Food Production in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa, frequently suffers from the effects of seasonal droughts. For example, during the 2019 agricultural season, Zimbabwe endured a particularly devastating drought resulting in more than 5 million rural Zimbabweans experiencing food insecurity and nearly 4 million requiring food assistance. On top of issues of food insecurity that lower yields caused, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate rose to rates above 190% in June 2021, resulting in a higher overall cost of living throughout the country. Additionally, the price of maize has risen by more than 50% since the beginning of 2021. Luckily, drought-resistant grains are boosting food production in Zimbabwe.

How the Zimbabwean Government is Assisting Farmers

To solve the problem of lower yield due to maize not being able to withstand drought conditions, the Zimbabwean government has begun assisting farmers in the transition to farming smaller drought-resistant grains like sorghum and millet. This transition has resulted in food production increases in Zimbabwe, though it has not been easy for many farmers, as these smaller grains require more work to keep up. The small-grain crops attract birds, making a protection system essential to guard their crops. Moreover, when harvested, small-grain crops require more labor-intensive processing. Additionally, because the farmers have stopped farming as much maize, they have subsequently become unable to produce the corn necessary to make many staple Zimbabwean foods.

Responsive Drip Irrigation

Responsive Drip Irrigation is aiding farmers with an innovative irrigation system that helps crop production in drought conditions. It developed an irrigation system that reacts to the crops’ chemicals to determine when the plants need water. Of course, innovative technology such as Responsive Drip Irrigation is expensive and therefore difficult to make available to many Zimbabwean farmers. Nevertheless, in August 2021, Responsive Drip Irrigation began working with smallholder farms to help encourage food production increases in Zimbabwe.

The CAWEP Program

Additionally, in December 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the implementation of a new three-year initiative to make water more accessible throughout rural Zimbabwe. The CAWEP program allocated $14.8 million to increase access to water for various household uses, improve access to clean and affordable energy, and refurbish current irrigation systems. CAWEP should eventually connect as many as 12,500 people to electricity, assist 150,000 people with accessing water and establish more than 100 hectares of land as workable agricultural property. By making water more accessible to these rural Zimbabwean farmers, the UNDP hopes to increase food production in Zimbabwe.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Finally, the World Food Programme (WFP) has also worked to provide support for rural Zimbabwean farmers in the face of probable climate shocks such as prevalent droughts. as of November 2022, the WFP has provided nearly 10,000 metric tons of food, more than $420,000 worth of cash-based transfers and has reached close to 500,000 people with these cash transfers. As of December 2022, the WFP provided more than 550,000 people with emergency food assistance.

The Road Ahead

Though frequently facing the brunt of powerful droughts and an ever-growing inflation rate, food production is slowly increasing in Zimbabwe as farmers shift to more sustainable crops and receive help from humanitarian organizations such as the WFP and the UNDP.

– Chris Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Yemen
Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the U.N. The civil war has been going on since 2014 and the country is not facing another challenge due to the Russia-Ukraine War.

The Civil War and its Impact on the Yemeni People

Two main groups are controlling different parts of Yemen. The internationally recognized government (IRG) is controlling the south and east of the country, and the Houthi group is controlling the west of the country and its capital, Sana’a. The IRG is also supporting the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The situation caused around 377,000 casualties between 2015 and 2021. Although casualties slowed down in 2022 due to the ceasefire which took place between April and October 2022, Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to a U.N. report, more than 23.5 million people of Yemen’s 31.2 million population need humanitarian assistance.

Food insecurity, disruption of education, scarcity of health care facilities, severe drought and intense flooding are among many issues people are facing in Yemen. The issues require humanitarian assistance in relation to the problems.


The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that primary and secondary school attendance has fallen sharply since the beginning of the conflict, from 100% to 75% and from 50% to 28% in 2021, respectively. Girls often endure the most challenges due to a lack of education.

Health Care

In February 2021, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that “Yemen cannot even afford to worry about the coronavirus” because of famine risk and other infectious diseases such as diphtheria and measles. The outbreak of cholera in Yemen in 2016 was also one of the worst in recent history. Moreover, only half of Yemen’s sanitary facilities were fully operating in 2021.

Food Security

Even before the current war, food insecurity was a problem. For the period from October to December 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 54% of the population of Yemen suffered from extreme food insecurity while 2.2 million children and 1.3 million pregnant and nursing women experienced acute malnutrition.

