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Poverty in the DRCConflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have once again become causes of concern. Conflicts have escalated in recent months and resulted in a crisis that impacts enormous swaths of the country. Since there is a strong link between conflict and poverty in the DRC, international attention and aid efforts have shifted to combat the situation.

The Ongoing Conflict

The current crisis and the damaging relationship between conflict and poverty in the DRC is a persistent problem. For years, the DRC experienced widespread violence, especially in the country’s eastern provinces. About 3,000 civilians died in the eastern part of the country in 2020 alone. There were also much higher rates of human rights violations in 2020 in the DRC. The violence has a destabilizing effect on the entire region.

The most recent escalation in violence occurred as armed groups went on the offensive following military efforts by government forces in 2020. The worst of the fighting is in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Attacks in recent months in the province of North Kivu displaced nearly 20,000 people. Additionally, about two million people experienced displacement within the province in the last two years.

Interaction Between Conflict and Poverty

The World Bank estimates that nearly 64% of the country lives in extreme poverty. The conflict is one of the key contributors to poverty in the country. In 2017 and 2018, there were two million displaced persons. Additionally, the violence is so widespread that many people have fled multiple times.

Conflict and poverty also resulted in an immense food shortage in the DRC. Hunger in the DRC skyrocketed in recent months due to conflict and COVID-19. “A record 27.3 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are facing acute hunger, one-third of the violence-wracked Central African country’s population.” The areas that have the highest rates of hunger have also experienced widespread conflict.

Aid Efforts

The need for assistance to the DRC is massive. Organizations are providing as much assistance as possible for Congolese people suffering from hunger, conflict and poverty. The UNHCR and other organizations coordinated with local authorities. Since the start of 2020, the UNHCR has provided more than 100,000 people with emergency shelters. The current UNHCR operation in the country has so far only received 36% of the funding necessary.

The World Food Programme (WFP) alone assisted almost seven million people throughout the country in 2020. The WFP distributed tens of millions of dollars of cash assistance throughout the country and tens of thousands of metric tons of food in 2020. However, the WFP stated that it would need $662 million in 2021 alone to address the crisis.

The people of the DRC suffer from a crisis of conflict and poverty. The widespread conflict plays a critical role in keeping most of the population in extreme poverty and causing widespread hunger throughout the country. As a result, sizable amounts of aid have come from organizations such as the UNHCR and the WFP. Still, these efforts require more support from the international community to effectively combat this crisis of conflict and poverty in the DRC.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

introvert's guide to fighting global povertyThere is a common misconception that activism with a physical presence, like attending protests or lobbying, is the only kind that can make a difference. While these are effective ways to influence legislation, there are many other ways to create change and contribute to the fight against global poverty. An ordinary individual can play a role in creating global change by taking action online, without ever needing to leave their home. An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that anyone can contribute to addressing global issues regardless of personality type.

Fighting Poverty by Influencing Legislation

One of the most effective ways to help in the fight against poverty is to influence legislation. While lobbying is an effective way to do this, most U.S. congresspersons give their constituents the option to contact them by calling or emailing their offices. With the option to contact Congress in this way, constituents can voice their concerns easily and effectively.

Grassroot efforts such as calling and emailing Congress as well as advocacy helped pass integral pieces of legislation such as the Global Fragility Act and the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act. For an easy way to contact Congress about poverty-based legislation, interested persons can access a pre-filled email template from The Borgen Project.

Fighting Poverty Through Apps

Apps and social media movements can also be very effective tools in the fight against poverty. The World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes this and has created various apps through which users can help mitigate hunger in their spare time. With the Freerice app, users can earn rice for those in need just by answering trivia questions. The app earnings are supported by “in-house sponsors.” According to the WFP, Freerice has raised and donated 210 billion grains of rice since 2010.

Additionally, the WFP has created an app called ShareTheMeal. The meal donation app aims to improve food security throughout the world. With a click of a button, an ordinary individual can contribute to a day’s worth of meals for a child at the cost of just $0.80. Through ShareTheMeal, more than 115 million meals have been provided to those in need as of July 16, 2021.

Knowing the Facts

While it may not seem like the most effective form of activism, one of the easiest ways to spread awareness about an issue is to talk about it within one’s social network. But, in order to effectively discuss global issues, an individual should familiarize themself with the facts.

Some of the most well-known humanitarian organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, offer educational resources about hunger, health and poverty. To expand awareness into one’s social network, it is important to know these facts and statistics.

Every year, the WHO publishes a World Health Statistics report. In the 2021 report, the WHO describes the connection between exacerbated poverty and COVID-19 as well as the way that diseases like tuberculosis can impact poverty due to a lack of healthcare.

By understanding the nuances of global poverty, one can become a more informed advocate for a global issue, increasing the power of influence and the likelihood of persuading friends and family to support legislation.

Looking Forward: Advocacy, Education and Mobilization

With these methods in mind, one of the most effective ways to be an activist from home is to mobilize within one’s own social network. By ensuring that friends and family are also advocating for a cause, one can effectively create a much larger web of support for a cause.

An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that there are vast ways to support global issues without needing to step out of one’s comfort zone. Whether one is voicing support for particular pieces of legislation or whether an individual uses one of the many apps that help alleviate hunger, garnering more supporters will ultimately help sustain a grassroots effort and fight global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

Acute Hunger in the DRCAbout one in three people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) suffers from acute hunger, warns both the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). A WFP representative within the DRC states that the extent of food insecurity in the country is “staggering.” Armed conflict in the east, COVID-19 and economic decline are all contributing factors to the prevalence of acute hunger in the DRC.

March 2021 IPC Snapshot

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification has released a snapshot of the state of acute food insecurity in the DRC as of March 2021. The snapshot estimates that about 27.3 million people living in the DRC are suffering from crisis levels (IPC Phase 3 or higher) of acute food insecurity. The IPC scale ranges from acceptable (IPC Phase 1) to catastrophe or famine (IPC Phase 5). Between August and December 2021, the snapshot projects that roughly 26.2 million will be in high acute food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4). Furthermore, more than 5.6 million of these people will experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity.

Organizations Provide Assistance

There are approximately 5.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) living within the DRC as a result of an ongoing armed conflict. The conflict in the eastern DRC consists of roughly 120 different armed groups, each displacing people and preventing access to workable fields. The DRC has 80 million hectares of farmable land, of which, only 10% is currently being used. The farmable land in the DRC has the potential to feed more than two billion people.

Organizations like the WFP and the FAO are both working in the DRC to help the vulnerable populations suffering from food insecurity. The WFP is working in the seven most populated provinces affected by the ongoing conflict. Furthermore, the WFP has been working with other organizations like the FAO to provide an emergency response by aiding farmers in improving their self-sufficiency, yield and resilience to shock. The WFP also addressed malnutrition by providing specialized food to children under the age of 5 and pregnant and nursing mothers.

Other programs include providing meals to students to encourage school attendance, empowering women and rebuilding local infrastructure to decrease vulnerability to disease and conflict. The FAO has been working to restore agriculture-based livelihoods and diversify local agriculture by training farmers, providing livestock and teaching sustainable farming techniques.

The Future of the DRC

Armed conflict and erratic rainfall coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have deteriorated the already difficult situation in the DRC. The number of people suffering from crisis level or higher acute food insecurity has risen from 21.8 million between July and December 2020 to 27.3 million people in the first half of 2021. The global humanitarian response to the ongoing crisis of acute hunger in the DRC has focused on strengthening agriculture in the country and combating malnutrition. The FAO is requesting $65 million in its 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan to continue supporting the Congolese people during their time of crisis. Continued humanitarian support is crucial to stabilizing the situation and ending acute hunger in the DRC.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in VenezuelaAccording to the World Food Programme’s 2019 report, in the current Venezuelan economy, food insecurity has brought approximately 2.3 million Venezuelans into extreme poverty. Thankfully, international organizations are coming in to help mitigate this reality.

Food Insecurity and Poverty in Venezuela

Andres Burgos wakes up around 3 a.m. every day to prepare arepas: the Venezuela staple of cornbread. After filling his backpack, he rides his bicycle through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela. He looks for people prying into trash bags for food and offers them this bread stuffed with ham, cheese or vegetables. There are many others like Burgos that do the same in Venezuela’s major cities.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), levels of food insecurity are higher in 2021 than in the WFP study from 2019. In the same line of analysis, ENCOVI, a group of national universities, conducted a survey that concluded 74% of Venezuelan households face extreme poverty and food insecurity.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the pattern of consumption has forced the fragile population to change diet habits. Individuals are forced toward consuming more carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and beans. Items including meat, fish, eggs, cheese and vegetables are often too expensive for this sector of society. This type of diet leads to chronic malnutrition.

Addressing Food Insecurity in Venezuela

Numerous organizations are advocating to improve the lives of Venezuelans in need. Recently, Executive Director of the WFP David Beasley arrived in the country to set up the program: The Venezuela Humanitarian Response Plan with Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020. The goal is to reach out to the most vulnerable populations and include them in the program’s three objectives: to ensure the survival and well-being of the most vulnerable, to continue sustaining essential services and strengthening resilience and livelihoods and to strengthen institutional and community mechanisms to prevent, mitigate and respond to protection risks

Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation is another organization that collects funds with the goal of empowering vulnerable Venezuelans with the skills to provide for their own needs and ultimately improve their quality of life. Programs include a health program, a nutrition program and an empowerment program. The health program provides medicine and supplies and hosts educational health drives. The focus of the nutrition program is providing food staples, including formula, to orphanages, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and organizations that cook for the homeless. Additionally, the empowerment program offers training for success in micro-business and funds educational programs centered around children’s creativity, social dialogue and use of their free time.

GlobalGiving is a website that hosts groups and organizations that are collecting funds for a variety of social programs. This one site offers the ability to donate to programs targeting a large spectrum of vulnerable individuals, including the food insecure in Venezuela. Likewise, Alimenta la Solidaridad is an organization that develops sustainable solutions to the food security challenges of Venezuelan families. The organization promotes community organization and volunteer work as a way to provide daily lunches to children at risk of or experiencing a nutritional deficiency as a result of the complex humanitarian crisis.

These organizations are just a handful from the vast number working toward helping the most vulnerable populations of Venezuela who are facing food insecurity and poverty.

– Carlos Eduardo Velarde Vásquez
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in VenezuelaA meager 3% of Venezuelan families are considered food secure in a country where more than 96% of people live in poverty. Child malnutrition in Venezuela rose to 26% from December 2019 to March 2020. Maduro’s government, a hotbed of mismanagement, corruption and cronyism, has done little to help the poverty and malnutrition in Venezuela. Hyperinflation continues to suppress economic activity, and U.S. sanctions imposed to pressure Maduro into reform or exit, have limited Venezuela’s access to imported food, medicine and other basic goods. On April 19, 2021, the World Food Programme announced that it would be implementing a program to address food insecurity and malnutrition in Venezuela.

Child Malnutrition in Venezuela

A 2021 policy brief by medical researchers called Venezuela’s public health system “practically non-existent.” Especially with U.S. sanctions, many healthcare facilities are unable to obtain the medicine or medical equipment needed to properly function. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic puts further strain on already limited health resources. As of April 2021, the Venezuelan Government has vaccinated less than 1% of the Venezuelan population.

According to a UNICEF report, 13% of children in Venezuela suffered from malnutrition between 2013 and 2018. Without access to sufficient calories, protein or generally diverse foods, many of these children will be held back developmentally, far beyond their childhood years. Venezuelan nutritionist, Raquel Mendoza, tells Thompson Reuters that “A population suffering from malnutrition implies we are going to have adults with less physical and intellectual potential.” Mendoza states further that “We’re going to see a regression in the development of the country because human resources are diminished.” These words express the urgency and importance of speedily addressing malnutrition in the country.

Before 2009, Venezuela’s infant mortality rate was steadily declining. In the first decade of the Chavez presidency, which began in 1999, infant mortality dropped by half. However, under Venezuela’s ongoing economic and sociopolitical crisis, the infant mortality rate has regressed to where it was in the 1990s. Even though many cases go unreported, statistics show that child mortality increased by 30% in 2016.

The World Food Programme Alleviates Malnutrition

Starting in July 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) will provide school lunches for children between 1 and 6 years of age. The WFP’s goal is to reach 185,000 students by the end of 2021 and 1.5 million by the end of 2023. These meals will mainly go to preschool and special education schools, but public and private schools will receive aid too.

Despite the pressing need for foreign aid, the Maduro government has historically rebuffed aid attempts by international organizations and governments. According to the Washington Post, Maduro blocked almost $60 million worth of U.S. aid in 2019 and insisted that Venezuela was not a country of beggars.

The agreement reached between Maduro and the WFP Executive Director David Beasley on April 19, 2020, came after months of resistance by the government. The program’s operations will remain independent of the political turmoil and uncertainty of Maduro’s rule.

The Road Ahead

Although the aid cannot catapult Venezuela out of its current crisis, the WFP program will improve the lives of many families who do not know how or when they will eat next. Although rarely dissolving geopolitical tensions or toppling an unjust regime, humanitarian aid organizations can and do protect those who suffer from the impacts of corruption, mismanagement and conflicts of others.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Central African Republic Refugees

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

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

Poverty in the Central African Republic

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

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

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

The World Food Programme Alliance

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

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

Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress

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

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

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

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

World Food Programme Solutions for 2021
A United Nations General Assembly meeting took place on December 4, 2020. Its primary focus concerned the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic as precautionary measures continued and vaccines emerged. With 2020 nearly over, the resounding political, social and economic effects of the pandemic began to materialize. But all did not disappear despite the grim outlook. A handful of humanitarian organizations are busy strategizing solutions for 2021.

Closing 2020

The last few months of 2020 showed the world that the pandemic is just the beginning. The disease itself constitutes merely one of a myriad of societal problems that a pandemic can bring. COVID-19 has had an unpredictable ripple effect. PPE loans in the United States, damaged food supply chains in Africa and the closings of borders all over the world demonstrate the pandemic’s extent.

Earlier in December 2020, before the General Assembly meeting, the UN estimated that the pandemic, the resulting economic impact and the concurrent precautionary and protective measures that governments were taking had already caused a 40% rise in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance. What may be the most evident incoming challenge is global famine. David Beasley, chief of the World Food Programme (WFP), warned that famines “of biblical proportions” are imminent for dozens of countries.

2021 Predictions

David Beasley spoke at length at the General Assembly meeting. His prediction for a catastrophe in 2021 made headlines and effectively set the tone for the entirety of the 193-nation conference. The upcoming COVID-19 vaccines constituted a positive note, though greater concerns regarding distribution overshadowed them. Speakers at the meeting warned against a stampede for vaccines that could result in wealthier countries crushing others in the race to eradicate COVID-19. While the pandemic is global, the UN fears that the fight against it may become individualistic and needlessly competitive.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, echoed fears of the COVID-19 vaccine competition. He called for $4.3 billion USD to go into a global vaccine-sharing program, saying “solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods.”

Solutions for 2021

Despite the dire circumstances, Beasley and his organization have the leverage to play a crucial role in manifesting solutions for 2021. The World Food Programme works as more than just an international food bank: it enjoys the global spotlight after winning the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for “bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

The achievements that landed the World Food Programme this coveted prize also provided some positivity at the December conference. The General Assembly served as the WFP’s proverbial megaphone to world leaders. Thanks to the publicity surrounding the meeting, the WFP could grab the world’s attention.

As COVID-19 continues to rise and economies across the world take a resounding hit, humanitarian budgets stretching thin. Low- and middle-income countries particularly suffer. Beasley predicts that the WFP needs $15 billion in 2021 to address the global famine conditions that the pandemic has caused. Beasley says that the inability to meet leaders or address parliaments in person may hinder fundraising efforts. It will be difficult to sensitize those in charge of financial allocations.

Nonetheless, the World Food Programme and similar organizations are working tirelessly to raise money and create frameworks for solutions to the pandemic and its concurrent issues. Events as routine as a UN General Assembly meeting have provided the podia necessary for titans of humanitarian aid to make their causes known. With any luck, their solutions for 2021 will keep millions afloat.

– Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

Updates on Hunger in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, situated on the Indian Ocean. It is the second-largest island country in the world. Today, this island nation is facing a major food crisis and ranks 64 out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. As of 2015, around 28% of the island’s population, nearly 4 million citizens, suffered from hunger. Here are some updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Root of the Issue

A significant factor in Madagascar’s famine rates is its weather. The island is prone to periodic droughts, cyclones and unpredictable rainfall. From 1980 to 2010, the country experienced 35 cyclones and five long drought periods. Moreover, it experienced five large earthquakes and six epidemics during the same period. This type of environment makes it very difficult for farmers to steadily produce adequate crops for the country’s residents. Due to food insufficiency, 47% of the citizens suffer from malnutrition — one of the highest rates in the world.

Recent Updates on Hunger Rates in Madagascar

The hunger rates within the last three years have not decreased. Conversely, the percentages continue to rise. In 2017, Madagascar’s famine rates increased by 1.4% to 44.4% from 2016. In 2018, two destructive cyclones caused flooding around the coastal areas of Madagascar. This affected roughly 200,000 citizens and displaced 70,000. During the same year, unpredictable rainfall dropped food production for around 80% of citizens. Fortunately, in 2019, livestock prices began decreasing due to the higher availability of food. Similarly, the price of rice decreased slightly since 2018 — suggesting modest improvements in the country’s food supply.

Solutions from International Organizations

While the government has struggled to control Madagascar’s famine rates, other organizations have stepped in to aid the country with its food crisis. These organizations provide necessary resources to people across the island and representing positive updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a U.N.-sanctioned organization, is providing agro-pastoral support to rural families in western Madagascar. The aim is to increase productivity in farming systems and improving farmers’ incomes. The FAO also is collecting and analyzing data on food security and agro-weather conditions to help farmers prepare for potential natural disasters. Importantly, these disasters would include climate-related crises. Also, the FAO supports government efforts to incorporate nutrition awareness programs into education systems.

As a temporary solution, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has paid trucks to deliver resources, such as clean water, to villages prone to contaminated drinking water. UNICEF also carries out routine health checks for children. In 2015, the organization began reporting high percentages of children suffering from malnutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) also came up with a short-term solution to address Madagascar’s hunger crisis. In 2016, within famine-affected areas, the WFP gave $20 each month to families to buy resources they could find. Also, it distributed nutritional supplements to children.

Final Outlook

Overall, the famine statistics in Madagascar do not seem to be dropping. This is primarily due to the country’s geographic location. The island is more prone to natural disasters and the government does not have any long-term solution that can certainly decrease the country’s current high famine rates. Yet, with the continued support from international organizations, there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Madagascar.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Seeds of Hunger in Iraq
Security conditions in Iraq have gradually improved since the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the end of 2017. However, significant challenges persist as the nation struggles with political instability, social unrest, economic volatility and low standards of living. With the poverty rate at a steady 23%, Iraqis are in need of humanitarian assistance to fight the next uprising – hunger. In 2016, data collection concluded that 53% of Iraqi residents and 66% of internally displaced people are vulnerable to food insecurity. Current social conditions are sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, but the potential exists for future improvement.

ISIL and Current Conditions

The nation is facing a multifaceted food security challenge, as the years it spent under ISIL’s military campaigns exacerbated issues such as limited water supply, damaged homes and disrupted food production. Water shortages and the lack of affordable agricultural inputs continue to negatively affect the performance of Iraq’s large farming sector. Additionally, families are reporting limited livelihood opportunities, reducing their purchasing power and restricting their access to the public distribution system – a social safety net program.

With the insurgent infiltration, Iraq lost the majority of its annual wheat and barley harvests, which had once combined to contribute to over one-third of the nation’s cereal production. Moreover, ISIL expropriated over 1 million tons of wheat in 2015 and left it to rot, worsening food insecurity in Iraq. The remaining farmers are unable to harvest their crops due to issues like lack of machinery or fuel, unexploded mines in their fields and inter-ethnic retribution. If farmers and herders experience displacement or are unable to venture to their fields, the future of agricultural production will remain bleak and have strong implications for long-term food security.

The Future of Food Insecurity

Experts expect that food security conditions will keep deteriorating due to the high volume of internally displaced persons (IDPs) straining hosting communities. As of 2019, almost 2 million people remain displaced in Iraq, and over 245,000 Syrian refugees are living in or have fled toward cities in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Furthermore, a renewed COVID-19 surge in the Middle East will further test the resilience of Iraq and neighboring countries, as the pandemic could lead 265 million people to suffer from “acute food insecurity, which requires urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance for survival.”

Therefore, the United Nations is calling on governments, non-government organizations and donors to address the “availability, access and affordability of safe and nutritious foods and protect the nutrition of … vulnerable families.” For instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Iraq’s most vulnerable people strengthen their capacities to absorb, adapt and transform in the face of shocks and long-term stressors. WFP has been operating in Iraq since 1968, providing emergency food assistance and aiding the government with social service reforms. With millions of displaced Iraqis and IDPs, the WFP is providing monthly food assistance to 1.5 million displaced people across all 18 districts through cash assistance and monthly family rations.

As the humanitarian crisis endures, millions of families living in protracted displacement situations are reaching a breaking point. These families are continuing to face constrained access to basic services and critical protection risks and are in desperate need of life-saving aid.

Cultivating Progress

However, the Iraqi government has proven ineffective in resolving hunger in Iraq as it struggles to reconcile current social and economic unrest. Proactive policy-making and international aid are essential to halting the impending vicious cycle that starts with hunger and feeds back into the protracted conflict. Rather than sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, governments and humanitarian organizations alike have the power to cultivate hope for thousands.

– Carlie Chiesa
Photo: Flickr

Palestinian farmer's market Palestine is a region in the Middle East comprising the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with much of the territory currently under Israeli occupation. Palestine already experiences a number of humanitarian crises and restrictions on goods such as food and natural resources. However, the pandemic means the areas must now solve the problems with both COVID-19 and food security.

Food Insecurity Already a Problem

Currently, out of the 3 million Palestinians that reside in the West Bank and the 2 million in Gaza, about 1.7 million of them experienced food insecurity in 2019, prior to the effects of the pandemic. Additionally, many children across the territory were already malnourished and in desperate need of appropriate nutrition. About 63% of children under 5 in Palestine were consuming a minimally diverse diet, and about 7.4% of children under 5 appeared to be chronically malnourished. There is also a gender discrepancy as food insecurity is higher among women than men. While overall 32% of families in Palestine that are suffering from food poverty happen to be led by women, this is particularly a problem in the Gaza Strip where it’s 54% of families.

COVID-19 Measures Complicate Food Logistics

After the Palestinian prime minister declared a state of emergency in early March due to a rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the territory quickly entered into a lockdown. The subsequent effects of the pandemic and lock-down were drastic. It was extremely detrimental to the livelihoods of many Palestinians and impacted socio-economic development, employment and put many of them at an increased risk of experiencing poverty. It has put vulnerable communities who were already experiencing food and economic insecurity in an exponentially difficult position.

The outbreak has also affected food logistics, marketing and the production of certain commodities such as dairy, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the implementation of social distancing measures and overall restricted movement has had a dire impact on farming and processing. Therefore, a major reason for heightened food insecurity in Palestine is the reduced availability of food. While experts are unsure of the full impact of COVID-19 on food security, it can be estimated that it will continue to ravage food systems in Palestine and those vulnerable populations will suffer the most. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it can be expected that up to 50% of the population might face severe food insecurity and this effect may be intensified if Israel follows through on its annexation plans. “The situation will be exacerbated if Israel proceeds with the plans to annex parts of the West Bank, further limiting access to core resources, like land and water, and agricultural livelihood opportunities.”

An Organization Working to Help

The issue of food insecurity persisted in Palestine long before the pandemic, and many organizations have been doing the work to address the problem within the region. One such organization is the World Food Programme (WFP). It has been providing food assistance to vulnerable populations in Palestine since 1991. The WFP focuses on areas such as the Gaza Strip and the southern parts of the West Bank – places where poverty and food insecurity are particularly pressing issues. As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, WFP has extended its efforts to the entirety of the West Bank and has also managed to provide “climate-smart agricultural assets”, such as hydroponics and wicking beds, to impoverished households.

Food poverty has been an all-consuming issue in occupied Palestine long before the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the pandemic has had disastrous effects on the socio-economic conditions of Palestinians – many of whom were already in vulnerable positions. While there are many troubling implications for how both COVID-19 and food security will continue to affect the livelihoods of socioeconomic development of Palestinians, organizations such as the World Food Programme continue to aid food insecure communities in getting the help they need.

Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Flickr