Malnutrition in UzbekistanOn July 1, 2021, USAID successfully delivered 131 tons of food to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan. The almost $400,000 humanitarian aid package provides a “nutritious vegetable and legume mix” to health and social care facilities as well as disadvantaged Uzbek households. The aid is yet another act showing the U.S. commitment to long-term investment in health and nutrition in Uzbekistan.

Food Security and Uzbekistan’s Agri-Food Sector

Since it gained independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has wisely prioritized self-sufficiency in its approach to food security. Although the country has produced sufficient food to cover its population in the past, “food security also encompasses affordable food and a diverse diet that includes essential nutrients.” According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), malnutrition in Uzbekistan lingers because the country lacks adequate standards of balanced and nutritious diets and affordable food options are rare.

The World Bank states that the development of Uzbekistan’s agri-food sector is critical to strengthening food security and reducing poverty in the country. Economically, the agriculture division alone contributes 28% of Uzbekistan’s GDP and is responsible for employing more workers than any other sector. About 27% of the entire workforce, or more than 3.65 million people, work in the agricultural field.

In 2019, almost 10% of the country lived below the poverty line, surviving on less than $3.2 per day. This equates to about 3.2 million people, 80% of which lived in rural regions “with livelihoods that depend largely on agriculture.” For these reasons, USAID seeks to develop and diversify the agri-food sector by introducing new technologies and techniques to local farmers. In the past, Uzbek farmers could not access contemporary data on markets, weather, technologies and farming practices. By supplying almost 100,000 hours of agricultural training “and working with 64 new consulting service providers,” USAID has played a role in a 523% “cumulative increase in farm yields,” raising the income of Uzbek farmers by 107%.

USAID’s Impact on Uzbek Food Security

In the last decade, USAID’s International Food Relief Partnership program has supplied 1,300 tons of food assistance to Uzbekistan, amounting to more than $3.5 million in aid. The recent delivery will target more than “30,000 of the most vulnerable citizens” who are most at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. The aid will cover 130 health and social centers, including mental institutions and orphanages.

USAID Uzbekistan’s mission director, Mikaela Meredith, states, “This program demonstrates the ongoing strong partnership between Uzbekistan and the United States of America to improve nutrition and ensure that the most vulnerable have adequate, safe and nutritious food to support a healthy and productive life.”

The Future of Uzbekistan’s Food Security

Uzbekistan is currently on course to meet the global nutrition targets of reducing child stunting by 40% by 2025. In terms of stunting in children younger than 5, the rate has reduced from 25% in 2002 to 10.8% in 2017. However, not enough data is available to determine how close Uzbekistan is to achieving its 2025 target for stunting. Nonetheless, the country has made progress over the years. The continued assistance from USAID and other international organizations will help develop the agricultural sector, increase food security and combat malnutrition in Uzbekistan.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Obesity and Malnutrition in JamaicaCountries in the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, are experiencing severe obesity and malnutrition rates. Since 1999, both Jamaican men and women have shown increasing rates of diabetes and obesity. According to the Jamaica Observer, childhood obesity rates have doubled between 2013 and 2018. This drastic growth has seen a particular prevalence between the ages of 13 and 15. The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) found that within that age group, 18.1% of boys and 25.2% of girls are overweight. In the same survey, obesity rates in girls increased from 6.7% to 9.9% between 2010 and 2017. Furthermore, The Caribbean and Latin American regions show that more than 50% of women in the population are overweight or obese as of 2013, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, according to a 2016-2017 survey, 54% of Jamaicans older than 15 were deemed either overweight or obese.

Considering these data, obesity rates in Jamaica are a concern no matter what the demographic is. Every day, Jamaicans are unable to maintain healthy, nutritionally-dense diets. So, what is causing obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica?

The Causes

There are many factors to these growing numbers. However, one of the main causes of malnutrition in Jamaica is the lack of availability of essential, whole foods for all citizens. The New York Carib News states that Jamaica produced 144,319 tons of yams, 72,990 tons of oranges and 64,815 tons of bananas in the year 2017. All of this nutrient-dense food, however, is not necessarily supplied for Jamaicans; a mere 2% of Jamaicans consume a sufficient amount of essential foods like fruits and vegetables.

The global average consumption of protein-filled red meat is around 25 grams, whereas in Jamaica, the average is close to 10 grams as of 2016. Adequate protein intake results in stronger bones and muscles and aids in hormone production; Jamaicans are simply not given the opportunities for these benefits.

Moreover, grain and soybean milling facilities, two of the most popular crops in Jamaica, have a large portion of their shareholding with the United States. Such crops are used for many U.S. milk substitutes like soy milk, for example. This is a glaring problem regarding obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica as Jamaicans are not given healthier options for themselves like in the United States.

Sugar intake is also a large reason for malnutrition in Jamaica. In 2012, the Global Nutrition Report found that 61% of calories consumed by Jamaicans come from non-staple food items, or items that are not nutritionally rich (legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables). Jamaica’s consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, like Coca Cola, was 191 grams in 2016. Globally, the average was 95 grams, while the suggested midpoint is a meager 2.5 grams.

A high sugar diet is detrimental leading to many health problems like fatty liver disease, and such is apparent in Jamaica in the form of diabetes and obesity. In an article by Vital Strategies, 87% of Jamaicans feel that sugary drinks are a large reason for the country’s obesity rates, calling for policy proposals.

The Solutions

Some solutions to this problem include the potential tax on sugary drinks. In other Latin American and Caribbean countries, like Barbados, a tax on sugary drinks has shown positive effects. Within the first year of the tax, Barbados’ consumption of these drinks decreased by 4.3%, while bottled water sales increased by 7.5%. If implemented, obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica may see a decline from said tax as well.

In regards to Jamaican export policies, there has been some attention to the issues that CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) raises, including completing the intraregional integration scheme as well as creating ways to implement CARICOM into its relations with the United States. With the resolution of these issues, Jamaica may be able to better its relationship with the U.S. foreign economy. This may then create more opportunities for more nutrient-dense imports.

Not only this, but there have been school policy proposals put forth in an effort to decrease these numbers, according to the Jamaican Information Service (JIS). Such proposals being the National School Nutrition Policy. This policy promotes physical activity and nutrient-enriched meals as a priority in schools across Jamaica. Not only will these focuses benefit students’ long-term physical health, but Jamaican Senator Reid asserts that they too will improve psychological and social development.

This model emulates Brazil’s efforts for similar concerns with childhood obesity. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Brazil has experienced one of the most successful school feeding programs created more than 50 years ago. The program managed by the National Fund for Education Development (NFED) and the Ministry of Education has provided staple, nutrient-rich foods to 45 million children across Brazil. With hopes for similar results, the Jamaican National School Nutrition Policy was set to be finalized during the 2019-2020 school year.

In a country with a lack of readily available staple foods, malnutrition in Jamaica continues to be a problem across the country. Through efforts like school feeding programs and a tax on sugary drinks though, young children and adults alike will see long-term physical benefits. Perhaps through these reforms, Jamaica will continue with more policy changes in its imports and exports to reverse the growing numbers of obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica across the country.

– Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Macedonia
Macedonia is a small country, only slightly larger than the state of Vermont, located in Southeastern Europe, Balkan to be precise. Often overlooked by major world powers, Macedonia has a population of only 2.07 million but boats a rich and ancient history, similar to that of Greece. In the text below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Macedonia are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Macedonia

  1. Macedonia’s population includes a large minority of Romani people, also known as Roma or Gypsies. The Roma often face discrimination and underrepresentation and are often unable to get public sector positions. In 1994, the Macedonian government included the Roma language in its census, and in 1996, four primary schools included the Roma language in their curriculum. Roma representation in government improved by 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent from 2000 to 2010. After a demonstration on the streets of Skopje, the country’s capital, there are now more than 500 Roma students in universities and 50-60 young adults with a college degree.
  2. Almost 15 percent of Macedonia’s population, mostly Roman, lives without legal homes, which means that they do not have access to basic services, such as water or electricity, or even an official ID. Without an ID, these people cannot get insurance, social protection or immunization. Local organizations such as Roma SOS partner with nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, to help people get micro-loans and understand the legalization process.
  3. Since Macedonia gained its independence in 1991, there has been a debate with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia. In January 2019, the Macedonian parliament has approved the name change to North Macedonia and are awaiting the vote of the Greek parliament to make the name official. This name change will bring the country closer to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As a member of NATO, Macedonia would have assured security and further resources to improve the lives of their citizens.
  4. Five percent of Macedonian children are not attending primary school and 32 percent are not attending secondary school. Poverty often affects children’s school attendance. Thirteen percent of children in the poorest quintile do not attend primary school, compared to almost no such cases in the richest quintile. The gap increases for secondary school as 64 percent of children in the poorest quintile do not attend them, compared to only 7 percent of children in the richest quintile. However, the completion rate for primary school is high, at 74 percent, with a 98 percent transition rate to lower secondary school.
  5. In 1996, Macedonia introduced Continuous Medical Education (CME) that creates health care guidelines and equips facilities. Currently, every citizen has access to primary care through the state. However, those living illegally would not have a state issued ID, thus no state health care. The state health care system that takes taxes from all people working and living in Macedonia, provides free preventive, diagnostic and curative medical services. This includes hospitalization and consultation with specialists and doctors. The private health care system is often too expensive for the average citizen, though it can provide better or quicker treatment and more medical options.
  6. The leading causes of death in Macedonia are circulatory diseases, that made up 57 percent of all deaths in 2004, malignant neoplasm, injuries/poisoning, respiratory diseases and diseases of the endocrine system. Macedonia’s average total life expectancy is five years less than that of countries in the EU and Macedonia’s healthy life expectancy is almost eight years behind that of Greece. These differences stem from a higher rate of cardiovascular diseases caused by high tobacco use, and uncontrolled hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
  7. Unemployment in Macedonia is at its all-time lowest, dropping from 21.1 percent in June 2018 to 20.8 percent at the end of 2018. In comparison, unemployment in Greece was at 20.20 percent in April 2018. The average monthly wage for a Macedonian worker is $667.55. While Macedonia lags behind many of the U.N. countries, the country has improved in this field since the lowest monthly wage recorded was $370.96.
  8. In 2015, 21.5 percent of Macedonian citizens were living below the poverty line which put Macedonia in 80th place in a ranking of 139 countries. Families with five or more members, or almost 48.5 percent of Macedonians, are most affected by poverty. However, Macedonia has made progress with its market economy, and as the unemployment rate lowered, it pulled the poverty level from around 31 percent in 2011 to its current rate.
  9. Food and water supply in Macedonia is relatively good, as only 4 percent of the population struggles with undernourishment and 83 percent of the drinking water supply is considered safely managed. Agriculture accounts for 13 percent of the GDP in Macedonia. The government owns most of the pastures and farmland, manages and improves them through the Law on Pastures that regulates carrying capacity, drinking pools, construction of shelters, clearing of vegetation and more.
  10. In 2011, 1.8 percent of children were under the proper weight for their height, while 4.9 percent of children were under the proper height for their age and 12.4 percent of children were overweight. The Global Nutrition Report states that Macedonia experiences two main forms of malnutrition– overweight and anemia. About 23 percent of women suffer from anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells in the body. Though these issues exist, Macedonia has made progress to lower the overall undernourishment from 8 percent of the population to 4 percent.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Macedonia show that while the country faces many struggles with ethnic relations and political issues, it has also made significant progress within the last decade with improvements to health care and the economy. Macedonia has resolved its long-lasting name dispute with Greece and it is on the right track of joining NATO and EU, which will benefit all citizens of the nation.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr