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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

Food Systems and COVID-19
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “Food Tank, Food Systems and COVID-19: A Conversation with Dani Nierenberg,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

To say Danielle Nierenberg is passionate about food is an understatement. A world-renowned researcher, speaker and advocate, she’s spent her career fighting for food-systems change and is an expert on all things food and ag.

In 2013, Danielle co-founded Food Tank, a global community pushing for food systems change. Food Tank aims to educate and inspire and highlight solutions that will create change.

We’ve been curious to learn more about Danielle and her work for a while. And during this unprecedented time, we wanted to get her expert insight into how coronavirus will affect food systems as well. So, we dialed Danielle up to talk about her career, Food Tank and COVID-19.

Click below to listen to Danielle Nierenberg’s conversation about food systems and COVID-19.

 

 

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MalawiLocated in Africa’s Southern region, Malawi is a nation-state with a size comparable to that of the state of Pennsylvania and a population estimated to reach a little more than 20 million by July 2020. The country is primarily dependent on the agricultural sector which employs close to 80% of the population and remains predominantly rural. Poverty in Malawi is very high and it manifests itself in various indicators, such as in the economy, education and healthcare, rendering it one of Africa’s poorest nations. Here are six facts about poverty in Malawi.

6 Facts About Poverty in Malawi

  1. Throughout the past few decades, Malawi had made tangible progress in several areas of human development. For instance, primary education completion rates have increased by 17% between 2004 and 2013. Meanwhile, mortality rates for children under 5 decreased by approximately 48% between 2004 and 2015. Similarly, the country’s maternal health has improved as mothers are receiving necessary prenatal and birth care as well as increasingly using contraceptives.
  2. Despite the abovementioned improvements, Malawi continues to have high poverty rates, posing substantial challenges to human development and growth in the African nation’s quality of life. In 2017, its GDP per capita (PPP) amounted to only $1,200, leading it to rank among the poorest countries in the world.
  3. In 2016, Malawi’s poverty rate reached 51.5%. That number remained slightly unchanged at 52% in 2018, according to a 2018 integrated household report, which emerged as a result of a joined effort between the Malawian government and UNICEF. The report also highlights child poverty as a particularly problematic issue as more than two-thirds of children in rural areas in Malawi live in poverty.
  4. Higher poverty rates in a given society tend to go hand in hand with sizable challenges underpinning the state of the economy. Malawi’s dependence on agriculture implies that climate-related problems can be a serious threat to its national economic wellbeing. This was the case during the 2015 and 2016 drought, which negatively impacted the country’s economy. Alinafe Nhlane, a mother and farmer in Muona Village, exemplified another instance of Malawi’s economic volatility when she recounted that she had lost all of her crops as a result of the 2019 Cyclone Idai.
  5. In addition to the fact that an estimated 1 million Malawians are living with HIV/AIDS and that the degree of risk of infection with diseases such hepatitis A, typhoid fever and malaria is very high, the physician/population ratio in the country is quite low at 0.02 in 2016. In light of the recent COVID-19 global developments, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Maria Jose Torres, expressed her fears that the spread of the virus, even if minuscule, could be destructive to the country’s feeble healthcare system.
  6. On the other hand, it is notable that UNICEF along with U.K. Aid have worked to distribute hygiene and sanitation materials throughout Malawian districts to lead the fight against the virus. Ms. Nhlane also benefited from $33 she received from the World Food Program, aid which she will use to feed her family.

Malawi indeed continues to face paramount challenges that threaten the very livelihood and wellbeing of its citizens. Nonetheless, it has improved in many aspects including child health. For progress to spread and increase in scope and magnitude, however, it remains critical for the efforts addressing poverty in Malawi to carry on.

– Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Security
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

Entering 2020, the number of hungry and malnourished people around the world was already on the rise due to an increase in violent conflict and climate change impacts. Today, over 800 million people face chronic undernourishment and over 100 million people are in need of lifesaving food assistance. The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, risks undermining the efforts of humanitarian and food security organizations seeking to reverse these trends.

As former International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Director General Shenggan Fan, writes, “COVID-19 is a health crisis. But it could also lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken.”

Every major outbreak in recent memory—Ebola, SARS, MERS—has had both direct and indirect negative impacts on food security. On this episode of Hacking Hunger, Dr. Chase Sova, WFP USA senior director of public policy and research, tells us what the experts are saying about the likelihood and nature of such impacts from COVID-19.

Click below to listen to what Dr. Chase Sova has to say about the threat COVID-19 poses to global food security.

 

 

Photo: Flickr

 

 

State of Hunger in North Korea 
Hunger in North Korea is a well-known issue. While the picturesque depiction of the country’s capital city Pyongyang might show the improved food conditions of North Korea’s elites, food shortages still loom over the poor, rural populace. Multiple factors such as North Korea’s climate and governmental mismanagement contribute to the state of hunger in North Korea. The famine of 1990, for example, is one of the most well-documented famines in North Korea’s history.

The Causes of Food Shortages in North Korea

Just like many other aspects of North Korean life, the central government distributes the country’s food. In 2017, the U.N. estimated that 17.5 million, or 71.5 percent of the population, relied on the North Korean government’s pubic distribution of food for their family. The Food Procurement and Distribution Authority of the North Korean government sets average monthly rations for the upcoming month. According to this recommendation, the North Korean authorities review food availability in the country, and after this, they make decisions on whether the country needs to import food. However, recent statistics suggest that food rationing became more challenging between 2018 and 2019. Compared to the average of 1,529 kcal per day rations in 2018, an average North Korean family received 1,393 kcal per day in 2019.

The North Korean famine of the mid-1990s demonstrates the extensive damage food insecurity can have on a country’s population. North Korea suffered a major famine due to multiple factors including the fall of the Soviet Union, over-fertilization of farmland, multiple natural disasters and mismanagement of the food distribution system. Some researchers estimate that 600,000 to 1 million people died because of this famine. At the time, this was at least 2.3 percent of the North Korean population.

People know the children who grew up during this time as the Lost Generation. These children suffered from growth defects such as stunting, wasting and malnutrition due to the state of hunger in North Korea at that time. In September and October 1998, a joint survey that UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) conducted found that 62.3 percent of 1,762 North Korean children experienced stunting. However, the surveyors cautioned that they did not randomly select the children they surveyed. 

The Continuing Hunger

The impact and continuation of the great famine still shadow over North Korea. In 2019, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 10.1 million people in North Korea are either food insecure or in urgent need of food assistance. The same report pointed to multiple factors such as international sanctions, environmental conditions and governmental mismanagement as roots of hunger in North Korea. Historically, the North Korean government responded to the agricultural shortage by importing most of its food from other communist countries such as the Soviet Union and China. However, the Soviet Union and many other previously communist countries adopted the market economy. As a result, this made it much harder for North Korea to rely on the previous socialist-style barter system which supplied much of its food production and raw materials for its industry.

A Solution to Alleviate Hunger in North Korea

Food aid to North Korea is more than a simple international aid. There are multiple countries sending aid to North Korea, including China, South Korea, Russia, Canada and numerous other European countries. South Korea fulfilled its promise to donate $4.5 million to the WFP in 2019. In addition, South Korea announced that it will further provide 50,000 tons of rice as food aid to North Korea. The United States used to be the biggest provider of food aid to North Korea between 1995 and 2008. It provided over $1 billion in assistance, about 60 percent of which was food aid. However, the accountability of the North Korean regime’s use of this food aid is troubling.

Many skeptics of the food aid to North Korea believe that much of the past aid only fed North Korean leaders and the country’s military. David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, still asked the international community to support food aid to North Korea. Beasley said in an interview with the Guardian that “the concerns have been about not helping the regime. We make the case: don’t let innocent children suffer because of politics.” Beasley’s statement highlights the moral conundrum that many aid providers face when sending food aid to North Korea. However, the question of accountability is not something that one can ignore. In 2019, a North Korean farmer testified that she and her family did not receive or benefit from the food throughout the years.

The state of hunger in North Korea is both a humanitarian and a political issue. Donors of food aid to North Korea wish to help the starving populace of North Korea. However, the same donors also want to hold the North Korean regime accountable. On the one hand, people of North Korea are still suffering from malnutrition. Meanwhile, there are signs that the North Korean government is only providing food and aid to its rich and elite populace. However, the international community also hopes that the devastation of the great North Korean famine will not repeat itself. Many hope for the day when hunger will be a story of the past in North Korea.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

China Reduced its Poverty
China reduced its poverty from 97 percent in 1978 to 1.7 percent in late 2018. In the late 1970s, China began focusing on poverty reduction and economic development. Through various economic efforts, China became market-oriented to decrease poverty, which subsequently grew the private sector, created modern banks, reformed the agricultural industry, developed the stock market and spurred foreign trade and investment. China aims to reduce poverty rates to 0 percent in 2020, which is in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating global poverty.

China’s Alleviation Method

The International Poverty Reduction Center in China reported lifting more than 850 million of its people out of poverty from 1981 to 2013. During that time period, extreme poverty decreased from 88 percent to 1.85 percent. To achieve a 0 percent poverty rate, China is using extensive expertise in helping Chinese nationals who reside in poorer regions. The current poverty rate of 1.7 percent primarily encompasses those in poor rural regions. 

Similar to the approach that China took in the 1970s and 1980s, it aims to increase efforts to open the economy for trade, diversify the marketplace, improve agricultural practices and implement education reform.

Poverty is still an issue throughout the agricultural industry, but the government is aiming to completely eliminate the Chinese poor. China created a poverty registration system that enables tracking of information relevant to those in poverty. It gathered data from more than 128,000 villages and 290,000 households that indicated that many of the poor reside in Guizhou, Yunan, Henan, Hunan, Guangxi and Sichuan. China aims to accomplish additional poverty reduction techniques through policies based on industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security improvement. The Chinese government has managed to reduce poverty through direct involvement in hard-to-reach rural areas that have innately higher levels of poverty.

To support economic growth, the Chinese government is pushing for new industries in these poor regions, such as e-commerce and tourism. Furthermore, the relocation of poor families residing in areas prone to earthquakes or landslides has supported Chinese poverty reduction measures. The country is also emphasizing education and occupational training. Public health services will be available to the poor, especially in the remote mountainous regions. These actions indicate that China has reduced poverty not only through broad approaches but also through direct impacts.

Direct Progress

Progress is already underway in the government’s push for new industries. China has reduced poverty through these industries that benefit hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens. China E-commerce centers, known as Taobao villages, enable the Chinese to sell their produce and specialties online. In 2015, 780 Taobao villages employed more than one million people and included more than 200,000 active online storeowners. Comparatively, in 2019, the number of Taobao villages grew to 4,310 and active online shops totaled to more than 660,000.

China’s Investments in Africa 

China also helps other countries with economic development and poverty reduction. As an economy grows, poverty trends to gradually lower; on the other hand, job growth, economic diversification and agricultural productivity improve. One can see a specific example of China’s method for poverty reduction through its investments in African countries to build foreign economies. China has provided more than $57 billion in financial aid to more than 170 countries. In 2018, China accounted for almost 20 percent of all infrastructure and capital project investment in Africa.

A Chinese Poverty-Reduction Model for Global Use

China reduced its poverty through economic development and direct impact. In 2016, China sent 775,000 officials to poor regions to alleviate poverty. The country sent these officials out to work in one to three-year posts. This direct impact demonstrates how a country can eliminate poverty through strong economic growth in remote regions. 

Brett Rierson, China representative for the World Food Program said, “China invested in agriculture to reduce poverty and successful agricultural projects were built up from the grassroots.” Rierson believes China is a good model for how to reduce poverty in developing countries.

Although China has been a positive influence on developing economies, one country alone cannot eliminate global poverty. Other developed countries could use China as a model for reducing poverty and improving living standards.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr