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Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan
Hardship and struggles have been reoccurring for Afghanistan and its residents for several years. Afghanistan’s civil war broke the country, but it has been attempting to rebuild. Afghans have been working to begin their lives again and be able to provide for their families. Luckily, there is some humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan helping the country get back on its feet.

Issues and Conflicts

At the close of March, the United States announced an additional $61 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. This assistance will work to provide for communities that have been affected the most, such as displaced persons, returning refugees and Afghan refugees located in the region. Afghans initially fled their country because of the ongoing conflict and the very frequent natural disasters. Natural disasters include landslides, flash-floods and avalanches. Afghanistan has been dealing with these humanitarian issues and natural disasters for at least 17 years. The $61 million in humanitarian aid assistance will fund emergency food assistance, nutrition services, hygiene kits, safe drinking water, access to latrines and protection.

In 2001, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began working on the stability operations project, which others know as the nation-building project. No matter the name, the goals were the same. USAID was to bring peace and stability to conflicted areas of the country, repair institutions and infrastructure, establish functioning government services and build the country to endure long-term success. For the first year of the nation-building project, the lack of security, fragility of government institutions and lack of agreement caused progress to be slow and complex. In 2002, progress took a turn for the better. USAID’s humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan included work towards the country’s poor infrastructure, lost generations, refugees, Afghanistan’s limited government and its low literacy rates.

The Progress

USAID’s progress in Afghanistan is what follows:

1. Afghanistan children are in school today. Millions of children are receiving an education, including girls.

2. The country has expanded primary health care. This has resulted in reduced maternal and under-five infant mortality rates.

3. Life expectancy has improved. Life expectancy has risen from 41 years of age to 61 years of age.

4. USAID is helping the country build new infrastructure including highways, secondary roads, irrigation systems, schools and clinics.

5. USAID is also helping provide the country with electricity. Initially, only five percent of the country had electricity. Now, 33 percent of the country has electricity.

6. The country now has a functioning government. Amidst all of the progress USAID and Afghans are making in Afghanistan, USAID launched the first stabilization program in 2002. The point of this program was to “support the U.S. military’s “clear, hold and build” approach to counterinsurgency in areas designated key terrain districts.” What was initially supposed to be long-term programming to aid Afghans and Afghanistan turned into quick-response, quick-impacted programs.

The Programs

USAID’s four implemented programs are as follows:

1. Stabilization in Key Areas: USAID designed this program to promote good governance and service delivery. The projected outcomes of this program include the construction of infrastructure projects and making sub-national governments more efficient.

2. Afghanistan Vouchers to Increase Production: This program includes a focus on agriculture in Afghanistan. USAID created the program in order to increase the incomes of Afghan farmers and expand their opportunities. As of 2018, USAID facilitated over $201.4 million in domestic and international sales of agricultural goods, supported over 190,000 households with agricultural interventions, supported more than 2,200 agricultural enterprises, created 3,365 full-time jobs and rehabilitated irrigation canals.

3. Afghanistan Social Outreach: The country’s social outreach programs work to develop community councils. These councils will consist of 30 to 50 people and be a platform for local needs.

4. Strategic Provincial Roads: This program focuses on infrastructure, electricity and potable water. As of 2018, USAID partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which will provide engineering services for the North East Power Systems and South East Power Systems. Also, 380 kilometers of a 220 kilowatts transmission line is being constructed so electricity can reach southern Afghanistan.

With the additional humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan from USAID, these programs and initiatives will have more support, which will lead to the opportunity to make changes and implementations when, and where, needed.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation and Hygiene in India
There is a restricted amount of water, sanitation and hygiene in India on a daily basis. Therefore, the lack of these resources leads to disease and death.

Diseases, Defecation and Lack of Sanitation Facilities

India is one of the world’s most heavily populated countries with more than half residing in suburban neighborhoods. Due to the country’s vast population growth and its limited accessibility to water, people have limited access to sanitation and hygiene in India.

