Over the next five months, the El Niño weather system is expected to continue dropping torrential rains in East Africa and causing severe droughts in Ethiopia, which is facing conditions not seen in three decades.

According to the USAID, the number of people facing food insecurity in Ethiopia will likely increase from 2.9 million to over 8 million by the beginning of 2016. But officials say they are ready and confident that systems are in place to mitigate the worst effects of this annual meteorological phenomenon.

“Improved early warning, the establishment of the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), as well as serious engagement from the government of Ethiopia means that we are not likely to see the kind of famine conditions witnessed in Ethiopia in earlier decades,” said USAID Director of Food for Peace, Dina Esposito.

Her remarks accompanied the announcement that USAID will commit an additional $97 million to bolster PSNP for at-risk communities in the region.

The Productive Safety Net Program was launched in 2005 by the government of Ethiopia with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide immediate relief from low crop yield and create agricultural sustainability moving forward.

PSNP provides regular food and income transfers to food insecure households over six-month periods during dry seasons, and it obligates aid recipients to participate in training programs on sustainable farming, land rehabilitation and water management.Food_Insecurity_in_Ethiopia

Katana Kusiya, a participant of PSNP in 2009, said that the aid was enough to feed her family of 11 for one month. In exchange, she received training on building wells and capturing rainwater efficiently. This training will hopefully result in communities like Katana’s relying less on sustenance farming and moving toward productive farming.

By investing in the safety net, development partners are hopeful that rural communities will develop an ability to resist the shock of unfavorable weather patterns, like El Niño, and become less food insecure in the long term. In its first three years, the program reached 7.5 million people and delivered 78,000 tons of food.

This newest commitment by USAID will include 154,000 tons of direct food assistance and a $58 million donation to the Catholic Relief Services for the transfer of an additional 105,700 tons of food.

The organizations are acting quickly to provide these transfers in order to ensure that 3.5 million vulnerable households, including refugees from neighboring Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan receive aid in a timely manner.

For UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, El Niño also presents an opportunity to re-engage the conversation about linkages between climate change and food insecurity in countries like Ethiopia during the upcoming climate conference in France.

Severe weather patterns regularly devastate agricultural productivity in developing countries, leading to famine and loss of life. “[El Niño’s] intensity and potential destructiveness should be a wake-up call as world leaders gather in Paris,” he said.

In the meantime, USAID is working quickly to provide the government of Ethiopia with all the support it needs to prevent loss of life this season. $600 million in aid, they estimate, will be required to effectively deal with the emergency.

Ron Minard

Sources: AllAfrica, BBC, IB Times, WFP
Photo: UN Multimedia, Wikipedia

The civil war in Yemen has led to the deaths and injuries of over 1,000 children, and 4,300 total deaths, according to Save The Children. The crisis is worsening as the number of recruits to join the fighting has increased to 377 this year from 156 last year, according to Children Under Threat.

Just as concerning is the inadequate amount of humanitarian aid that is being sent to the country. Only 18 percent of the funding needed to address immediate needs has been received.

Stephen O’Brien, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs had to persuade the UN Security Council to increase aid. O’Brien saw first-hand that 4 out of 5 Yemenis need aid, while 1.5 million are internally displaced.

According to the World Food Program about 13 million, or half of the population is going hungry and 6 million face starvation.

The conflict is preventing the importation of food and other aid. The conflict has also led to the doubling of gas prices, a resource needed for cooking.

On top of the malnutrition among 2 million people, over 2.5 million Yemeni children under age 15 are at risk of contracting measles, which would be 1 million more than 2014.

The months of ongoing conflict is between Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, and forces loyal to exiled government, backed by Saudi Arabia. O’Brien has called for the international community to get the opposing parties to negotiate.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: ABC, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Photo: Huffington Post

The World Food Programme is waging war on hunger and fighting an uphill battle in six of the world’s hunger hot spots; Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Nepal and the Ebola-affected regions in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Most of the world’s population lives in developing countries. Many of them are mired in extreme poverty, with little hope of access to clean water and often reduced to scavenging for food in trash heaps lining their decrepit shanty town streets, just to feed their children. But in these six emergencies, the situation is even more urgent.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian aid agency fighting hunger, is the food aid branch of the United Nations, working to address hunger across the globe and promoting food security. Workers are on the ground in these areas trying to ease the crisis by providing needy families with life-saving food.

