USAID's Economic Support in ChadIn Chad, extreme flooding has caused a massive amount of damage, affecting over 1 million people across the nation. On December 14, 2022, USAID announced that it will be providing an additional $2.5 million in financial support, building on the initial amount of $100,000.

Flooding in Chad

Many countries in Africa are challenged by dry weather conditions and therefore struggle to find resources of water. However, in Chad, heavy rainfall is common in several regions due to the equatorial location of the country. In 2022, it recorded the, “heaviest rainfall in the past 30 years, resulting in rivers overflowing, rupturing the dikes.” This led to extreme flooding in the latter half of the year, affecting 200,000 households by October 31. Rivers running through the country’s most populated regions have a tendency to overflow in times of extreme rainfall, drastically affecting nearby towns.

Damages and Lasting Consequences

On October 19, 2022, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in reaction to this extreme flooding. At this point, floods destroyed 465,030 hectares of farmland. The destruction of fertile land is a drastic consequence, especially due to the fact that Chad had already been suffering from severe food insecurity. In addition to this, “16,756 households had to flee their homes.” In total, more than 1 million people have been affected in 18 out of Chad’s 23 provinces, according to UNICEF Situation Report.

Inadequate Funding

As a result of the flooding, Chad is in desperate need of humanitarian assistance to support citizens in their time of distress. This funding is necessary for food, housing, and health support on the ground. Because of this, Chad’s government called for additional economic assistance from outside actors.

USAID Economic Support in Chad

At the beginning of the flood, USAID provided $100,000 in support of the country’s relief efforts. However, as the damages continued, it became clear that economic support in Chad was needed to a larger extent. On December 14, 2022, USAID announced that it would provide an additional $2.5 million. In conjunction with UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), this assistance will be able to act as a multifaceted humanitarian effort. The press release states that “This assistance will support broader response efforts providing flood-affected families with cash-based transfers, mental health and psychosocial support services, relief items, shelter supplies, and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.”

During 2022 alone, USAID’s economic support in Chad reached $73.6 million. This type of funding, coupled with the emergency funding in reaction to the flood, has been able to better the quality of life for those in a struggling country and support them in a time of need.

Overall, economic humanitarian assistance is important to aid countries in states of distress. USAID’s economic support in Chad is an excellent example of the importance of monetary support and has helped the country react to dangerous conditions produced by flooding. This support will lessen the drastic consequences of the flood and allow the country to aid its inhabitants as well as rebuild in the future.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WFP’s Cash and Food Assistance Programs
The World Food Programme (WFP) implements cash and food assistance programs that give individuals at risk of falling into poverty money and food to support themselves. The WFP’s cash and food assistance programs’ main goals are to reduce poverty, alleviate food insecurity and boost economic development.

Assisting the DRC

A successful example is the WFP’s cash assistance program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where 26 million people are at risk of facing acute hunger as of May 2022. An article published on May 17, 2022, states that the WFP considers the DRC its “biggest emergency” because conflict and the pandemic compound the nation’s circumstances of poverty.

Benefiting about 100,000 of the most impoverished people in the N’sele municipality, the WFP’s social protection and cash assistance program has occurred in partnership with UNICEF. The cash assistance equates to about $40 a month for beneficiaries to sustain their livelihoods and afford food, which became expensive as a result of the Ukraine-Russia war.

Community members attest that the cash assistance program in the DRC has helped improve the lives of many people. The WFP’s recent success with the cash assistance program in the DRC stands as proof that continuous international financial support for the WFP is necessary to help the developing world tackle poverty.

In recent years, the WFP has been experiencing “funding shortfalls” due to the pandemic’s impact on member states’ abilities to donate. This negatively affected WFP’s ability to reduce poverty further in developing or war-torn countries around the world. Thus, increased financial contribution to the WFP can lead to economic recovery in developing countries.

How Funding Shortfalls are Impacting WFP’s Goals

Although the reduced funding negatively impacted WFP’s cash and food assistance programs, it hurt refugees and vulnerable communities more. For example, in 2021, the WFP had to consider cutting down on food rations for refugees in Cameroon as a result of insufficient funding, potentially impacting 70,000 Nigerians and 100,000 Central African Republic refugees.

In Jordan, the WFP could no longer provide food aid to about 263,000 Syrian refugees by the close of August 2021. In Tanzania, the WFP’s refugee support program had to implement “ration cuts of up to 32[%] of the minimum calorie requirement since December 2020” due to funding inadequacies.

This highlights the necessity of continued funding of the WFP to help developing countries reduce poverty and boost their economies.

WFP Tackles Poverty Despite Funding Issues

Despite its recent financial setbacks, the WFP is still the world leader in tackling food insecurity and poverty. Ukraine stood as the breadbasket of the world until the Russian invasion in February 2022, prompting a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

However, the WFP’s cash and food assistance programs managed to mitigate the impacts of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. For example, in May 2022, the WFP managed to give 1 million Ukrainians cash to support themselves amid the crisis and “injected nearly US$74 million into the Ukrainian economy.” Furthermore, the WFP is delivering essential foods, such as rice and pasta, to approximately 420,000 people a month.

Countries Financially Supporting the WFP

There are still countries around the world that acknowledge the crucial role of the WFP’s cash and food assistance programs in reducing poverty. On May 19, 2022, the United States Congress passed H.R. 7691, which authorizes the government to spend $5 million on humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. This funding authorization will help the WFP “provide life-saving assistance to millions of people around the world.”

On May 30, 2022, the European Union donated €5 million to the WFP so it can deliver food to 1.6 million food-insecure individuals in Burkina Faso.

Looking Ahead

The World Food Programme still stands as the leading global humanitarian organization that saves millions of lives daily, which is why it won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. However, the WFP still needs continuous international support through increased financial contributions from the international community.

Global citizens and anti-poverty advocates must continue to push their governments and representatives to donate more to the WFP to address the impacts of funding shortfalls on the world’s most disadvantaged people.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Afghanistan
In the wake of Afghanistan’s government collapse in August 2021, the nation’s humanitarian crisis has plunged to new depths and will continue on this path if Afghanistan does not receive the necessary aid. Of the total population, 41.7 million, about 23 million Afghans, are experiencing food insecurity due to the failure of food systems in Afghanistan. However, organizations are making efforts to combat the hunger crisis and strengthen food systems in the nation.

The State of Food Systems in Afghanistan

About 8.7 million Afghans currently endure “emergency levels of food insecurity,” and according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), without urgent action, Afghanistan could see a 97% universal poverty rate by mid-2022. The loss of more than 500,00 Afghan jobs since August 2021 and the steep incline of food prices leave Afghan families depleted of food with no income to purchase more. The Afghan people have no way of obtaining a sufficient supply of food nor can they harvest sufficient crops due to the harsh winter and severe drought.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Since the start of 2021, the World Food Programme has assisted “15 million Afghans with food and nutrition support” while prioritizing the most vulnerable population segments such as young children and pregnant/breastfeeding women. The WFP’s “targeted supplementary feeding [program]” has addressed the nutritional needs of more than “500,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” and more than 1 million malnourished children younger than 5. The WFP aims to “reach 23 million Afghans in 2022,” including 1 million children through its school feeding program.

The organization works with the Afghan government and commercial partners to strengthen the food systems in Afghanistan by supporting local small-scale farmers  as well as “building local milling and fortification capacity and strengthening value chains and food safety measures.” The WFP assists the Afghan government and humanitarian organizations “in beneficiary management, supply chain, information and communication technology and facilities and information management” to ensure a targeted response to citizens’ needs.

USAID Assists Afghanistan

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been taking measures to improve food systems in Afghanistan for the last two decades and has vastly strengthened Afghanistan’s agricultural sector. This is crucial work because about 80% of all Afghans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. USAID’s efforts intend to scale up Afghanistan’s agricultural exports, expand “the reach of Afghan agricultural goods to bolster job creation” and distribute more agricultural goods throughout the country.

In 2010, USAID created a $100 million Agricultural Development Fund to supply credit to Afghan farmers and small-scale agricultural businesses to help them accumulate resources such as seeds, fertilizer and equipment. As of 2021, this fund has distributed “$132.7 million in loans to more than 43,600 Afghan farmers.” USAID has also assisted in creating more than 657,000 full-time agricultural-related employment opportunities, which has contributed to reducing poverty in the nation and strengthening food systems in Afghanistan.

Programs that are geared toward improving food systems in Afghanistan are essential in fighting the nation’s hunger crisis. Implementing these programs will increase food distribution throughout the country and strengthen Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Max Pixel

Cash Handouts
As winter approached and the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan worsened, the United Nations (U.N.) proposed cash handouts to help the millions of Afghans who were struggling in the country. The U.N. announced the proposal of the program on December 1, 2021, as it believes that cash handouts will be the best and most plausible solution to deal with the increasing poverty rate in Afghanistan.

The Problem

Still reeling from the effects of the full United States withdrawal combined with the Taliban takeover of the government in August 2021, millions of people are suffering. On December 10, 2021, the United Nations humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, warned that Afghanistan is inching closer and closer to “economic collapse.” As such, Griffiths urges donor nations to “support basic services” along with “emergency humanitarian aid.” Griffiths said that “4 million children are out of school” and the education of another 9 million children is in jeopardy because 70% of educators in Afghanistan have not received remuneration since August 2021.

Winters in Afghanistan are especially brutal, and this season, the U.N. expects wintertime temperatures to go down to -25 C. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated in early December 2021 that as many as 3.5 million displaced Afghans require essential support to make it through the winter. On top of this, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch has stated that more than half of Afghanistan’s population, equating to 23 million people, are enduring extreme hunger, which may spiral into famine without prompt intervention.

UNHCR is providing essential humanitarian assistance to 60,000 people per week, which involves providing food, thermal blankets and winter clothing as well as rebuilding shelters and supplying cash assistance. This work will continue until February 2022, according to Baloch, at which time the next round of funding will need to begin as he estimated that another $374.9 million is necessary for 2022, especially during the winter.

The Solution

As a potential solution to the severe problems that Afghanistan is facing, the U.N. proposed a program that would provide $300 million annually in cash handouts to Afghan households with children, elderly people and Afghans with disabilities.

At the same time, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) wishes to bolster an existing “cash for work” initiative in Afghanistan with another $100 million to increase employment rates and $90 million to support small businesses with cash payments.

The “cash for work” initiative began in October 2021 in the three provinces of Mazar, Kunduz and Herat, with the intention to expand to more provinces. So far, through the initiative, UNDP has distributed $100 million worth of cash payments in exchange for work, creating employment opportunities for 2,300 people.

UNDP estimates that poverty in Afghanistan may reach a staggering 90% by the middle of 2022. In October 2021, with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, UNDP created “a special trust fund” with an initial $58 million pledge of financial support from Germany to supply urgent cash directly to Afghan citizens. By early December 2021, the fund reached $170 million in pledges from countries around the world.

The Effectiveness of Cash Handouts

The possibility of handing out cash directly to people who need it most seems easy enough, but will Afghans use the money effectively? The World Food Programme (WFP) strongly supports cash transfers as a form of humanitarian aid. In 2020, WFP handed out $2.1 billion worth of cash transfers across 67 nations.

According to WFP, research shows that disadvantaged households that are empowered to make their own decisions through cash transfers “make choices that improve their food security and wellbeing.” For example, in 2018, 91% of households in Lebanon put cash assistance toward food, rental fees and medical costs. Cash handouts also boost local markets as people purchase resources locally, consequently bolstering economies.

Looking Ahead

Though the situation looks dire, there is hope as global organizations step in to assist vulnerable Afghans. However, urgent assistance is still necessary to prevent the collapse of the nation. With more support from the international community, organizations can bolster efforts to safeguard the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Starvation Tactics in YemenSince 2014, the conflict in Yemen has raged without an end in sight. In a November 2021 article, the World Bank estimates that Yemen’s poverty rate rose from approximately half of the population pre-conflict to as much as 78% because of the conflict. Although a Saudi-led coalition offensive largely defines the conflict, human rights abuses are apparent on both sides and by all parties. Starvation tactics in Yemen stand as one of the most malicious violations, bringing a wave of shock to the international community.

Background of the Conflict

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority in Yemen, captured the major city in Yemen’s northern province and began moving southward. The rebellion was strategically timed as the Houthis have fought several rebellions against Yemen’s government over the years but chose to attack this time because of a new sitting president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately for Hadi, the country initially supported the rebels, who overran and seized the capital city of Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have a close affiliation with Iran, the Middle East’s Shia bastion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia largely adheres to Sunni Islam and views Shia power as a threat. Therefore, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen alarmed Saudi Arabia, prompting “Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states” to launch an air campaign in 2015 to end the rebellion and reinstate Hadi’s government. The United States, United Kingdom and France provided “logistical and intelligence support” for the air campaign.

Human Rights Consequences

The conflict in Yemen has come at a steep cost to human life. As of December 2021, Yemen notes nearly a quarter of a million deaths and 4 million displacements. Furthermore, about 24 million Yemeni people require humanitarian aid. Due to these dire statistics, many world organizations deem the situation in Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world.

One of the most concerning developments to arise out of the conflict in Yemen is the use of starvation tactics. Human rights groups documenting starvation tactics in Yemen show that both sides use such tactics “as a weapon of war.” The Mwatana Organization for Human Rights and Global Rights Compliance, both human rights organizations, have records of Saudi airstrikes destroying water facilities and fishing vessels as well as farms.

In a report, the groups indicate that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of air and seaports has slowed the flow of food into Yemen. Their reports also detail Houthi rebels denying civilians aid, which includes food. Specifically, the report says that “restrictions were so severe that they forced the World Food Program (WFP) to suspend its operations in 2019 and again in 2020.” The report also states that the rebels’ use of landmines prevents farmers from using their land productively.

The humanitarian cost of the starvation tactics in Yemen is astounding. In September 2021, in a plea for urgent funding from the international community, the United Nations warned that 16 million people in Yemen may face starvation. According to Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF, more than 11 million children in Yemen need humanitarian aid to survive and close to 400,000 children enduring “severe acute malnutrition are at imminent risk of death.”

Humanitarian Aid

Donors cut funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2020, citing aid obstruction as their concerns. As a consequence, in April 2020, the WFP had to halve “food aid to every other month in parts of Yemen” under the control of the Houthis. However, donors took heed to U.N. warnings about the famine, and in June 2021, the WFP resumed monthly distributions to millions around Yemen. Since then, the WFP has taken extensive efforts to combat the effects of starvation tactics in Yemen.

The WFP says that despite barriers to access, it manages to provide humanitarian aid “to the vast majority of vulnerable people in the country.” The WFP is providing daily snacks to more than 1.5 million Yemeni students and nutritional support to more than 3 million “pregnant and nursing women” as well as children younger than 5. The WFP also provides food aid through food rations or cash assistance to purchase food.

Despite significant suffering in Yemen, there is no shortage of organizations eager to provide aid. With enough advocacy and aid, there lies a possibility to end starvation tactics in Yemen and bring an end to the conflict overall.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Syria The civil war in Syria began in March 2011, greatly impacting the lives of those who live in and around the country of Syria. With the United Nations noting a staggering poverty rate of 90% in March 2021, the people of Syria are struggling to secure their basic needs. Rising levels of food insecurity in Syria are of particular concern, a consequence of the conflict within the nation. According to the United Nations, in 2021, 60% of Syrians were at risk of hunger, “the highest number ever in the history of the Syrian conflict.”

The Numbers

According to an August 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) country brief, 12.4 million people in Syria suffer from food insecurity. This number rose by 4.5 million since the previous year, marking a record high. The onset of COVID-19 served to exacerbate food insecurity and poverty, compounding existing issues of “years of conflict, displacement, soaring food prices and a decline in the value of the Syrian” currency. The cost of essential food “is now 29 times higher” than it was before the civil war began. Due to worsening conditions in the nation, 1.3 million people in Syria are suffering from severe food insecurity. The conflict and war have also led to the displacement of 6.8 million people, serving as another contributing factor to growing food insecurity in Syria.

War and conflict within Syria also affect crops and harvests. A study published by Nature Food in January 2022 uses satellite data to shows that cropland near urban settlements suffered severe disruption after the start of the Syrian civil war. The areas that saw the most cropland reduction are the northwest and southeast. The issue of food insecurity becomes greater when the people of Syria can no longer grow their own crops.

Emergency Food Assistance

According to USAID, 11.7 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, 9 million of whom “require emergency food assistance.” Some 65% of Syrians have restricted their food consumption and are now “purchasing food on credit.” This means going into debt to feed their families. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has donated “more than $3.2 billion in emergency food assistance [to Syria] since 2012.” This includes $401.8 million in 2017, $514.6 million in 2018 and another $475.4 million in 2019.

WFP is also providing assistance to the people of Syria. It provides food assistance to 4.8 million people on a monthly basis. This food assistance includes “rice, pulses, oil and wheat.” The WFP also provides pregnant and nursing mothers with “nutritious food” as well as vouchers to help maintain their nutritional needs and improve their diets and vitamin intake. In addition, WFP provides school children with the nutritional food they need. The organization has given “vouchers to more than 348,000 students” to ensure they receive “snacks, fresh meals and assistance.” The crisis in Syria is concerning enough that WFP fundraises hundreds of thousands of emergency funds for its various food emergency initiatives.

Addressing the Crisis

The people of Syria continue to face difficult times during the ongoing civil war. Syrians have lost their homes, family members and access to food during this time. Food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high, with millions going hungry every day. Citizens’ struggles to grow crops only add to the food insecurity. However, with the help of the FFP and WFP, millions of people in Syria are receiving food assistance. Women and children also benefit from these programs by receiving food and vitamins. These programs offer a great example of how the international community can contribute to food insecurity emergencies around the world.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

School Lunches in Peru
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the importance of school lunches in introducing children to nutrition and influencing their health outcomes over time. Although the emphasis on school meals has grown significantly in countries around the world over the last decade, Peru has struggled to make a drastic nutritional transition in comparison to its developed counterparts. However, the nation’s Qali Warma program aims to improve nutritional outcomes through school lunches in Peru.

Peru in Numbers

As of 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes 22% of Peru’s population as impoverished without access to proper nutrition. Furthermore, of children younger than 5, 13.1% suffer from chronic malnourishment. With a total population of 31 million individuals, these statistics illustrate the severity of inadequate nutrition in Peru.

However, over the years, Peru was able to reduce rates of chronic child malnutrition by 50%, a significant feat for the nation. While statistics on hunger and poverty show improvements over the past 10 years, it is important to recognize that rates of malnutrition differ across regions of Peru. In some rural areas, chronic child malnutrition reaches almost 34%. Furthermore, the rates of child stunting among Indigenous groups have remained the same since 2011. The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru is partly responsible for these concerning rates.

Qali Warma Nation School Feeding Program

The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru has led to a plethora of health concerns. Among the most pressing issues are anemia and obesity, which both serve as risk factors for other illnesses. The Peruvian government recognizes the concerning rates of anemia and child obesity in its country, leading to the implementation of the Qali Warma school feeding program.

Qali Warma is a social program that the Peruvian government implemented, aimed at increasing the health and nutrition of children through school lunches in Peru. The name Qali Warma originates from the Indigenous Quechua language and translates to “vigorous child.” The meaning behind the name is an ode to the mission of the group — encouraging “healthy eating habits” among the youth of Peru. Qali Warma’s main focus is children in early learning and primary education. However, to benefit Indigenous children in the Peruvian Amazon, the program extends its reach to high school students.

Since its implementation in 2012, the Ministry of Development & Social Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS) has overseen the program along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Initially developed as a three-year-long initiative, the success of the program means Qali Warma will continue until 2022. For the past decade, Qali Warma has provided healthy school lunches in Peru, improving eating habits among children while simultaneously engaging with local communities and providing people with food education.

A Two-pronged Strategy

The program consists of two services working in tandem with each other. The food service entails planning school meal menus and gathering the ingredients and supplies needed to put the meals together. Qali Warma uses specific calculations to ensure it meets the necessary nutritional and caloric requirements for child development. Moreover, the organization takes into account different cultural diets and consumer habits of each area it serves. The educational service component is primarily instructional. Qali Warma promotes “healthy eating habits and hygiene practices among the beneficiary children” while providing technical support and educational outreach to people implementing the food services.

Results and Reach

As Peru continues to invest in programs like Qali Warma, outcomes are proving successful in improving children’s health. By 2019, Qali Warma’s school lunches in Peru benefited more than 4 million children in total. Overall, the government notes an improvement in the overall nutritional state of these children since addressing nutrition with school lunches in Peru. Qali Warma reports that the impacts of school lunches extend far beyond nutrition as children are also more focused in classes and are eager to attend school. Nutrition specialists second this sentiment.

While Peruvian youth have struggled to maintain healthy levels of nutrition, addressing these issues in the places where children spend the most time, like schools, creates a lasting impact. Increasing the nutritional benefits of school lunches in Peru is a crucial first step in addressing malnutrition. However, consistent monitoring and modification are necessary as the program expands to reach more children nationwide.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has experienced many crises in recent decades, with several domestic and international conflicts transpiring within the nation’s borders. Afghanistan’s economic crisis as well as conflicts and droughts aggravate rates of food insecurity in Afghanistan. With the recent Taliban takeover in August 2021, the country is seeing a collapse in food security. On October 25, 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a warning that millions of Afghans may face starvation during Afghanistan’s winter unless the world responds with urgent intervention. Understanding the challenges that Afghanistan and its people face, many international organizations are providing both donations and aid to alleviate food insecurity in the nation.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Afghanistan

According to the WFP in October 2021, more than 50% of Afghans, approximately 22.8 million citizens, are enduring severe food insecurity. Furthermore,  about 3.2 million Afghan children younger than 5 years old are at risk of acute malnutrition. In a WFP news release, the executive director of the WFP, David Beasley, says, “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, if not the worst.”

The full Taliban takeover that came to fruition in August 2021 debilitated an “already fragile economy heavily dependant on foreign aid.” In an effort to cut off support to the Taliban, many nations chose to suspend aid to Afghanistan and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to halt payments to Afghanistan. For a country with about 40% of its GDP stemming from international support, vulnerable Afghans are hit heavily with the impacts of aid suspensions as food insecurity rates in Afghanistan continue to rise.

In September 2021, the U.N. warned that just 5% of Afghan families have sufficient daily food supplies, with essential ingredients like cooking oil and wheat drastically rising in prices. In October 2021, the WFP warned that “one million children were at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.” WFP also predicted that the looming winter would further isolate Afghans depending on humanitarian assistance to survive. With overall food insecurity rates skyrocketing, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities. The WFP stresses the importance of continuing international aid to Afghanistan so that citizens can survive the coming months.

The Aid Dilemma for Global Economic Powers

“If we do nothing, Afghanistan drifts into state collapse. The economic chokehold is squeezing the air out of the economy,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG), in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor on November 4, 2021.

The danger of a total state collapse is so concerning that European donors “are trying to expand stopgap emergency measures to find creative ways to alleviate the financial challenge faced by the central Taliban government in Kabul.”

The challenges of providing support remain. The U.N. estimates that as much as 97% of the country’s population could live in poverty by 2022 “in a worst-case scenario.” However, recognizing the severe consequences of aid suspensions, in October 2021, “The Group of 20 major economies” pledged to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. As a global powerhouse, the United States also announced its intention of providing aid to Afghan citizens as the harsh winter season starts. However, these countries are skeptical about providing aid directly to the Taliban government, therefore, aid will likely come through international agencies.

Aid to Afghanistan

Recognizing the need for aid, international organizations worked tirelessly to deliver food, blankets and monetary assistance “to hundreds of displaced families in Kabul” in October 2021. Humanitarian assistance from different global agencies found a way into Afghanistan. Even though the distribution of aid only reached 324 families, a very small percentage of the total needs of the nation, this aid gives hope to many Afghans who are experiencing severe food shortages.

Rising food insecurity rates in Afghanistan highlight the desperate need for aid. With many donors creatively developing ways to help the Afghan people, during a time of crisis, the country is hopeful for a brighter future.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Max Pixel

Researchers have directly linked quality nutrition to a reduction in the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and in some areas, malnutrition. In less developed countries like Ethiopia, this reality is even starker. The threat of hunger in Ethiopia is extremely prevalent, requiring significant attention.

According to USAID data in Ethiopia, more than half of infant deaths are a direct result of malnutrition. Children who survive past the age of 2 years old experience irreversible threats to their physical growth and delays in their cognitive development. This lack of proper nutrition places children at a disadvantage within schools, leading them into the same cycle of poverty wherein the food systems in Ethiopia continue to perpetuate their malnutrition. As of 2021, more than 70% of Tigray’s population is still hungry with 400,000 individuals facing hunger on a fatal level.

The high rates of malnutrition in Ethiopia are a result of several factors, with food insecurity and less access to nutritious services being among the most prominent determining factors. Increased incidence rates of infectious diseases and inadequate maternal and child feeding practices follow closely behind. A combination of household wealth and income, education levels and a family’s ability to plan long-term drive all of these factors. Despite the threat of hunger in Ethiopia, some organizations are providing help.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Within the past decade, several programs and organizations dedicated to fighting world hunger have worked within countries in Eastern Africa to not only provide food to its civilians but to support local farmers. The World Food Programme (WFP) is among one of the most active of these organizations in Ethiopia. The WFP has worked in many areas, donating resources, helping smallholder farmers develop better climate resistance and implementing school feeding programs. Most recently, the World Food Program has called for action from governments and their constituents while articulating how they will respond to the crisis.

The World Food Programme’s three main objectives now and in the coming months are to:

  • Provide emergency food assistance to the Northwestern and Southern regions of Tigray to reach over 2 million individuals in need of emergency food assistance.
  • Increase its emergency nutrition response to reach as many as 70 districts.
  • Continue to advocate for increased funding of $203 million to bolster its response program.

These goals aim to increase the quality of life for families in Ethiopia, and, since late September 2021, the World Food Programme has succeeded in doing just this. According to recent news and press releases, the WFP has helped communities in Ethiopia in one leading way.

Progress in Ethiopian Food Systems

The World Food Programme’s largest success in Ethiopia has been creating a system for farmers to access and manage their own finances. Having the ability to save money and apply for loans supports sustainable farming while empowering working women and providing a sense of self-sufficiency for many adults. The WFP has worked closely with villages in Ethiopia by helping small farmers pair up with the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), allowing communities to buy materials for personal businesses and ensure financial protection from the future. In 2002, the World Bank approved a loan of $85 million to Ethiopia’s food security program, all of which have contributed to these efforts of helping small farmers learn to support themselves. The WFP also aids Ethiopia in dealing with urgent issues by directly providing communities with emergency food. Since July 2021, the WFP has provided over 135,000 individuals with emergency meals.

USAID has also worked to promote agriculture and secure food systems in Ethiopia over the last decade. The implementation of its Feed the Future initiative has focused on supporting sustainable agriculture-led growth, bolstering resilience and improving nutrition. USAID has estimated a 19% decrease in poverty because of its efforts in the areas where it has worked from 2013 to 2018. In 2019, USAID’s Feed the Future initiative recognized its achievements of reaching 5 million children under the age of 5 years old with nutritional aid as well as tending to 131,000 hectares of improved land. This is due to improved technologies and practices provided by nonprofit organizations. Moving forward, USAID is seeking to continue working on strengthening resilience programs for farmers who rely solely on agriculture.

Collective Vision is the Future’s Hope

While the world continues to face many challenges, hunger may be one of the most pressing humanitarian concerns at the moment. Additionally, while it is important to sufficiently nourish everyone, it is even more important to ensure that each person has the knowledge and resources they need to continue healthfully providing for themselves moving forward. Organizations like the World Food Programme have already taken a strong initiative to achieve this goal in the countries that need it most, like Ethiopia. Other hands-on organizations like USAID have also spread their assistance to reach more countries, including attempting to strengthen the food systems in Ethiopia.

While the threat of hunger in Ethiopia may seem like a challenge that is far too expansive for any individual to tackle alone, organizations have shown how collective thought and collaboration can make a world of difference in reaching those most in need. With the continued support of governments and more specifically, involved constituents, countries can set aside their differences and work together towards achieving this common goal.

Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

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