The WFP is also facing underfunding as it stood around $1 billion short of its $1.98 billion requirements for 2022. As a result, in both December 2021 and June 2022, the organization expressed that it has had to reduce the rations it provides.

The Russia-Ukraine War also deeply impacted Yemen’s food security, as the country used to import 40% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Main Donors of Foreign Aid to Yemen

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report on March 16, 2022, stating the countries’ foreign aid to Yemen pledges. The U.S. and the European Commission were the first two potential donors of foreign aid to Yemen in the previous year.

The U.S. pledged around $500,000 and donated more than $1 billion. Also, the European Commission pledged $173 million USD and donated €170 million.

The U.N. is appealing for large amounts for Yemen. The March 2022 appeal was the largest amount for Yemen since the conflict began, which was $4.3 billion. However, the U.N. could receive only 54% of the required funds at $2.3 billion.

In addition to the efforts on brokering for peace, the international community should also increase the amount of foreign aid to Yemen to respond to the world’s humanitarian crisis.

– Murathan Arslancan
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Peru
Hunger in Peru is an often fluctuating issue. With the drastic effects of inflation, challenges in accessing food and the COVID-19 pandemic, Peruvian poverty has created an unstable lifestyle for much of the country’s population. Here is everything to know about hunger in Peru including information about the country’s alarming food shortage and inflation.

Food Crisis and COVID-19

Peru is in a food crisis. More than 16 million Peruvian citizens – half of the country’s population – are struggling with food insecurity. The problem primarily lies within the country’s prices of food; since the poverty rate includes more than 25% of the citizens of Peru, many citizens cannot access nourishing meals.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened many of Peru’s poverty-related problems. The poverty rate in Peru rose almost 6% post-pandemic because of the quick-rising inflation. The price of commonly used ingredients – such as “wheat, rice and cooking oil[,]” – now cost more than two times their original prices.

Soup Kitchens, Inflation and Minimum Wage

The number of soup kitchens in Peru has multiplied by six since 2020. The municipal government of Lima reported the registration of more than 2,500 soup kitchens in 2022, The New Humanitarian reports. In 2020, this number was only 377. Despite the fact that kitchens provide free or discounted meals for Peruvian citizens, the rising inflation has caused many to stop serving certain meats due to insufficient funds. Some soup kitchens have to serve chicken noodle soup that lacks chicken.

Peru raised its minimum wage by 10% in order to combat inflation. On May 1, 2022, Peru’s minimum wage increased from 930 PEN to 1,025 PEN. Despite its good intentions, Pacific Business School’s academic director Jorge Carrillo Acosta claims that this raise may unintentionally push informal labor, which would allow companies to continue paying their workers at the 930 PEN rate.

Organizations Combating Hunger in Peru

There are many communities working in Peru in order to help citizens reach a livable wage and a greater level of food security. These organizations are making a significant impact in reducing poverty and hunger in Peru.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is working to continue to push the trend of decreasing poverty in Peru. In 2017, WFP created Cocina con Causa (“Cooking with a Cause”), a TV show showcasing healthy ways to cook and eat. The series has amassed millions of viewers through its TV episodes, radio show and social media accounts. Most recently, WFP has backed a project in the Sechura desert to install a drip irrigation system in order for families in the area to grow a greater amount of healthy vegetables.

Action Against Hunger (AAH) is another organization improving the health system and food security for Peruvian citizens and Venezuelan migrants, while also providing more monetary opportunities for the women in the country. The organization has provided food, hygiene products and supplies in order to relieve some of the hunger in Peru.

The Future of Peru’s Population in Poverty 

WFP has reported that Peru’s levels of poverty and food insecurity have decreased within the past 10 years. The implementation of programs to fight hunger, alongside economic gains and increased funds towards a more secure framework for combating the price of living, gives many – Peruvian citizens or not – a good feeling about the future of Peru and reducing its levels of poverty.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Brazil
Despite being the third largest exporter of agricultural commodities, Brazil is now suffering a food crisis caused by inflation. In 2022, inflation triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated hunger in Brazil. The inflation rate in Brazil stood at 13.9% in the middle of 2022, according to the World Bank. According to a Brazilian press article by correspondent Anne Vigna in June 2022, 33.1 million Brazilians endure hunger and 30% of families are at risk of food shortages. Furthermore, the sanctions against Russia have affected the supply of fertilizers, which are essential to Brazilian agriculture and food production. When vital products are restricted and the exports-imports are reduced, the prices go up. Social Good Brazil and the World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence are committed to addressing food insecurity in Brazil.

“Regarding inflation [in Brazil], consumer prices remain high, with increases spread among several components and continue to be more persistent than anticipated. Over the 12-month period ended in July [2022], consumer inflation reached 10.1%,” said Central Bank of Brazil Governor Roberto Campos Neto in an interview with Global Finance on September 27, 2022.

Inflation in Brazil: Food Shortage

“Hiking prices lead to loss of purchasing power of households and food insecurity. In Brazil, the costs of food increased by 13.43[%] in the 12 months to August 2022,” the World Bank reports. In 2022, severe food insecurity in Brazil stood at 9%, but in 2022, severe food insecurity has risen to 15.5%.

According to Campos Neto, “disruptions in supply chains generated by COVID-19 and in energy and food markets caused by the war in Ukraine, may lead to higher or more persistent inflation and more aggressive monetary policy tightening in major economies.” Campos Neto explains that long periods of high inflation may put countries at risk of economic deceleration.

Brazil is responsible for 8% of fertilizer consumption worldwide and is the “world’s fourth-largest fertilizer importer,” according to Farmdocdaily. Roughly one-fifth of these imports come from Russia. As a result of sanctions applied against Russia, Brazil now suffers from a lack of fertilizers, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, which are essential for crops. According to an article by Brazilian journalist Julio Bravo in May 2022, the cost of fertilizer per ton rose rapidly from $231.05 to $524.42 in only 12 months.

Impact on the Poor

Increased prices of goods reduce the purchasing power of low-income families and raise food insecurity while increasing rates of poverty. The national report “Olhe para a fome,” created by Rede Penssan (The Brazilian Network of Research on Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security) and partners, gathered data between November 2021 and April 2022 that presents a grim situation. According to the report, in 2022, 33.1 million Brazilians face severe levels of food insecurity, which equates to 15.5% of the population. The second National Study on Food Insecurity in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil showed that 58.7% of Brazilians suffer from some level of food insecurity in 2022.

During the peak of the pandemic, local supermarkets in Brazil began to sell animal bones and leftovers to people in desperate need of food. Some people had to scrummage in supermarket rubbish bins in search of discarded food. Brazilian Sandra Maria de Freitas told BBC News Brazil in 2022: “I wake up at 4 a.m. every day, take my handcart and come to wait for the rubbish truck at this same place… where I live.”

Fighting Against Hunger

The World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence came about as a partnership developed in 2011 between the Brazilian government and the WFP to address hunger in several countries, including Brazil. The Center of Excellence focuses on school feeding programs, research, working with smallholder farmers and more.

In terms of the WFP’s school feeding initiatives, in 2020, a total of “15 million schoolchildren received nutritious meals and snacks from WFP.” Providing support to 65 countries’ school feeding programs, WFP helped another 39 million children with nutritional support.

Social Good Brazil is an NGO that raises funds via a crowdfunding U.S. platform called GlobalGiving. Social Good Brazil raised $1,108 for the project called Fight Hunger in Brazil Using Food Waste. In essence, the project aimed to reduce food waste by redistributing wasted but good food to fulfill the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable citizens. The project has the potential of helping 52 million Brazilians suffering from food insecurity.

Despite the struggle against inflation, organizations are stepping up to continue the fight against food insecurity in Brazil.

– Olga Petrovska
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Sri Lanka
Food insecurity in Sri Lanka has increased amid the country’s economic crisis, with disproportionate impacts on women and children. The World Bank says the poverty rate in Sri Lanka is 25.6% (based on the poverty line of $3.65 per person per day) in 2022, almost doubling from 13.1% in 2021. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations are taking action to meet the nutritional needs of these vulnerable groups.

Women and Children

According to WFP, as of August 2022, 30% of Sri Lankans are enduring food insecurity, equating to about 6.3 million people. As such, about 66% of households are reducing their food portions and are consuming “less nutritious food,” the WFP website says.

Among those suffering the most from food insecurity in Sri Lanka are pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well as those with physical or intellectual disabilities and children younger than the age of 5.

The economic crisis has caused a significant increase in food prices as well as a shortage of fuel. The spike in food prices means pregnant women and new moms are struggling to secure three balanced meals a day. Proper nutrition is crucial not only for their health but for the health of their babies.

In August 2022, a doctor at a hospital in Sri Lanka told BOOM journalism that “pregnant women who have visited the hospital in the last few months are all showing signs of anemia.”

Gayani Dilrukshi, who is 23 years old and seven months pregnant, only eats two meals every day with her 4-year-old daughter because she does not have the budget to afford three meals, according to an interview with BOOM journalism. The meals that Dilrukshi can afford are not nutrient-dense and, as such, she is not in overall good health at a critical point in her pregnancy, according to doctors.

Taking Action to Address Food Insecurity in Sri Lanka

The WFP is taking action to meet the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable groups in Sri Lanka. However, the WFP requires $63 million worth of funding to adequately respond to the crisis in Sri Lanka. As of August 2022, the WFP’s response plan includes providing “3.4 million people with food assistance.”

In addition to this, WFP is looking to strengthen social safety-net programs that already exist. For instance, through the existing national school feeding program, the WFP aims to help 1 million Sri Lankan children. Through an existing state initiative that provides “fortified food to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children,” the WFP hopes to impact an additional 1 million individuals.

In November 2022, the United Nations amended its Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) Plan to further help vulnerable citizens throughout Sri Lanka. The HNP raised $79 million in funds from different organizations and countries such as the United States and Australia. Organizations such as Brandix Apparels and the Citi Foundation also contributed funds for Sri Lanka. The United Nations has revised the HNP plan, which will last through 2022, calling for an additional $70 million.

The revised HNP plan would give food aid to 2.4 million vulnerable Sri Lankans, plus assistance, such as fertilizer supplies, to at least 1.5 million farmers in Sri Lanka. Pregnant women and schoolchildren would be included in nutrition support efforts. This plan will also supply more than 900,000 people with clean and safe drinking water. As many as 867,000 people will receive aid in the form of integral medicine and health care.

Fortunately, organizations are addressing food insecurity in Sri Lanka, especially among vulnerable groups. Through aid, Sri Lanka can recover from its current economic crisis.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to South Sudan
The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is quickly growing. Not only is South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis worsening but extreme flooding, mass famine, economic troubles and aid cuts combine to exacerbate poverty and instability. As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, South Sudan struggles as donors scale back their donations and redirect their foreign assistance budgets to aid Ukraine.

Violence and Political Unrest

The political situation in South Sudan is shaky and has led to violence and insecurity among the South Sudanese people. For context, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan and became an independent state in 2011. However, shortly after, in 2013, civil war broke out due to a conflict between South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and “other armed groups and affiliated militias.” The warring parties reached a peace agreement in 2015, but that quickly fell apart in 2016. In 2018, Kiir and Riek Machar, former leaders of the SPLA-IO, signed a peace accord in hopes of resolution.

The peace accord led to the division of power in a unity government officially inaugurated in February 2020, with Kiir as president and Machar as the first vice president. In August 2022, the unity government decided to extend by two years the post-civil war “transitional period,” which the government previously agreed would end in 2022. “Due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the peace agreement,” the transitional period will end in 2023, Africanews reports.

The need for foreign aid in South Sudan is critical because the general violence may have lessened, but the prevalence of other atrocities has risen. For example, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) found a “218[%] increase in conflict-related sexual violence” at the end of the second quarter of 2022.

In 2021, UNMISS documented 440 civilian murders and 64 rapes in Western Equatoria committed by the SPLA-IO and the military. South Sudan has held no perpetrators accountable and some senior officials in the government are advocating against accountability for various crimes, including ones committed by rebel groups and government authorities.

Flooding and Extreme Famine

The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is also high due to recurring mass flooding and extreme famine. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2022, the flooding impacted around 1 million people. Bearing in mind that South Sudan has a population of about 12.4 million people, this statistic means flooding has affected around 8% of the country’s total population.

A World Food Programme (WFP) report published in July 2022 reveals the extent of the extreme famine within South Sudan. Of the population of 12.4 million, around 7.7 million people are enduring severe food insecurity. This equates to more than 60% of the population struggling to meet their food needs. The report also reveals that more than “one-third of the counties in South Sudan have Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates that exceed the emergency threshold of 15[%].”

Economic Woes and Aid Cuts

In areas such as Warrap, locals say the price of basic goods has risen by 50% due to the “war in Ukraine as well as local currency depreciation and other supply chain disruptions.” In an October 2022 interview with The New Humanitarian, Agany Monychol, a doctor who runs a hospital in Tonj, said malnutrition cases are now twice as prevalent due to the rising prices of food.

The New Humanitarian also notes that aid cuts are not just a result of donor reallocations to Ukraine but also stem from a distrust of the South Sudanese government due to corrupt spending.

In June 2022, the WFP suspended aid to 1.7 million South Sudanese people due to “critical funding shortages.” Donor funding for Monychol’s hospital had also been reduced by 30%, leading to staff cuts and patients struggling without medicine.

Action to Assist South Sudan

The humanitarian crisis and growing poverty rates stem from a combination of factors, which is why foreign aid to South Sudan is crucial. According to the latest official World Bank estimates from 2016, 82% of South Sudanese people live under the national poverty line, giving South Sudan a first-place ranking for the highest poverty rates out of the World Bank’s recorded list of country-specific poverty estimates.

Despite funding shortfalls, the WFP provided 4 million people in South Sudan with food aid between January 2022 and June 2022. The U.S. is also committed to providing aid to South Sudan. According to the Department of State’s website, the U.S. is the top-ranking provider of foreign aid to South Sudan. From January 2022 to August 2022, the U.S. supplied South Sudan with more than $371 million worth of humanitarian aid.

As the youngest nation in the world, it will take time for the government of South Sudan to address issues relating to poverty while focusing on establishing political stability to maintain peace. Until then, it is important to continue to provide foreign aid to South Sudan in order to address the humanitarian crisis.

– Matthew Wikfors
Photo: Flickr

The United Nations' Fight Against Poverty
The United Nations’ fight against poverty began as early as 1945. The U.N. General Assembly declared the years 1997 to 2006 as the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The Second U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty then ran from 2008 to 2017 and the Third U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty began in 2018 with an end date of 2027. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by U.N. member states in September 2000, is a commitment from global leaders to “combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.” The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) formed part of this Declaration and set targets to reach by 2015.

Progress in Reducing Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The target of reducing global extreme poverty rates by 50% occurred “five years ahead of the 2015 deadline,” the U.N. website notes. Since 1990, more than 1 billion individuals rose out of extreme poverty. Close to 50% of people in underdeveloped countries in 1990 survived on less than $1.25 per day. In 2015, this rate declined to 14%.

Furthermore, since 1990, the percentage of undernourished individuals in developing regions has decreased by about 50%. However, the percentage of employed working-age people reduced from 62% in 1991 to 60% in 2015, with a particularly notable decline occurring during the global recession of 2008/2009.

Here are three significant programs and funds aiding in the United Nations’ fight against poverty.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A pledge to “eradicate poverty everywhere, in all its forms and dimensions by 2030” is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came about in 2015 after the MDG deadline. The UNDP is the “U.N.’s global development network” that works across 170 nations and territories to help further the SDGs. Its work also centers around “democratic governance and peacebuilding” as well as “climate and disaster resilience.”

From 2019 to 2021, thanks to the UNDP, 71 million individuals in 36 nations obtained “access to essential services” and labor market policies safeguarded 1 million jobs globally, the UNDP website highlights.

About 81 nations adopted “policies based on COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessments” and “82 countries adopted more than 580 digital solutions for e-commerce and e-governance.” While “2.4 million rural households in 33 countries benefited from clean, affordable and sustainable energy,” about 3 million individuals across 29 nations “benefited from jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings,” the UNDP website notes.


In more than 190 nations and territories, UNICEF strives to protect children’s lives, uphold their rights and assist them in realizing their full potential from infancy through adolescence. Thanks to UNICEF, several million children by 1950 received “garments made of wool, leather and cotton” and more than 6 million received meals on a daily basis.

By 1973, UNICEF had assisted approximately 70 nations in reducing the number of deaths resulting from ingesting contaminated water. The Child Survival and Development Revolution, which UNICEF started in 1982, aimed to save more children by implementing four main strategies: tracking development, delivering immunizations, encouraging breastfeeding and providing oral rehydration therapy.

Compared to the end of World War II, life expectancy rates had climbed by more than 33% by 1993. A rise in school attendance coincided with a sharp decline in child mortality rates. The standard of living was also fast increasing; many households who had previously struggled to find clean water now had easy access. More recently, in 2012, polio saw eradication in India thanks to UNICEF’s global immunization program for the poor. Africa celebrated one year without any confirmed cases of polio on August 11, 2015.

World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, saving lives in dire situations and utilizing food aid to create a road to peace, stability and prosperity for those recovering from war, natural disasters and the effects of environmental changes.

The WFP collaborates with governments and humanitarian partners on the front lines, responding to an increasing number of disasters, such as droughts and floods, which can destroy crops, disrupt markets and demolish roads and bridges. The WFP also implements preventative measures that lessen the number of people in need of humanitarian aid. In 2021, 12.2 million individuals from 47 different nations benefited from climate risk management strategies, including 2.7 million in 14 nations who were insured against climate-related risks.

The WFP has shifted its emphasis in recent years from emergency interventions to tackling all types of malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, overweight and obesity. In 2021, 23.5 million people, a 36% increase from 2020, mostly children, pregnant and lactating females, benefited from WFP programs to treat or prevent malnutrition.

Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food yet also ironically suffer from hunger. In 2021, WFP and partners provided assistance to around 947,000 smallholder farmers in 44 countries. In 2021, WFP purchased 117,000 metric tons of food from smallholder farmers in 27 countries, valued at $51.9 million.

Looking Ahead in the United Nations’ Fight Against Poverty

Apart from these three programs, other U.N. initiatives also play a significant role in supporting the world’s most impoverished. For example, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, U.N. Women and U.N.-Habitat. The World Bank, the IMF, the WHO, the ILO, the FAO and other U.N. Specialized Agencies play a significant part in addressing emerging global issues. Overall, the United Nations has had a positive influence on the eradication of poverty worldwide.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

Climate-Driven Poverty in Central America 
Hurricane Bonnie is the latest of many natural disasters to hit the coasts of Central America. Along with it came heavy rains and flooding that led to widespread damage and deaths in Nicaragua and El Salvador in July 2022. However, this is not an unfamiliar situation. In 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Iota led to $2 billion worth of damage in Honduras while leaving millions of people in Guatemala and Nicaragua facing food insecurity and internal displacement. In 2021, Hurricane Grace caused landslides and fatalities in Mexico alongside millions of dollars in damage. More concerning is the fact that this pattern has only become more frequent. In the past 20 years, climate-related disasters cost Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries a combined “equivalent of 1.7% of a year’s GDP.” By 2030, extreme weather patterns could thrust as many as 5.8 million people into conditions of extreme impoverishment in the LAC region. As such, climate-driven poverty in Central America is a significant concern.

Millions of people in Central America already live in what is known as the “Dry Corridor,” an area that faces alternating bouts of drought and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. These circumstances leave the largely rural population susceptible to climate-driven poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Agricultural Impact and Food Security

According to the World Bank, in 2019, the agricultural sector accounted for 14% of total employment in the LAC region. However, around 70% of adults enduring extreme poverty in the LAC region work in the agricultural industry, a vulnerable population that faces disproportionate impacts from extreme weather events.

Job reliance on agriculture also varies by country. For instance, close to 40% of Honduras’ population engages in employment in agriculture, says the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program. Severe weather conditions have had a significant effect on agriculture in terms of employment and food output.

Hurricanes Iota and Eta ruined crops from Central America’s second growing season, affecting both small and large-scale farm operations. In the north of Honduras, the hurricanes caused a large spike in unemployment from the losses sustained in the area’s banana plantations. Coffee production, which makes up a large part of Central American exports and sustains low-income households, also saw damage to crops and irrigation systems from the heavy rains.

Beyond employment, agricultural impacts from these weather events also affect food production. The 2020 hurricanes caused an increase in food prices due to crop damage and raised costs of transportation.

The World Meteorological Organization estimates that as many as 7.7 million individuals in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua faced “high levels of food insecurity in 2021” because of the hurricanes and the exacerbating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Infrastructural Damage

July 2022’s Hurricane Bonnie left thousands of people in Nicaragua without power and water while roads in El Salvador flooded or collapsed.

Two years ago, Hurricane Eta and Iota destroyed government buildings, hospitals and thousands of homes in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In total, ReliefWeb reports that Eta and Iota caused damages equating to $1.86 billion in Honduras, $742 million in Nicaragua and $775 million in Guatemala. Rural areas faced the harshest impacts as floods, heavy rains and landslides hit homes, streets and community centers. The hurricanes also caused water contamination after damaging the sewage systems, threatening the clean water supply.

Migration and Displacement

Both in 2020 and 2022, many families suffered major losses after the destruction of their homes by the hurricanes,  pushing them into extreme poverty. Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020 displaced 1.5 million people in Central America, as the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated.

Alongside food insecurity, poverty and violence, extreme weather events are a major factor in migration in Central America, driving thousands to the United States every year. According to the Brookings Institution, migration from countries like Guatemala to the United States connects to rural impoverishment and “agricultural stress linked to climate change.” Internally, migration from rural areas to urban centers across Central America is also becoming more common due to employment instability in agriculture.

Globally, the 2022 World Migration Report states that extreme weather events and disasters lead to the displacement of more individuals than conflict and violence, and the number will only grow without prompt intervention.

Policy Implications

The World Food Programme and U.N. Environment Programme-backed initiatives are encouraging climate resilience policies to eliminate climate-driven poverty in Central America. For example, the WFP introduced climate risk management practices, including insurance initiatives meant to protect people living in regions susceptible to extreme weather events. The WFP also introduced “forecast-based finance” techniques in countries such as the Dominican Republic, which will provide aid to 10,000 people in the event of the country anticipating a climate disaster such as floods. As of 2021, the WFP estimates that its “climate risk management solutions” assisted around 441,000 people in the LAC region.

CityAdapt, an organization working with the U.N. Environment Programme and funded by the Global Environment Facility, implements “nature-based solutions” in cities and peri-urban regions in Mexico and El Salvador. It uses natural ecosystems to fight the effects of extreme weather changes, promoting “green and blue infrastructure such as urban parks, green roofs and facades, tree planting, river conservation,” and more, according to its website. CityAdapt also launched an online course in 2020 for 40 cities within 14 Latin American countries to educate people on nature-based solutions to address extreme weather conditions.

While the end goal is to prevent the occurrence of extreme weather events, these innovative and resilient approaches have the power to reduce the impact of climate-driven poverty in Central America and other vulnerable regions.

Ramona Mukherji
Photo: Flickr

Droughts in Iraq
The United Nations reported in August 2022 that Iraq stood as one of the top five countries most susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather events. In 2022, Iraq experienced some of the most severe droughts reported in the last 40 years. These droughts in Iraq also cause an increase in both frequency and severity of large dust storms across Iraq. These massive dust storms, while relatively a common occurrence in Iraq, nevertheless pose serious problems for the more vulnerable impoverished farmers. Additionally, in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iraq has lost much of its exporting and importing capabilities. These two major factors, along with the conflict in Ukraine causing food prices to rise worldwide, have led to severe repercussions for impoverished farmers living in the “breadbasket” of Iraq.

The Impact of Droughts in Iraq

In April 2022, an expert from the Iraqi Water Resources Ministry gave a warning that Iraq’s water reserves have shrunk by 50% since the year prior due to cumulative impacts of the “drought, lack of rainfall and declining river levels,” says the International Federation of Red Cross. A report by the Ministry at the close of 2021 predicted that “unless urgent action is taken to combat declining water levels, Iraq’s two main rivers will be entirely dry by coming years.” The drought is causing long-term issues such as “shortages of drinking water and poor-quality drinking water” along with impacts on “sanitation, hygiene and food and nutrition,” aggravating the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

The Iraq Ministry of Trade reports that, due to the droughts in Iraq, wheat production yields have decreased from 5 million metric tonnes in 2020 to 3.37 million in 2021. By 2022, these yields decreased further to just 1.34 million metric tonnes.

Additionally, “between October 2020 and November 2021, the price of 50 kilograms of wheat flour went up from 41,100 dinars ($28) to 50,000 dinars ($34),” an increase of about 25%, The New Humanitarian reports. Another systemic problem lies in the Iraqi farmers’ reliance on outdated farming techniques and technologies that do not factor in climate resilience.

Between June and December 2021, just under 2,000 people in the province of Nineveh alone had to leave their homes because of the droughts, the International Organization for Migration highlighted. The U.N. reported that, as of July 2020, about 33% of Iraq’s people lived below the poverty line.

Taking Action to Address the Impacts of Multiple Events

USAID reports that, as of March 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) has reached more than 700,000 people in Iraq with food assistance, including vulnerable school children through the WFP-supported national school feeding program. Also, as many experienced displacements due to the increased cost of living caused by the conflict in Ukraine, the droughts in Iraq and the conflict within Iraq, USAID reports that three USG partners have funded the distribution of temporary shelter as well as other relief measures. Additionally, several USAID partners have worked to put into place water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) measures.

Organizations have made significant efforts to provide short-term resolution for Iraqis amid the drought, however, long-term solutions are essential for a sustainable future as these issues persist and evolve.

– Chris Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Sierra Leone
Government findings in 2020 report a 60% decline in average weekly profits for businesses operating in Sierra Leone. However, customer demand witnessed an 80% decline by late May. Around 60%-70% of businesses had “difficulties accessing suppliers.” The liquidity status of several businesses declined and 52% were behind or likely to fall behind on paying their rents. Employees reported momentary layoffs, while others experienced reductions in working hours, to reach around four to six hours. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is further exemplified through youth unemployment, which forced the closure or scaled down operations of many youth-owned businesses in Sierra Leone. Youth unemployment reached 60% in 2021 and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 4% in 2020.

Impact on Tourism Sector

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, 71,000 tourists visited Sierra Leone in 2019 and projections have stated that tourism generated $39.00 million corresponding to 0.93% of GDP. This is demonstrating the power tourism has on the country’s income and economy. With travel restrictions, the level of tourism fell by 77.3% in 2020 as per Ministry of Finance records. This pushed 97% of tourism businesses into experiencing a massive impact on operations. Besides that, 29% of them encountered either provisional or permanent closure.

Accordingly, it is evident that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is showcased through its direct ramifications on the country’s economic strength and employment rate, especially with 8,000 people working in the tourism sector indicating its importance in the development of Sierra Leone.

Food Security and Livelihood

Around 30% of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown live on less than $1 per day, the international poverty line standing at around $1.90 per day. Among 116 countries, Sierra Leone ranked 106 in the 2021 Global Hunger Index illustrating the severity of the food crisis. Recent 2022 records validate that 73% of the population is experiencing food insecurity, 11% of which are acutely food insecure. This illustrates direct challenges to human welfare and basic standards of living, especially as 74% of households reported using more than 75% of their income on food.

Economic Assistance

To build and encourage economic resilience, in 2020, the World Bank permitted the International Development Association to support Sierra Leone with a grant worth $100 million. Such financing supports the development of greater productivity in varying sectors including agriculture, a primary sector of Sierra Leone’s economy. In 2021, economic growth accounted for 3.1%, with agriculture contributing for half the rise.

To further sustain the government’s ability in delivering rudimentary human rights such as education and health care services in the midst of an economic crisis, in 2020 the European Union allocated €10 million in economic support. For instance, improvements in health care are evident in the infant mortality rate, declining from 78.643 for every 1,000 births in 2019 to 72.253 for every 1,000 births in 2022.

Supporting Unemployed Youth

In 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a vocational training program in Sierra Leone worth $4.3 million to close the gap between labor and the necessary skills the market demands. This program has reached out to 940 participants thus far and seeks to eradicate unemployment in the country by developing skilled labor, thereby fostering a population capable of initiating independent economic growth, according to IOM.

A similar effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) promoted inclusive growth among rural areas in Sierra Leone. The UNDP trains youth with a skillset that advances their employability prospects in a globalized world.

Partnering with Restless Development and the Institute of Development and Humanitarian Assistance-IDHA, the UNDP further issued grants to over 1,000 youth business owners to preserve businesses from closing, as reported on its website. Business owners reported they have been able to grow their businesses, as well as offer employment opportunities.

Nutrition and Food Assistance

With collective effort from the European Union, the U.S. and China among other multilateral donors, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered food and nutritional support for around 540,000 people across Sierra Leone in 2021. To further support the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund Project, the WFP partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the development of inland valley swamps and create a continuous and lifelong food supply.

In January 2022, the OPEC Fund for International Development also provided contributions by extending two loans worth $35 million to curb hunger and encourage food security for 1.4 million Sierra Leoneans.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone has presented pronounced challenges on varying economic and social levels. However, with the right collective efforts such as UNDP grants, the economy can recover to allow its population to lead a prosperous future.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Unsplash