In Syria, the WFP is struggling to meet food need demands, as nearly six million people have been displaced. The ongoing armed conflict in Syria has been growing worse and the situation steadily deteriorating. Although the WFP has been reaching approximately four million people using hand to mouth operations, funding is running low and the need is increasing drastically.

Iraq has been in crisis for years and continues to be. The recent upsurge in violence has left 1.8 million displaced without access to water or food. The WFP reports having reached out to about a million people since June, providing assistance.

Yemen is a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian emergency. With around half of all children under five being stunted (too short for their age), Yemen already stands as having one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. Millions of people are being cut off from basic human needs such as food, water and electricity as fighting persists and fuel shortages continue.

Although the food security threat in South Sudan has been stabilized for now, sustainable assistance is essential in the region as the situation remains extremely fragile. The WFP has been able to reach more than 2.5 million people this year but if fighting continues, the situation in South Sudan could turn into a full-blown catastrophe.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25th, 2015 devastated the region, leaving approximately eight million people affected and living without access to food, water or shelter. With the epicenter being just outside of Kathmandu, large populations were displaced and 30 out of 75 districts in the country were ruined. The Nepalese government issued a state of emergency and the WFP is currently in the country providing assistance.

The WFP has responded in force to the Ebola emergency plaguing West Africa and has met the needs of people affected by the outbreak since April in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Along with food assistance, the WFP is also helping get the humanitarian staff and equipment into the crisis zones.

According to, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2012 to 2014. Almost all the hungry people, 791 million, live in developing countries, representing 13.5 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties.

When disaster strikes or when war tears through a nation, humanity can be taken to the breaking point. With help from organizations like the World Food Programme, families fighting for survival can find some relief and possibly some hope.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: WFP, World Hunger
Photo: Action Against Hunger


Malnutrition, an ugly consequence of poverty. runs rampant in developing countries. In Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) is introducing a source of protein less known there. Soya could help stop hunger in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Malnutrition is defined as the lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things or being unable to use the food that one does eat. Malnutrition is commonly due to the absence of quality food available to eat and is often related to high food prices and poverty. A lack of breastfeeding may contribute, as may a number of infectious diseases such as gastroenteritis, pneumonia, malaria and measles, which increase nutrient requirements.

There are two main types of undernutrition: protein-energy malnutrition and dietary deficiencies. Protein-energy malnutrition has two severe forms, marasmus (a lack of protein and calories) and kwashiorkor (a lack of just protein), both of which can be fatal without quick intervention and care.

Soya has been widely used in China for centuries and was even considered one of the five holy crops along with rice, wheat, barley and millet. Soya is very versatile in diets and very healthy, with a high level of complete protein, which means that they contain significant amounts of all nine essential amino acids.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that foods containing soy protein may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Soya is fairly inexpensive. It’s much cheaper than meat or other protein-rich vegetables, making it a perfect fit to deliver a protein punch to a poverty-stricken nation such as Afghanistan.

Rates of malnutrition in Afghanistan are incredibly high. More than 40% of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished; nearly 10% of children and 9% of women of reproductive age are acutely malnourished, and almost one-fourth of children are underweight.

Soya, with all its health benefits, was virtually non-existent in Afghanistan and very few people knew of its value. The WFP saw soya as a possible answer to the malnutrition poisoning the country and began establishing it in 2014.

According to the WFP, more than 8,000 Afghan farmers were trained in how to grow the protein-rich bean, with over 84 metric tons of seed handed out to farmers. Six factories have now been established in different parts of the country, and several types of soya products are now available in the Afghan markets. The WFP in partnership with Nutrition Education International is teaching communities in Afghanistan to familiarize themselves with soya and several public awareness workshops have been established and are being attended by thousands of people.

Afghanistan is unquestionably one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world, and malnutrition is a genuine danger affecting the lives of its people. Efforts by the WFP and the introduction of soya with its nutritional benefits could certainly be instrumental in relief for a population plagued by years of war and poverty.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: WFP, Food and Development (Young)

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

Throughout its long history, Djibouti has served as an important part of international exchange. Located in the center of the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has been a principle port of trade, exchange and shipping for nations like Saudi Arabia, France and China.

Yet, in spite of its historical significance, Djibouti’s small population of 886,000 people, most of whom are urban residents, cannot afford food or proper dietary provisions. This number includes children, approximately 109,000 under the age of five, who are at risk of stunted growth, improper mental development and death due to malnourishment. It is estimated that 29.8 percent of children under the age of five in Djibouti are underweight.

In recent years, severe drought has caused the traditionally pastoral society of Djibouti to lose up to 70 percent of its livestock. With less than .10 percent of Djibouti’s land considered arable, it is difficult to maintain sustainable agriculture or for families to feed themselves. Due to a combination of high communicable disease infection, low crop production and extreme poverty, child mortality rates are increasingly high, with 81 of every 1,000 live births resulting in death. Though child mortality has declined considerably in the last 24 years, children continue to suffer greatly in the region.

Djibouti has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic child malnourishment. The latest statistics provided by WHO show that 18 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 5.6 percent face severe acute malnutrition. Djibouti currently ranks at 165 of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, indicating poor development and improper nutrition throughout the average Djiboutian’s lifetime.

In an effort to combat malnutrition and child mortality rates in Djibouti, a number of international organizations have developed programs and assistance intended for the ‘under five population’ and mothers. In June of 2014, the World Bank announced a $5 million dollar credit to the Social Safety Net Program, which provides food assistance and cash-for-work incentives to mothers with young children. It emphasizes the ‘first 1000 days’ of a child’s life as being critical to developing proper nutrition and health.

In 2011, UNICEF installed a therapeutic feeding center in the Balbala community in Djibouti, offering treatment and nutritional supplements to malnourished children. The feeding center also offers resources to mothers in order to prevent future cases of malnutrition. The World Food Programme has also been a leading contributor of food and health assistance in Djibouti. Its assistance in Djibouti has helped over 90,000 people in Djibouti, especially children.

The WFP said, “WFP also helps fight against malnutrition by providing fortified food to children under five, as well as to pregnant and nursing mothers at health centres in both urban and rural parts of the country.”

Additionally, The World Bank, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations have helped Djibouti become self-sufficient by aiding in efforts focused on education, environmental sustainability and useful crop production. These efforts have contributed to the ongoing decline of malnutrition throughout Djibouti.

Candice Hughes

Sources: The World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, WHO 1, WHO 2, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr

history of hungerThe presence of chronic hunger and the highest rates of obesity is one of the greatest paradoxes of our time. According to a study done at Ohio State University, “It is part of a single global food crisis, with economic, geopolitical, and environmental dimensions. It is perhaps the starkest, most basic way in which global inequality is manifest.” While world hunger is proliferated by unequal resource distribution, the mechanisms of interconnected societies offer viable tools to alleviate suffering.

A myriad of non-governmental actors exist today to combat world hunger, including the World Food Program, Action Against Hunger, Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. While these international mechanisms have developed to meet recent needs, world hunger has existed throughout the course of human history.


World Hunger: Tale as Old as Time


There have been a variety of food systems over time. For a large portion of history, humans hunted or grew food for their own consumption, and food traveled only short distances from source to stomach. This does not mean, however, that long distance food exchanges were not present. From spice trades to acquiring “exotic” foods from colonies, a “mercantile food system” was present from 1500-1750. This was replaced by the “settler-colonial” regime during the nineteenth century in which white settler colonies traded luxury and basic foods and goods in return for European manufactured goods. The “productivist” food regime emerged after World War II which was characterized by food industries and the re-emergence of European and American agricultural protectionism. The idea that the entire world can experience a “food crisis” was coupled with the idea that one can foment a world free from hunger.

A neoliberal food regime has developed since the 1980s. Characterized by multinational and corporate power, this system has promoted a “global diet” that is high in sugars and fats at the expense of traditional or local diets. This trend in food is caused in part by globalization, and creates an intricate relationship between the individual and multinational corporations, local and distant farms and the environment.

Chronic hunger and food security are inherently connected. Citizens of the most industrial places on the planet still experience hunger on a massive scale. According to the vice president of the Poverty and Prosperity Program of the Center for American Progress: “people making trade-offs between food that’s filling but not nutritious…(this) may actually contribute to obesity.” Regarding larger scale suffering, extreme causes of world hunger include poverty, powerlessness, armed conflict, environmental overload and discrimination.

While hunger is understood differently across time, space and culture, it is important to alleviate this problem of chronic hunger. One must investigate sustainable solutions to the root causes of the problem, and these long-term solutions should be implemented by local peoples.

Neti Gupta

Sources: Freedom from Hunger, National Geographic, Ohio State University
Photo: Flickr

hunger in yemen
According to the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) new Comprehensive Food Security Survey released this week, more than 40 percent of the Yemeni population struggles to attain adequate food.

Working with the U.N. Children’s Fund, the WFP found alarming levels of Global Acute Malnutrition across the country. The Survey also determined that chronic malnutrition among children younger than the age of five soared beyond the international benchmark of ‘critical.’

New data suggests two in every five Yemenis children of this age group are stunted, while 13 percent are acutely malnourished. Food insecurity, according to the Survey, varies greatly within different areas of the country.

The WFP describes Yemen as having experienced “large-scale displacement, civil conflict, political instability, high food prices, endemic poverty, a breakdown of social services, diminishing resources and influxes of refugees and migrants.”

As of July 9, fighting in the Omran province displaced an estimated 35,000 Yemenis and resulted in the death of hundreds. Less than one week ago, tribesmen blew up the nation’s largest oil pipeline in the Habab district of Marib, which had previously provided the government with export revenues. Before the attack, the pipeline carried 100,000 barrels per day, and with its destruction, the government must now import oil and resell it at a loss.

Similar attacks have led to fuel shortages and power outages nation-wide.

Yemen has seen years of instability following the protests against the government that began in 2011 and forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years of holding power. The country has since become one of the poorest of the Arab world, with poverty rising by 12.5 percent from 2009 to 2012 and a Gross National Income of $1,330 in 2013.

Oxfam estimates hunger in Yemen doubled since 2009. The nation’s population growth rate — one of the highest in the world at 2.3 percent annually — certainly has not helped the situation.

In the wake of continued economic woes and new clashes between Shi’ite rebels of the Houthi tribe and tribesmen of the Hashid, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered new measures of austerity last week. The cutbacks will largely affect those working within the government, although experts believe the effects may spread.

The WFP, which has operated in Yemen since 1967, received a €10 million donation from the government of Germany as well as 21,800 metric tons of wheat from the U.S. With its newest campaign, the WFP plans to aid an additional six million suffering from hunger in Yemen.

Its operations in Yemen focus on emergency food assistance and cash transfers, food assistance to those displaced by conflict and the nutrition of young children and pregnant and nursing women. The International Monetary Fund has also offered the government of Yemen a $550 million loan with certain conditions.

“For the political process to succeed, people need to be able to live normal lives,” said Bishow Parajuli, the WFP Yemen Country Director. “And not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

– Erica Lignell
Sources: UN,, World Bank, WFP 1, WFP 2, WFP 3, Oxfam, BBC, Economist
Photo: Global Post

north korean farmers
The pressure is on for North Korea to surpass previous years of famine and intolerably high death tolls, possibly nearing hundreds of thousands lives lost. The threat of famine imminent throughout the nation, Kim Jong Un proclaimed a prosperous farming season, claiming North Koreans will, “never have to tighten its belt again,” with the hopes of inspiring farmers to excel.

The question still lies in every mind, how can an isolated, autocratic state find success when they refuse aid from every inquiry that comes their way? Compared to last year, North Korea is expected to produce three million tons less grains, paving the way for a lower crop season overall.

North Korea, no matter how hidden and secretive they attempt to be, still releases information to the world, even though it may be altered. Kim believes that his country can provide for itself and be a successful self-sustainable farming example. In reality, farmers struggle to get past the memories of the death and hunger that rampaged through the country in the 1990s.

In that time, farming was made up of innovative farming technology that quickly lead to the fuel and equipment shortages that created long-term damage. The policies put in place at the time did not account for over usage, allowing farmers to abuse the system and ultimately plow themselves into the ground, hungry and poor.

There are some instances in North Korea that point to signs of smart farming and success, given the example of Rim Ok Hua, whose farm received special recognition from the late leader, Kim Jong Il. This acknowledgement has gifted Rim’s farm with access to the top tier materials to maintain a vast and growing farm. Rim is one of few farmers that do not worry about their own lives when the farming season comes, compared to poorer provinces where farmers dread the harvests.

Forced to do so by hand and alone in the fields or behind starving livestock such as oxen, smaller farmers struggle to not only maintain themselves, but to serve the country as well. One of the common issues a modern farmer faces is that the, “soil fertility in many areas was trashed by decades of overuse of chemical fertilizers, up to the late 1980s,” causing current crops to suffer.

Among these physical issues lie the issues that cannot be seen, only felt by the people. North Korea’s strict regime includes, “state-controlled distribution, top-down planning and a quota system that doesn’t fully encourage innovation and individual effort. All these factors make North Korea’s agricultural sector a very fragile ecosystem,” forcing farmers to quietly suffer economically as well. With so many devices to control the farms, workers see little revenue and whatever they make immediately goes back to the state. This ultimately creates a cycle of poverty within the workforce, with the farm having barely enough to get by for the rest of the year.

Not all hope is lost though. Since the 90’s disaster that left so many suffering, there have been noticeable improvements that will hopefully allow for a more stable farming future. The total crop production is expected to rise five percent from 2013 to 2014, equating to about six million tons according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme.

North Korean farmers enter this farming season with a small sense of hope that the crops will yield the product necessary to survive, otherwise they may all be looking at a dim revisiting to the famine that threatened them years ago.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Big Story, The Diplomat, Global Meat News
Photo: Telegraph

hunger in tajikistan
Hunger in Tajikistan is a major challenge. The World Food Programme reports one third of the country is affected by food insecurity, while the World Bank casts Tajikistan as the poorest former Soviet country in the Central Asian region. Only seven percent of the land in Tajikistan is capable of producing food, and that number is reduced by consistently harsh winters. Low-income combined with reduced access to food means thousands in Tajikistan go hungry.

After achieving independence from the Soviet Union, Tajikistan fell into civil war in the 1990s and the result was high levels of hunger and poverty that permeate the country to this day. AnneMarie van den Berg is the Deputy Country Director in Tajikistan for the WFP. She explains the WFP sponsored school feeding programs which combat hunger in Tajikistan.

“Tajikistan is a landlocked country and a net importer of food, which means that the country has been particularly hard hit by the high food and fuel prices,” AnneMarie describes why Tajikistan is suffering.

The WFP program provides hot meals for primary school children in the areas hardest hit by the food crisis. Beginning in 1999, 5,000 school children were served meals. By the 2007-2008 academic year, that number had increased to 265,000 primary school children. Another program was also implemented which rewards attendance for secondary school girls with food to take home to their families, 105,000 girls were able to take advantage of that in the 2007-2008 school year.

The effect has not only been higher nourishment levels among the children, but also higher concentration and school performance. Many children come to school without having had anything to eat, and find it difficult to maintain focus throughout the day. Both teachers and parents agree the hot meals provided by the WFP improve the children’s education quality.

The school feeding program directly impacts the lives of children such as Matona, age 10, and her brother Hofiz, age 9. Matona and Hofiz live in Kalai-Sheikh, a village in eastern Tajikistan. On March 21 the children, with the rest of the country, celebrate Navruz, the Central Asian New Year. They are particularly excited about the traditional Navruz dish, Sumalak. In school, Matona and Hofiz water wheat seeds on metal plates and watch as they grow into green shoots.

“The greatest joy of all for Mastona and Hofiz on this holiday is the return of their father, Firuz Bekov, from Moskow. Firuz is one of the half-million Tajik migrants in Russia working as laborers to send money home to their families,” writes the WFP.

— Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Examiner, World Food Programme 1, World Food Programme 2, Global Voices
Photo: The Feed