  • Nearly half of Indians defecate into the environment, which pollutes water and leads to the number one cause of diarrhea-associated deaths in children. Yearly, 117,000 children younger than five pass away due to diarrhea as a result of unsanitary environments and contaminated water.
  • Research indicates that a little over half of India’s population washes their hands after defecation. Only 38 percent of people wash their hands before eating and as little as 30 percent wash their hands prior to handling food. Young children are most susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections; yet, using soap to wash hands can reduce the likelihood of contracting these illnesses.
  • Nearly 600 million people do not use toilets, and as a result, their waste enters the environment which leads to a higher likelihood of water contamination and diarrhea. Children who suffer from diarrhea are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Malnutrition afflicts nearly 50 percent of children.
  • Nearly 10 percent of countryside households discard waste properly, while people leave more than half of the waste out in the environment or put it into the trash. As little as six percent of children under the age of five use sanitation facilities.
  • For adolescent females, it is necessary to provide the essential facilities, products and education to allow for proper menstrual hygiene. Many girls are likely to not attend school due to the lack of seclusion in the sanitation facilities. Other times, females feel discomfort when there is no facility available at home.

The Water Crisis

Nearly 200,000 Indians pass away each year as a result of insufficient accessibility to consumable water, while 600 million people are water-stressed due to the limited availability of 1,700 cubic meters of water yearly.

Research published in June 2018 predicts that India will undergo an acute lack of availability to water within two decades. The report approximates that the need for water will duplicate the obtainable supply by 2030.

The Government’s Partnerships to End Open Defecation and Increase Sanitation Efforts

In 2014, India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, began advocating to enhance cleanliness efforts by October 2019. Since he announced this objective, there has been significant progress in making clean water and hygiene amenities available.

In 2014, the amount of people living in agricultural areas who defecate openly has decreased from 550 million to 320 million. Overall, clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal have improved from 39 percent in October 2014 to over 90 percent in August 2018.

UNICEF Action endorses the federal and local governments in providing water, sanitation and hygiene in India. UNICEF’s Child’s Environment Programme advocates for the government’s Total Sanitation Campaign, which has the goal to enhance the availability and utilization of sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme works to implement clean water to each and every family in India; the Child’s Environment program collaborates with Integrated Child Development Services to ensure that proper hygiene facilities are present in schools.

USAID collaborates with India’s government to implement healthful towns by growing access to safe water and cleanliness. Together, USAID and the Government of India assess and distinguish various models to enable consumable water and toilets, which they can put into effect for various localities.

In order to eliminate defecation by 2019, India began the five-year Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to cease open defecation. USAID promotes the commission by educating others about these matters and initiating action from the people and government officials.

The overall goal of USAID is to implement techniques to have safe, clean water access that is inexpensive. The organization also collaborates with civilians to compose sanitation facilities as well as encouraging hand washing along with refraining from defecating in the environment.

In 2017, 300,000 citizens had access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes. As a result of the community efforts, 25,000 communities have stopped defecating in the environment, while 175,000 people are able to obtain clean, consumable water.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is in need of reformation. Since 2000, approximately three million health workers have fled the nation, and the health of the society has suffered since then. Non-governmental organizations around the world are currently working together to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe.

NGOs are working hard to fix the issue of lack of adequate healthcare; here are ways to improve health in Zimbabwe.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

  • Investing in disease treatment and prevention: Zimbabwe suffers from a lack of health workers; there are only about 1.23 health workers per 1,000 citizens. Because of this, it is difficult to treat epidemics of communicable diseases like cholera and HIV. A cholera outbreak in 2008 killed 4,000 people due to the small number of available doctors. USAID recognizes this as a problem, and every year, the organization donates nearly $100 million to disease treatment programs in Zimbabwe.  The prevalence of HIV has lowered from 14 percent to 13.3 percent in one year, but more can be done to treat other infectious diseases.
  • Improving clinics: Another way to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe is to invest in the advancement of medical clinics. Most clinics in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and undeveloped, but the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plans to renovate 52 clinics in the region. The renovations include storage for crucial medications and space for sanitation and hygienic facilities. Additionally, UNDP’s Global Fund implemented a new health information system to hasten responses to outbreaks and epidemics. These positive changes have contributed to steady rates of health workers’ job retention.
  • Aiding expectant mothers: Pregnant women are one group that is most reliant on Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. Since 2014, World Bank’s Global Funding Facility has helped rebuild the deteriorated system. One revamping program, the Urban Voucher Program, provides free maternity care to women living in the bottom 40 percent of average annual income. Before the UVP, women would have to pay a $25 fee to visit a health clinic, and most of them were not able to afford it. After the implementation of the vouchers, family planning and neonatal services have strengthened in low-income communities, significantly reducing the amount of money that families spend on healthcare. While maternal mortality rate was 614 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, it decreased to 443 deaths per 100,000 births during the first year of the UVP.

More can be done to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe. The success of these NGOs can mobilize others to join in on the efforts against disease and poverty.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Aid to the Palestinians
A school abandoned and torn down. A sewage system shut off and covered in asphalt. These are just two of the projects that the U.S. is in the process of shutting down as it cuts almost all foreign aid to the Palestinians. Previously, the U.S. was a top donor to the Palestinians, giving $5 billion since 1993. However, the government announced an intention to cut off aid last year, 2018, in order to put pressure on Palestinian leaders to accept the administration’s peace plan, which it is set to announce after Ramadan ends in early June. USAID has laid off all but 14 of its employees in the Palestinian territories, an 85 percent reduction in staff. Aid that funded anti-terrorism programs has also been cut.

Concerns Over Aid Cuts

Many people in the Israeli government supported these aid programs, both for humanitarian reasons and for the benefits they provided to Israeli national security. Dana Stroul, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Daniel Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote in an article for NPR that “Israeli authorities understood that a breakdown in security, an economic collapse or a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank would place an enormous burden on Israel…The Israeli national security establishment remains painfully aware that it will face the burden – financial, security, and otherwise – of addressing a full-scale collapse in the West Bank or Gaza if the U.S. steps away or loses all influence and credibility with the Palestinians.”

The Israeli government opposes cutting aid, calling on the U.S. government to amend the law that resulted in the cuts. One Israeli security official said that “[i]f the law doesn’t change and no solution is found…[t]his will harm a top priority Israeli national security interest.”

Others Provide Aid

In the U.S.’s absence, others have stepped up. A week ago, the European Union announced that it would be giving an additional 22 million euro ($24.6 million) in aid to the Palestinians. The new aid package will focus on health care, food security and safety for vulnerable families.

In addition, the government of Qatar pledged to give $480 million in aid to the Palestinians. While the U.S. and Qatar have allied historically, these countries have had a strained relationship recently, with Qatar defying U.S. sanctions to provide aid to Turkey. The Qatari government has frequently come under fire for human rights abuses.

The good news is that there are ways to restore these programs. In addition to following the Israeli government’s recommendation to amend the law cutting aid, Stroul and Shapiro have several more solutions. The U.S. could specifically allocate money to complete currently unfinished aid projects, such as the school and sewage system mentioned above. Congress could also pass current bills aiming to improve aid to the Palestinians. One of these is the Palestinian Partnership Fund Act, which aims to connect Palestinian entrepreneurs with potential business partners in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Moreover, the U.S. is considering renewing aid. Last month, six senators proposed a bill to restore aid to the Palestinians. “[R]efusal to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people is a strategic mistake,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Denying funding for clean water, health care and schools in the West Bank and Gaza won’t make us safer. Instead it only emboldens extremist groups like Hamas and pushes peace further out of reach.”

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

In March 2019, President Trump announced wanting to cut U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These three countries are known as the Northern Triangle of the U.S. government’s Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P) Initiative.

This is a U.S. strategy to address the security, governance and economic prosperity of these regions. The effectiveness of the A4P initiative and the numerous benefits it presents to both the Central American region and the United States has led to bipartisan support in the U.S., and to cease the aid to the northern triangle would be counterproductive to both the interests of the United States and Central America as a whole.

Since the 1980s, Central America has seen a decline in armed conflict and has become politically stable. Additionally, in the past decade has become a strong economic partner to the United States. While all of this implies significant progress in the region, the region remains stagnant with high crime rates and nearly half of the population currently lives in poverty.

Honduras: History, Plans, and Benefits

Honduras has received over $3 billion from USAID since 1961. The bulk of this aid impacts sustaining economic growth and establishing economic stability. Some efforts to obtaining these goals are increasing access to health services, expanding exports, improving education infrastructure and strengthening the nation’s democratic systems. In sum, these initiatives address threats to Hondura’s stability.

That being said, included are high crime and violence rates and widespread poverty and food insecurity.  Additionally, there is a presence of government corruption and ineffectiveness. According to the U.S. Department of State, Honduras reliance on foreign assistance, provided by the U.S. is crucial to there development and safety.

El Salvador: History, Plans, and Benefits

Over the past 50 years, USAID assistance in El Salvador has provided economic opportunity. It aids in improving educational and health care systems and supporting disaster relief and economic development.

Specifically, the bulk of assistance in health care is targeting infant and maternal mortality. With the assistance of USAID, the mortality rate in El Salvador has dropped from 191/1000 to 16/1000 between 1960 and  2008. Access to education and literacy rates have steadily increased over the years as well.

Again, with the assistance of USAID, two key organizations for analyzing the major problems facing El Salvador have been developed. These are the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) and the Business Foundation for Educational Development (FEPADE).

Guatemala: History, Plans, and Benefits

Guatemala is experiencing population growth and has become the most populated country in Central America. The Guatemalan government and USAID have been working together to strengthen security for citizens and stimulate economic growth. The efforts of USAID have had a significantly positive impact on addressing some of Guatemala’s security concerns.

For example, there has been an 18 percent decline in robberies, 50 percent decline in the illicit drug trade and a 50 percent decline in blackmail in communities. In order to stimulate economic growth, USAID has focused on agriculture, education, and health. This development has created 8,734 jobs and the country has seen an increase in coffee sales and implemented widespread reading programs.

Importance of Continued Support

The Northern Triangle’s future development and prosperity are heavily reliant on the continued support of the United States. Eliminating U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala would be counterproductive to both the goals of the U.S. and the Northern Triangle. U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will be able to improve the overall quality of life of Central Americans.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

food insecurity in ethiopia
Despite the fact that Ethiopia has a stronger economy than many other countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, it still remains one of the world’s least developed countries. In 2017, Ethiopia ranked 173 out of 189 countries and territories in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI). Food insecurity contributes to a lack of development in Ethiopia.

Drought, Conflict, and IDPs

Drought is one of the principal sources of food insecurity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently suffering from the lingering effects of past droughts. There have been two devastating droughts in Ethiopia since 2015, which has forced many out of their homes in search of food and basic services. Droughts are a primary factor in the creation of internal refugees, or internally displaced person (IDPs) in Ethiopia.

Currently, nearly three million Ethiopians are categorized as IDPs. In addition to drought, the number of IDPs has increased due to a surge in ethnic violence, particularly along the Oromiya-Somali regional border. Nearly 600,000 individuals from the Oromiya and Somali regions have become IDPs.

The combination of drought, displacement, violence and underdevelopment has resulted in widespread food insecurity in Ethiopia. Due to this, roughly 7% of the population relies on food aid. The U.S. Government has been heavily involved in battling food insecurity in Ethiopia. Currently, food insecurity and under-nutrition are two of the greatest economic hindrances in Ethiopia.

Here are five things you need to know about the United States’ involvement in addressing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

5 Ways the U.S. Helps Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

  1. “Feed the Future,” an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, has been one of the more successful programs in promoting food security in Ethiopia: Feed the Future worked in different areas in Ethiopia from 2013 to 2015 and reduced the prevalence of poverty in those areas by 12 percent. Additionally, in 2017, those who were reached by Feed the Future generated $40 million in agricultural sales and received $5.7 million in new private investment. The economy and food security in Ethiopia are closely intertwined because the nation’s economy is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture-led economic growth, therefore, has been one the primary missions of Feed the Future within Ethiopia.
  2. The US has focused on restoring Ethiopia’s potato and sweet potato supply due to its high source of Vitamin A as a means of reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia: In June 2016, The USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) supported the International Potato Center (CIP) to assist drought-affected farmers in planting potatoes and sweet potatoes. Due to this support, the CIP was able to provide sweet potato seeds to nearly 10,000 farmers and trained more than 11,300 men and women on various ways to incorporate this vitamin-rich vegetable into more of their meals. The USAID/OFDA continues to support programs that promote the development of critical agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, in Ethiopia.
  3. Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) are working in Ethiopia to help manage issues of malnutrition: The USAID’s OFDA and UNICEF have partnered together to deploy MHNTs in order to provide malnutrition screenings, basic health care services, immunizations and health education. The team also offered patient referrals when necessary. In 2017, 50 MHNTs provided 483,700 individuals in the Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia with life-saving health and nutritional services.
  4. Humanitarian assistance has been essential in reducing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children: Although USAID provides resources to help treat SAM, 38 percent of children under five still have stunted growth due to malnutrition. As of March 2018, 31,066 children were admitted and treated for SAM. Approximately 30 percent of these cases were in the Somali region due to the region’s issue with ethnic violence and drought. Significantly more assistance is needed in the Somali region in order to sufficiently manage malnutrition.
  5. Humanitarian assistance has been one of the primary reasons Ethiopia has not entered into a state of emergency for food insecurity: Although increased rainfall and a reduction in disease outbreak have helped minimize food insecurity in Ethiopia, the country would be much worse off without the help of humanitarian aid. Currently, Ethiopia is in crisis, which is phase three of five on the food insecurity scale. The phases include minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and famine. Experts from the Famine Early Warning Systems Networks report that “Ethiopia would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance.”

Looking Forward

The need for humanitarian aid will increase as Ethiopia’s population rapidly grows. Currently, Ethiopia ranks second in Africa for the number of refugees the country hosts. Nearly 100 percent of these refugees originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Ethiopia currently hosts over 920,262 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of May 31, 2018.

The number of asylum seekers in Ethiopia will continue to grow because Ethiopia has an open-door asylum policy. As Ethiopia’s population continues to grow due to this policy, food sources will become increasingly strained. The need for humanitarian assistance to promote sustainable agriculture and farming practices, therefore, has become essential for reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

A Solution to Poverty in Peru
Peru’s location in the dense tropics of the Amazon is contentious. While the environment offers the water and sunshine needed to efficiently grow crops, frequent natural disasters destroy the very lands Peruvian farmers cultivate. The destruction of the cacao bean is a primary concern among rural agriculturists. Voted as the provider of the best dark chocolate in the world in 2017, it is imperative that cacao beans thrive as they provide a solution to poverty in Peru.

Poverty in Peru

The Peruvian government recorded a poverty rate of 21.7 percent in 2017, 1 percent higher than the previous year. This is the first time in sixteen years the poverty rate has risen in Peru, leaving 6.9 million individuals in conditions of economic instability and future uncertainty. Those living in rural areas are most affected because the urban setting acts as an energetic palette for new job opportunities and activism.

Cacao Farming in Peru

The cacao bean offers a solution to poverty in Peru, particularly for the impoverished individuals who have access to vast growing valleys. The South American country is ranked as one of the world’s most biodiverse. This makes for rich soil content that provides a promising potential for high-quality cacao growth. Furthermore, Peru’s climate is one of few that supports the growth of a variety of cacao species. Some common varieties include the Trinitary, Amazon foreign and Creole cacao beans.

Peruvian farmers have taken advantage of these environmental accolades, as it has become one of the world’s prominent cacao producers. Cacao exported from Peruvian growing sites rose a substantial 424 percent from 2001 to 2007. Within these same years, exporting profits rose from $0.2 million to $11 million. This number does not include the Peruvian profit margin of products made from cacao, including cacao butter, liquor, paste, husks, and cocoa powder.

The Peruvian government has recognized the considerable benefits reaped by cacao production. National policy crafted after the 2017 increase in poverty levels illustrate that the government is specifically mindful of cacao production and hopes to bolster its distribution as a solution to poverty in Peru.

One of these policies includes the weeding out of illegal cocaine farms and offering the land to cacao farmers. The U.S has recently demonstrated its support for this strategy. In 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined the Peruvian Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA) as well as a multitude of private businesses in Peru. The U.S. government has connected these farmers to a new international base through which they can expect a prosperous return on their delicious beans. The renewed farmlands furthermore provide new opportunities for the jobless as countless hands are needed to carefully harvest the cacao bean.

What Does the Future Hold?

As a result of Peru’s and the U.S.’s dual effort to protect and distribute Peruvian cacao beans, USAID has predicted that Peru’s exportation of this bean will more than double by 2021. A new partnership with the U.S. also establishes Peru’s intimate access to the $35 billion American confectionery industry. These statistics will suggest that poverty rates in Peru, specifically in rural areas, will once again begin to sink.

The cacao bean will continue to put smiles on faces across the world. As long as there is a hunger for delightful Peruvian dark chocolate, there will be a job opportunity for an individual living in poverty. The value of the cacao bean can therefore hardly be underestimated, and while economic instability is an arduous and persistent problem, the production of cacao beans provides a sweet solution to poverty in Peru.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

 

Food InsecurityAccording to the U.N., malnutrition has been on the rise in recent years. The latest data states that 821 million people are undernourished. This translates to one in nine people suffering from hunger. These statistics are staggering; fortunately, this problem is currently being addressed by numerous organizations that are combating food insecurity across the globe.

What is Food Insecurity?

The U.N. defines food insecurity as “uncertain access to food at the household or individual level.” In 2017, in the U.S. alone, 40 million people faced food insecurity. This number drastically increases when describing those who are food insecure worldwide. Food insecurity can lead to severe malnourishment. Due to the fact that the price of fresh, healthy food is typically higher than that of processed foods, food insecurity can also lead to obesity. This is how poverty can increase food insecurity

Food insecurity can be the result of multiple factors. Natural disasters and droughts are examples of conditions that contribute to food insecurity. For example, in 2016, 40 million people experienced food insecurity after El Niño. Though these statistics are discouraging, different organizations are addressing this problem. These five organizations combating food insecurity are making a difference in the lives of millions.

Five Organizations Combating Food Insecurity

  1. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID provides support for 142 countries across the globe. The largest areas of aid provided include emergency relief ($3.9 billion) and the reduction of HIV/AIDS ($3.5 billion). However, the areas of assistance often extend past these categories to include health, agriculture, education and more.
  2. World Food Programme (WFP): The WFP provides aid to 83 countries annually. They also help approximately 86.7 million people each year. This organization centers its efforts on areas of conflict and disasters. It is estimated that WFP provides 15 billion rations each year. One donation of $50 through WFP provides three months of food for a child in need.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): FAO works in 130 nations around the world. It has adopted the slogan #ZeroHunger in unison with numerous organizations globally, which reflects its purpose of ending hunger through the use of agricultural programs. This agency of the U.N. also focuses on sustainability. Additionally, it provides support for countries to protect against the detrimental effects of natural disasters.
  4. The World Bank: Created in 1947, the World Bank has provided funding for 12,000 projects globally to go towards disaster relief and support development. The World Bank’s mission includes reducing extreme poverty by providing financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It has five subsections aimed at accomplishing specific goals. These subsections convene together to promote the common mission. One of the five institutions is the International Finance Corporation, which provides financial services to the countries where the World Bank works.
  5. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): IFAD is an organization combating food insecurity in rural regions. Another branch of the U.N. established in 1974, IFAD was created to address the food insecurity resulting from poverty. Its focuses include building up agricultural programs and creating a lasting impact on people in rural areas.

These organizations are a few examples of the various organizations combating food insecurity globally. Their efforts provide valuable assistance to reduce the number of people who face food insecurity and hunger around the world. Food insecurity can have detrimental effects on those who experience it. However, it is reassuring to know that there are organizations working to reduce the severity and extent of hunger.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Centers of Excellence
Egypt and the United States have recently become dependent on each other in order to assist in each other’s growth, developments and establishments, showing a strong partnership between the two countries. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has collaborated with Egypt to create three academic Centers of Excellence that will focus on research about agriculture, energy and water. In order to begin the process of these academic Centers of Excellence, universities in the United States and Egypt had to form partnerships to focus on each focal point.

Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture

The United States’ Cornell University and Egypt’s Cairo University are partners for the Academic Center of Excellence in Agriculture (COEA). This is a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project that will enhance curricula and research in order to train and equip Egyptian students with the right tools to improve agricultural production in Egypt’s future.

There are three main components of this specific center. The first is the instructional innovation and curriculum development of the academic center. The partnership will establish a new interdisciplinary Master of Science program that will be work-force oriented. This center will also grant opportunities to youth, women and disadvantaged students. The second component is to engage in high quality applied research. The last component includes exchanges, training and scholarship programs.

Academic Center of Excellence in Energy

The next $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative partnership is between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ain Shams University. This will be the Academic Center of Excellence in Energy (COEE). MIT and Ain Shams University will work to build research, education and entrepreneurial capacity to address Egypt’s most pressing energy-related issues.

This academic Center of Excellence has four major components to it. The first is the teaming up of Egyptian faculty and students with interdisciplinary researchers across MIT to develop renewable energy solutions. The next component is to advance and scale up sustainable projects. These universities will also use their partnership to facilitate connections between university researchers and key industrial players in the region to expand Egypt’s solar and wind usage, in addition to other forms of clean energy. Lastly, there will be an emphasis on involving Egyptian women and people with disabilities in the university and providing programs and education for them.

The Center of Excellence in Water

The Center of Excellence in Water (COEW) is a partnership between the American University in Cairo and Alexandria University. The COEW is also a $30 million dollar, five-year collaborative project. These universities are still developing their partnership.

The Centers of Excellence was designed by the USAID and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research with the goal of driving public and private sector innovation, modernization and competitiveness. This $90 million dollar investment will create partnerships between Egyptian public universities and U.S. universities, update university curricula and teaching methods, establish undergraduate and graduate level scholarships and implement exchange programs to foster cross-border learning. This is a breakthrough in education and the professional industry which will work to enhance Egypt as a whole.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in South SudanAfter years of violent conflict and civil war, many South Sudanese are suffering from mental health problems caused by trauma. With little to no government funding and cultural stigma attached to psychological health issues, thousands of people struggle to cope and heal from decades of war. USAID’s program Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) is working to bring healing and restoration to the war-torn people by conducting trauma awareness workshops.

A History of Conflict

South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, declared its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war and fighting. Only two years after gaining independence, conflict once again erupted in South Sudan, this time between the infant nation’s president and vice president, leading to a civil war that lasted for five years. Around 400,000 South Sudanese people lost their lives during the war, including women and children, while many more suffered unthinkable traumas and hardships. According to UNICEF, three-quarters of South Sudanese children have never known anything but war, and as many as 19,000 of them were kidnapped or recruited to join armed groups. Numerous accounts of South Sudanese women being sexually abused and raped by opposition forces circulated throughout the war.

End of the War Brings New Battles

Although the fighting has officially ceased, South Sudan’s restoration is just beginning. Years of violence and trauma have left their mark on the mental health of many in the nation. Although data is limited, several studies show that the conflict has had a severe effect on the mental health of South Sudanese civilians and soldiers alike. Nearly 41 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the South Sudan Law Society and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The South Sudan Medical Journal reported that PTSD, depression, anxiety and substance abuse are major health issues impacting the country. However, the conflict-riddled nation not only lacks the resources to bring healing and help to those suffering from trauma, but it also struggles to remove cultural stigma and shame from mental health problems.

Mental Health Care Lacking in South Sudan

In 2012, South Sudan’s Deputy Minister of Health, stated, “The situation is very rudimentary in terms of mental health,” and “There are so many people suffering because of post-war trauma.” Today, mental health in South Sudan is still severely under-resourced, with its 2017-18 budget allocating only two percent to the health sector, none of which was appropriated towards mental health care.

In 2019, only three psychiatrists reported practicing in the whole country. Atong Ayuel, one of South Sudan’s three psychiatrists, said that “mental illness is a huge problem in South Sudan,” blaming the problem on both the country’s underfunded health program and that mental health in South Sudan is a culturally taboo subject.

VISTAS Workshops

USAID’s program VISTAS is conducting trauma awareness workshops throughout South Sudan with two primary goals:

  1. Create a space where those suffering from trauma-induced mental health issues can open up about their experiences and begin to address them
  2. Provide communities with practical tools to collectively address mental health issues and promote reconciliation and healing

“We define trauma as a wound. It is when something shocking or abnormal happens in your life, and it overwhelms you and you don’t know how to respond,” said Thor Riek, a 32-year-old South Sudanese man who struggled to cope with trauma from his days as a child soldier. Now as a trainer for VISTAS trauma awareness workshops, Thor not only has gained the tools he needs to respond and recover from past trauma, he now shares these practical tools of healing with other South Sudanese who are also suffering from trauma-induced mental health issues. Thor hopes the workshops will give participants “a narrative that can move them forward from the cycle of violence and begin to walk on the healing journey.”

In 2018, VISTAS workshops engaged 6,452 community members in different types of trauma awareness sessions. As South Sudan works to put years of violence and war behind them, programs like VISTAS’ trauma awareness workshops bring restoration and healing to a once war-torn people, inspiring a hopeful future.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Flickr