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developing world
More than half of the global population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The world is slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the virus. However, a serious post-pandemic symptom has emerged: the global supply chain is struggling. While the supply chain affects the whole planet, there is ample evidence of how global supply chain issues are burdening the developing world.

COVID-19 Measures Slow Down the Supply Chain

COVID-19 prevention measures across the globe have shut down processing plants and restricted transportation. They have included export bans or tight quotas to control supplies and prevent the spread of the virus. These measures have all contributed to disruptions in the global supply chain, which have impacted the developing world in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. Price volatility puts certain countries in jeopardy. Export bans and other restrictions cause prices to spike and drop unpredictably. That is creating price instability in countries that depend heavily on imports. For example, small pacific islands, such as Kiribati, that rely on imports but had grounded all flights have seen the cost of rice increase by 50%.
  2. There is massive food insecurity in the developing world. As Time reported, the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that the number of people who will starve has effectively doubled due to the pandemic. However, evidence suggests that there is not really a food shortage. Instead, transportation restrictions and protectionist trade policies are disrupting the flow of foods such as wheat and rice. Therefore, there may not be a food shortage problem but rather a food access problem.
  3. Humanitarian agencies have also warned of how global supply chain issues are burdening the developing world. They have expressed concerns that disruptions in the global supply chain may affect their abilities to provide commercial aid to developing countries in need. These agencies and nonprofit groups have experienced trouble acquiring necessary inventory and transporting that inventory to target nations. However, such hardship has not gone unnoticed. The IMF recently issued $650 billion in emergency currency reserves. In addition, it urged developed nations to use this money toward developing nations.
  4. There is also a cyclical relationship between global supply chains and poverty. Global supply chain issues exacerbate poverty and deepen inequality. However, the same poverty begets more disorder in the supply chain. For instance, if unable to profit from crop production, younger generations are likely to abandon traditional farming methods, threatening the smooth flow of the supply chain altogether.

Potential Benefits

Supply chain issues have not entirely punished developing nations. Some developing countries are benefitting, as the prices of their exports continue to skyrocket. For example, major oil exporters in the Middle East have benefitted from rising oil prices, according to The New York Times.

Leaders Look to the Future

Post-pandemic growth can be slow. However, government and private sector world leaders are actively working to speed it up. On October 31, 2021, international leaders met to discuss ways that they could improve the supply chain and make it more resilient in the future.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged for fair labor conditions, the end of trade restrictions and communication.“Now that we have seen how vulnerable these lines of global commerce can be, we cannot go back to business as usual,” the President told Reuters.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

UN Food Systems Summit
The U.N. Food Systems Summit recently took place on September 23, 2021. The U.N. Food Systems Summit highlighted the key nexus between food sustainability and food insecurity. The Summit was a virtual conference, and it described the food-related challenges that many people around the world are currently facing. Statistics highlighted the magnitude of the nutritional issues.

The UN Food Summit: Igniting Action and Hope

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, mentioned several concerning facts. For example, 3 billion people are unable to attain a balanced diet. Beyond that, 9 million people die from hunger each year. In 2020 alone, 25,000 people died per day due to starvation. However, following these morbid realities, the Summit revealed the goals of the U.N. and some solutions to the pre-established issues. The emphasis was on galvanizing people to care for one another. At its core, the Summit was a rallying call to action.

Main Objectives of the Summit

The main objective of the Summit was to raise awareness of the food system’s importance to the entirety of the sustainable development agenda. The urgency of addressing the issues plaguing global food systems has increased, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit also aimed to unite stakeholders around a common understanding of food systems as a foundation for action, to recognize the necessity of innovation addressing global food obstacles and catalyze action for the transformation of food systems in every corner of the globe.

António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, issued a summary and statement of action for the Summit. One of the key points of the statement was how the pandemic has significantly worsened food insecurity, resulting in a 20% increase in the number of people facing hunger between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Secretary-General established five action areas to help ensure the necessary changes to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030:

  1. Nourish All People
  2. Boost Nature-Based Solutions
  3. Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities
  4. Build Resistance to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses
  5. Accelerating the Means of Implementation

This statement of action was very robust. It included details about how the U.N. Resident Coordinators and U.N. Country Teams will work with national governments to develop new national pathways to improve food systems and ensure the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.

Global Leaders Reactions

During the Summit, leaders from a variety of countries spoke in an attempt to elicit empathy and initiative in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Agriculture Ministers and others were present at the Summit. The Summit’s goal was to “transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Many of the leaders who spoke focused on the specific issues plaguing the food systems within their state and established courses of action and priorities for tackling those issues.

Spain stated that it will be focussing on boosting family farming, with President Pedro Sanchez saying that “family farming…contributes to the economic and socio-cultural fabric of rural areas.” He followed that statement by announcing that the Spanish government will support family farming by boosting the coalition for the Decade of Family Farming. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made a strong statement condemning humanity’s current state of production and consumption. He emphasized the urgency of investment into global food systems and called upon food manufacturers to change the composition of their products.

The Conversation Needs to Continue

The U.N. Food Systems Summit provides hope and reassurance that action will occur to address food insecurity and poverty worldwide. The Summit was available to watch for anyone with internet access, and those who registered were able to connect in chat sections. Globalizing the combat of food insecurity and reaching the individual level increases awareness and participation in the Summit, which is beneficial to the U.N. cause. International humanitarian organizations and NGOs should continue to host these community dialogues to raise awareness of the issues plaguing humanity and to establish roadmaps to alleviate these issues.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Flickr

Social Harmony
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a school canteen program aims to create social inclusion and harmony. It seeks to address issues in a unique way: by connecting to students and the educational system.

About the School Canteen Program

In Lekoumou, located in the Republic of Congo, the school Makoubi comprises indigenous and Bantu children. Indigenous children comprise nearly one-third of the school population.

The indigenous population has historically experienced marginalization and has trouble exercising its rights, which include access to education. More than 65% of indigenous children do not attend school. The school canteen program, which the World Food Program initiated, is working to combat that. The program is a part of the SDG Fund initiative, which is an initiative looking to improve the indigenous community’s access to social protection programs in Lekoumou.

How it Works

During the school day, 313 Bantu and indigenous children sit down and share a hot meal. Parents or most often mothers of the children, cook the meals. Indigenous women, who are often victims of prejudice, meet with Bantu women daily to make the meals.

By working together, these parents are contributing to a growing social harmony. “Strengthening the participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples in Congo’s food systems is a key step in enabling people to have equal and fair access to adequate, nutritious and diverse food.” Not only that, but these meals also enable children to stay focused and prepare for their futures.

The Importance of this Effort

Before the program underwent enactment, tensions between the indigenous and Bantu communities created conflict. Notably, there is still a way to go to reach a better social harmony, but things are improving. When speaking with the WFP, Georgette, one of the indigenous cooks, said, “Before, the Bantus refused to eat meals cooked by the indigenous people because they were considered dirty. Now they do. And even outside of school, things are better.”

She also noticed that without the program, kids were missing school. These meals motivated children to attend school. For the indigenous children, remaining within school is even more important. Due to their weaker access to basic social services, indigenous children often have a harder time escaping poverty.

Reducing Poverty

The school canteen program feeds 313 children in Lekoumou, indigenous and Bantu alike, and promotes social harmony. However, that is not all the program does. As of 2019, chronic malnutrition affected 21% of children in the Republic of the Congo. By providing freshly cooked meals, the program gives many children meals that they might not have received otherwise.

Food insecurity affects a child’s academic progress in many ways. Children suffering from food insecurity are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity, absenteeism, generally poor behavior and poor academic functioning. These children are also more likely to need special education services, which can cost twice as much compared to a child who does not require such services.

Education has direct ties to poverty in the sense that having an education gives people a better chance at escaping poverty. Providing children with meals makes them healthier, more socially involved and more engaged. The WFP recognizes this and continues to do this while healing the rift between two communities at the same time.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Pandemic Refugees in the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected refugees, causing a migration crisis and hindering equality among poor people. Millions of people have experienced displacement from their homes since the outbreak began. This massive displacement created a concentration of immigrants in urban areas seeking asylum. The term for these individuals is “pandemic refugees.” Pandemic refugees in the United States are individuals the virus severely affected who desire a place to seek asylum and better-quality health services. However, the virus spread rapidly across borders, making it harder for refugees to find places that are genuinely safe.

Actions from the IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is the United Nations’ migration agency, has worked hard to provide shelter to those the COVID-19 pandemic displaced. The organization also partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) to fight for people currently facing food and sanitary crises. Poverty deprives people of access to health facilities, allowing them to potentially avoid the virus. Additionally, the lack of new jobs and the government imposing quarantines have led people to seek help from organizations or even become pandemic refugees forced to cross borders looking for a better living standard.

Reaching the United States

Devastated economies have caused millions of individuals to flee to the United States, potentially traveling long distances in their journeys. Dozens of people pile up on the border between Mexico and the United States. These refugees pack minimum necessities and hit the road, attempting to cross the border and start a new life as unauthorized U.S. citizens. The Biden administration has encountered a significant number of refugees seeking prosperity and asylum in the aftermath of the pandemic. The U.S. Border Patrol has stated that refugees try to cross the borders daily. These numbers are quickly growing to overwhelming amounts.

Opportunity and Despair

While pandemic refugees in the United States seek a better life, they also encounter difficulties when searching for jobs. Compared to documented citizens, opportunities for undocumented citizens are different. Governments frequently attempt to send them back to their home country. Because of this, vulnerable groups like refugees are paying the highest price during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complications from the pandemic have created despair for individuals who flee their land and families. The closure of borders and restrictions on movement limit individuals’ access to food, housing and overall security. There are few cases of success and opportunities for refugees who fled their home countries seeking better opportunities. Security is also a significant problem for refugees since they are vulnerable groups and can spread the virus.

US COVID-19 Response

The United States has responded to the pandemic with a relief package of $11 billion for a global response. The U.S. government has worked hard to stop extreme poverty levels during the pandemic, and increase vaccination numbers and sustainable development. The country has also implemented unemployment benefits to give extra money to qualified unemployed individuals. Nevertheless, the U.S. must extend more of these protections to pandemic refugees. If it does, pandemic refugees in the United States will obtain the assistance and security they deserve to protect themselves and their families.

– Ainara Ruano Cervantes
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in Syria
Syria has been in a state of civil war for nine years, since March 2011. Dire consequences meet civilians from all sides; from danger and violence if they stay and closed borders due to an overflow of refugees if they try to leave. Due to this humanitarian crisis, poverty has affected more than 83% of the population. In this same vein, 8 million Syrian children are in need —both inside and outside the country. As of April 2020, the WFP reported that the cost of a staple basket of food has risen by 111% in comparison to the previous month, due to Syria’s COVID-19 crisis. With these factors at play, initiatives to alleviate poverty in Syria are a welcome respite.

While it may seem that good news is hard to come by, there are a few initiatives in Syria working against the effects of high poverty rates. They tackle these issues from several angles, such as rewriting stereotypes, entrepreneurial education, resource allocation and community development. Here are four initiatives that are working to alleviate poverty in Syria, today.

4 Initiatives to Alleviate Poverty in Syria

  1. MeWe International and the #MeWeSyria Movement: Rewriting Stereotypes – MeWe International Inc. aims to rewrite the narrative about poverty in Syria and Syrian refugees. By using communication skills and narrative interventions as tools, it encourages and promotes healthy psychological skills, leadership efforts and community engagement. The training networks are hosted within Syrian communities and gear toward refugee youth and caregivers, especially within the facets of mental health. Storytelling is a tool MeWe International uses to help people to heal, grow and dream of a better future within communities in poverty in Syria.
  2. The Remmaz and Mujeeb Programs: Entrepreneurial Education – Programs from 2016 and 2017 are continuing to focus on equipping the younger generations in Syria with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their country and support their communities. Leen Darwish founded Remmaz, which teaches students how to code. “This programme is providing young people in Syria with critical business, leadership and entrepreneurship skills and directly linking them to opportunities to generate income,” says Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Global Coordinator for the Data for Development Platform. Aghyad Al-Kabbani, Eyad Al-Shami and Zeina Khalili co-founded Mujeeb, an AI program that creates customer support chatbots in Arabic. Al-Shami quoted, “On the human side, it’s hard. It’s not about building the next Google. But I want to exist. I want to do something.” Their hard work has led not only to easier online communication for people in Syria but also to a great success story for other young, Syrian entrepreneurs. This is a great example of how to alleviate poverty in Syria from the inside.
  3. United World Food Program Initiatives: Resource Reallocation – The World Food Program USA (WFP) has brought a few innovative solutions to Syria that have improved quality of life and the procurement of resources. Technology has been a valued instrument through NGOs like WFP. Moreover, the extension of aid is very much necessary to alleviate poverty in Syria. To counter the needs of 11.1 million people, iris scans prevent robbery while truck convoys carry supplies to hard-to-reach communities. Furthermore, both bakeries and greenhouses (under construction) increase the flow and availability of food. The WFP feeds more than 4.5 million people inside Syria and more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees every month. By addressing hunger on this scale, the most essential needs of the poor are met. Further, they can slowly grow and rebuild their homes and businesses.
  4. UNDP Leaving No One Behind Resilience Program: Community Development – The 2018 Resilience Program based in Syria focuses on four large-scale areas to alleviate poverty in Syria. The initiative works to promote self-reliance through socioeconomic recovery, improving the quality of basic services. Also, it aims to reinforce social cohesion in the community and strengthen local partnerships. The interventions were able to reach around 2.8 million people and contributed directly to around 111,000. The area-based approach rated certain geographical areas by need and ensured that the most crucial needs were met first. The communities with the highest beneficiaries include Aleppo, Al-Hakaseh, Rural Damascus and Lattakia. One of the projects included the improvement of basic services to crisis-hit areas, and these services included:
    • Solid waste and debris management;
    • Repair of water, sewage and electricity networks;
    • Rehabilitation of local businesses;
    • Supporting clean and renewable energy sources; and
    • Emergency repair of electricity and infrastructure.

Washing Away the Stain of War

Two million Syrians alone have benefited from the improvement of basic services. The remnants of war and violence are being cleaned up and removed. Moreover, the stones in the debris that were removed from Bab Al-Hadid were collected on-site. Notably, these stones will be reused in future rehabilitation projects in the same area.

After nine years of civil war and the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, the contributions of these organizations provide relief to Syrians.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pxfuel

Rising Poverty in Lebanon
Before COVID-19, Lebanon was already facing an economic crisis, and rising poverty in Lebanon was a growing concern. As a result of COVID-19, the country’s economy is failing. The pandemic threatens to push up to 75% of the country’s population to poverty. A country with one of the highest debts in the world, Lebanon has now defaulted on its debts. Inflation has risen, putting many members of the middle class at risk of poverty. The people of Lebanon blame corruption and mismanagement for the problems that are plaguing the country.

Lebanon’s Political Dysfunction

From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon experienced a civil war that religious tensions caused. Ultimately, Lebanon’s new government decided to adopt a system based on confessionalism, which gives religious groups a strong voice. The president of Lebanon must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the house a Shia Muslim. However, government action has been slow as a result. It took Lebanon 12 years (from 2005 to 2017) to pass a state budget. Increasingly, people in Lebanon have been calling for an end to this political system, which is not only fragmented and ineffective but also filled with corruption and meddling from countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Inflation and Rising Poverty in Lebanon

In 2019, the World Bank predicted that Lebanon’s poverty rate would increase as a result of the country’s economic problems. Inflation had already risen — but not by the margins that the country has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lebanese currency has now lost over 80% in value. With the devaluing of its currency, Lebanon is experiencing an increase in prices on goods. Many people are struggling to afford meals, as food prices have increased by 190% in comparison to last year. Meanwhile, the price of clothes has increased by 170%.

Inflation is a vicious cycle, influenced by both suppliers and consumers. Suppliers in Lebanon — such as supermarkets and shop owners — are unable to sell as many goods, because people are unable to buy as much. In addition, the pandemic shut down certain aspects of the economy, preventing people from receiving wages and having money to spend. As a result of the economic crisis, banks imposed limits on how much money people could withdraw, which increased financial uncertainty for many citizens. Without sufficient support from their government, the people of Lebanon face a desperate future.

Rising inflation is not the only disruptor to many people’s lives in Lebanon. Access to reliable electricity is becoming more of a concern. According to the Human Rights Watch, power cuts are disrupting life in Lebanon. People face hurdles in storing food and disruptions to work, while also worrying about health risks for family members who depend on electrical medical equipment.

Support for Refugees and Citizens

The pandemic is also affecting refugees from Syria. There are close to 1 million registered refugees in Lebanon — more refugees per capita than any other country. The World Food Program is currently providing aid to refugee families.

To help with the crisis in Lebanon, local groups like Mission Joy and the COVID-19 Task Force for Lebanon have donated 960 food parcels and 400 hygiene kits. The World Food Program is also working to help hundreds of thousands of citizens, as many families are financially constrained and struggling to meet rising food prices. Currently, Lebanon is negotiating with the IMF for more loans to help its economy. With help from international organizations, Lebanon can hope to provide a more secure economic future for its people.

Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is an East African country in the African Great Lakes region with a population of around 56.32 million people. Tanzania is a developing country and it struggles with widespread hunger and poverty. In 2019, the Global Hunger Index ranked Tanzania 95th out of 117 countries, with a level of hunger classified as serious. Here are five important facts about hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania.

5 Facts About Hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania

  1. Malnutrition: Malnutrition due to hunger is a serious and widespread health issue for those living with food insecurity. Studies show that around 3.3 million children in Tanzania suffer from chronic malnutrition and 58% of children are anemic. In addition to the lack of access to food, malnutrition is a result of poor water quality and sanitation services. A shortage of medical supplies and properly trained healthcare workers have also worsened this crisis, affecting children’s’ health and growth over the long-term. In order to help defeat the damage of malnutrition on vulnerable children, doctors and humanitarian aid groups, such as the World Food Program, have begun providing malnourished children with fortified food products to help them gain the nutrients they require to thrive. Additionally, pregnant women, new mothers and young children are receiving regular checkups to ensure that they remain healthy and that they can receive treatment for malnutrition in its earliest stages.
  2. Infant Mortality Rates: Lack of access to food and proper nutrition has an especially harmful impact on infant mortality rates and the health of pregnant mothers. It is vital for children to receive adequate nutrition within the first 1,000 days of life in order for them to grow up strong and healthy. The widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Tanzania creates a health crisis that affects young children and causes a third of all deaths of children under 5, in addition to the many health problems that can damage children who survive. Studies have shown that babies who suffer from malnutrition, even briefly, are often at a higher risk for mental and physical illnesses even into adulthood, as well as learning difficulties, stunted growth and weaker immune systems in childhood. Pregnant women are also susceptible to malnutrition in part because of cultural myths about motherhood, such as the widespread belief in Tanzania that eating less during pregnancy will cause a baby to be smaller and easier to deliver. This can cause dangerous health issues for mothers as well as making their newborns more prone to malnutrition. Women of childbearing age and children under 5-years-old are the most prone to health problems due to malnutrition such as iron and vitamin A deficiencies. In Tanzania, 58% of children and 45% of women are anemic, and 33% of children and 37% of women have vitamin A deficiencies.
  3. Rural Hunger: Hunger in Tanzania disproportionately affects rural families living in poverty. Over half of the country lives in rural areas and works in the agricultural sector, a population that contains almost three-quarters of Tanzanians suffering from undernourishment and 80% of the country’s hungry citizens. Hunger in these rural areas increases during Tanzania’s dry season, which lasts from June to October. Harvesting crops becomes especially difficult during these months and maintaining an adequate amount of food is an even greater challenge.
  4. Agriculture: Although many people living in Tanzania work in agriculture, the country’s agricultural output still lags behind much of Sub-Saharan Africa. There are a number of reasons for this poor performance, such as less agricultural research, the continued use of rudimentary and outdated farming technology, lack of access to seeds and fertilizers and the inaccessibility of financial assistance such as agricultural loans. The struggling agricultural sector leads to higher rates of poverty and hunger among those who work in this field and rely on farming as their main food source.
  5. Organizations: Several organizations are combatting hunger in Tanzania. Efforts to fight malnutrition from the World Food Program and other organizations have decreased the mortality rate of children under 5-years-old by two-thirds and the infant mortality rate by 6% since 1990. The humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger recently trained 229 health workers in Tanzania on how to provide proper treatment and management of acute malnutrition. It also provided technical support to 41 healthcare facilities and screened over 10,000 children for malnutrition.

These statistics paint a sobering, yet not an entirely hopeless picture of the hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania. Many are working to help combat this issue, though more progress is still necessary to ensure that no one in Tanzania goes hungry.

 – Allie Beutel
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Iraq
Decades of conflict in Iraq have effectively destroyed what was once the center of human civilization. Many view Iraq as a country very costly to the U.S.—another war from which the U.S. must recover. However, the international community’s job is not done. Today, millions of Iraqis are displaced and suffer from food insecurity, a problem that the government has struggled to control. This article will delve into the background of food insecurity in Iraq and what various groups are doing to combat it.

Governance Issues

The oil industry accounts for 90% of Iraqi government revenue. The crash of oil prices caused a $40 billion deficit in the Iraqi budget, cutting this revenue in half. Iraq’s government has been unable to properly fund various institutions. Combined with a 66% rise in population since 2000, this has placed immense stress on the country’s food supply. Constant conflict and the corrupt management of resources have hindered any ability to keep up with this population boom. USAID labels just under one million Iraqis as food insecure. The World Food Program, however, estimates that this number is closer to two million.

While much focus is on obtaining aid from the international community, Iraq has not necessarily focused as much on reforming its own institutions governing agricultural industry networks. Iraq’s State-Owned Enterprises are involved in every step of food production, processing and distribution. The government attempts to distribute food products and support the industry through its bloated Public Distribution System (PDS), which in 2019 cost $1.43 billion, and its yearly $1.25 billion effort to buy wheat and barley from Iraqi farmers at double the international price. Despite these expensive programs, Iraq still ends up importing 50% of its food supply.

Inefficient growth, processing and distribution methods and a reliance on food imports place Iraq in a delicate position. They are susceptible to global food chain supply network failures and the threat of a budget collapse due to the crash of oil prices. Such an occurrence would likely cause the food system to implode without the current level of government intervention. These governance issues, on top of decades of conflict and displacement, have exacerbated food insecurity in Iraq.

The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the aforementioned issues confronting the Iraqi food supply. Cases in Iraq have skyrocketed during May and June as Iraqis faced the decision of staying home without reliable state support and suffering from lack of income or holding onto their jobs and risking infection.

The pandemic has worsened the already pervasive levels of poverty and food insecurity. Inefficient state institutions and bureaucracy have combined with the pandemic to display the fragility of the Iraqi food supply. There have already been severe shocks in the global supply chain. For a government that relies on imports for 50% of its food supply, this pandemic could cause the crisis of food insecurity in Iraq to spiral. The Iraqi government has faced issues of governance for decades. The pandemic has only emphasized these issues while placing millions of Iraqis at further risk of conflict and disaster.

Humanitarian Efforts

The stark problem of food insecurity in Iraq has caught the eye of many different aid organizations, both in the U.S. government and the intergovernmental level. USAID, the primary U.S. foreign aid organization, has spent years trying to help meet Iraqis’ basic humanitarian needs, especially in the face of seemingly endless conflict. USAID has provided almost $240 million in emergency food assistance to Iraqis since FY 2014. This money goes toward food vouchers, food baskets and cash for food, all under the coordination of the World Food Program (WFP), which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) established with the UN General Assembly.

USAID has also supported WFP efforts to create an electronic distribution platform for Iraq’s PDS, which would allow Iraqis to update their locations, use biometrics for identification and improve overall access to food supplies. The WFP, in turn, supports 280,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 76,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, providing monthly food support mainly through cash transfers. It also provides local, healthy food for over 324,000 schoolchildren in Iraq. The organization is currently looking to expand cash transfers and food access to over 35,000 refugees and 10,000 internally displaced people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO has worked with the WFP in Iraq by focusing on agricultural sustainability. To improve food security and Iraqi self-reliance, the FAO has supported livestock production through capital, seeds, fertilizer and resources to counter disease. It also uses “cash-for-work activities” to enhance local markets and support infrastructure in addition to its efforts to promote labor-saving technology to counteract food insecurity in Iraq.

Looking Forward

Poor food access has been an issue for many years, but the pandemic is making the situation worse. Constant conflict and a lack of effective governance are both serious obstacles to creating a stable food environment for Iraqis, but there is a significant commitment from the international community to shore up Iraqi agricultural sustainability and provide support to individual Iraqis. While many are still in dire need of access to food, organizations like these provide hope for the fight against food insecurity in Iraq.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Nicaragua, although having made tremendous progress in recent years, is still one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. According to the World Bank, 24.9% of Nicaraguans lived in poverty as of 2016. Of those people, 200,000 lived in extreme poverty making less than $1.90 a day. As a result of poverty and harsh climate conditions, hunger in Nicaragua is a prominent issue. Even though approximately 70% of the population works in agriculture, 300,000 people still require food aid. Located in what’s known as the Dry Corridor, Nicaragua faces erratic weather patterns prone to climate shocks that are consistent threats to stable food production. However, in spite of the unfavorable conditions, many organizations and programs are on the ground working to fight hunger in Nicaragua.

5 Initiatives to Fight Hunger in Nicaragua

  1. The World Food Program (WFP) offers various programs and services to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua. Since 1971, WFP has implemented strategies to improve food security. By supporting the National School Meal Program, the organization helped provide meals to more than 182,000 schoolchildren in April of 2020. Following a five-year plan that spans from 2019 to 2023, WFP aims to find long-term solutions to hunger in Nicaragua. Along with direct food assistance, WFP promotes creating efficient and sustainable agricultural practices by providing technical assistance in implementing weather-resilient farming methods, improving degraded ecosystems and developing technology for accurate climate information.
  2. The organization Food for the Hungry believes that chickens can be a catalyst for solving hunger. Food for the Hungry stated that chickens rank close to the top of its annual gift catalog because of their uses in decreasing hunger. The nonprofit sponsored a program in El Porvenir, Nicaragua called “Happy Chicks”. This initiative taught the locals skills related to running a poultry farm, which is a creative and sustainable way to provide daily meals to the community and, especially, children. These skills help communities learn to operate self-sufficiently.
  3. Indigenous women have a history of banding together to develop more sustainable agricultural practices. Slow Food is an organization that values the protection of food culture and understands the importance of responsible food production. The organization partnered with communities of indigenous women in Nicaragua to encourage cooperation in improving the quality of agricultural systems. Women in the organization shared ideas about planting and harvesting crops, while also promoting economic autonomy through marketing and commercializing excess products.
  4. The Caribbean Coast Food Security Project (PAIPSAN) is collaborating with communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to fight hunger. The organization provides assistance to those who would normally not have access to adequate technology or resources to engage in sustainable agricultural practices. PAIPSAN encourages farmers to utilize climate-resistant seeds and organic fertilizers, while also promoting innovative and environmentally friendly pest and disease control practices. The program also provides educational services to increase awareness of improving nutrition.
  5. Food assistance programs are a popular way of directly fighting hunger in Nicaragua. Food assistance programs generally provide a stable source of food for those in need. Hope Road Nicaragua works alongside other organizations, such as the Orphan Network and Rise Against Hunger, to provide 3,000 children with meals that include vitamin-dense rice and soy packs, beans, vegetables, chicken and tortillas.  The Rainbow Network is another food assistance program. It has set up 489 feeding centers, reaching approximately 13,581 people. The Rainbow Network also works with The American Nicaraguan Foundation to train community members on how to cook and operate the feeding centers. The American Nicaraguan Foundation itself is an organization that has provided more than 297.3 million meals to Nicaragua’s most vulnerable in the past 25 years. Along with its network of more than 700 partners, the foundation coordinates a variety of programs and allocates resources dedicated to poverty relief.

Nicaragua has made progress in recent years. However, vulnerable groups still need assistance with fighting hunger, a direct result of poverty in the country. In order to address this, many organizations are working to foster the idea of food sovereignty and fight hunger in Nicaragua. 

Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Hunger in Colombia
The Republic of Colombia, better known as simply Colombia, is a country located in the northwestern region of South America. With a population of 49 million as of 2019, it is the second-largest country in South America with the third-largest economy on the continent. Colombia is one of the most populous countries in South America. Over the last 25 years, the poverty levels have decreased by over 50% to under 30%. Because of such a sharp increase in the poverty rates, food sources for citizens have been scarce. Access to food has remained scarce as decades of civil unrest have led to constraints on deliveries in large parts of the country. Despite these sharp increases, global efforts from various organizations have helped improve these rates and contributed to an expected overall decrease in hunger in Colombia. Here are six facts about hunger in Colombia.

6 Facts About Hunger in Colombia

  1. Nutritional Deficiencies: A study from the Colombia Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development showed that in 2005, over 85% of Colombians had a calcium deficiency. In addition to this, 62% had a zinc deficiency, 22% had a Vitamin C deficiency and 32% had a Vitamin A deficiency. Recent studies have shown that these numbers have decreased, with 14% of Colombians having a Vitamin D deficiency and 24% having a Vitamin A deficiency. Despite these improvements (as a result of outside assistance from organizations and advocacy-based groups), zinc deficiency is still a pressing issue in Colombia, with 43% of people living in Colombia suffering from a zinc deficiency.
  2. Affected Populations: Hunger in Colombia has statistically affected more ethnic populations than others. Indigenous people take the brunt of this impact, with 30% of the population living in extreme poverty and 79% of indigenous children suffering from malnutrition. In addition to hunger, indigenous populations suffer from other issues such as forced displacement and drug trafficking.
  3. Effects of Immigration: Colombia has high levels of immigration from other Latin American countries. The majority of these immigrants come from Venezuela, with over 1 million Venezuelans immigrating as of 2018, though some estimates could be as high as 2 million. The majority of these immigrants live on the border between the two countries, and nearly half of them live in regions characterized by extreme violence, which leads to the deprivation of these resources. Advocacy groups working in these regions, like Action Against Hunger, have helped to alleviate these issues by monitoring nutrition levels and providing monetary assistance to help people have access to these basic resources.
  4. Maternal and Child Health: Malnutrition heavily affects children in Colombia. The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) conducted a study that found that 13% of children under the age of 5 showed growth delays. Further, over 30% of all children have shown to suffer from distinctly low heights. Malnutrition also targets pregnant women and women of childbearing age. One out of every three pregnant women and one out of every five menstruating women suffer from iron deficiency.
  5. Organization and Advocacy Efforts: The largest organization working to combat hunger in Colombia is the World Food Program (WFP). Though the WFP has been in Colombia since 1969, it implemented the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation, which focuses its hunger efforts on areas that war conflicts heavily affect. The WFP has assisted nearly 330,000 people in January 2020 alone by providing access to healthy food and directly addressing the Venezuelan migrant crisis directly. The organization Action Against Hunger provides various forms of aid to Colombians affected by political instability and natural disasters. Action Against Hunger has assisted over 83,000 Colombians through projects such as providing clean water, and implementing nutrition and food security programs.
  6. Decreasing Hunger Rates: According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, the number of people suffering from malnutrition in Colombia was 4.2 million between 2004 and 2006. This number has decreased to 2.4 million between 2016 and 2018. These decreasing rates contradict Latin America as a whole, compared to an increase from 39 million people to 42 million suffering from malnutrition in the same time frame of 2016 to 2018.

These facts about hunger in Colombia show that it is a concerning issue that disproportionately plagues poorer and migrant populations. Though organizations such as the World Food Program and Action Against Hunger are helping to combat this issue, much work still lies ahead to entirely eliminate hunger. However, with the persistent help of these organizations, the crisis of malnutrition and hunger in Colombia can hopefully come to an end.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr