U.S.S.R., which was the source of 92% of Estonia’s national trade. This made the path to independence long and arduous for the small country. Despite the challenges of gaining economic independence, the citizens of Estonia remained persistent and diligent. Their successful bid for independence marks the end of one hurdle and the beginning of another. Countering hunger in Estonia is a challenge in which the nation continues to make significant strides forward.

Incredible Decline in Hunger Since the 1990s

After declaring independence, Estonians had to stand in long lines for many hours, just to buy food. In 2000, 5.6% of the population was undernourished. In 2019, this percentage was reduced to 2.9%, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The Estonian Food Bank and the European Aid Fund have been working together with local governments in countering hunger in Estonia. They have provided food for those in need of it since 2015 with roughly 25,000 people aided each year. In 2016, the Estonian Food Bank and the Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre created the “Consume food wisely!” campaign. Its goal is to reduce food waste while also spreading awareness about the issue. In a concerted effort, large stores and restaurants also supported the campaign.

The Estonian Animal Breeding Association set forth a project named “Implementation of cattle breeding and feeding measures in Georgian dairy farms”. The main aim of the project; to increase the efficiency of dairy farms. Lasting from 2016 to 2017, the project focused on teaching farmers how to properly cultivate cattle and operate husbandry technologies. Estonia’s agricultural productivity was €9,465, in 2016. Continuing this trend, in 2018 the agricultural productivity had reached €15,812.

Decreased Child Mortality Rate

Children are the most vulnerable group when it comes to death caused by hunger. In 2000, the amount of under five-year-old child deaths was at 1.1%. Moreover, this number shrunk to 0.3%, by 2019.

When it comes to malnutrition in children, weight and height are efficient indicators. In 2000, underweight children accounted for 2.4%, according to the GHI. After much fluctuation, the number remained at 2.4%, in 2019. Furthermore, children with stunted height accounted for 3.6%, in 2000 and this number dropped to 3.4% by 2019.

Based on information from the OECD, 16% of the population of Estonia lives in relative income poverty. If the country’s population had to forgo three months of their income, 40% would be at risk for slipping into poverty. When looking at households, 18% use up to 40% of their income on housing, which leaves little left for food, after additional costs.

Progress Continues with Estonia’s Economy

Estonia’s economy has been progressing exceedingly well since it gained its independence from the U.S.S.R. With the help of innovative government projects and outside funds, the people have taken many great steps toward countering hunger in Estonia.  The nation is one of just 17 countries who have a GHI score under five — out of the 117 total qualifying countries. Estonia is a shining example of what inquisitive thinking, research and aid can do to improve a once starving nation.

– Emma Green
Photo: Pixbay

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, located in the Balkans region of Southeast Europe, has a population of approximately 7 million citizens and ranks 25 out of 117 qualifying countries struggling with hunger, per the Global Hunger Index. Hunger additionally coincides with low food security — a detrimental status that many inhabitants face due to lack of money for food or the absence of other resources for them to use as food. The United States Department of Agriculture defines low food security as the multiple reports of “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.” As Serbia’s persistent hunger crisis continues to affect its inhabitants, many will encounter illness and death because of the insufficient amounts of nutrition consumed. Here are five facts about hunger in Serbia.

5 Facts About Hunger in Serbia

  1. Global Hunger Index: Serbia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 6.5; a value that the country’s indicators of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality determines. All of these variables factor into caloric deficiencies and poor nutrition statistics throughout the country. On the GHI Severity Scale, a score of 6.5 is considerably low.
  2. Malnourishment: According to Macrotrends — 5.7% of Serbia’s population had gone undernourished from 2016 to 2017. Those that the study accounted for did not meet the dietary energy requirements because of their inadequate food intake.
  3. Children: Children under the age of 10 are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and can suffer from being underweight and thin. According to a cross-sectional study in regard to hunger in Serbia by Cambridge University Press — Serbian school children (ages 6 to 9) attending schools without any health-focused educational programs were “1.57 times more likely to be thin than peers enrolled in schools with such programs.”
  4. Disease: Coronary heart disease and heart inflammation (also known as myocarditis) are the two leading causes of death in Serbia. A study that the Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences conducted found a link between malnutrition and cardiac debility — especially in children. Those children experiencing malnourishment are likely to experience alterations to their body compositions as they mature, including a loss of skeletal and heart muscle mass as well as other cardiac abnormalities that electrolyte, mineral or vitamin deficiencies cause. In 2018, coronary heart disease contributed to 22.16% of total deaths in Serbia, while myocarditis contributed to 16.02% of total deaths.
  5. Dietary Assessment Tool: The Network for Capacity Development in Nutrition in Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan countries (NCDNCEE) created a dietary intake assessment tool to identify areas of hunger and challenges of malnutrition within the region. By utilizing pre-existing food composition databases, dietary studies and micronutrient suggestions — the Diet Asses & Plan (DAP) platform can identify any nutritional concerns within the region.

A Need for Strategic Intervention

As the issues of malnutrition and hunger in Serbia continue to affect the populace, the country’s overall health will continue to decline — unless the country devises and implements a premeditated plan of action. Despite the many hunger reduction and alleviation strategies that have emerged to aid in these issues, the Republic of Serbia still has ample room to enhance its citizens’ nutritional health and well-being for a much healthier future.

Isabella Socias
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BelarusLocated between Poland and Russia, Belarus was part of the Soviet Union before becoming known as the “last dictatorship of Europe.” After the fall of the USSR, Belarus began a long transition, switching its economic structure from a command economy to a more strict market economy. Alexander Lukashenko became the first president in 1994, and he is still in office today. In 2020, Belarus scored poorly on the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 153 out of 180 other countries. Despite the need to improve some of its sectors, poverty and hunger in Belarus are not significant issues.

