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Hunger in Tuvalu
Tuvalu is a country made up of nine islands in the West Pacific Ocean. Because Tuvalu is a former British colony, many of its citizens speak English, even though the native language is Tuvaluan and the native people are Polynesian. One-third of the population lives in Funafuti, the main island that is also the most urban. The rest of the population lives a more traditional lifestyle with extended families. Hunger in Tuvalu has been a problem, a direct result of people lacking sufficient money or land to provide for their needs. Here are 5 facts about food and hunger in Tuvalu.

5 Facts About Food and Hunger in Tuvalu

  1. History: For most of Tuvalu’s history, a majority of the population was subsistence farmers, living off of what they grew. Hunger in Tuvalu was a part of life, but there was little famine. Usually, a family could grow enough food to support themselves, and they supplemented their diets with fish caught in the ocean.
  2. Importing Food: As Tuvalu’s connection to the rest of the world has increased, it has begun to import more and more food. Now, 80% of food is imported, mostly from the nearby countries of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Fiji. Importing food is changing hunger in Tuvalu.
  3. Farming and Fishing: Hunger has decreased due to imported food, but Tuvaluans still face challenges with food security. Before Tuvalu began importing most of its food, local farms and fishing provided food security, but now most fish caught is exported. Even so, many rely on their land or fishing to earn money, as a majority of Tuvaluans make their livings as farmers or fishermen. Climate change is also a major threat to food security because changing ecosystems can hurt people’s food supply. As coral in the ocean dies, fish — a crucial food supply — die as well. Additionally, seawater is slowly becoming acidic, making it an increasingly inhabitable environment for sea life. Both factors reduce the number of fish people can export, which is how many Tuvaluans earn their salaries.
  4. Population Growth: A high population growth rate also poses a challenge to food security, threatening to increase hunger in Tuvalu. The yearly population growth rate is 0.87%, and while it is only ranked No. 152 in the world, the land cannot support the current rate of population growth. This increases the possibility of hunger, as many, especially on the smaller islands, completely rely on farming or fishing for their salaries.
  5. Other Health Concerns: Despite circumstances threatening food security, hunger in Tuvalu is not the country’s primary food-related problem. Imported foods, highly composed of fat and sugar to reduce spoilage, have increased obesity on the islands. The country ranks fifth in obesity, with an obesity rate of 51.6%. Now, even though processed food has virtually ended the issue of hunger in Tuvalu, it has created another health concern: obesity.

By importing food, Tuvalu has solved many of its issues surrounding hunger. Even though the country still faces challenges surrounding food security and obesity, the issue of hunger in Tuvalu has become much less prevalent since the country increased connections with the rest of the world.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in FijiFiji is an upper-middle-income country located in the Pacific Islands. In Fiji, the agricultural sector has been steadily declining over the last several decades, resulting in hunger concerns. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in Fiji.

Background of Hunger in Fiji

Traditionally, countries struggling with hunger are thought to be plagued with food insecurity and starvation. This is not the case in Fiji, where food availability is adequate — especially in comparison with other Pacific Islands. Fijians even have above-average access to energy-dense foods. Rather than food security, concerns surrounding hunger in Fiji stem from the double burden of over-nutrition and under-nutrition, caused by obesity and deficiencies in micronutrients. Trade policies, poverty and climate change are further causes of hunger in Fiji.

Main Causes of Hunger in Fiji

  1. Trade Policy: Fiji’s poor nutrition largely stems from increased dependence on cheap imported food, resulting in a decreased intake of traditional Fijian food. This decline in demand has resulted in traditional food being grown for export, thus increasing domestic prices. Consequently, families above the poverty line spend 18% of their income on food, and families below the poverty line spend 29% of their income on food.
  2. Poverty: Although extreme poverty is uncommon in Fiji, according to the World Bank, 35.2% of Fijians live in poverty. Furthermore, the per capita purchasing power parity in Fiji is significantly below the global average. Thus, not only do Fijians generally struggle with poverty, but food is also disproportionately expensive.
  3. Climate Change: Fiji is extremely vulnerable to climate change, experiencing frequent storms, cyclones, floods and droughts — all of which can be detrimental to the agricultural sector. Additionally, 25,700 people in Fiji are annually pushed into poverty as a result of climate change, further exacerbating the problem of poverty leading to hunger.

Traditional Fijian Diet

Traditionally, Fijians consumed a diet of fish, seafood, root crops, fruit, wild plants and legumes. In recent years, this traditional diet has been abandoned. In 2014, 50% of the population ate rice daily, 43% ate roti daily and 15% ate instant noodles daily. These unhealthy choices became popular while fruit and vegetable consumption declined, with only 15% of adults getting the recommended five servings daily.

Health Consequences

The major health consequences that arise from hunger in Fiji stem from obesity. One-third of adult Fijians are obese, and the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type-2 diabetes is correspondingly high. Obesity increases the risk of NCDs, thus increasing the risk of mortality. Consequently:

In comparison to its Pacific Island neighbors, Fiji possesses great food security. However, Fiji’s problems with poverty, trade policy and climate change perpetuate hunger. For Fijians to be able to afford and consume healthy foods once again, Fiji will need to invest in climate action, limit trade tariffs and promote native crops.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

poverty and obesity
The fact that both poverty and obesity simultaneously rose amid the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly tipping 130 million people into chronic malnutrition by the end of 2020, may initially come across as surprising. Yet, researchers have long documented the paradox of how impoverished individuals experiencing food insecurity are more likely to suffer from obesity than the wealthy. Poverty and obesity often go hand in hand as signs of food unavailability and a lack of healthy eating, respectively, but these conditions of malnutrition also carry more subtle risk factors like unemployment, lower education levels and limited social networks.

The Problem: Food Access, Not Just Food Availability

Food insecurity manifests itself in many ways beyond undernourishment from an insufficient quantity of food — the prominent of which is unreliable access to nutritious, healthy options. With COVID-19 exacerbating pre-existing inequities and inadequacies in global food systems, poor diets and their resultant boosting of obesity present an urgent problem for vulnerable populations in developing countries. “The pandemic is creating a problem not of food availability, but of food access because people will have less income because of the recession,” explained Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

UN Data further showed that if the trend of limited food access continues, the world’s hungry will surpass 840 million by 2030 — the very same year 193 countries have set as their target by which they will have eliminated all forms of malnutrition. And with disruptions to agricultural supply chains due to COVID-19, governments face growing pressure to take unprecedented action to tackle the worldwide spikes in food prices if they are to meet this target. It is also no coincidence that nearly all of the 50 countries with the most risk for sustained food-price swings have developing economies, according to Nomura’s Food Vulnerability Index.

Healthy eating emphasizes fresh produce and lean meats, ideally locally-sourced with minimal processing and preservatives. However, the agricultural and meat industries were the first and most affected when governments implemented COVID-19 quarantines and travel restrictions. The successive disruptions meant it was more difficult for farms to receive agriculture inputs of seeds, fertilizer and equipment, further delaying production of healthy eating staples: rice, maize, wheat, vegetables and other produce. Producers of unhealthier, more processed foods don’t face the same problem of financial losses from rotting food. Thus, during this time, those foods are more accessible and affordable at the expense of poorer consumers’ health.

The Effects: COVID-19 and Obesity

Unfortunately, the connection between COVID-19, poverty and obesity works in reverse as well. Obesity is a major risk factor for a more severe infection, resulting in higher hospitalization and death rates once one has caught the virus. Most recently, a number of studies and anecdotes have noted obesity as the predominant risk factor in youth, with cardiologist David Kass concluding “in populations with a high prevalence of obesity, COVID-19 will affect younger populations more than previously reported.” The CDC has incorporated these findings by specifying that obesity is just as significant a risk factor for severe COVID-19 illness as a suppressed immune system or chronic lung disease.

Though researchers have mostly focused on the link between COVID-19 and obesity in high-income countries, it may have more devastating effects in the developing world. Not only does evidence show “over 70% of the world’s 2 billion overweight and obese individuals live in low or middle-income countries,” obesity also leads to higher health care costs and lower work productivity, which go hand-in-hand with greater consumption of cheaper, unhealthy food options. The created feedback loop is referred to as the “double burden of malnutrition.” Moreover, as Kass’s findings suggested, the victims of COVID-19 in developing countries are younger. In India and Mexico respectively, less than 12% and 17% of deaths were of individuals older than 75, and both of these countries report much more deaths of middle-aged and younger individuals than the U.S. and Europe do.

Solutions to Improve Global Food Security

One estimate of how much governmental spending is needed to combat COVID-19’s effects on hunger and obesity was $10 billion, put forth by the International Food Policy Research Institute. However, even this amount may be insufficient when considering that food insecurity will only continue compounding if addressing poverty isn’t a cornerstone of the solutions put forth. The World Food Programme has prioritized this need for financial safety nets and social protection programs until investment in nutrition and expansion of social protections. Their Executive Director David Beasley plans to allocate $1.9 billion of already pledged funding to build food and cash stockpiles as a “life-saving buffer,” protecting the world’s poor from food shortages and food-price hikes. They also requested a further $350 million to set up transportation systems, limiting shortages and disruptions in the agricultural industry from occurring in the first place.

In combination with these correctional measures, governments should adopt a preventative approach to addressing obesity. “One of the most effective ways to address obesity and other non-communicable diseases is by ramping up investments in affordable, quality primary health care,” says Dr. Muhammad Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “This makes sense both from a health and an economic perspective. Putting more resources on the front lines to detect and treat conditions early, before they become more serious, saves lives, improves health outcomes, reduces health care costs and strengthens preparedness.” With these efforts in place, the paradoxical relationship between poverty and obesity may begin to ease.

– Christine Mui
Photo: PXFuel

Life Expectancy in Montenegro

Montenegro is a Balkan country that obtained independence from Yugoslavia on June 3, 2006. The data regarding life expectancy in Montenegro attests to its modernization and the continuing integration of the country into the global market system. With the fall of communism and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, improvements in life expectancy outcomes have accompanied the increased prevalence of ills more characteristic of developed countries. Below are the top 10 facts concerning life expectancy in Montenegro.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Montenegro

  1. Overall life expectancy has improved slightly. As of 2016, life expectancy in Montenegro reached 76.6 years, an increase from 75.28 in 2010. Women on average live 79.2 years, while men on average live 73.9 years.
  2. Some age groups have undergone mortality rate declines, while others have experienced increases. Males under 1-year-old experienced the largest decline in mortality in 2010, down 65 percent from 1990. In contrast, the most significantly increased mortality rate between 1990 and 2010 shows up among females between ages 35 and 39, constituting an 8 percent increase.
  3. The infant mortality rate has declined significantly since 1969. Infant mortality in Montenegro has been subject to a regular and substantial rate of decrease from 1969 to the present. While in 1969 there were 43.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, this rate has declined to merely 2.55 deaths per 1,000 live births as of 2018.
  4. Efforts are being made to target the leading causes of death and their risk factors. As of 2010, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and cardiomyopathy constituted the leading causes of death in Montenegro.
    • Between 1990 and 2010, lower respiratory infections declined by 7 percent.
    • High blood pressure remains the principal risk factor for premature death, followed by dietary habits and tobacco consumption.
    • Montenegro’s Law on Food Safety of 21 December 2007 places restrictions on the marketing of such unhealthy foods as play a role in poor health outcomes.
    • The Law on Protection of Consumers of 16 May 2007 prohibits food advertisements that target minors or use minors in promoting products.
  5. In Montenegro, suicides outnumber homicides. The suicide rate remained consistent from the years 2013 to 2015, experiencing only a slight decrease between 2011 and 2012. With 11.07 suicides per 100,000 people in 2015, Montenegro exceeded the global suicide rate average of 9.55 suicides per 100,000 people. When distinguishing by sex, the suicide rate for males numbered 15.03 per 100,000 and for females numbered 7.19 per 100,000, with 4.1 suicides for every homicide. Prior to independence from Serbia, a government initiative successfully reduced the annual suicide rate of the Yugoslav Army (Serb and Montenegrin soldiers) from 13 per 100,000 between 1999 and 2003 down to 5 per 100,000 in 2004. This program, involving the efforts of physicians and psychologists as well as officers, entailed informing soldiers about substance abuse and suicide risk factors, as well as the dismissal of recruits with severe psychological problems.
  6. Obesity is a significant issue. Moderate obesity may reduce one’s life expectancy by three years, while severe obesity may reduce one’s life expectancy by 10 years. Statistics demonstrate that as of 2008, 55.6 percent of the adult Montenegrin population were overweight while 22.5 percent were obese. Men are more likely to be overweight (62 percent) or obese (23.3 percent) than women (49.9 percent and 21.7 percent respectively). In 2015, the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) issued the 2015 Milan Declaration, of which the Montenegrin chapter of the EASO was a signatory. This declaration proposes treating obesity as a crisis requiring the development of educational, research and clinical care strategies for its reduction at the national level.
  7. HIV is rare in Montenegro. The HIV epidemic has had little impact on Montenegro compared to other countries as only 0.01 percent of the population is infected with the virus as of 2011. Data collected in that year established 128 total HIV cases, 62 total AIDS cases and 32 AIDS-related deaths. Of these, 2011 saw nine new HIV cases, three new AIDS cases, and only one AIDS-linked death. Eight out of nine diagnoses in 2011 were male. No mother-to-infant transmission cases were reported in 2011.
  8. Most Montenegrins have access to an improved water source. Access to potable water sources plays a major role in increasing life expectancy, particularly in reducing the incidence of potentially fatal water-borne diseases. By 2015, 99.7 percent of the Montenegrin population could access an improved water source.
  9. Health care staffing suffers a deficit. Health care comprises 6.8 percent of Montenegro’s GDP, totaling $177 in expenditures per capita. However, as Montenegrin health care services usage exceeds the European average, Montenegro faces an understaffing crisis. This chronic understaffing poses a continued risk of increased patient mortality in medical treatment centers.
  10. Life expectancy in Montenegro may respond to the country’s continuing urbanization. Studies show that residents of urban centers may have longer life expectancies than those in more rural, less developed or remote regions. The rural population of Montenegro declined to 35.78 percent by 2016 compared to 81.21 percent in 1960.

Although centuries of isolation and scarcity have left their legacy, these facts about life expectancy in Montenegro indicate that the country continues along the path of modernization. Overall, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Montenegro give good cause for optimism regarding the country’s future.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Hunger and Nutrition in Austria
After decades of making strides in the fight against hunger and food insecurity, hunger is on the rise. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that the number of undernourished people has risen. Around 821 million people were undernourished around the world in 2017, up from 804 million in 2016.

This article will address the top 10 most interesting facts about hunger and nutrition in Austria. Austria, like many other European nations, is lucky to have the socioeconomic ability to provide basic needs to most of their citizens, but Austria is not without flaws. These flaws will be addressed, as well as the progress Austria has made in its fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger and Nutrition in Austria

  1. Agricultural Land
    Austria has a very low amount of agricultural land. This land, defined by the OECD as “land area that is either arable, under permanent crops, or under permanent pastures” is necessary for a country to grow its own food. Because Austria does not have a large amount of agricultural land, the nation relies on imports. Best Food Importers names Austria as one of the most important food importers, with a constant need for imports of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Buying Local Food
    Not only does Austria have a comparably small amount of agricultural land, but it also faces more problems in the fight for food security for its local populations. Due to land-grabbing, local populations find it more difficult to buy locally, hence Austria’s aforementioned need to import food. However, Austria’s government is taking steps to fix parts of the problem. The Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has shown support for sustainable and fair land-use policies by supporting land rights for local populations and inclusion of disadvantaged populations in decision-making.
  3. Dietary Choices
    Austrians consume more saturated fatty acids and salt than the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recommends. Austrians consumed 12.7 percent of their total calorie intake from saturated fatty acids; the FAO recommends 10 percent. The FAO recommends 5 grams of salt intake a day. Austrian men, by average, consumed 9 grams of salt a day, and Austrian women consumed 8 grams per day.
  4. Obesity Rates
    In 2008 estimates, approximately 60 percent of Austrian men were found to be overweight, compared to the 48.5 percent of Austrian women being overweight. However, in terms of obesity, men and women seem to be nearly equal with 21 percent of Austrian men being considered obese, and 20.9 percent of Austrian women being obese. By 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that obesity numbers should rise to 25% for both men and women, and is predicted to steadily rise after that as well. This is a very important nutritional fact that needs to be corrected by the Austrian government.
  5. Stacking Up Against Other Nations
    Even though those numbers seem exceptionally high, when comparing these numbers to other Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OCED) member countries, Austria ranks very well. Austria self-reported that in 2014, 46.7 percent of its population over 16 years of age were overweight or obese. How does this compare to the other OECD countries? The United Kingdom’s overweight and obese population stands at 61.4 percent of its population over the age of 16, while the U.S. self-reported numbers of 65.1 percent of its 16+ population as obese or overweight, but it’s been measured to actually be 70 percent. Italy and Norway were the only European countries that measured better than Austria.
  6. Good Nourishment Rates
    Austria’s undernourishment percentages are low compared to the world average. In both 2000 and 2016, Austria’s prevalence of undernourishment was measured at 3 percent of its population. Currently, 10.6 percent of the world’s population is undernourished. This is once again, a place where nutritionally speaking, Austria is doing very well compared to other nations, but progress can continue to be made.
  7. 7. Food Security
    According to the Global Food Security Index, Austria ranks 14th in the index of the most food-secure countries in the world. Though in 2014 it was ranked as second, 14th still shows that Austria is still very food secure in comparison to most of the world. Affordability of food is Austria’s highest score, ranking 8th in affordability.
  8. Food Quality
    According to Oxfam, Austria ranks 4th overall on their list of 125 countries and their performance in the realm of supplying enough well quality food for its people. Austria was only ranked lower than France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Providing enough to eat, as well as providing high-quality food boosted Austria into the 4th place ranking.
  9. Water Quality
    Water in Austria is perfect. Austria provides 100 percent safe drinking water to 100 percent of its people. The water quality in Austria is superb as Austria has very strict environmental protection laws. Clean water is necessary for a healthy diet for many reasons, one of them being that the quality of food that can be provided to a population is dependent on the quality of water that went into the process of growing that food.
  10. ADA Efforts
    The ADA is doing its part in aiding countries that struggle with doing the same for their own populations. The ADA aids in water sanitation projects in countries such as Albania and Uganda. Not only are Austrian’s governmental agencies aiding in the fight for universal clean water, but NGOs such as CAREAustria are aiding in the fight as well. For example, CAREAustria has helped bring sanitation technology to parts of Ethiopia that have been damaged by violence and turmoil.

Hunger and Nutrition in Conclusion

As represented by the facts above, Austria does have some flaws within its fight against poor nutrition and hunger. High import rates and less sustainability is a problem, as is consuming too many unhealthy nutrients. All of these problems can be fixed by including both rural and urban populations in decision-making processes, as well as educating the populations on what a healthy diet looks like. And with the progress Austria has already made in providing high-quality food and water, as well as very affordable food prices, there does not seem to be a reason the progress Austria has made in the fight against hunger and poor nutrition won’t continue.

Kurt Thiele
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Slovakia

Slovakia is a country located in Central Europe. It shares its borders with Poland to the north, Hungary to the south, Austria and the Czech Republic to the west and Ukraine to the east. In July 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent states: Slovakia and the Czech Republic. From the beginning of its time as an independent state, Slovakia has taken steps to eliminate hunger even though the country suffers from high rates of poverty. In the article below, the top 10 facts about hunger in Slovakia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Slovakia

  1. In 2018, Slovakia ranked 16 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index scale. It has a score of 5.0 which means that its hunger level is very low. In fact, hunger levels in Slovakia are better than in Russia, which has a score of 6.1.
  2. Less than 10 percent of the population in Slovakia are considered malnourished. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), about 5 percent of Slovakians are lacking adequate food. The graph shows that hunger levels have been consistently dropping since the year 2000.
  3. The number of people who are considered undernourished in Slovakia is at 2.7 percent. Undernourishment has been declining since 2001 when it hit its peak at 6.7 percent. Even though Slovakia does not suffer from a hunger crisis, they still have to deal with other issues relating to food security and malnutrition. Changes in economic life have led to increased food prices, less spending money for the general population and groups of nutritionally-vulnerable people. Furthermore, changes in the economy have led to difficulties in food distribution. This is a very unique problem regarding the Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Slovakia.
  4. In Slovakia in 2011,  61.8 percent of adults were overweight. Men have higher rates of being overweight in Slovakia in comparison to women. Just under 69.6 percent of males are overweight in Slovakia while 56 percent of women are overweight. By the year 2030, it is estimated that the obesity rate for men will be around 28 percent and, for women,  18 percent.
  5. Agriculture is dominated by large scale corporations in Slovakia, so small, local farms are rare. One major problem is that the youth of Slovakia are uninterested in the farming industry. The Slovak Agency of Environment holds out-of-school environmental programs to increase education and training in agrobiodiversity.
  6. In 2005, there were about 81,500 people working agricultural jobs and more than 59,000 people working in the food industry. A decade later the numbers dropped to 51,000 and 50,200.  In 2016, only one-fifth of companies in the agriculture industry expected growth in their market share. Most of the agricultural companies revenue declined that same year.
  7. Between 2007-2014, milk production in Slovakia fell by 10.7 percent; although milk consumption increased by 17.5 percent. Meat production also fell, beef by 25.4 percent and poultry by 12.1 percent, as the result of a decrease in livestock. However, the consumption of beef, poultry and pork fell as well. The inconsistencies are due to constant changes in EU subsidy programs. “Sanctions against Russia leading to an excess of pork, record-breaking grain harvests, and unresolved problem of milk prices are all factors,” said Jiri Vacek director of CEEC research. This may directly affect some of the most important details about understanding the 10 Ten Facts About Hunger in Slovakia.
  8. In 2016, dairy producers experienced a crisis due to overproduction and low retail prices of milk. As an answer to the problem, the Agricultural Ministry stabilized the industry by supporting employment in dairy farming regions and focusing on a long-term solution. This plan included $33 million of support for milk products. Later that year, 1,760 dairy farmers had joined the project, giving financial support to farmers and providing important information.
  9.  In 2013-2014, subsistence farmers made up slightly less than 50 percent of the total number of vegetables produced. The biggest share of subsistence farmers per vegetable was cabbage at around 24 percent, tomatoes were just below 14 percent and carrots at just below 12 percent. Some of the other vegetables include peppers, onions and cucumbers.
  10. Slovakians do not eat enough fruits and vegetables per capita on a daily basis. The WHO/FAO recommends an intake of 600 grams of fruits and vegetables every day. Slovakians fall short of this number by more than 100 grams per day. Slovakians eat an average of 493 grams of fruits and vegetables per capita per day. This may be a factor in why Slovakians life expectancy falls shorter than the EU average.

Slovakia is considered one of Europe’s biggest success stories. When Slovakia originally separated from Czechoslovakia in 1993, the newly independent nation had an uphill battle to climb. However, a decade later Slovakia has taken major strides in becoming a successful, independent democracy. The country is not perfect, however, as Slovakia’s Romany population still suffers from high levels of poverty and social isolation. These top 10 facts about hunger in Slovakia show that hunger is not seen as a major problem.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Obesity in Resource-Poor NationsThe state of physical activity – or perhaps inactivity – is presenting researchers with a new problem in an age of widespread poverty. Over two billion people are currently obese or overweight, globally. Subsequently, one in 10 deaths are the direct result of health issues stemming from inactivity and obesity.

Inactivity in high-income countries is not a novel concept. When there are means of automatic transportation, a market or grocer nearby and a population that has access to vast white-collar work opportunities, inactivity – and its resulting obesity – existing at an elevated rate is not suspect. However, obesity in resource-poor nations is now concerning global leaders. When a country cannot afford basic needs without help, how will it deal with increased healthcare costs associated with poor health?

Brazilian researcher, Dr. Pedro C. Hallal, recently sought out to answer just how inactive the world is becoming. In 2012, Hallal compiled answers to 155 population surveys from 122 different countries, with the purpose of collecting data about people’s general health and lifestyle choices. What Hallal discovered was that severely impoverished countries, like Swaziland and Dominican Republic, ranked at the top of the list of the most inactive countries, alongside some of the most affluent countries.

According to Hallal’s research, Malta ranked at the very top, with nearly 72 percent of the population reporting high levels of inactivity. However, the Pacific Islands, Middle East and Americas lead the way, generally. For comparison, the U.S. had an inactivity rate of 41 percent. The countries with the most commendable numbers were well under 10 percent; these include Bangladesh, Mozambique, Benin and Cambodia.

Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrates, though, why physical activity is so essential, even when wages and higher living standards cannot be guaranteed. Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, thrive in resource-poor countries such as Kenya. While these resource-poor nations are having a tough time ensuring a balanced diet, the rapid urbanization of these same countries is compounding the negative health effects and increasing the number of health-related deaths.

A healthy lifestyle ultimately depends on an active one. This does not mean that gyms need to be constructed immediately, nor does foreign aid need to fund exercise equipment before meeting basic needs. Rather, one important thing that can be done is simply encouraging people to be more active. The U.N. has intervened, with its Sustainable Development Goals placing a focus on poor eating choices combined with physical inactivity, and the need to improve the rates of obesity that result from these choices.

However, the solution must be a societal one. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted that “different countries have different issues… You need to mobilize (their) whole society to tackle the problem… it’s not just a medical problem.”

The benefits of a healthier nation are also not a novel concept. When people are physically active, the heart and lungs experience increased efficiency, cholesterol levels go down, muscles strengthen, blood pressure problems decline and, overall, individuals makes themselves less susceptible to major illnesses. There are no inherent risks in encouraging people to walk a little more and have their kids play outside for 30 minutes, aside from a possible scraped knee or other minor accident.

The rising level of obesity in resource-poor nations should concern the countries experiencing it, along with the countries that are providing foreign aid. While not every nation can adjust the foods available, individuals in resource-poor nations can still make choices about their physical activity in order to prevent obesity. Neglecting to address this issue will only open the door to more medical expenses for countries that cannot afford to run themselves financially. Obesity is preventable, but it takes societal motivation and accountability to help prevent it.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is an island and French territory located in the Caribbean. Hunger in Guadeloupe has long been an issue, and that problem has evolved over the past decade.

In 2008, a food crisis struck the Caribbean. Many countries, such as Haiti, had trouble feeding their entire populations. Thousands of citizens from these countries began to riot and protest in the streets, and the Guadeloupean government was worried the same would happen in the island nation.

However, Guadeloupe has an advantage: France. Guadeloupe receives nearly 80 percent of its food as imports. This means that despite tropical issues that affect the Caribbean, the island doesn’t have to worry about feeding its people.

Just a few years after this crisis in 2011, Guadeloupe had an undernourishment level below 5 percent, which is on par with America and many other developed nations. Solving the problem of hunger in Guadeloupe with imports seems like a wonderful answer; however, it doesn’t come without some problems as well.

Guadeloupean people now rely on these imports, urged by the French government to export most of their domestic goods, and their preferences have become based on Western tastes. The problem with a lot of westernized food is that it is full of preservatives and has higher calorie counts than are necessary. Hunger in Guadeloupe no longer refers to undernourishment in the sense of too little food, but instead too little nutrients.

The scientific journal Diabetes and Metabolism found that depending on the particular part of Guadeloupe, rates of obesity vary between 17.9 to 33.1 percent. Another study by Women Health shows that there is an association between low education and low income with obesity. Imports are more expensive than healthy, locally grown fruit. This often causes families to resort to the unhealthy options simply due to cheaper prices.

To help stop this growing obesity rate, the Guadeloupean government must reduce the nation’s dependency on imports by using this rich, tropical farmland to grow fruits and vegetables. The only way they can do this is to work with the French government to encourage them to stop pushing for such great quantities of exports. Not only would this help provide healthier options, but it would help the local economy. More agriculture would provide more jobs to reduce the poverty rate, which is around 12.5 percent.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

 Hunger in Dominica
With a GDP of nearly $5.2 million and a population of 72,680 people, the Commonwealth of Dominica is considered an upper-middle-income country, according to the World Bank.

While the average citizen does not regularly face hunger in Dominica, many still face malnutrition through the introduction of the Western diet. Approximately 55 percent of all foods consumed in Dominica are imported, which contributes to a calorically dense, yet nutritionally weak diet and increases in diet-related non-communicable diseases like obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and local clinicians alike have identified obesity to be a persistent issue for the island country, with clinical data estimating 24.8 percent of adolescents to be overweight and 9.1 percent obese in 2016. The WHO has enlisted a series of nutritional initiatives and campaigns to reduce obesity through nutrition counseling and promotion of unprocessed foods.

Dominica is also especially susceptible to natural disasters due to its location in the Caribbean. Hurricanes and tropical storms can severely stunt the island nation’s food production, as seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Johnson Drigo, reported over $200 million in damages to Dominica’s agricultural sector months after the tropical storm had passed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed much to the literature surrounding nutrition security in Dominica, as well as measures to improve it. The FAO and the government of Dominica have agreed to collaborate over the 2016 to 2019 timeframe in three primary categories: food and nutrition security, agricultural health and food safety; risk management, building resilience to climate change; and sustainable rural agricultural development.

For instance, the FAO aids Dominica’s National School Feeding Program in connecting school lunch programs to local farms and improving nutrition education among students. The FAO also recognizes that domestic agriculture and fisheries production contributes significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.

When it comes to natural disaster relief, the FAO invests in the short-term, emergency recovery efforts of small farmers and supports long-term, emergency relief planning and agriculture disaster risk management.

While hunger in Dominica may not be the most pertinent issue in the country’s food security, the key to minimizing hunger, obesity and malnutrition alike may lie in improving sustainable nutrition development and in preserving and protecting local agriculture in light of natural disasters.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Poor Health in the Pacific Has Hope
The World Health Organization has identified nine out of the top 10 most obese nations as being located in the Pacific. Within these nine nations, rates of obesity range from 35 percent all the way up to 50 percent.

Obesity measurements are calculated by looking at an individual’s BMI, or body mass index. Pacific islanders naturally have a larger build than people of other ethnicities. This is the case because, at one time, people from this region were forced to endure long and difficult journeys at sea. People able to store enough energy in the form of fat were more likely to survive, and evolution selected for these genes. However, this genetic component still does not explain all of the obesity rates.

What does help to explain this epidemic is the increasing number of foods that are being imported to the islands. Traditional tropical diets included an abundance of fresh produce and fish, but these foods are now replaced with more processed foods, which provide a cheaper alternative. One World Health Organization worker and Fijian native even noted that “it’s cheaper to buy a bottle of coke than a bottle of water.”

Additionally, urbanization and increasing numbers of office jobs contribute to poor health in the Pacific. Historically, many jobs such as fishing and farming included a great deal of physical activity. However, as more people begin to drive to work in offices, physical activity is greatly reduced.

This obesity academic is exhibited in children as well. Roughly one in five Pacific children are obese, and diabetes is a constant concern for children as well as health services who struggle to meet increasing demands.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, there is still much hope for improving health in the Pacific. Members of the World Health Organization are confident that higher taxes on soft drinks, controlled marketing of products aimed at children and general promotions of a healthy lifestyle can help to turn things around.

Additionally, Australian researchers recently found an issue with the way that the rates of Type 2 diabetes were being measured in the Pacific. Essentially, blood glucose levels measured in the first phase of the survey were mistakenly compared to plasma levels in the follow-up portion of the survey. This caused rates to become inflated to nearly twice their actual value.

It was originally believed that Samoa experienced a 24.3 percent increase in diabetes from 2002 to 2013 when the actual increase was less than 3 percent. Tonga was thought to have experienced a 12 percent increase when diabetes rates actually decreased by three percent. Clearly, a recalculation may be required.

Although this inflation certainly does not mitigate the entire health crisis occurring in the Pacific islands, it does mean that at least rates of diabetes may be lower than was previously thought. Further steps to improve health in the Pacific will need to include conscious efforts on behalf of national governments, health organizations and citizens to strongly promote healthy living.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr