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hunger in BrazilIn the working-class area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the largest urban garden in Latin America has plans to become the biggest in the world. The produce goes towards families in the area, helping to remedy food insecurity and hunger in Brazil.

Hunger in Brazil

Brazil is a large nation with a sizeable population of 212 million, so any social safety net shortcomings reflect on a larger scale, affecting millions. As of 2022, 60% of families in Brazil face some form of food insecurity; this equates to 125 million people.

The situation is not improving either as the number of those facing hunger doubled from 19.1 million to 33.1 million over the past two years, according to The Brazilian Report. Hunger in Brazil now is similar to rates from 30 years ago.

Urban Garden in Rio de Janeiro

Beginning in 2013, the Manguinhos community garden started in a patch of land previously used as part of the Rio Olympics. Around one football field of land became a workable garden thus far, BBC reports. Prior to its transformation, the land was infamous for being a slum, home to many displaced persons struggling with addiction.

There are currently 35 gardeners who assist in managing the land. They receive a monthly stipend of $95 in addition to access to fresh produce which they can take for free. The majority of the produce, however, goes to the tables of families in need in the area. Currently, the garden feeds 800 families a month. The food is always pesticide free, a rare option in the area.

Julio Cesar Barros, a soil and crop expert leading much of the project, stresses the importance of providing organic food in low-income areas. “Why do poor people have to be doomed to eating poisoned food? My goal is to stop organic food from just being for the elite,” he says.

Plans for the Future

The Manguinhos urban garden does not plan to stop at being the largest urban garden in Latin America. By the end of the year, the garden could expand to nearly 27 acres, according to BBC. This development would make it the largest urban garden in the world.

The plan is to donate half of the produce to those in the area in need, while the other half will be sold at inexpensive prices. All of the money will be divided amongst the gardeners, according to BBC. As such, the garden acts both as a means of accessible fresh and healthy food and as a source of income for those that dedicate their time to maintaining the land.

The Manguinhos urban garden is an innovative and sustainable way for Rio de Janeiro to combat growing food insecurity in Brazil. Once expanded, the garden should be able to feed 50,000 local families by 2024.

– Eleanor Corbin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BaliWhen the COVID-19 pandemic limited human connection and disrupted everyday life, human unity and kindness were more valuable than ever. Since the confirmation of its first case in February 2020, Indonesia has recorded more than 4 million coronavirus cases and over 140,000 deaths. The prevalence of COVID-19 in Bali, in particular, harmed the nation’s economy, resulting in a growth in hunger. Fortunately, a new community-based program seeks to help hunger in Bali by helping individuals experiencing food insecurity while also combatting plastic waste.

Effects of COVID-19 on Bali’s Economy

Tourism is an important facet of Bali’s economy. Before the pandemic, Bali welcomed over 6 million visitors per year. However, until the rates of COVID-19 in Bali had sufficiently lowered, tourists could not visit the island. While Bali’s travel ban intended to keep people safe, hunger in Bali grew due to this financial halt. Approximately 92,000 people who worked in the tourism industry were laid off during the pandemic, having little to no means of supporting their families. With this complete loss of income, many tourism employees turned to agricultural business to make ends meet, though workers would sometimes only get $4 a day, barely enough to purchase a single bucket of rice.

Development of Plastic Exchange

Vegan restaurant owner Made Janur Yasa saw the grueling circumstances of unemployed people in his home village of Ubud. He wanted to use and donate his services and resources as sustainably as possible to avoid creating more plastic waste in an already excessively polluted place. Yasa explained to CNN, “I got to thinking, inside the challenge, there is an opportunity.” Thus, the impetus and conception for Plastic Exchange or Plastic for Rice were born. Yasa’s initiative, Plastic Exchange, isn’t just a means of feeding families who couldn’t afford rice, though. It encourages participants to travel down to their local parks and beaches to collect plastic waste. Plastic Exchange upholds three core values: dignity, prosperity, and environment. The first value of dignity is a noteworthy cause, as it is important to sustain a sense of self-worth in individuals who suffered the economic effects of COVID-19 in Bali. Its second core value ties in nicely with the first since people cannot thrive in their environment unless their most fundamental needs are met. Lastly, the hands-on initiative towards alleviating Bali’s plastic waste problem teaches citizens the importance of caring for their planet, reiterating that sustainability is achievable in the direst of circumstances.

Plans for Plastic Exchange

According to a report from the Bali Tribune, in August of 2021, a Plastic Exchange initiative in a village called Saba collected two tons of plastic within a timeframe of two hours. The positive results from plastic exchange programs have inspired Indonesian villagers to embrace small-scale acts as catalysts for large-scale sustainable improvements. Not only is this exchange of plastic an excellent means of recycling — Yasa sends the plastic waste to the island of Java, with a tremendous amount of infrastructure — but it is also a means of stabilizing the island’s economy. Local rice farmers and planters receive a more consistent income again as islanders can afford larger rice supplies again, which also combats high hunger rates in Bali. With more than 500 tons of plastic collected, Yasa is eager to take his successful initiative and encourage its operation in other Indonesian villages and potentially other countries as well.

Conclusion

Plastic Exchange’s website opens with a sped-up count of how many Bali villages have participated in the program, how many kilograms of plastic were collected, and how many kilograms of rice were distributed. It is overwhelming in the best way possible. There is also a PayPal link to donate towards the cause. For example, a $50 donation can buy 50kg of rice that feeds 200 people per day. Ultimately, plastic exchanges are a promising solution to end hunger and plastic waste in Bali.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in IsraelIt is an indisputable fact that everyone needs food for survival. Even further, everyone needs enough nutritious food to truly thrive. That being true, the reality is that not everyone gets enough high-quality, nutritious food yet significant amounts of food are thrown away daily. This dilemma is present globally and Israel is no exception. Food waste and food insecurity in Israel is a growing problem, but one organization, Leket Israel, is working to address both.

Israel’s Food Dilemma

Food waste is an excess of food that usually gets thrown into landfills instead of being consumed. The amount of food wasted in Israel is striking, but possibly more striking is the economic impacts it has on individual and infrastructural levels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel cited that Israeli families throw away about $1,000 worth of food per year. This equates to $352 million in waste treatment and a month and a half of average household food expenses.

Food waste is present not only on the household level but also prominently in the restaurant and agricultural sectors. Remedying food waste would likely lift a considerable economic weight from the shoulders of many Israeli individuals and communities.

Remedying food insecurity in Israel would do the same. Food insecurity is widely considered as a lack of consistent access to balanced, nutritious food sources. Many in Israel suffer from food insecurity and the number continues to climb.

The Latet organization’s yearly Alternative Poverty Report revealed that the 20.1% of Israeli households in poverty grew to 29.3% in 2020 due to COVID-19.

So naturally, food insecurity has worsened because of the pandemic. The number of food-insecure households in Israel grew from 17.8% before the pandemic to 22.6% in December 2020. Further, the number of households in extreme food insecurity increased by 34,000 during the pandemic, per the National Insurance Institute of Israel.

There is a great need to address the dilemma of food waste and food insecurity in Israel.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing the increased need for more accessible food sources and reducing food waste. Joseph Gitler started an organization in 2003 that would become Leket Israel, a food bank and the largest food rescue chain in the country.

Specifically, Leket takes nutritional food excesses and distributes them to thousands of Israelis who need them. The food provided mostly consists of agricultural surpluses and gathered cooked meals that would become food waste, with special focus on the quality and nutritional value of the food distributed to beneficiaries across Israel.

Nutritional Education

Within food insecure populations that do not have access to reliable nutritious food, there can also be a lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition. For this reason, Leket Israel implements multiple nutrition workshops to make its impact and fight to promote food security more lasting. Nutritional workshops involve lessons on how to select and prepare diverse, healthy meals on a restricted budget. They are given in Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Russian to increase accessibility.

There is a greater demand for the work that Leket Israel is doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in food insecurity across Israel. The organization’s affirmative response to this demand is undeniable. Take, for example, the experience of Natalie Digora. During the pandemic, Leket Israel is helping people like Natalie Digora in Ramat Gan, Israel, who turned to the organization after being sent home from her occupation as an opera singer in March 2020. They have continued serving her.

Turning Food Trash into Food Treasure

Digora’s story is one of thousands. To date, Leket Israel has served more than 2,300,000 cooked meals to more than 200,000 individuals. As it continues this, turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure, Leket gives hope to people struggling with food insecurity in Israel.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Lab-Grown MeatIn the effort to reduce poverty around the world, scientific innovations and technological solutions are welcomed. Developments in technological capabilities provide new potential approaches to reducing poverty. One such development that has received increased attention is the emergence of lab-grown meat as an alternative source of food for populations in developing countries. Lab-grown meat has only emerged as a potential solution quite recently, and even at this young stage of development, there are many who argue both for and against its potential effectiveness and applicability in the effort to reduce poverty.

Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat, known alternatively as cultured meat, is an alternative application of stem cell technology typically used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from an animal and converted to muscle cells. The cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins. From this point, they grow and can eventually be shaped into any desired form, such as sausages, hamburgers, steaks or mince. Lab-grown meat is being considered as a potential solution to food insecurity in impoverished countries as it takes much less time to grow, uses fewer of the planet’s resources and no animals need to be farmed or slaughtered.

The Arguments Against Cultured Meat

Those against the implementation of cultured meat as a tool in the struggle against world poverty point firstly to the impracticality of current production. The world’s first cultured burger, cooked on live TV in 2013, cost $330,000 to produce and more of its kind might not be commercially available for decades.

In addition to the practicality issue, critics also argue that providing meat grown in foreign labs to developing countries is not ultimately constructive. It creates a dependence on exports for food when most developing countries have the capabilities to produce their own food.

Most African and Asian countries used to be self-sufficient with regard to food production but this has changed over the last 30 years. Subsidized western-grown crops have been pushed on developing countries and barriers to markets have been lowered, allowing U.S. and European firms to export crops to developing countries.

Poverty Reduction Applicability

Kanayo Nwanze former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), presented an argument in 2013 which has maintained support today. The argument is that the decline of agriculture in developing countries has been an effect of underinvestment as a result of structural adjustment programs pushed by the World Bank. The World Bank has funded numerous investment programs in recent years that aim to provide developing nations with western food as a means of poverty alleviation. Some argue that this is not a sustainable solution and will only lead developing nations to be dependent in the future. Instead of investing in big science, those looking to reduce global poverty should focus on supporting rural regions and small farmers.

Eat Just: Cultured Meat

Despite the existing criticism of cultured meat, supporters of this developing technology have reason to be optimistic. In December 2020, U.S. startup, Eat Just, became the first in the world to gain government approval to sell its product to the public. This approval came from the government of Singapore, which means cultured chicken will soon be available at an unnamed restaurant in Singapore. This is a landmark development for the cultured meat business. Following this gain of approval, more governments around the world may follow suit. According to Eat Just, cultured chicken nuggets will be available at “price parity for premium chicken you’d enjoy at a restaurant.”

The Potential of Lab-Grown Meat

The debate around the effectiveness of cultured meat as a tool in poverty reduction is justified and indeed necessary. Only after serious consideration and scrutiny does any new idea earn approval and the right to be implemented. Though right now it may seem that there are more arguments against its implementation than for, this is largely due to the novelty surrounding the idea. The technology and industry with regards to lab-grown meat as a whole are still in the early stages of development. The idea of lab-grown meat as a potential solution to hunger and poverty is being followed eagerly by supporters and skeptically by critics. Only time will tell whether this novel idea succeeds or falls short.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Central African RepublicOne year after repatriation efforts began, refugees from the Central African Republic are returning home. Although repatriation operations began in November 2019, the return of refugees from the Central African Republic was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced health and safety precautions made their return possible. The United Nations Refugee Agency, a U.N. agency responsible for protecting refugees, organized the implementation of health and safety precautions. Measures included the use of masks and temperature screening. Handwashing stations were also installed to prevent the spread of disease.

Central African Republic Refugees

Repatriation efforts began after security conditions in the Central African Republic improved. Stability in the country has developed at a slow pace. Less violence in regions of the Central African Republic known for volatile shifts prompted the voluntary return of refugees.

Beginning in 2012, violent confrontations between armed factions throughout the Central African Republic forced more than 500,000 people to flee. Thousands more went into hiding, often in the wilderness, where access to food and clean water is scarce. A staggering rate of poverty among citizens of the Central African Republic reflects years of political instability.

Poverty in the Central African Republic

Both domestically and abroad, refugees from the Central African Republic experience rates of extreme poverty and hunger. The Central African Republic was one of the last two countries on the 2018 Human Development Index ranking. Combined with the political instability of the nation, the Central African Republic’s low development score contributes to the nation’s high rate of poverty.

With a population of a little less than five million people, almost 80% of the country’s people live in poverty. While political instability is a major factor that contributes to the high rate of poverty in the country, meager production rates, insufficient markets and pronounced gender inequality also contribute to the high rate of poverty. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly half of the population of the country experiences food insecurity.

Alarmingly, almost 90% of food insecure individuals in the country are classed as severely food insecure, which is nearly two million people. This has particularly devastating effects for children aged between 6 months and 5 years old. More than one-third of all children within that age range are stunted due to lack of appropriate dietary nutrition.

The World Food Programme Alliance

In partnership with the government of the Central African Republic and other humanitarian organizations, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided emergency food and nutritional assistance to nearly 100,000 people, in 2018. This assistance was delivered to individuals who were affected by the violence that resulted from the coup in 2013, the civil violence that was unleashed by competing factions after the coup and the violence that continued through 2017, as hostility between armed groups was reignited. This method of the WFP’s humanitarian aid involves the distribution of food packages and the implementation of nutrition activities for children and pregnant mothers.

Time will tell whether refugees are returning to a country that will eventually provide for them. Through various initiatives, including Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress, the WFP hopes to turn civic, humanitarian functions over to the country’s government.

Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress

Both the Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress initiatives were designed by the United Nations to help partner nations achieve objectives set by the ‘Zero Hunger’ Sustainable Development Goal. Food Assistance for Assets “addresses immediate food needs through cash, voucher or food transfers.” Its response to immediate needs is paired with a long-term approach. Food Assistance for Assets “promotes the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience.”

Purchase for Progress works in tandem with Food Assistance for Assets. It is a food purchase initiative, whereby the WFP purchases more than $1 billion worth of staple food annually from smallholder farms. This food is used by the WFP in its global humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile, its ongoing investment in smallholder farms contributes to national economies.

Through the initiatives of the World Food Programme and its dedicated efforts for humanitarian assistance and hunger eradication, the Central African Republic will hopefully reach a point where its citizens never again have to flee the country they call home.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in BurundiThe East African country of Burundi is one of the poorest in the world. Its meager economy relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, which employs approximately 90% of the people there. Burundi is Africa’s most population-dense country and nearly three out of every four people live below the poverty line. One of the lamentable realities of Burundi’s poverty is the effects it has on children. Child poverty is a serious issue in Burundi and the country has a current score of 5.46/10 on Humanium’s “Realization of Children’s Rights Index.”  Burundi is deemed a black level country by Humanium, meaning that the issue of children’s rights is very serious.

The State of Child Poverty in Burundi

In Burundi, 78% of children live in poverty. Poverty especially affects children in the rural parts of the country. Poverty also disproportionately affects children of the indigenous Batwa people. Additionally, child poverty in Burundi has seen an unfortunate and notable increase since 2015, when violent unrest occurred following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term, which was unconstitutional. The roots of the poverty problem in Burundi stem from a few different factors, the most predominant one being hunger.

Chronic Hunger in Burundi

Despite having an agriculture-centric economy, more than half of Burundians are chronically hungry.  The lack of food in the country is due to the fact that even at the peak of the harvesting season, food production is too low to sustain the population. Food production in Burundi can only cover a person for 55 days of the year. The lack of food also means prices are much higher. As a result, it is not uncommon for households to spend up to two-thirds of their incomes on food, even during harvesting season. One reason for Burundi’s difficulties in growing enough food has been frequent natural disasters that destroy crops and yields.

Hunger and Education

Hunger is so prevalent and intense in Burundi that despite having free and compulsory school for children between the ages of 7 and 13, the country faces growing dropout rates due to hunger. Another problematic issue for Burundian children facing poverty is schooling after the age of 13. After 13, school is neither free nor compulsory, making it exponentially less accessible and thus reducing opportunities for upward mobility. Much of Burundi’s education system has been negatively affected by Burundi’s civil war, as schools were destroyed and teachers were unable to teach.

Street Children in Burundi

Burundi has many “street children.” As the name suggests, these children live on the streets and are incredibly poor, left to fend for themselves. Street children have no humanitarian assistance from the government and consistently face police brutality, theft and arrests. Kids in Burundi become street children because families are sometimes too poor and hungry to stay together or they have to flee from child abuse or family conflict.

Organizations Addressing Child Poverty in Burundi

Although the reality of the child poverty situation in Burundi is dire, there are good things being done to improve the situation. While the government in Burundi is not providing adequate help, there are several humanitarian organizations providing assistance to those in need.

The NGO, Humanium, works on raising awareness, partnering with local projects to help children and providing legal assistance to victims of children’s rights abuses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working in Burundi since 1968 by providing food such as school meals, malnutrition rehabilitation to starved children and helping to improve food production. Additionally, organizations like Street Child are working to build schools and eliminate as many barriers to education as possible for children in Burundi and elsewhere. Groups like the WFP, Humanarium and Street Child do substantial work to help children in Burundi. It is vital that the work continues and that more organizations participate in alleviating child poverty in Burundi.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

cause of hungerThe COVID-19 pandemic is deemed a global health crisis that has resulted in an economic crisis and a hunger crisis too. In the Dominican Republic, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger.

Unemployment Due to COVID-19

Cabarete, Dominican Republic, prides itself on being one of the watersports capitals of the world. Nearly two-thirds of Cabarete’s population depends on the local tourism industry for work and income. These jobs mostly fall under the informal economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s working population were employed in the informal economy. The informal economy is defined by hourly jobs that offer neither a salary nor employee benefits. The pandemic left many people without a regular source of income and without health insurance.

Compared with the bailout packages that the governments of wealthy nations were able to provide to their citizens, the governments of impoverished nations were unable to provide citizens with such economic support. Around the world, NGOs have attempted to assist in providing the support that impoverished governments are unable to provide.

Cabarete Sostenible Addresses the Root Cause of Hunger

Moraima Capellán Pichardo, a citizen of Cabarete, is a supporter of the concept of food sovereignty. The Borgen Project spoke with Capellán Pichardo about the origins of Cabarete Sostenible and the organization’s long-term goals. Food sovereignty, the principle that individual self-actualization is dependent on having enough to eat, is at the heart of Cabarete Sostenible’s mission.

Capellán Pichardo told The Borgen Project that individual NGOs in Cabarete were working independently of each other when the COVID-19 pandemic began. These separate organizations had a common goal so they came together to form a coalition and increase their impact. This coalition became the nonprofit organization, Cabarete Sostenible. Everyone who works with Cabarete Sostenible is a volunteer. The organization works with local food distributors and organic farms and distributes the foodstuff that it receives to struggling families and individuals in Cabarete. This forms the organization’s first response to the hunger crisis.

Although it began as a method to address an acute crisis, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger. Capellán Pichardo indicated that food sovereignty has been on the minds of Cabarete Sostenible’s volunteers and organizers since its inception. “Very early on, we sat down to discuss where we thought Cabarete Sostenible was going in the future. For us, we wanted to make sure that we did not just stick to giving out food because that does not really address the root problem.”

The Concept of Food Sovereignty

Food insecurity means being without reliable access to sufficient and nutritious supplies of food at any given time and is a common reality for citizens of Cabarete. On the other hand, food sovereignty, organizing society in such a manner that every individual has access to producing his or her own food, is a possible solution to food insecurity. “Food sovereignty is tied to land access,” Capellán Pichardo says. “For us, it is important that the first mission that Cabarete Sostenible focuses on is food sovereignty: access to healthy and appropriate food and using the native agricultural land to provide that.”

Food Sovereignty Addresses Food Insecurity

Since COVID-19, many factors have contributed to a rise in food insecurity and extreme poverty worldwide. Mass rates of unemployment have threatened access to food as even the poorest households spend close to three-fourths of their income on food.

Widespread unemployment, combined with unexpected drops in agricultural production, has created an unprecedented crisis. Because of supply line disruptions and trade barriers, often the result of increased health precautions, citizens of the world’s poorest nations are left without access to food. Some of the suffering caused by such disruptions can be mitigated by food sovereignty policies. Perhaps, a societal approach may be modeled after Cabarete Sostenible’s efforts to address the root causes of hunger.

Sustainable Community Solutions to Hunger

Capellán Pichardo is optimistic about the road ahead as she details how the organization has worked with local landowners to collaborate on solutions. The organization has opened the first community garden and is working to partner up to create a community-style farm. All this is work toward creating a social business model. Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger by helping to create a sustainable way of living, where food shortages are less likely and future hunger crises are averted.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous PovertyGuatemala is one of Latin America’s most unequal countries, with an indigenous population that has been especially impacted by COVID-19. Indigenous groups make up more than 40% of Guatemala’s population, which equates to more than 6.5 million people. Poverty rates average 79% among indigenous groups, with 35% suffering from food insecurity.

COVID-19 Exacerbates Indigenous Poverty in Guatemala

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the suffering of indigenous Guatemalans. Not only have indigenous families been pushed further into poverty, but reports of gender-based and intrafamily violence, murders and child pregnancies have also increased during Guatemala’s stay-at-home orders, which were intended to control the spread of COVID-19. The only exception to note is that there has been a drop in violent crime since lockdowns were imposed.

Child labor rates have increased, which is a concern since a child’s education is their channel to achieve social mobility and is key to reducing poverty. At the start of the lockdown, remote learning was promoted. However, less than 30% of Guatemala’s population has internet access. Only 21% of the population has access to a computer. In effect, COVID-19 is widening the economic gap between the indigenous population and those in urban Guatemala.

OCHA, the United Nations emergency aid coordination body, reported in April 2020 that seasonal hunger rates have worsened in eastern Guatemala due to lockdown measures. Compared to a year ago, health ministry figures point out that acute malnutrition cases in the department of Chiquimula increased by roughly 56%.

Oxfam Assists Guatemala

Oxfam, a confederation working to alleviate global poverty, has been on the ground in Guatemala, delivering food, sanitary and medical products, particularly to Guatemala’s indigenous communities.  However, Oxfam is working a little differently than in the past due to COVID-19 measures. Instead of risking the spread of the virus by sending outside people in, Oxfam is employing local Guatemalans by transferring credit to their phones and having them collect and distribute two months’ worth of necessary goods to those requiring assistance.

Insufficient Governmental Support

Guatemala’s government offers little help to relieve the effects of COVID-19 in its rural zones. In 2017, a study by the Guatemalan health ministry reported that the government spends fractions of its health budget in its rural zones compared to its wealthiest, urban cities.

The United States has increased its level of deportations under COVID-19-related regulations, leading Guatemala to trace 20% of its infections to those returnees. With the lack of governmental support and social safety nets, many poor Guatemalans are looking to flee the country.

Hopes for an Inclusive Society

Although the indigenous in Guatemala are creating their own solutions, using traditional knowledge and practices to contain COVID-19, the Guatemalan government must treat its indigenous population equally and include those who have been historically excluded by implementing strategies and operations to prevent and contain COVID-19 as well as alleviate its indigenous poverty rates overall.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

hunger in swazilandIn 2017, it was recorded that 58.9% of people in Swaziland were living below the poverty line. Despite the country’s lower-middle-class status, the poverty rate continues to persist. Challenges such as low economic growth, severe weather patterns, high unemployment, high cases of HIV/AIDS and a high amount of malnutrition, the Swaziland population is struggling with an immense amount of poverty. A whole 42% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. With people in Swaziland struggling to make ends meet, hunger in Swaziland continues to be prevalent.

Food Insecurity in Swaziland

Many Swazis are chronically food insecure. One out of three people face severe hunger, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger is only increasing. With severe weather conditions, Swaziland faces poor harvest years, decreasing the amount of food that can be produced. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a tool used to improve food security, reported that 32% of the population will experience “high acute food insecurity” within the coming months due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has compounded the food insecurity situation, causing restrictions that disrupt the already limited food supply for Swazi households.

Rise Against Hunger

Humanitarian assistance programs have been a huge support system for the lack of food supplies in Swaziland during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rise Against Hunger is a movement that mobilizes resources to improve poverty and create solutions for hunger in Swaziland. This movement provides life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable, Swaziland being one of the most vulnerable countries. Rise Against Hunger now partners with Salesian Missions, a humanitarian organization that gives hope to millions of youth globally, to provide food and aid to those living in poverty in Swaziland. Together, these organizations provide meals for the hungry. Beginning in 2011, this partnership has been successful, providing food and life-saving aid to malnourished individuals in Swaziland.

USAID Food Relief

As the Swaziland government struggles to deliver aid and food relief, USAID has partnered with World Vision to provide emergency food assistance. USAID is making an effort to reach 45,000 food insecure people in Swaziland by providing monthly food rations. These food rations include cornmeal and beans and vegetable oil.  Not only are USAID and World Vision providing food rations to decrease the percentage of hunger in Swaziland, but they are also working to increase the agricultural production of families that need assistance in recovering from previous droughts. With USAID stepping in to provide as much relief as possible, these efforts will produce longer-term resilience.

Hunger in Swaziland has caused many to succumb to hunger at a faster rate since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, making hunger a widespread issue. Organizations and charities are working together to provide the necessary aid essential to eradicate hunger in Swaziland.

Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr