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Hunger in Nigeria
Nigeria is currently facing a daunting challenge that impacts the lives of millions in the country: hunger. Hunger in Nigeria has been escalating in recent months for various reasons and it has received international attention.

The Scale of the Crisis

Hunger in Nigeria is an immense problem that is currently putting millions at risk in the country. Between the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, almost 4.5 million people are now at risk of hunger. Of that 4.5 million, more than 700,000 are at imminent risk of starving to death.

Economics and Food

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical contributing factor in the ongoing rise in hunger in Nigeria. Unemployment has skyrocketed in the country, as one-third of the population does not have a job. Additionally, 70% of Nigerians have lost at least one form of income because of the pandemic.

Food inflation has also skyrocketed, worsening the state of hunger. Food inflation reached a 15-year high in 2021, rising to 22.95% in March. Import restrictions on rice and rising fuel costs have both contributed to this inflation.

Overall inflation and poverty levels have been on the rise, further compounding the hunger crisis. Inflation in Nigeria is the highest in the region, and the World Bank predicts the 2021 Nigerian inflation to be 16.5%. The inflation prediction for the sub-Saharan Africa region, excluding Nigeria, is only 5.9%. In the past year, food price inflation alone has accounted for 70% of Nigeria’s inflation.

The economic fallout of the pandemic could put more than 11 million Nigerians in poverty by 2022. The effects of the pandemic created a dangerous mix of unemployment, increased poverty, increased overall inflation, increased food inflation and widespread loss of income.

Conflict and Hunger

Conflict in Nigeria has contributed to the current hunger crisis. The impact of conflict in Nigeria is especially apparent with food inflation. Food costs have risen due to conflict between farmers and herders in the agricultural sector, as well as the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram terrorist organization.

Further, the ongoing conflict has made the state of hunger in Nigeria even worse by displacing many Nigerians. The states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, which are at high risk of widespread hunger, have also seen mass displacement due to conflict. In recent years, 8.7 million people have experienced displacement in these states due to the violence that “non-state armed groups” instigated

These large numbers of displaced persons often move into host communities that are ill-suited to the task. Such communities end up under the tremendous strain, as they have insufficient supplies, including food, to serve their newly enlarged populations.

Armed conflicts that prevent humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it is complicating the addressing of this crisis. Estimates indicate that aid cannot reach more than 800,000 people who live in areas that non-state armed groups control.

Aid Efforts

International organizations are trying to address hunger in Nigeria. The U.N. and other international organizations have continued to provide food assistance in Nigeria thanks to a process called localization. This process involves international organizations partnering with local NGOs to assist those in need, which enables local people, who might understand more, to help with local problems.

This coalition of organizations has provided support to camps for internally displaced persons. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) has given starving Nigerians money to purchase food. However, this assistance has had a limited scope, as some camps only offer food support to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. All of these efforts to assist have not proven to be enough to address the crisis. 

Looking Ahead

Much work remains to address the current state of hunger in Nigeria. The U.N.-led coalition of organizations is attempting to reach more than 6 million Nigerians with humanitarian aid. However, this effort has received limited funding as it has only garnered 20% of the necessary funds.

To address this crisis, a significant amount of funding is necessary. The U.N. is calling for $250 million in food aid to meet Nigeria’s severe hunger situation.

The situation of hunger in Nigeria is in a state of crisis. Millions of Nigerians are at high risk of becoming food insecure, and hundreds of thousands are at risk of starving to death. Conflict, widespread displacement and high food inflation all impact the hunger situation in Nigeria. While a coalition of organizations provides as much aid as possible to those at risk, these organizations need more support from the international community.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Cuba
The COVID-19 pandemic backpedaled Cuba’s progress in eradicating poverty and food insecurity, similar to many other countries. As the largest island within the Caribbean, tourism plays a large role in the economy. Although travel restrictions are no longer in place, the country’s reliance on food imports and poor infrastructure have worsened the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cuba.

Cuba Before COVID-19

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Cuba is one of the most successful countries to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Government-implemented social programs provide maternal healthcare, monthly feeding baskets and free lunch for children in more than 10,000 schools. However, 70 to 80% of Cuba’s food requirements come from food imports, and this reliance lessens the national budget.

A consistently strained national budget, coupled with an economy in the midst of crisis, ultimately exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cuba. Well before COVID-19 hit the island, the Trump administration initiated sanctions banning U.S. travel and commerce with Cuban businesses. This strained the economy even further.

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) reports that poverty in Cuba is long-caused by the inaccessibility that Cubans have to basic needs. For example, the real-median state wages continuously fall and pensions do not align with food requirements. Also, the price of basic utilities continues to increase. The social assistance services are helpful, but they are not always accessible or upheld with the utmost quality.

Cuba’s Handling of COVID-19

Cuba’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most effective within the Caribbean. Free universal healthcare and large numbers of medical personnel are among the reasons that the island’s pandemic-related mortality rates are much lower than some of their neighboring countries. Cuba had approximately 151 cumulative deaths in January 2021, while Jamaica had approximately 312. At the same time, though, the government’s control of the media makes some skeptical as to whether or not the number of cases is accurate.

Cuba has the largest ratio of doctors to citizens in the world, with 84 doctors for every 10,000 citizens. Through the Continuous Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CARE) System, doctors can regularly track, assess and isolate outbreaks of the disease by visiting patients directly. Beginning in 1984, community-based medicine connects doctors and nurses to roughly 150 families. The CARE system furthers the impact of this model by ensuring that doctors carry out preemptive medical measures continuously.

The Persistence of Poverty

The issue of poverty in Cuba comes by way of poor infrastructure, food instability and a persisting housing crisis. As mentioned previously, food imports make up a large portion of the island’s food consumption. Reuters reports that before the pandemic, Cuba began seeing a decline in the number of food imports. This was due to Venezuela putting a cap on the aid it was providing. The Trump administration’s tightening of the United States trade embargo also impacted the number of food imports. In turn, the pandemic worsened the already existent food shortage.

In addition to the shortage of food, much of the basic infrastructure strains the country’s ability to quickly respond to conflict, leaving many unassisted during crisis. The island is also susceptible to tropical storms, which worsens the housing crisis. Many Cuban homes are unable to withstand extreme weather conditions. Many Cubans are also unable to afford damage repair. Cuba also suffers from a deficit of houses, with leads to the issue of overcrowding in shelters.

Only 1% of Cuban households have access to the internet. In turn, many people are unable to purchase their essential items online and must endure in-person contact. Even with social distancing and isolation mandates in order, those living in poverty are generally unable to abide by these standards due to the nature of their work or fiscal inability. The culmination of these factors worsens the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cuba.

Positive Insights

The emergence of effective vaccines and the efficacy of the CARE system serves as an inspiration for other countries in the fight against the pandemic. The Cuban-developed Abdala vaccine is said to be 92.28% effective in the last stages of its clinical trials. The Soberena-2 vaccine, another Cuban-developed vaccine, has an effectiveness of 62% with two of its three doses. Cuba’s extensive medical research, along with its use of community-based healthcare, model how preventative healthcare can become readily accessible to communities in the midst of a crisis.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cuba remains an issue to be resolved, but the island is on the pathway to returning to life pre-pandemic. More than 1 million children returned to school in September 2020, and fully vaccinated tourists can now visit the island.

With the island’s newfound knowledge and insights on how to adequately handle the plights of a pandemic, hope exists that Cuba will soon continue the progress it once made in eradicating poverty and food insecurity.

– Cory Utsey
Photo: Flickr

increased poverty in PalestineThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years, has placed strain on the economic stability of Palestinian citizens. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to the economic challenges that people have faced in Palestine, leading to a widespread and worsening state of poverty. Increased poverty in Palestine calls for increased international aid and support.

Poverty in Palestine

A large portion of Palestine’s population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford food, clothing and shelter. In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that one in every three Palestinians lived in poverty, equating to almost 30% of people. The Gaza Strip had the highest concentration of citizens living in poverty at a rate of 53%.

Inadequate work opportunities and low wages play a large role in poverty in Palestine. Research indicates that the job status of the head of the house greatly impacts the risk of poverty. The PCBS also found that 42.1% of households whose heads did not have a steady job lived in poverty compared to 25.8% of households with an employed head of the house.

This is especially alarming when one takes the unemployment rate into account as 43.1% of Gaza’s citizens were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020. The average monthly wage for those with a steady source of income in Gaza is a mere 682 ILS (about $207). Many people earn below the minimum wage, making it difficult for Palestinians to pull themselves out of poverty.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the little progress that Palestine made toward economic stability. While Palestinians were able to narrowly dodge the first wave of the pandemic, the next two waves destroyed economic gains. The World Bank predicted that “after growth of a mere 1% in 2019,” the Palestinian economy may contract by a minimum of 7.6% in 2020. In addition, due to decreased revenue, the financing gap could increase from $800 million in 2019 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. Vaccines have become an issue as well.

Although the U.N. released a statement declaring that Israel is responsible for providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel excluded Palestinians from the vaccination campaign until recently. Israel prioritized only Palestinians working in Israel, overlooking the millions of Palestinians living in or near Gaza, for whom Israel has allotted only 5,000 doses.

Without vaccines, Palestinians are unable to leave their homes for work and food, plunging them further into poverty. The international COVAX scheme, backed by the WHO, should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. Palestinians have also sourced “limited quantities of vaccines from elsewhere” but have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity.

Education in Palestine

Many Palestinian children no longer have access to safe schooling. A U.N. report detailing the violence keeping children out of school mentions “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints and violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions.”

These conditions impacted more than 19,000 children in the 2018 school year, limiting their ability to safely obtain an education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of securing an education, especially for the impoverished population of Palestine. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that 34.83% of Palestinian students could not join virtual classes due to a lack of resources and internet connection.

Due to a lack of education and opportunities, Israeli officers have arrested many children trying to cross the Israeli border for a better life. As of April 2021, 71.4% of children who attempted to cross the border were school dropouts trying to escape increased poverty in Palestine.

Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty

Organizations like UNICEF are addressing the education crisis through initiatives such as the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, which began in 2015. The program focuses on enhancing life skills and improving citizenship education. UNICEF also conducts “entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.” The program includes internships and career counseling.

In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) spent $57 million of U.S. funding to ease poverty in Palestine, assisting more than 430,000 citizens. This included 33% of women-led households and 4.3% of the disabled population. The WFP provided cash-based transfers, food packages and “agriculture assets and training” to address increased poverty in Palestine.

The Road Ahead

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has severely worsened the state of poverty in Palestine as citizens end up in the crossfire. However, the ceasefire that Palestinian and Israeli officials announced in May 2021 may be a step in the direction of safety and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Greater international support will help lower poverty rates and raise the quality of life in Palestine.

Mariam Abaza
Photo: pixabay

Reduce Poverty in Central AmericaIn an effort to stem migration, the Biden administration has unveiled a plan to reduce poverty in Central America. The administration hopes that improving the quality of life in places where people are likely to emigrate from will cause fewer people to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. border. In May 2021, Vice President Harris called on the private sector to increase investment in the Northern Triangle to bolster the United States’ efforts to develop the region and address the root causes of migration to the U.S.

Plans to Improve the Economy

In a public statement, the White House referred to the economic development initiative for the Northern Triangle as a call to action. The U.S. government hopes to bolster economic growth in the Northern Triangle region of Central America. Northern Triangle countries consist of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The aim of this directive is to implement sustainable action that will stem the mass migration of asylum seekers and ease the ensuing border crises between the U.S. and Mexico. The call to action involves six key areas.

6 Focal Areas of Development in the Northern Triangle

  1. Reform: Increased transparency and predictability by implementing “international best practices in licensing, permitting, procurement, regulation and taxation.”
  2. Digital and Financial Inclusivity: Ensuring affordable internet is more accessible to support digital inclusion and prioritizing financial inclusion of marginalized populations.
  3. Food Security and Agriculture: Developing initiatives to reduce food insecurity by improving agricultural outcomes and prioritizing resilient crops.
  4. Renewable Energy and Climate Change: Taking actions to achieve climate resilience and transitioning to renewable, clean energy.
  5. Education and Employment: “Expand job-training programs, support greater access to technical and secondary education and create higher-paying formal sector jobs,” with females and rural people as priorities.
  6. Healthcare: Develop strategies to strengthen healthcare systems in order to be better prepared for future health crises and to “ensure inclusive access to healthcare.”

Companies Aiding Poverty Reduction Efforts

The aim of the initiative is to reduce the need to emigrate by equalizing living standards between neighboring nations of varying economic status. This supports the broader goal of creating international stability with efforts to reduce poverty in Central America. The U.S. government believes partnering with the private sector will make the plan of action a reality. So far, 12 companies and organizations have committed to the goal of developing the Northern Triangle.

Technology companies such as Microsoft will provide broader internet and digital communication systems to the Northern Triangle and teach people the digital skills needed to thrive in a digital world. Furthermore, the language learning app, Duolingo, hopes to bolster literacy rates, help people learn English and provide wider access to quality education. Beyond this, international financial institutions such as Mastercard will allow for financial inclusion by giving people the financial and digital skills and services needed to reduce the digital divide and combat poverty.

The Focus on Security

A major obstacle to the plan is how to allocate such loans and funds. Part of this wider initiative of economic recovery includes cracking down on political corruption and increasing transparency and international regulation. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Mexico and Guatemala in early June 2021 as a gesture of the beginning of a diplomatic response to the migration crisis. Her discussions mainly focused on issues regarding food security, border security and economic security. Harris emphasizes that women and the youth are priorities in the action plan as they are most vulnerable.

Along with economic rejuvenation efforts, the U.S. hopes to bring its own border security expertise to other nations. This will create an extended security buffer between migrants and the U.S. border. Additionally, the Biden administration wishes to broaden legal pathways toward migration and asylum to offer alternative options to illegal migration.

The Allocation of Funds

In April 2021, the U.S. pledged more than $300 million worth of aid to Central America in order to stem the migration crisis. Almost half of the funds have been allocated toward food security and COVID-19 recovery efforts. The rest of the financial assistance will help in the areas of “health, education and disaster relief services” and aid refugees and asylum seekers.

The division of funds reflects the priorities of the strategy in order to reduce poverty and increase security in the Northern Triangle. According to the World Food Programme, the number of people facing food insecurity in the Northern Triangle increased to 7.8 million in 2021. The cause of this increase correlates directly to hurricanes and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Therefore, the development of Northern Triangle economies will reduce poverty in Central America and decrease migration to the U.S.

Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe
Rates of food insecurity in Zimbabwe have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the fall of 2019. Internationally, food prices have increased by about 38% since January 2020. Some household food staples, including corn and wheat-based products, have increased by as much as 80%. The World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that supplies aid for countries struggling with malnourishment, estimated that by April 2021, an additional 111 million people would be malnourished because of COVID-19. For Zimbabwe, a country already facing large amounts of food insecurity before the pandemic, the increase in food prices has only added stress to its acute hunger crisis.

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe

Voice of America (VOA) recently reviewed a report from the government of Zimbabwe on the country’s rising food insecurity. The report revealed that about 2.4 million Zimbabweans who were not food-insecure pre-pandemic are now struggling with food insecurity. The food scarcity problem is especially difficult for members of Zimbabwe’s urban communities. In urban centers, misinformation about the virus was rampant during its initial spread. Many urban Zimbabweans received conflicting information about COVID-19, increasing the number of cases.

Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Zimbabwe also struggled to counter the virus because healthcare facilities are typically under-resourced or too expensive for many residents. Many urban Zimbabweans lost their jobs during the peak of COVID-19 and have struggled to find consistent work since, only increasing the cases of food insecurity.

Although international aid organizations and the government of Zimbabwe have indicated that plans are emerging to help combat the growing hunger crisis, many Zimbabweans have taken matters into their own hands. The way they are fighting food insecurity is by growing mushrooms.

Mushroom Growing in Zimbabwe

One Zimbabwean who lost his factory job during the pandemic, Murambiwa Simon Mushongorokwa, said that growing mushrooms was keeping him and his family members afloat. “I used to get about $30 a week. It was not enough for my needs. But when the lockdown came, it got worse, until I started growing mushrooms. It’s slowly improving my life,” said Mushongorowka.

Others are following Mushongorokwa’s lead. Several nonprofit organizations, including the World Food Programme (WFP), have begun teaching other Zimbabweans how to grow mushrooms. The Future of Hope is another such organization. The Future of Hope has been able to provide Zimbabweans with additional income that has improved their situation. Simon Julius Kufakwevanhu, an official from The Future of Hope, has been teaching about the benefits of mushroom farming. Kufakwevanhu stated that “Before the introduction of mushroom farming in this place, it was very tough for people in this community to survive because of the lockdowns and so forth. But when The Future of Hope brought in mushroom growing, it’s changing because you can now buy something, able to go to shops and buy mielie meal [coarse flour], sugar and so forth. Even if I fall sick I can go to the hospital after selling mushrooms.”

Mushroom growing has proven to be a viable way to fight food insecurity in Zimbabwe. According to the WFP, over 700 mothers have received training in the past few months. The process allows the mothers to grow their own mushrooms and to pull their families out of food insecurity. The WFP plans to expand the mushroom classes in the future.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr

Chad's Food Security
Chad’s food security is a persistent issue and challenge. More than 2 million people suffer from malnutrition, and 43% of children under 5-years-old have developed stunting due to malnutrition. In total, 3.7 million people experience food insecurity in Chad. Fortunately, many great organizations work to reduce food insecurity. These organizations include The World Food Programme (WFP), The World Bank and The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States (FAO).

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme has provided food assistance to 1.4 million people in Chad. Furthermore, this organization has provided food assistance and school meals to 370,000 refugees and 135,000 children.

WFP worked with other nonprofits on a project in Farchana, a refugee camp in Chad in 2018. This project allowed about 30,000 people to unite and help build a more self-reliant, food-secure community. The project consisted of reworking the landscape and providing workers with money to purchase food or other necessities. According to WFP, “The work done by both host communities and refugees expands the availability and diversity of food produced and consumed locally, and ensures that local food production and income-generating activities can continue through shocks and crises.”

Furthermore, WFP has developed a strategic plan for 2019-2023 that includes how the organization plans to aid in improving Chad’s food security. The nonprofit will help ensure that people in targeted areas have access to food year-round, meet their basic food needs and have more self-sustaining ways of obtaining food. WFP also hopes to increase the nutritional levels in the population and make sure the government can help feed the population.

The World Bank

The World Bank has supported over 50 projects in Chad and is currently working on 19 projects. This organization launched the Emergency Food and Livestock Crisis Response AF project in 2017. The project aimed to “improve the availability of and access to food and livestock productive capacity for targeted beneficiaries.” Additionally, the project received an $11.6 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) that focuses on social protection, agriculture, fishing and forestry, livestock and crops.

The World Bank approved a $75 million grant from the IDA to continue the Refugees and Host Communities Support Project for Chad (PARCA) in September 2020. PARCA has helped improve the lives of impoverished and vulnerable people in the country. The project is set to end in 2025 and has received a rating of “moderately satisfactory” as of October 2020.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO)

The FAO has been working hard to improve Chad’s food security for the past several years. Furthermore, the World Bank published an analysis of a project that the FAO and other organizations contributed to in 2019. This project consisted of providing agricultural knowledge and tools to people in Goré, a town in Southern Chad. In addition, the project aided almost 500,000 people and established a process for the community to feed itself year-round at an affordable price.

The FAO provided “emergency agricultural assistance to vulnerable populations” in 2019. Additionally, the organization helped just under 300,000 people improve their agricultural output and prevented them from suffering from future climate inconsistencies or disasters.

The FAO completed the Sustainable Revitalization of Agricultural Systems project which aided about 4,000 people in 2020. In addition, it provided irrigation systems and fences to protect crops. The project succeeded in increasing agricultural yields.

Chad rates 187/189 on the Human Development Index and 66.2% of the population lives in severe poverty.  Despite these struggles, organizations are helping improve the lives of the people. The government of Chad has also been working to help improve the lives of its population. Chad created a plan to improve Chadians’ quality of life by developing human and social capital, social protection and economic empowerment by the end of 2021.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

International Aid to El SalvadorEl Salvador faces threats from multiple angles as heavy tropical flooding has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While El Salvador has managed to curtail infection rates by imposing strict restrictions, in October 2020, more than 32,000 people had COVID-19, with around 1,000 deaths. Due to the stringent measures to protect against the pandemic, economic growth has been stifled and poverty reduction efforts have waned. Organizations are stepping in to provide international aid to El Salvador.

Dual Disasters in El Salvador

In May and June of 2020, the tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal wreaked havoc on the people of El Salvador. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by heavy rain, flooding and severe winds. Developing countries such as El Salvador have poor building infrastructure and during natural disasters homes are more likely to be destroyed by storms. The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated that about 380,000 people in El Salvador do not have sufficient access to nutritious food due to the dual disasters that have weakened infrastructure and the economy. An estimated 22,000 farmers have suffered from the destruction of flooding, with over 12,000 hectares of agricultural crops being destroyed.

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Poverty

El Salvador has been moderately successful with poverty reduction, marked by a consistent decline in poverty over the past 13 years, as poverty rates plummeted from 39% to 29% between 2007 and 2017. Extreme poverty was cut from 15% to 8.5% over this time period as well. Additionally, El Salvador has increased its level of equality and is now the second most equal country in Latin America.

Despite this positive trend in poverty reduction, El Salvador has suffered from forced economic restrictions due to the pandemic. Its GDP is projected to decrease by 8% this year due to economic restrictions, a weakened international market and diminished funds sent from El Salvadorians abroad in the United States. Additionally, low income and marginalized individuals are becoming more vulnerable to health issues and wage deficiencies and are falling victim to predatory loans. El Salvador’s economic shutdown and destruction from tropical storms have prompted calls for international aid to alleviate the crisis.

Swift Action to Mitigate COVID-19

El Salvador has seen relatively low COVID-19 cases as a result of its swift response to the pandemic. It adopted strict containment measures faster than any other Central American country and invested heavily in its health system. The government has provided cash distributions to the majority of households, food for low income households and payment deferrals for rent and mortgages in order to curb the effects of the pandemic on citizens.

International Aid to El Salvador

Requests for international aid to El Salvador have been granted in the form of assistance from USAID and the WFP. These organizations are providing disaster relief and bringing in resources to those affected by the storms and the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has donated $3 million to be dispensed by cash in stipends for vulnerable citizens to buy food. This stipend will boost local economies and reinforce food security for impoverished citizens affected by the dual disasters.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Central African Republic
Poverty is an issue the Central African Republic continues to face. In fact, around 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the estimated international poverty line. In particular, child poverty in the Central African Republic is prevalent with an estimated half of the country’s population being under the age of 14. Many of these children are born into poverty, a situation they did not choose.

The Central African Republic is also one of the most impoverished nations in Africa; about 60% of the population lives in poverty. Some of the largest issues that children in the Central African Republic face are low enrollment for primary school, various armed conflicts and malnutrition. While these are big burdens, there are several solutions that should drastically improve the situation of child poverty in the Central African Republic.

Low Enrollment for School

In countries that poverty ravages, schools can be a safe haven for many children. Not only do they offer a stable and caring environment, but they can also offer a lifeline to many children with hopes and dreams of leaving their situation. There are schools in the Central African Republic, such as the Youth Education Pack, that specifically teach trades and other professions to help young people obtain skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth Education Pack receives funding from Education Cannot Wait, a fund that is working towards providing education during crises.

The Central African Republic enrollment is incredibly low, with only 62% of boys and around 41% of girls enrolled in primary school. This creates a significant gap, with many children already deep into poverty not going to school to progress. One cause of this problem is the various armed groups in the country. One of these is the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy, which frequently kidnaps children and forces them to fight.

While some attend school, the problems continue. Around 6% of high schoolers in the Central African Republic complete school. One solution would be to dedicate more resources to education. Through schooling, many children in poverty in the Central African Republic would be able to both learn and grow, while progressing in their education and moving from their current living conditions. After school programs could be of great use and benefit as well, allowing children to have a safe space away from their home lives. Baha’i communities are an incredible example, where they have found multiple ways to prioritize and bring education to children who need it. There is a definitive aspiration by many to boost education in the Central African Republic and more success stories such as the one in Baha’i are inevitable.

Armed Conflict

Unfortunately, warring groups often recruit or kidnap many children of the Central African Republic to fight as soldiers. While many generally consider the use of children in warfare abhorrent, children are often incredibly susceptible to this. They are much easier to manipulate through coercion and threats of violence to themselves and their families. These children often become physically and mentally scarred by what they have seen and done.

An effective solution is to create more programs to help reintegrate former child soldiers. As stated before, many of these children need psychological help. By being able to discuss their trauma with professionals, they are able to process what happened to them and recover from the lasting effects. Other programs must emerge to make sure children do not even join said groups in the first place, educating them on what happens when they become child soldiers.

There are efforts already on the ground to help reduce child poverty in the Central African Republic. For example, War Child has been successful in helping former child soldiers of the Central African Republic, aiding around 7,947 children in 2018 alone. Another such organization is UNICEF, which has been reintegrating child soldiers for nearly 13 years after signing an agreement with the government as well as a rebel group known as Assembly of the Union of Democratic Forces. While there is a great deal that needs to happen, there is hope for the children of the Central African Republic who the armed conflicts of the region personally affect.

Malnutrition

 A significant problem amongst impoverished children in the Central African Republic is malnutrition. It is almost a residual effect of poverty itself and of the other problems that children face in the Central African Republic, mentioned above.

Around 38% of children in the Central African Republic are chronically malnourished and in need of serious care. This is parallel to the armed conflicts as well as the considerable rise in both food prices as well as shortages. In fact, around 45% of people in the country suffer from some level of food insecurity. These problems create a cycle where a lack of food resources for farming creates poverty and poverty itself creates more food shortages.

Luckily, many organizations, like the World Food Programme (WFP), are helping combat child malnutrition in the Central African Republic. WFP began the Central African Republic Interim Country Strategic Plan in 2018, a plan which aspires to help many children and at-risk families receive food daily. This can and will tremendously help combat the issue at hand and ensure that many children do not go hungry.

WFP’s efforts extend towards schools with its school feeding programs as well. These programs have both had positive effects on school attendance as well as the nutrition of many children. Malnutrition might be a definitive problem facing the Central African Republic, but much effort is going into making sure children receive the proper nutrients daily.

While the impoverished children in the Central African Republic seem to be in an incredibly tough spot physically, mentally and emotionally, there is a future for them. Many organizations have dedicated themselves to helping them. Moreover, the granting of awareness about child poverty in the Central African Republic should help prompt others into swift action.

Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Libya
Torn by civil war and violent conflict since 2011, Libya is a centerfold for poverty and mass hunger. Due to its geographical location and long history of favorable migrant-worker policies, hundreds of thousands of migrants flock to Libya every year. However, coupled with the country’s instability and the burden of over 600,000 refugees, Libya is reaching a tipping point.

Moreover, when it comes to dwindling food supplies and collapsing regional markets, hunger in Libya is becoming a more pressing issue with each passing day. So far, international organizations such as the World Food Programme are teaming up with local and regional nonprofits to provide meal kits to internally displaced families. While these efforts are noble, more work is necessary to resolve hunger in Libya.

Overview

Since 2014, children in Libya have lacked access to clean water and nutritious food. In fact, “21% of children aged less than five are stunted [in growth and development].” The situation is dire, as both institutional and external reforms are needed for any change to occur.

One of the main challenges for citizens and refugees in Libya in search of food is high prices and stagnant job markets. In fact, one of the most significant challenges for Libyan migrants relates to finding a way to make a living, followed by high food costs.

Furthermore, key EU countries, such as Italy, are criminalizing humanitarian assistance and food aid to refugees. This makes it incredibly difficult for nonprofits and local organizations to take care of fleeing migrants. As a result, they frequently have to return to Libya, which in turn increases the scarcity of food in Libya.

According to the Center for Global Development, “France and Italy have forbidden citizens from giving food, water, and shelter to refugees and migrants. Hungary passed the “Stop Soros” law, criminalizing individuals and NGOs helping migrants claim asylum. Anti-smuggling laws are also being used to prosecute individuals who provide aid close to the borders.”

Overcoming the Challenges of Hunger in Libya

Despite challenges presented to them, nonprofits and international organizations are taking gradual and significant action to reduce hunger in Libya. For instance, one prevalent challenge is the ever-changing environmental landscape and sporadic resource availability. Due to dramatic fluctuations in global markets, food has become more scarce. Since the Middle East and North African region is one of the world’s largest food suppliers, rising temperatures and diminishing ability to sell food amplify hunger, especially in Libya. In fact, countries like Libya are also the most stressed for water, making matters worse.

Moreover, growing conflict in the region is straining already fragile food supplies in Libya. As Libya engages in a series of ethnic, political and military conflicts, millions have descended into hunger to the point where some are considering it one of the top 18 countries struggling with hunger.

Furthermore, warring governmental and political forces are amplifying corruption and halting aid. Since the government relies upon oil for 95% of its funding, tanks in the oil markets for the past two years have devastated the national reserve. Moreover, in a country where militias are a priority, mass Libyan hunger is often a backburner issue.

Reforms for the Future

Although hunger in Libya is a prevalent issue, if international organizations and governments work together, they can make the situation less bleak. For example, inter-regional cooperation between neighboring local governments and regional organizations can maximize food availability.

The opening of trade routes in the region has had positive effects in the past. Take, for instance, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA), which has so far provided a solid framework for increases in agricultural markets and boosting food supplies. Moreover, internationally sponsored research and development into sustainable food systems could provide fruitful prospects, such as:

  1. Increase evidence of the nutritional value and biocultural importance of these [sustainable] foods.
  2. Better link research to policy to ensure these foods are considered in national food and nutrition security strategies and actions.
  3. Improve consumer awareness of these alternative foods’ desirability so that people may more easily incorporate them into diets, food systems and markets. This approach already underwent testing in seven countries and has already shown several positive effects, reducing hunger and increasing food quality.

If international organizations, local governments and development aides spearheaded such policies, hunger in Libya could reduce if not resolve. Hunger in Libya is a serious problem, one that affects hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Nevertheless, if the world bands together to fight against poverty and hunger, Libya could see beyond tomorrow.

– Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr