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Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

More than 40 percent of Sierra Leoneans experience food insecurity. This largely stems from the nation’s high poverty rate—53 percent of the population lives below the income poverty line—and the fact that 60 percent of the population performs low-paying subsistence agriculture work.

Efforts to address food insecurity in Sierra Leone, including those by the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Action Against Hunger, concentrate on combating these root causes and providing food to those in need.

Even though the food insecurity rate in Sierra Leone is still high, it has improved over the last several years, declining from 49.8 percent in 2015 and 43.7 percent in 2018. The percentage of households that are severely food insecure also decreased significantly, falling from 8.6 percent to 2.4 percent between 2015 and 2018. Still, approximately 3.2 million Sierra Leoneans continue to be food insecure and 170,000 are severely food insecure.

Furthermore, malnutrition in Sierra Leone is a persistent problem because of food insecurity. A 2018 survey found that 24 percent of households reported consuming food from less than three food groups in a week. This diet can have a dangerous impact, especially on children as malnutrition affects their physical health and making educational attainment more difficult.  Of note, 31.3 percent of children in Sierra Leone suffer from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition.

3 Organizations Combating Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

  1. The World Food Programme
    The World Food Programme (WFP), active in Sierra Leone since 1968, works to provide aid to those experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as addressing some of the causes of persistent food insecurity in Sierra Leone. Some of the organization’s main goals are ensuring access to food for all, achieving lower malnutrition rates and helping smallholder farmers become more financially prosperous. To accomplish these goals, the WFP provides food assistance to those affected by disasters and emergencies, provides cash assistance to the chronically food-insecure and trains smallholder farmers to strengthen their market access and profits.One of the WFP’s most impactful programs is its school feeding program, which was launched in 2018 in Pujehun and Kamiba, two districts experiencing some of the worst food insecurity in the nation. A significant side effect of food insecurity in Sierra Leone is low schooling rates, especially for girls. To reduce the number of children a family needs to feed, parents sometimes arrange child marriages for their daughters. This effectively ends their education because girls who are married are rarely able to continue going to school.Providing meals at school helps encourage families to continue sending their children to school and helps reduce the associated cost for the family. It also ensures vital nutrition and can help reduce malnutrition and its effects, including stunting of growth. The Pujehun District has a stunting rate of 38 percent, one of the highest in the country, which reflects a significant need for a program like this.The school meals are not meant to be a substitute for home-cooked food, but they help ensure that children do not go hungry during the day and provide a consistent source of essential nutrients. The school feeding program reached more than 29,000 children, including 14,000 girls, in its first year.
  2. Action Against Hunger 
    Action Against Hunger has been active in Sierra Leone since 1991. Their programming is focused on improving sanitation, hygiene and water access, as well as food security. To decrease food insecurity in Sierra Leone, Action Against Hunger grows leguminous plants and vegetables to help diversify food and income for farmers. They also develop savings and credit groups to increase financial opportunities for smallholder farmers.In 2018, Action Against Hunger helped a total of 215,433 people, 8,000 of which benefited from food security and livelihood programs. They also strengthened 32 health facilities and helped improve nutrition for mothers and children under 5.
  3. The International Fund for Agricultural Development
    In March 2019, the government of Sierra Leone and the U.N. reached a $72.6 million deal to improve food security and rural income in the nation. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing a $5.9 million loan, a $5.9 million grant and allocating an additional $40.8 million to use for the deal between 2019 and 2021. The additional funds are being provided by the government of Sierra Leone and the private sector. This project seeks to tackle poverty and food insecurity in Sierra Leone by strengthening agricultural systems and empowering farmers.  Women and youth are hoped to make up at least 40 percent of the project in an effort to promote gender equality and provide opportunities for young people.IFAD will invest in agricultural mechanization, water management and irrigation, as well as create field schools for farmers and provide them with opportunities for greater financial security. The goal is to increase production and expand markets to raise smallholder farmers’ incomes, thereby tackling one of the root causes of food insecurity in the nation.

Sara Olk
Photo: Wikipedia

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Djibouti
The life expectancy of a country deeply intertwines with various factors, such as economic status, living conditions and nutrition.  People living within these countries often find themselves short on food, stable living conditions and consistent employment which may lead to a higher mortality rate.  These 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti will show the myriad of factors playing into Djibouti’s low life expectancy, and how NGOs and Djibouti’s government are making a difference in the region.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Djibouti

  1. Djibouti’s life expectancy is 66.81 years as of 2019. Djibouti’s death rate is 7.5 deaths per 1,000 people while its birth rate is 23.3 births per 1,000. While Djibouti’s life expectancy is dramatically lower than the global average of 72 years, 66.81 years is a 0.4 percent improvement from 2018.
  2. Djibouti’s life expectancy ranks 191 out of 223 countries, putting it on the lower end of worldwide life expectancies. Diabetes may cause many deaths and general disabilities in Djibouti, which causes the most death and disability of any disease.  This goes hand in hand with malnutrition, which also causes the most death and disability in Djibouti combined.
  3. Djibouti receives 90 percent of its food as imports, which is because of the arid conditions in the region that makes successful agriculture difficult. This, in turn, causes food insecurity to be a major problem, as 62 percent of the rural population has inadequate access to nutritious food.  However, malnutrition rates have dropped from 18 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2016.
  4. Sixty-two percent of rural Djiboutians have insufficient access to healthy food.  In order to counteract this, the World Food Programme and the Government of Djibouti teamed up to create the Humanitarian Logistics Hub, a facility built to house large quantities of food and goods for the Horn of Africa region.  The Humanitarian Logistics Hub can store 25,000 metric tons of food, making access to nutritious food easier for the Horn of Africa region.
  5. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been a force for good in Djibouti. IFAD has spearheaded multiple projects devoted to the betterment of Djibouti. One of these projects is the Programme for the Mobilisation of Surface Water and Sustainable Land Management which began in 2007.  This project intended to develop the Djibouti Ministry of Agriculture and local communities’ abilities to manage natural resources in a more effective manner and give practiced guidelines that would help spread clean surface water to local communities as well as guidelines for sustainable land management. IFAD considered this project a success and ended in 2013.
  6. Djibouti’s GDP (which is $5,307 per capita) should increase by 7 percent in 2019 with much of the economic growth coming from transportation and logistics due to the Port of Djibouti’s importance in the region. None of the countries with a GDP per capita around $50,000 have a life expectancy below 74 years. Conversely, no country with a GDP per capita around $500 has a life expectancy above 64 years.
  7. Djibouti’s drinking water sources are among the most modernized and widespread of all the nations in the Horn of Africa with 97.4 percent of the urban population having access to improved water sources (i.e protected springs, rainwater collection, tap water, etc.) Only 64.7 percent of the rural population has access to these water sources, though, which is due to the droughts that have plagued the country since 2009. This has effectively eliminated surface water in some rural areas. There is hope, however, as the IFAD’s ongoing project, the Soil and Water Management Programme is working towards ensuring that rural households gain access to sustainable sources of water. It intends to add to the network of hydraulic structures that the previous program implemented.
  8. Only 51.8 percent of Djiboutians have access to electricity. Much of the urban population (67.4 percent) has access to electricity and a paltry two percent of rural areas have access to electricity. However, Djibouti does have options in the form of renewable energy, primary in the form of wind, geothermal and solar.  Djibouti’s rural areas having inadequate access to electricity is because of the uneven distribution of energy resources.  The country can rectify this with power grid integration, however.
  9. Most people living in Djibouti are between the ages of 0-14 (30.71 percent) and 25-54 (39.63 percent) with less than 5 percent making it to the 55-64 age range. As of 2017, Djibouti’s most frequent cause of death is HIV/AIDS followed by heart disease and lower respiratory infections.  As of 2016, Djibouti has a Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) of 35.0 which is a massive increase from the 24.3 HAQ in 2000.
  10. Only 47.4 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities while 52.6 percent of the Djiboutian population have unimproved sanitation facilities. Waterborne illnesses like hepatitis A, hepatitis E and typhoid fever thrive in areas of low sanitation, as they often spread when fecal matter and waste come into contact with drinking water. To combat this, USAID has enacted the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project that aims to educate the Djiboutian public on important hygiene practices, along with modernizing boreholes and ring-wells in more rural areas to prevent water contamination.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti show that while Djibouti has many issues contributing towards its abnormally low life expectancy, none of these issues are insurmountable.  What Djibouti lacks in resources it more than makes up for with its favorable geographic location that makes it a hub of local and international maritime trade.

An in-depth look at these 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti makes it plain as day that Djibouti can and will overcome the factors hindering the population’s low life expectancy.  Djibouti’s GDP increases every day thanks to its bustling port that provides jobs and goods; the Humanitarian Logistics Hub is a step in the right direction for Djiboutian nutrition and its water sources are second to none. Djibouti has shown that with a little help from NGOs and government agencies like the IFAD and USAID, it can become a thriving maritime hub where no man, woman or child goes hungry, thirsty or destitute.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Iran
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has prioritized the need to improve Iran’s health care system. Indeed, Article 29 of the IRI’s Constitution establishes every Iranian citizen’s right to high-quality health. The Ministry of Health and Medical Education is responsible for providing the health care necessary to achieve this goal. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran and the state of the country’s health care system.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iran

  1. Starting in the early 1980s, Iran successfully launched a reformed primary health care system or PHC. Because of Iran’s PHC programs, life expectancy in Iran has steadily risen from 55.7 years in 1976 to 75.5 years in 2015. Since the implementation of the PHC system, Iran has also experienced increased economic growth and literacy, and an improvement in safe water access and sanitation. The Community of Health Workers suggests that all of this may have contributed to Iran’s increased life expectancy.

  2. The aim of PHC was to provide all Iranians with health care by 2000. Especially in the beginning, PHC prioritized reducing health inequality between urban and rural populations by focusing attention on and resources to rural areas. Central to PHC was the establishment of health houses in rural areas. Behvarzes, local community members who had personal ties and commitments to the community, would run these houses.

  3. As of 2009, more than 90 percent of Iranians have some type of health insurance according to data cited by the Japan Medical Association Journal. Both the public and private sectors play a pivotal role in Iran’s health care system, which is a nation-wide network that includes local primary care centers in Iran’s provinces, secondary care hospitals in the provincial capitals and tertiary hospitals located in big cities. The public sector provides most of the primary care and some of the secondary and tertiary health services. Some public services, like prenatal care and vaccinations, are free. The private sector focuses on secondary and tertiary services. Additionally, NGOs play an active role in Iran’s health system, specifically concerning issues like children with cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and thalassemia.

  4. In addition to higher life expectancy, Iran has seen better health outcomes on several fronts. For one, the incidences of malaria-related deaths have decreased significantly from 15,378 cases in 2002 to 777 cases in 2015; 28 of these cases resulted in death. The reduction in malaria-related deaths is the result of interventions, such as the introduction of tap water and electricity into villages.

  5. To completely eradicate malaria, health officials should concentrate resources to prevent and treat the disease in the specific provinces where the disease is most prevalent. Policymakers should monitor borders to prevent the spread of malaria into Iran from outside the country. They should strengthen cooperation between institutions and improve the health systems’ ability to quickly identify epidemics.

  6. Between 1995 and 2011, Iran’s neonatal (NMR), infant (IMR) and under-5-year (U5MR) mortality rates in rural parts of the country decreased substantially. In particular, Iran’s NMR and IMR saw a statistically-significant decline as a result of a family physician program and rural insurance program. Implemented in 2005, Iran intended these programs to reform PHC, which did not cover access to specialists or private-sector physicians for rural populations. The family physician program and rural insurance program provided preventive and outpatient care to rural communities and made health care access more equitable between urban and rural areas. By providing greater access to important health services, these reforms improved many health indicators, such as child mortality. From 1995 to 2011, Iran’s NMR dropped from 17.84 to 10.56; the IMR decreased from 31.95 to 15.31; and Iran’s U5MR declined from 40.17  to 18.67.

  7. One of Iran’s significant health achievements is a dramatic increase in child immunization; indeed, providing vaccinations was one of the main activities of the community health workers under PHC. From 1990 to 2006, the percentage of one-year-olds immunized with three doses of DPT rose from 91 to 99 percent. Over that same period, one-year-olds immunized with three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine increased from 62 to 99 percent; similarly, one-year-olds immunized with MCV rose from 85 to 99 percent. This increase in immunization among children correlates with a sharp decline in Iran’s infant mortality rate.

  8. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of mortality in Iran and connect to more than 45 percent of deaths. The second most common cause of death in Iran is accidents at 18 percent. Cancer follows at 14 percent and then neonatal and respiratory diseases, each of which accounts for about 6 percent of deaths in the country. Many NGOs, like the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), are cooperating with the Iranian Ministry of Health to combat these frequent causes of mortality. For instance, at the beginning of 2019, the country launched a national campaign to fight cancer. This campaign seeks to bring hope to cancer patients and to raise awareness about the fact that cancer is treatable and often preventable. Officials note that behavioral and dietary risks can cause cancer.

  9. While Iran’s health care system has improved significantly, it still has room for growth. For instance, greater than half of the under-5 deaths in Iran are the result of preventable or easily-treatable diseases and illnesses, such as malnutrition, which affects some 45 percent of children under the 5-years-old in Iran. One NGO that is helping food-insecure refugees in Iran is the World Food Programme (WFP), which has had a presence in Iran since 1987. In January 2018, WFP implemented the Iran Country Strategic Plan (2018-2020), which provides a combination of cash and monthly distributions of wheat flour to refugees in need, especially the most vulnerable women-headed households. In January 2019 alone, WFP helped 29,736 people in Iran.

  10. Another NGO providing health services to Iranians in need is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which translates to Doctors Without Borders. MSF provides marginalized groups in south Tehran, such as drug users, sex workers, street children and the ghorbat ethnic minority, with free health care. MSF runs a clinic in the Darvazeh Ghar district, where they provide services including medical and mental health consultations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, ante- and postnatal care and family planning. In 2018, MSF provided 29,900 outpatient consultations.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran show, the health of the Iranian people and health care system of Iran have improved significantly in the past few decades, due largely to the reforms of PHC and the family physician program and rural insurance program. If the Iranian government continues its investment in these programs, there is a good reason to believe life expectancy in Iran will continue to rise in the coming years.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica
The island country of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, is making improvements in its public health care systems to increase life expectancy. Once ran by an unstable and politically corrupt government, Jamaica handed the keys to Sir Patrick Allen in 2016. Under a new regime, the government promises to take public health care more seriously. “The government is committed to working assiduously during the first year of administration to tackle these issues,” said Allen in an interview.

The administration is shifting its focus to partnership and community mobilization to protect the health of Jamaicans. The country has implemented a new 10-year plan focusing on expanding health care access through infrastructure development. The new motto of building a partnership for prosperity has influenced positive change, but many Jamaicans still struggle or are unable to attain proper health care. The expenses have put many families in a state of poverty. Rural areas will have unequal access to incoming health care benefits. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Jamaica

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaicans’ life expectancy rate from birth is currently 74.5 years, ranking the country 123rd in the world. Males live an average of 72.7 years while females live an average of 76.5 years. Overall, life expectancy has risen since the turn of the century. In 1960, the life expectancy rate from birth was only 64 years which means there was a 10-year increase as of 2019.
  2. Improvements in public health care and life expectancy have led to a decrease in infant mortality rates. In the year 2000, 14.6 infants died per 1,000 births. In 2019, 11.6 infants have died per 1,000 births. The decline is about three children in the last 19 years and is still decreasing.
  3. Enhancements in clean drinking water have also led to increased life expectancy in Jamaica. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, access to sanitary water has improved 97.5 percent for urban populations and 89.4 percent for rural populations. This leaves just 2.5 percent of the urban and 10.6 percent of the rural populations needing improvements in water.
  4. The HIV and AIDS epidemic has also seen a decrease in cases, leading to improved life expectancy. The virus has affected the entire Caribbean for many years, but health improvements lowered the number of cases each year. As of 2017, only 1.8 percent of the island of Jamaica has contracted the HIV virus with 1,500 deaths. This is a decrease from 56 percent in 2004.
  5. In 2016, Jamaica became the latest Caribbean country to have the Zika virus. Mosquito bites transmit the virus and it can pass from person to person through sex, blood transfusions or pregnancies. The government has lowered the number of cases as of 2019 but is also putting together a precautionary plan for citizens and travelers including what kind of repellents to use, places to avoid and how to protect children.
  6. Prosperity through partnership, mobilization and urbanization is the goal of the 2016 Jamaica government. Within two years, the government has brought urbanization to 55.7 percent, averaging a 0.82 percent rate of change each year. This is an encouraging number, but one that Sir Patrick Allen will look to increase in order to urbanize at a more rapid pace.
  7. Environmental issues within the country have halted some improvements. Hurricanes frequently hit the island, especially between July and December. Heavy rates of deforestation, water pollution by industrial waste, oil spills, land erosion, damage to coral reefs and air pollution are all pressing issues that influence mortality. The government has prioritized these issues through plans to expand partnerships with richer countries, hoping they will provide relief to damaged parts of Jamaica.
  8. Education has increased rapidly in Jamaica, providing children the opportunity to grow into productive members of society, which increases their life expectancy. More children are starting school between the ages of two and three. The country provides preschool, primary school and high school, and offers further educational choices. With improvements in education, the literacy rate of Jamaica has climbed to an astonishing 89 percent overall.
  9. The World Food Program has been working diligently in Jamaica to improve nourishment. Thanks to its efforts, obesity in the country dropped to under 20 percent in 2018. This is a significant improvement from the 5 percent decrease in 2016. Only 2.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  10. Sanitation facilities have seen a rapid improvement. In 79.9 percent of urban areas and 84.1 percent of rural areas, the country has made sanitation improvements to schools, hospitals, houses, parks and local bathrooms. A total of 18.2 percent of the area still needs improvement in those areas to aid life expectancy.

The upcoming years will continue to be of high importance for the new government, but Jamaica has much to celebrate. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica show that the country has made improvements to increase life expectancy. It still requires more work, especially as it continues to implement its 10-year program.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Pixabay

Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Venezuela
In January 2019, Nicolás Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election, bringing him into his second term as president. Citizens and the international community met the election results with protests and backlash, which has only added to the conflict in Venezuela. The National Assembly of Venezuela went so far as to refuse to acknowledge President Maduro as such. Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president almost immediately after the announcement of the election results, a declaration that U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders from more than 50 nations support. Russia and China, however, have remained in support of President Maduro.

During his first term as president and beginning in 2013, Maduro has allowed the downfall of the Venezuelan economy. His government, as well as his predecessor, Hugo Chávez’s government, face much of the anger regarding the current state of Venezuela. Continue reading to learn how the conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor in particular.

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

Maduro’s aim was to continue implementing Chávez’s policies with the goal of aiding the poor. However, with the price and foreign currency controls established, local businesses could not profit and many Venezuelans had to resort to the black market.

Hyperinflation has left prices doubling every two to three weeks on average as of late 2018. Venezuelan citizens from all socio-economic backgroundsbut particularly those from lower-income householdsare now finding it difficult to buy simple necessities like food and toiletries. In 2018, more than three million citizens fled Venezuela as a result of its economic status to go to fellow South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. However, nearly half a million Venezuelans combined also fled to the United States and Spain.

Venezuela is currently facing a humanitarian crisis that Maduro refuses to recognize. The opposition that is attempting to force Maduro out of power is simultaneously advocating for international aid. As a result, local charities attempting to provide for the poor are coming under fire from Maduro’s administration, as his government believes anything the opposition forces support is inherently anti-government.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, the Catholic Church runs a soup kitchen for impoverished citizens in need of food. It feeds up to 300 people per day, and while it used to provide full meals for the people, it must ration more strictly due to the economic turmoil. Today, the meals look more like a few scoops of rice with eggs and vegetables, and a bottle of milk. While the Church’s service is still incredibly beneficial, it is a stark contrast from the fuller meals it was able to provide just a few years prior.

The political and economic conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor citizens of the country in the sense Maduro’s administration is ostracizing local soup kitchens and charities. A broader problem facing the poor is that because Maduro refuses to address the humanitarian crisis, international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are unable to intervene and provide aid.

Project HOPE

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are making an effort to help Venezuelans suffering as a result of this crisis. One of the easiest ways they can be of service is by providing aid and relief to citizens who have fled to other countries. Project HOPE is an organization that currently has workers on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador to offer food, medical care and other aid to those escaping the conflict in Venezuela. Project HOPE is also supporting the health care system in Colombia in order to accommodate the displaced Venezuelans there.

The current conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor, but it is also affecting the entire structure of the nation. It is difficult to know what the outcome of this conflict will look like for Venezuelans and for the country as a whole. What is important now is to continue educating people about the ongoing crisis so that they can stay informed. Additionally, donating to Project HOPE and other NGOs working to provide aid to Venezuelans in neighboring countries would be of great help. With that, many Venezuelan citizens will know that people support them and are fighting to see progress.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho
For those living in the landlocked country of Lesotho, life is far shorter than it is in most of the world. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho that help reveal the reasons for its low life expectancy, as well as what the country has done and needs to do to improve the lives of those in Lesotho.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS: By far the most important of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that it has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. Health services are difficult to access and poor quality once received, contributing to an increase in the disease. Sentebale, a nonprofit created by Prince Harry, works in Lesotho to provide holistic care for children with HIV and those who have been orphaned as a result.
  2. Unemployment: Landlocked in Southern Africa, Lesotho has always depended on neighbors for employment. A majority of the working population traveled to South African mines for work, but recent retrenchment has left 24 to 28 percent of people jobless and without income. There have been few domestic opportunities to offset this deficit and improvement in Lesotho’s private sector will be crucial to creating much needed local jobs.
  3. Low Agricultural Output: Only a small portion of Lesotho’s land is arable enough for steady crop growth. This combined with recent droughts has created intense food scarcity. Some progress is happening as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation has created several Nutrition Corners that help parents find nutritious food for their children’s development, despite limited quantities. The World Food Programme has also planned to distribute food to 103,000 beneficiaries and additional food to nearly 5,000 children by 2024. This should greatly improve life expectancy by providing for the most basic of needs.
  4. Natural Disasters: The effects of climate change are evident in the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho as the country continues to experience floods, droughts and other intense weather. This jeopardizes Lesotho’s material security, further disrupting the Basotho people’s lives. In response, the United Nations Development Programme has designed several projects to restore degraded landscapes and enhance climate resilience.
  5. Gender Roles: The HIV/AIDS crisis disproportionately affects women in Lesotho because they often must take in sick relatives or community members on top of performing existing domestic responsibilities. This amount of pressure forces women to pursue risky work such as prostitution or human trafficking. These jobs often damage women’s wellbeing and make it hard for them to live long and healthy lives.
  6. Few Social Services: One of the most interesting 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that Lesotho has a relatively large population of elderly citizens despite the HIV/AIDS crisis. The country created its Old Age Pension to provide each citizen over 70 years old with roughly $40 per month. While the social service has had a tremendous impact by making elderly people stable caregivers for their families, including orphaned grandchildren, it is one of the only social services in Lesotho. More programs of this caliber would drastically improve the total health of the population and thus increase Lesotho’s life expectancy as well.
  7. Improving Education: Education has been a consistent priority for Lesotho, and one that has yielded substantial results. After implementing free primary education, enrollment among children increased from 65 percent to 85 percent in three years. The next goal for Lesotho is to decrease the price of secondary school, as many children cannot currently afford to enroll. The best chance for the Basotho people to raise their life expectancy is to become educated, empowered and informed people.
  8. Water and Sanitation: Several people in Lesotho (18.2 percent) do not have access to dependably clean water despite several dams present. The water is instead transported to South Africa for profit which leaves local people thirsty. Organizations such as The Water Project are building wells, water catchments and other water solutions for the people of Lesotho.
  9. Few Accessible Doctors: Lesotho has one doctor per 20,000 people, compared to the one per 400 in the United States. This makes health care inaccessible and costly for most of Lesotho. Lesotho recently added a residency program in family medicine, which will hopefully increase the retention rate of doctors and create a reasonable ratio of doctors to patients.
  10. Infant, Child and Mother Mortality Rates: An important cause of the reduced life expectancy in Lesotho is an infant mortality rate of 44.6 deaths per 1,000 births and a maternal mortality rate of 487 deaths per 100,000 births. This is largely due to preterm birth complications that come from the frequently poor living conditions of mothers. Both infant and maternal health outcomes are looking much better after Lesotho’s hospitals introduced free deliveries, providing a safe place for mothers to deliver cost-free.

Lesotho is attempting to make the lives of the Basotho people better. Free primary education, enhanced feeding programs and efforts at improving the health sector bring new hope and promise for the country. Though Lesotho needs to do more to fully help its people, its people’s lives are slowly growing longer and their quality of life should continuously improve.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in North Korea

Currently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.

Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.

Food Shortages in North Korea

Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.

At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.

North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.

South Korea’s Food Donation

On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.

Looking Forward

Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Rwanda
As of early 2019, estimates determine that Rwanda is host to approximately 150,000 refugees. To support this number, Rwanda maintains six refugee camps and four transit/reception centers, in addition to supporting refugee integration into urban areas. Rwanda is remarkable for its inclusive approach to refugees, most of whom are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national government, UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Government of Japan and other international, national and local organizations are all working to improve opportunities and livelihoods for refugees in Rwanda.

Approximately 79 percent of refugees in Rwanda live in the refugee camps, with the remainder — about 13,000 — living in urban centers. Rwanda gives refugees the right to do business and access health services, insurance, banking and education to promote integration. As of 2017, Rwanda had integrated more than 19,000 refugee students from Burundi into its national school system.

According to UNHCR, enabling the self-reliance of refugees is an essential part of its mission. UNHCR creates and supports initiatives that allow refugees to contribute to the economic development of their host country.

Ali Abdi has lived in Rwanda for 20 years after fleeing Somalia. After applying for a business card, he now runs a small convenience store and lives with his Rwandan wife. Ali described Rwanda as “a peaceful country” where “people do not discriminate.” He is thankful for his ability to be independent.

Supporting Refugee Entrepreneurs

In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, many refugees like Ali are finding success in entrepreneurship. UNHCR labels Kigali as a “City of Light” for its accepting and supportive attitude toward refugees. The Government of Rwanda is actively working to promote the integration of refugees into the city with targeted assistance.

For refugees aspiring to own their own business, Inkomoko is a local business consulting firm that trains and supports refugees with UNHCR’s support. Beginning in 2016, Inkomoko’s refugee program has worked with 3,300 refugees, resulting in the creation of 2,600 new jobs across the country, a significant boost to the economy. The director of Inkomoko’s refugee program, Lydia Irambona, stated, “Our main goal is to help them increase their revenue, get more customers and understand how to do business here.”

Annick Iriwacu, a Burundian refugee, went to Inkomoko after a referral from her cousin. She has since opened a successful business selling liquid petroleum gas. The business has grown enough for her to now have five employees. She stated, “They gave me the strength and hope to continue, because I was giving up.”

Financial Support for Refugee Camps

While refugees in Rwanda’s refugee camps have fewer opportunities for economic independence and contribution, supporting and protecting them is still crucial. In June 2019, the Government of Japan donated $270,000 to UNHCR Rwanda to cover the needs of 58,552 Burundian refugees in Mahama, the largest refugee camp in the country. This is one of many donations, as the Government of Japan has supported Rwanda for six years and provided a total of approximately $7 million to the UNHCR to support Rwandan refugees.

UNHCR intends to use the 2019 money to maintain and improve refugees’ access to legal assistance and protection against violence, as well as health care services. Refugee camps in Rwanda provide primary health care and send refugees to local health facilities if they require secondary or tertiary care, which can be costly.

Supporting Refugee Farmers

Many refugees living in Rwandan camps want to become more economically independent, however. While the refugee camps provide displaced people with access to basic education and health facilities, many refugees have found that working allows them to take further advantage of what Rwanda can offer them and their families.

The IKEA Foundation, UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the Government of Rwanda and the Food and Agriculture Organization have all provided funding. These organizations are working together to improve the livelihoods of both refugees and local Rwandan farmers.

In the Misizi marshland, 1,427 Rwandans and Congolese refugee farmers are working together for agricultural success. The project is also generating social cohesion, as the Rwandan and refugee farmers are learning to work together and recognize the benefits of cooperation. As of early 2019, these farmers had produced more than 101 tonnes of maize, the profits of which enabled them to feed their families.

Rwanda’s Example

Rwanda intends to continue its inclusive approach to refugees them become successful and independent whether they live in camps or cities. Refugees have found success in Rwanda because its government and international partners are working hard on their behalf.

While there is still more work to do to ensure that refugees in camps have access to work opportunities and that refugees in cities receive support in achieving economic independence, the nation serves as an example of how to successfully help refugees begin new lives and contribute to a country’s economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in Angola

Located in Southern Africa at the border of the South Atlantic Ocean, Angola is a country that, despite its extensive oil and diamond reserves, struggles with severe poverty and hunger. Angola‘s violent 27-year civil war came to an end in 2002, and since then the government has been hard at work with multiple NGOs and citizen-led efforts to improve the nation’s economy and access the land’s remarkable agricultural potential. In doing so, the human development of Angola has been continuing at a consistent and assured pace. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Angola.

10 Facts About Hunger in Angola

  1. With a score of 29.5 on the 2018 Global Hunger Index, Angola ranks 95 out of 119 countries, placing it in the serious level of risk category. This means the state of Angola has an inadequate food supply and a high rate of child mortality and undernutrition. While this rating may appear bleak, hunger in Angola has decreased dramatically since the year 2000, when the country received a hunger score of 65.6.
  2. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has shifted in focus from emergency assistance towards long-term agricultural development and policy creation. This includes the Poverty Reduction Strategy, a policy framework dedicated to consolidating peace through the improvement of living conditions for vulnerable people. This shift is evidence of the country’s improvement in addressing the hunger of its inhabitants. Now that the organization may focus on engendering an environment with policy creation and education, Angola can have a future of economic health and food security.
  3. Along with the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the FAO is currently working to provide technical support, food security, agricultural productivity and farming education. The organization is also applying a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan to minimize the effects of climatic shock and climate change on the state’s many rural communities by increasing the government capacity to implement disaster risk reduction and management, facilitate the coordination of stakeholders to implement reduction and management and educate farmers and workers on the use of technologies and practices on reduction and management.
  4. The symptoms of hunger in Angola have been on a downward trend in the recent decade, with the rates of child mortality, child wasting, child stunting and undernourishment all decreasing steadily. For child stunting, the percentage of children under five with stunted growth has decreased from 55 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2017. The many agricultural and political efforts in Angola to create profitable farms for rural communities and progressive policy creation emphasizing poverty reduction and food security have caused this decline.
  5. While the availability and use of basic sanitation services have been increasing at a constant rate, the percentage of the population with access to safe drinking water has remained stagnant at around 49 percent. Access to clean water is one of the most important conditions for achieving hunger relief due to its necessity in healthy nutrition and impact on health, disease prevention and cleanliness.
  6. In partnership with AGRINATURA, a group of European research organizations and universities that have been in operation for 30 years, the FAO has been creating multiple objectives to aid the issue of hunger. These include seeds cooperatives to commercialize seeds from 200 smallholder farmers; rice development, which aims to prepare and commercialize rice production; and rural entrepreneurship, which intends to provide business opportunities to agricultural entrepreneurs in Angola.
  7. The World Food Programme has been working with Angola to aid the hunger of more than 70,000 refugees, many of whom are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It provides full-ration food assistance and specialized nutritious foods for young children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. It also offers air transportation to and from remote areas of the country.
  8. AGRINATURA has also been working with Angolan farmers to tap the potential of agricultural coffee production. Angola was once a prominent coffee producer until the Angolan civil war. Since then, coffee production decreased dramatically. Increased production of the cash crop will aid the country’s economy and, as a result, help reduce the poverty and hunger of the Angolan people.
  9. Though Angola has remarkable potential for agricultural development, the country’s agricultural GDP is only 10 percent of the national GDP. The government of Angola is currently prioritizing its agricultural sector with financial investments so that it can make use of the untapped potential and help Angolan citizens and refugees.
  10. Ending the 10 facts about hunger in Angola is The Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, an organization seeking the creation of longterm food, agricultural and natural resources policies. It is currently working in Angola with the United Nations, Angola’s government and private sector to promote poverty-reductionist agricultural policy, increase food security and promote sustainable agricultural development.

While Angola currently ranks in the bottom quarter of countries on the Global Hunger Index, these 10 facts about hunger in Angola and the country’s downward trend in poverty and hunger is incredibly assuring. With the continued work by the government, NGO’s and citizen-led efforts to create poverty-reductionist policy, move agricultural development forward and increase food security, hunger in Angola should continue to decline, and the nation should continue its path into becoming prosperous and secure.

– Jordan AbuAljazer
Photo: Flickr