The State of Hunger in Belarus

Belarus has a global hunger index rating of five. Countries with rates of less than nine have a low risk of hunger problems. Since Belarus’s government subsidizes agriculture, the production of food remains steady, constituting 6.4% of its GDP. Along with low hunger in Belarus, the unemployment rate went from 1% in 2016 to 0.3% in 2019. Poverty likewise remains low, at a 5% rate. As such, Belarus is progressing in development. The United Nations rated the country to have “very high development,” putting it in 50th place out of 189 nations.

Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues worldwide, officials expect unemployment rates to rise to 2.3% in Belarus. The pandemic may cause more residents to lack the means to obtain food. So far, the government has not implemented any measures to help people with job loss during the pandemic. Cases began rising in mid-April, and the World Health Organization worries that the government is not doing enough. If not handled properly, the unemployment rates may continue to rise into 2021. Belarus’s government, while not having a strict plan for job loss, has supplied food to residents by issuing a decree to offer free assistance. Government officials have also not yet spoken about any plans to offer monetary assistance to residents that must leave work because of the pandemic.

Future of Hunger in Belarus

Despite the pandemic, Belarus can expect a continued low hunger rate. Though the country is succeeding in improving living conditions, it still is not completely free of poverty. The Belstat statistical committee estimated that one in five Belarusians live in poverty. However, looking into 2021, others predict that unemployment will lower again to 1.8%.

Belarus has significantly less inequality than other EU countries, so there is less of a gap concerning household income between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 10% of residents. The country has had its difficulties from moving to a command economy to a semi-market economy, but it has also made significant progress. Since Belarus is one of the countries that first created the United Nations, it has been able to advance more of its goals, such as improving the economy and promoting foreign trade. Throughout the years, the country has received aid from various organizations that have helped its rapid development from 2012 to 2016. Belarus may have some problems in dealing with poverty, but it has prospered due to aid from the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and several programs from the United Nations. This has all helped to reduce the level of hunger that citizens of Belarus face.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hunger in AzerbaijanHunger in Azerbaijan has been widespread for the last three decades. The country is located to the south of Russia, to the west of the Caspian Sea and to the east of Armenia. Saida Verdiyeva, a mother of two, lives in Toganali, a village in northwest Azerbaijan. Verdiyeva fears that social-distancing measures, which her government established in response to COVID-19, will make it impossible for her to feed herself and her two children.

In October 1991, two months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared its independence from the soviet block. The subsequent years of economic turmoil in her country led to widespread poverty and hunger in Azerbaijan.

Degeneration of Azerbaijan’s Economy Between 1991-1994

By 1995, Azerbaijan had endured a critical socio-economic crisis. According to the IMF, Azerbaijan’s Gross Domestic Product, industrial production, agricultural production, real average monthly wages, household consumption- virtually every meaningful factor of the country’s economy- plummeted between 1991 and 1994. It wasn’t until the end of 1994 that the government took some control over the economic crisis. In 1995, state-led programs were successful in addressing issues of economic degeneration and adverse living standards.

Azerbaijan’s Economy and Global Hunger Index

In 1995, after four years of economic crisis, Azerbaijan had a Global Hunger Index score of 28.30. Consistent with the relatively steady economic improvement between 1995 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score reached a value of 14.60 in 1996. It remained close to this benchmark in 1997. However, between 1997 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score increased from 14.89 to 27.50.

For about two years, the numbers show a direct relationship between Azerbaijan’s GHI score and its economy. However, the macroeconomic solutions implemented by the government at the time were deficient in addressing the specific needs of certain regions and populations. In all likelihood, Verdiyeva was among those Azerbaijani whose local problems were not fixed.

Hunger and Poverty in Toganali

Hunger in Azerbaijan, as elsewhere, is linked to poverty, and poverty is often a result of unemployment. Before COVID-19, Verdiyeva worked as a dishwasher for large events. Due to social-distancing measures, there have not been many large events in or around Toganali. As a result, Verdiyeva has struggled to find work.

Many countries around the world are scrambling to prevent hunger crises caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. However, nations that had already implemented relevant social policies and established the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure to handle hunger crises will now have a more nuanced ability to cope.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development in Azerbaijan

In 2015, all United Nations Member States agreed to pursue domestic policies in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The priorities of the SDGs are to end global poverty and ensure environmental protection. In addition, the SDGs aim to create conditions whereby all people can enjoy peace and prosperity. These objectives are to be fulfilled by 2030.

Among 166 other countries, Azerbaijan ranked 54th in its commitment to the SDGs. Much of Azerbaijan’s success in this regard is owed to the diligence in creating bureaucratic mechanisms to track vulnerable populations and organize data on age, gender and location of such groups.

The SDGs’ principle of “leaving no one behind” involves a preliminary method of accumulating a body of information about vulnerable demographic groups. The implication is that being seen is a prerequisite for being helped.

Verdiyeva and her two children are among those Azerbaijani who will benefit from their country’s commitment to the SDGs and its principle of “leaving no one behind.” In 2013, only 24% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in preschool education in Azerbaijan. By 2017, 75% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in a school where they have access to daily meals.

Likewise, the hourly earnings of female employees and unemployment rates improved from 2010 to 2017. Comprehensive domestic policies, like the SDGs, are institutional methods of ending hunger in Azerbaijan. COVID-19 is an obstacle to reaching this end goal. However, the Azerbaijani government made valiant efforts, especially from 2015 to 2020, to ensure healthier living conditions for its vulnerable populations through the next decade.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr