Economic sanctions aim to inflict economic harm on a targeted country, select industries within it or organizations or specific individuals with the intended goal of changing that entity’s malign behavior. For one to deem a sanction regime effective, it must inflict economic harm and subsequently change the targeted state’s behavior. As a result, sanctions can increase poverty and cause harm to citizens of the countries that suffer them.

Economic sanctions have proven effective at inflicting economic harm, however, many often overlook that sanctions not only harm the targeted state and its people but also impact the state that implements them. Sanctions reduce the revenues of U.S. companies and individuals, costing billions of dollars in forfeited opportunities or sales and thousands of jobs.

However, countries do not often implement sanctions for punishment’s sake, but rather to change the atrocious behavior of other governmental actors. However, the record shows sanctions rarely get their desired outcome and often hurt the most vulnerable parts of a civilian population. For example, sanctions imposed on Haiti led to an expensive and dangerous mass exodus to the U.S. and the military sanctions on Pakistan led their government to pursue a nuclear option because they no longer had access to U.S. weapons. The U.N. imposed sanction regime in the 1990s on Iraq is illustrative of how sanctions rarely attain their goal and primarily harm the civilian population.

UN Sanction Regime in Iraq

The U.N. implemented comprehensive sanctions on Iraq on August 6, 1990, in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait just four days earlier. The sanctions blocked all imports and exports into Iraq seeking to pressure Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and abandon his pursuit of WMDs. After seven months of comprehensive sanctions, Hussein continued the invasion until January 16, 1991, when the U.S. declared Operation Desert Storm. The U.N. coalition forces drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 100 hours.

The economic sanctions evidently inflicted economic harm on Iraq, with the worst effects befalling the most vulnerable parts of the population. In 1993, just three years into the comprehensive sanction regime, the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that the sanctions had made severe hunger and malnutrition commonplace for most of the Iraqi population. As per WFP and FAO reported, those severe hunger and malnourishment impacted were vulnerable groups including children under 5 years old, expectant or nursing women, widows, orphans, the ill, the elderly and the disabled.

It was the military force that compelled Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, not sanctions. The Iraqi leadership had proven itself able to outmaneuver the impacts of economic sanctions. Hence Iraq’s ability to sustain a ground invasion, under intense sanctions, for seven months after just fighting a war with Iran. The sanctions did not attain their goals as Saddam Hussein remained in power after the negotiated cease-fire, an agreement he largely ignored. By 1997, 31% of Iraqi children under 5-years-old suffered from chronic malnutrition as a result of the sanctions implemented in 1990. This clearly shows how sanctions can increase poverty in the countries that experience them.

Sanctions: A Poverty-National Security Connection

An overreliance on part of the U.S. on using sanctions has eroded U.S. national security and global security in a couple of ways. Anti-democratic regimes, such as Kim Jong-un’s or the former Saddam Hussein regime, frequently scoff at the threat of sanctions because the leadership of these countries is aware they will likely be able to mitigate the effects of sanctions on themselves.

Additionally, sanctions can have the effect of driving civilian populations to be increasingly dependent on their sanctioned government. Sanctions cause scarcity and the sanctioned government is the least vulnerable to resource scarcity. Scarcity enables the sanctioned government to wrest greater control over the distribution of goods, reinforcing the targeted government’s power over its people. In short, comprehensive sanctions can increase poverty and consequently make those that poverty hit the hardest even more dependent on their malign targeted governments.

The U.S. overreliance on sanctions also threatens the superiority of the U.S. dollar. The U.S. derives a great deal of its national security from the dominance of the dollar. The overuse of sanctions leads countries to reevaluate their dependence on the dollar. As Benn Steil noted a director of international economics at the Council on Foreign relations, when one uses this tool too frequently, it becomes increasingly cost-effective for other countries to evaluate alternatives to the U.S. dollar. The unrestrained usage of sanctions increases global poverty and compromises the U.S.’ national security.

Good News: Shifting Stance on Sanctions

There has been a promising shift in the public’s perception of sanctions. In February 2022, the U.N. held a meeting on sanctions, specifically, on how to prevent their unintended consequences. Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief delivered a few salient suggestions for sanctions going forward. To ensure that sanctions do not punish civilians for the crimes of their governments, Griffiths suggested to the U.N. Security Council that before countries implement sanctions, they include humanitarian carve-outs in their plan for sanctions. This recommendation would ensure that instead of initiating humanitarian carve-outs after the realization of the obstruction of humanitarian goods, countries can avoid this obstruction by accounting for it before implementing sanctions.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

American Foreign Policy in Venezuela
Following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialist Party was selected as president of Venezuela and the country has been under his authoritarian rule ever since. Economic crises and major human rights violations have flourished in Venezuela, calling the attention of international human rights organizations and U.S. officials. This crisis has only intensified the maltreatment of poverty-ridden Venezuelans resulting in the influence of American foreign policy in Venezuela.

Human Right Violations in Venezuela and resulting effects on Poverty

The Venezuelan government’s reluctance to listen to its citizens – particularly low-income workers – has led to the growth of poverty and poor living conditions throughout the nation. According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018, Venezuelan workers have been gathering in “sporadic and often spontaneous small-scale protests” throughout 2018 to demand basic needs such as water and electricity. The Venezuelan government used arbitrary detention and strict police tactics to halt protests in 2017. The government repression and suspension of the freedom to peacefully assemble has stalled the granting of aid to those suffering in these poor conditions.

The economic crisis has further exacerbated the maltreatment of Venezuelan workers. In fact, during January 2018, workers in several sectors – such as health, petroleum, transportation, and electricity – held protests and strikes in order to denounce hunger salaries, which are wages insufficient to afford a basic food basket and unable to keep up with the rate of hyperinflation. In response, President Maduro raised the national minimum wage to 1,800 Bolivares Soberanes ($11). However, union leaders from the petroleum, health, telecommunications and electricity sectors stated that this decree did not include wage adjustments. Therefore, people would still not be able to afford a basic food basket.

Basic human rights in Venezuela, such as water, electricity and especially food, have become contingent on political loyalty. In fact, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 states that President Maduro has “[conditioned] the receipt of food assistance on support for his government and increasing military control over the economy.” Food shortages have become a severe problem among the poor in Venezuela. A study showed that 64.3 percent of Venezuelans stated that they lost weight in 2017, with the poorest people losing the most. In fact, this study also found that nine out of 10 Venezuelans could not afford daily food.

“Its just government incompetence,” William Meyer, a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, said. “They can’t even run the country officially anymore. They can’t even provide basic services like electricity anymore, the government is so corrupt and chaotic and inept.”

American Foreign Policy Intervention in Venezuela

The U.S. government has already established new rules through foreign policy in an attempt to oppose Venezuela’s authoritarian government. Along with Canada, the European Union and Panama, the United States imposed targeted sanctions on more than 50 Venezuelan officials in response to their implications with human rights abuses and corruptions. Additionally, in 2017, the United States imposed financial sanctions that banned dealings on new stocks and bonds issued by the Venezuelan government and its state oil company.

However, these new changes to American foreign policy in Venezuela may have a negative effect on its people. This is in the hope that the changes will produce long term benefits.

“Unfortunately, all economics sanctions are going to make things worse for all the average people,” Meyer said. “The hope is that economic sanctions will undermine the regime and somehow Maduro will leave and be removed from power.”

Meyer makes it clear that Venezuela has extremely limited options for American foreign policy and that intervening through other options, such as military intervention, would be a drastic mistake.

“[Humanitarian aid] is about the best that we can hope for right now,” Meyer said.

The United States has donated a sum of humanitarian aid towards the Venezuelan Crisis, as USAID reports having provided $152,394,006 in humanitarian funding. This includes a $40.8 million State/PRM contribution to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support regional relief efforts. Additionally, USAID funded another $15 million for the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in order to support Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.

Additionally, there are charities and organizations throughout the U.S. that are donating aid towards the crisis in Venezuela to ease the effect of poverty. One of those organizations is the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation, which has already shipped over 63,000 lbs of life-saving supplies to Venezuela.

The poverty that plagues Venezuela is dependent solely upon the wrongdoings of its authoritarian dictator. While U.S. foreign policymakers have limitations when it comes to fixing Venezuela’s deep economic and political crisis, it is clear that Venezuela’s impoverished need long-term humanitarian aid. However, it is clear that much of the aid and assistance that goes towards Venezuela is dependent on the donations and assistance of individuals rather than the government. Due to efforts and donations of volunteers, the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation was able to quadruple its impact in its second year of operation, sending 60,000 Ibs of shipments to Venezuela.

Healing Venezuela

Healing Venezuela is another charity that helps the country by sending management programs, medical supplies, support and staff to Venezuela. Once again, due to the donations of donors, Healing Venezuela was able to send 7 tonnes of medical supplies, install a water treatment plant, sponsor HIV and provide cancer tests for over 150 low-income patients.

Many human rights violations are occurring in Venezuela under the unchecked dictatorship of Nicholas Maduro, such as the lack of access to free speech, food, water and electricity. American foreign policy in Venezuela can only go so far when it comes to fixing the problem. However, the generous donations and work of successful charities, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela and Healing Venezuela, are helping to relieve the many issues that plague Venezuela.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Hunger has been defined in many different ways. Richard D. Mattes and Mark I. Friedman define hunger as “a physiological or metabolic state that results from a lack of energy or nutrients.” The two researchers detail the physical responses that occur within our bodies when proper nutrition isn’t provided in their 1993 paper, “Hunger.”

According to the Economic Development Association, nearly one billion people currently suffer from hunger worldwide. Although this number is appalling, efforts are being made around the world to decrease global hunger. The World Food Program (WFP) is a leading humanitarian organization that has aided in providing food to roughly 100 million people in more than 70 countries annually. It abides by two key missions: providing humanitarian relief and achieving developmental goals.

Its highest financial contribution comes from Switzerland’s humanitarian assistance program. Switzerland has committed to ending global hunger under the Food Aid Convention, its objective being to “improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries.” In its involvement with the WFP operations, Switzerland considers the following conditions:

  • Care requirements and financial urgency
  • Potential collaborations with other Swiss programs
  • Presence of a Swiss cooperation office on-site

Switzerland finances experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to plan programs to alleviate hunger in affected countries. Trained specialists manage everything from emergency care to cash and voucher programs.  The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation states that there is a condition for providing this assistance: “it is essential to ensure that international humanitarian law and international humanitarian standards and principles are respected.”

Switzerland is devoted to the sustainable use of natural resources in its war against global hunger. This includes better access to loans, drought-resistant seeds and local food markets in the most deprived countries. Switzerland has supported a variety of causes, from the construction of wastewater purification systems and drinking water plants in Macedonia to the Small Enterprises Assistance Fund, a venture capital fund for small and medium-sized enterprises. During its 27 years of support, the fund’s mission has been to improve the lives of those who greatly require it.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: CIA World Factbook

Niger Refugees
The Republic of Niger is a landlocked country located in Western Africa, southeast of the country of Algeria. Since gaining its independence from France in 1960, Niger has been politically unstable due to constant military coups and rebellions. As of 2015, the population of Niger is estimated to be around 18,045,729 with roughly 266,476 of the people labeled as refugees. Below are 10 facts about Niger refugees:

10 Facts about Niger Refugees

  1. Though Nigerian refugees consist mainly of individuals from neighboring countries, the majority of these refugees come from Mali and Nigeria. Since July 2016, about 134,336 individuals from Mali and 73,078 from Nigeria comprise the refugee population.
  2. Nigeriens can become refugees within their own country. Recent activity from Boko Haram insurgents drove an estimated 50,000 Nigerien citizens from their hometown in Bosso.
  3. The largest concentration of refugees in Niger lives in the Diffa region.
  4. According to, less than 5% of Nigerien refugees live in camps. Many of these refugees live with either host families or in dilapidated lodgings.
  5. Human traffickers are a threat to Niger refugees. In June 2016, 34 people were found dead. Their bodies were left abandoned in the Niger Desert by smugglers. Of those 34 corpses, 20 were children.
  6. Chronic issues facing refugees are a lack of water, food, shelters, education, health nutrition and sanitation.
  7. Refugees from Mali continue to grow in Niger despite the peace treaty signed by the Malian government, a Tuareg-led rebel group and a loyalist militia.
  8. The climate of Niger is particularly harsh for refugees. Many areas that contain refugees are described as semi-desert climates which make food production difficult and water scarce.
  9. Violence towards refugees is common within the country. The government stated that criminal incidents in areas such as Diffa have deteriorated the security of villages and refugee shelters. These criminal incidents are characterized as suicide and terrorist attacks.
  10. The European Commission is the largest organization providing aid to Niger refugees. Between 2015 and 2016, the EU gave a total of 87,000,000 euros or $97,840,369 in emergency aid to Niger.

Though Niger refugees are experiencing significant hardships, there are plenty of organizations that provide significant aid to the country. For instance, the EU partnered with the U.N. Refugee Agency, the International Rescue Committee, the World Food Program, Save the Children and other relief agencies to provide aid and emergency services to the citizens and those in need. These services include access to health care, access to clean drinking water and nutritional care.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

World hunger facts

Sixteen years ago, the world decided it was time to formally prioritize ending world hunger. The United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goal One (MDG1) was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. MDG1, Target 1.C, was to “halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.”

The U.N.’s target was largely met: the proportion of undernourished people in the world’s developing regions has fallen by almost half since 1990. But, there are still 795 million people hungry in the world and more than 90 million children under age five are underweight and malnourished. World hunger facts offer us insight into why this is still a problem in the world today.

According to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), there are two faces to world hunger and 10 crucial facts to understand. The two sides to world hunger are crises and chronic malnutrition. Emergencies such as wars and natural disasters “account for less than eight percent of hunger’s victims.”

Chronic hunger can continue with no end in sight with people living on less than the recommended 2,100 kilocalories daily intake of food. This chronic hunger accounts for mental disadvantages in adults, stunted growth in children and weakened immune systems.

10 World Hunger Facts from the U.N. World Food Programme

  1. Approximately one in nine or 795 million people worldwide do not receive enough food to lead a healthy, active life.
  2. Most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries: 12.9% of the inhabitants of these areas do not have enough food.
  3. Asia is the continent with the largest number of hungry people, making up two-thirds of the total number of malnourished peoples.
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa has one in four people undernourished; it is the region with the highest percentage of its population going hungry.
  5. Malnutrition causes 45% of the deaths of children under five. This accounts for 3.1 million deaths of children each year.
  6. In developing countries, one in six children is underweight.
  7. Stunting affects one in four of the world’s children and one in three children in developing countries.
  8. The number of malnourished could be reduced by 150 million if female farmers had the same access to resources as their male counterparts do.
  9. In the developing world, 66 million primary children attend classes hungry, 23 million of those in Africa.
  10.  WFP believes that the 66 million school-aged children could be fed with $3.2 billion per year.

Just as there are more than 10 world hunger facts, so too are there many organizations working to combat world hunger. One group that is helping to end world hunger is The World Bank. The group has been working with other international groups by “investing in agriculture, creating jobs, expanding social safety nets, expanding nutrition programs that target children under two years of age, universalizing education, promoting gender equality and protecting vulnerable countries during crises.”

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

On April 25, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake with several devastating aftershocks over the next month. The damage destroyed the central part of the country, killing over 8,000 people and leaving thousands of others homeless without proper access to water and food.

Before the earthquake, Nepal already had some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Of the children under five, 41 percent have stunted growth, 29 percent are underweight and 11 percent are considered wasted. The nutrient deficiencies are high in expectant mothers as well, which puts babies at a disadvantage before they are even born.

The malnutrition rate in Nepal can be attributed to agricultural problems. The crop production is poor, infrastructure is in deteriorating conditions (making it hard to transport food and aid to areas in need), and climate changes affect the harvest. The recent earthquake has only propagated the lack of agricultural security in Nepal. Landslides have blocked roads and rivers. Flooding is a major concern. Cracks and rubble make it difficult to navigate through cities. All of this accumulates to slow down aid and food supplies reaching people.

While Nepal has been making some progress with the issue of malnutrition, the recent earthquake threatens the past positive movements forward. Currently, about 70,000 children are at risk for malnutrition. In total there are over 1.7 million children in need of aid after the earthquake. In the worst hit areas, like Sinhapalchok and Kathmandu, children live in such dire conditions that they need therapeutic foods–one being a peanut-like paste with high energy and lipid content.

UNICEF is working to combat the downturn in malnutrition rates caused by the earthquake. They are providing therapeutic foods to children in need, screening children to determine who is at risk, providing vaccines and clean water, and handing out supplements. UNICEF is working with national and international aid donors as well as the Nepalese government to reach those who need the most help most. So far, the World Food Program has been able to feed 1.8 million people in difficult to reach places in Nepal.

Aid groups are working double time to decrease the malnutrition rate. The focus is on protecting the children, as they are the most vulnerable during calamitous times. There is still hope that Nepal can begin to see the positive steps forward that had been made before the devastating earthquake and tremors hit, and attempts to re-gain its momentum in combating malnutrition.

-Katherine Hewitt

Sources: UNICEF, BBC, World Food Program
Photo: Expo

malnutrition_in_liberiaEven though the civil war in Liberia ended in 2003, the effects of that war still affect their infrastructure today. One of the most concerning side effects is malnutrition, as a study from 2012 recorded that 35.8 percent of Liberia’s citizens fell under the category of malnourished. A large number of those citizens are just children. The U.N.’s World Food Program reported in 2010 that 41.8 percent of children under the age of five years old were considered stunted due to malnourishment.

“Stunted” can mean a variety of health problems: hindered growth, a weak immune system, a smaller IQ, blindness, brain damage and eventually death. Not only does Liberia lack the proper means and knowledge to nourish their bodies, they also struggle with gaining access to clean, safe drinking water. When faced with unclean water and other unhygienic practices, children can easily develop diarrhea which makes nourishment an even harder goal to reach.

Another contributing factor to malnutrition in Liberia is teenage pregnancy. They have one of the highest teenage birth rates in the entire world. Thirty-eight percent of girls are pregnant or mothers by age 18. This high birth rate can be attributed to the poverty Liberia faces, which in turn affects their education and resources.  Fifteen percent of these mothers are malnourished themselves, impacting a child before he or she is even born.

Organizations are attempting to fix this issue by teaching Liberians about contraception, hygiene, agriculture and the importance of breastfeeding. There is a trend where young mothers in Liberia do not wish to breastfeed for cosmetic reasons. Other charities are providing milk, folic acid and other medical treatment to Liberian’s malnourished, particularly the babies. Once a baby starts to become stunted due to malnourishment, it is difficult to reverse the process.

Those providing aid to Liberians hope to stop this epidemic. While there are many other issues resulting from the poverty in Liberia, malnutrition is dramatically altering and even ending lives. With some small changes to their nourishment practices, a large percentage of lives can be saved.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Action Against Hunger, AllAfrica, Child Fund International, UNICEF
Photo: Press TV