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

Food Aid to Yemen
Nearly 54 percent of Yemen’s population remains below the country’s poverty line. The rate of unemployment among young people in Yemen has grown to be around 60 percent of the population.

“Preliminary studies show that between March 2011 and March 2013, Yemen’s economy saw a loss of about $4.75 billion as a result of oil pipeline bombings and acts of sabotage targeting some installations,” said Yemeni Minster of Oil and Minerals, Ahmed Abdullah Daris.

Recently, the United Nations food agency has stated that they are scaling up their food aid to Yemen as nearly half of the population is going hungry. More than 10 million of Yemen’s 25 million inhabitants either require food aid due to an inability to find enough food for themselves, or are teetering on the edge.

In 1996, the World Health Organization defined food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

Food security is built on three pillars: (1) food availability, or the opportunity to have sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis; (2) food access, having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet; (3) and food use, appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

“The country has one of the world’s highest levels of malnutrition among children,” said World Food Programme spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, “with nearly half of all kids under the age of 5—a full 2 million of them—stunted. A million of those kids are acutely malnourished.”

The problem is difficult to tackle. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been going through a difficult political transition since the removal of president Ali Abdullah Saleh after a year of deadly protests against his 33-year rule.

At the same time, Yemen is also vulnerable to international hikes in food prices, since it imports around 90 percent of its main staple foods like wheat and sugar. The price hikes, according to the U.N., affect around 90 percent of Yemeni households and may be the reason why nearly 50 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Starting in July, the U.N. agency plans to launch a special two-year “Recovery Operation” aimed at addressing long-term hunger in the region. The Recovery Operation will help to ensure food stability for around 6 million people. Under the program, the U.N. will provide malnutrition prevention and treatment, give 200,000 girls in school take-home rations and will help create rural jobs, improve farms and water supplies.

The program aims to safeguard Yemeni lives and boost food security and nutrition in poverty-stricken areas. The program seeks to reach 6 million Yemeni people from mid-2014 to mid-2016, and will aim to provide solutions for long-term relief instead of short term. The U.N. has announced that their efforts would only offer temporary relief.

The U.N. warns, however, that the aid increase will be costly, with the agency estimating that the two-year program will cost around $491 million.

– Monica Newell

Sources: Gulf News, Press TV, Al-Monitor, Yemen Post
Photo: Care

Outdated Aid Regulations Cause Delay
As debates about the farm bill and its implications for international food aid continues in the United States, those in critical need find themselves left even more vulnerable by ineffective aid regulations and spending that is both burdensome to taxpayers and wasteful of resources and lives.

It has been a month since Super-Typhoon Haiyan wreaked devastation across the Visayas in the Philippines. Around 14 million were impacted while 4 million were displaced and are without homes. Moreover, while the Philippine authorities are feeding 1.4 million people a day, the government is being blamed for not doing more. The logistics of delivering aid in the Philippines are further complicated by geographical constraints that must be surmounted like the fact that the nation is made up of 7,107 islands.

The reality on the ground means that ineffective aid is a waste of money and an indefensible waste of lives if it is not delivered to those who need it when they need it. The antiquated rules written by Congress in the 1950s limit our abilities to assist those in need simply for the formality of enforcing regulations. Congress, in fact, has the power to waive these regulations and can do so immediately to reach more people in need without any additional costs to taxpayers.

The troglodytic regulations currently in place requires the majority of U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. ships from preferred U.S. growers. As such, the food aid being delivered to the typhoon survivors has to be shipped more than 11,000 nautical miles to the Philippines, even though there are local food suppliers much closer to the crisis with the ability to provide supplies at a much lower cost.

As it stands, the current rules prevent aid agencies like the World Food Program from purchasing food from the closest and most cost-effective sellers. Moreover, these regulations cause delays in delivering aid because of red tape, sometimes taking four to six months to reach its final port after being shipped from the United States. Even worse, food aid is often monetized. When nutritional items are purchased from domestic American farmers and then sold abroad in places where food could be purchased locally, damage local economies can be damaged.

Currently, the money spent on food aid is being wasted. Of monies spent, 37% goes to food and 53% is spent on shipping, markups for shipping regulations, markups for preferred American growers and overhead. Special interest rules like this cost the American taxpayers more than $491 million dollars per year.

Fifty-three cents out of every dollar we spend on basic grains for food aid ends up in the pockets of middlemen as a result of red tape and regulations. To put this further into perspective, for the same price of food aid to Ethiopia we can ship 2,200 tons of wheat from the U.S. or purchase 5,400 tons of wheat from local growers.

Both tax payers and those waiting desperately for aid to survive certainly deserve more. If the United States were to deliver aid more effectively by scrapping outdated regulations, the U.S. could respond 14 weeks faster and reach up to 17.1 million more people without any additional costs to tax payers and without unnecessarily losing any additional lives.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: The Guardian, Oxfam America

Happen to be in training for that 5K fun run or a marathon for breast cancer research this fall? Running, jogging, power walking and biking are all meaningful activities that strengthen the body and the mind, and helps in the quest to look exceedingly fit in the cocktail dress come Friday night. What if there was a way to convert such health-conscious weekly toils into global humanitarianism?

With the Charity Miles iPhone application, running, biking or walking for charity is easier than ever. The app has the gestalt of physical training apps such as MapMyRun and Nike+ but with the added function of raising money for charity via remote sponsorships.

The mechanics are simple and instantaneous: download the app from the Apple Store, lace up your running shoes, launch the app, pick a charity to support, burn some asphalt and watch as your miles convert to dollars towards humanitarian efforts. Runners and walkers earn 25 cents per mile, while bikers earn 10 centers per mile for their chosen charities. The sponsorship pool for Charity Miles is up to $1,000,000.

The World Food Program (WFP) is one of the many charities taking part in this unique and universally accessible initiative. The non-profit organization works in tandem with United Nations agencies as well as other NGOs to provide food security to those marginalized peoples in refugee camps around the globe. Their mission statement involves food security as an essential organ for the body of global development.

The World Food Program reports that 66 million primary school-age children in impoverished areas attend classes hungry, but with a mere $3.2 billion the entirety of these children’s hunger could be ameliorated.

While we in the first world are running for fitness, millions of our fellow humans across the developing world are on the run for survival, whether it be for a safe haven from military shrapnel or in the desperation for food and clean water.

In response to the Syrian crisis, the WFP’s mission for October is to feed 4 million refugees despite the international community’s more urgent occupation with war. Projects of this nature are funded entirely through donations, such as those that come from crowd-funding efforts of Charity Miles.

Charity Miles marks an optimistic innovation in humanitarian efforts, smartly combining contemporary fitness technologies that instantaneously calculate the results of physical training with instantaneous funding organizations striving to better the lives of the hungry.

So get running. The two miles you run today ultimately puts food on the table for an entire refugee family in Syria.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: Huffington Post1, Huffington Post2, Charity Miles, World Food Program
Photo: The Telegraph

There are an estimated 852 million hungry people in the world – an astounding number. However, with some simple ideas, the number of hungry people in the world can easily be reduced.

1. Education

Even if hunger was eradicated right now, it would only be temporarily so if education is not a priority. Educated children are prepared children. A good education equips children to provide for themselves, as well as their communities, in the future. Education ensures that the steps taken in the fight against hunger are sustainable.

2. School meals 

School meal programs are one of the easiest ways to feed lots of children, since the children are all gathered in one place. It is also very cost-effective. For 25 cents per meal, the World Food Program feeds 24 million school children annually.

3. Food security programs

The World Food Program defines food security as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food security programs aim to meet these needs by training farmers in developing nations through agricultural methods that will provide their communities with food – both now and long-term. The World Food Program reports that it has provided 200,000 farmers with agricultural training since the beginning of its food security programs.

4. Focus on women

It is estimated that women account for 60 percent of the hungry worldwide. If a mother is not able to provide for herself, she will most likely not be able to provide for her children either. This means that hunger is continuously being inherited by children. When women are helped, entire communities are helped.

5. Raise awareness

The simple act of bringing attention to the problem of hunger goes a long way in fighting it. People can’t contribute to a cause they aren’t informed of, and as more people become aware of how hunger affects the poor around the world, more people will engage in the fight against it. It’s that simple.

6. Donate

This is one that tends to be taken for granted. Many people talk about the importance of monetary donations, but relatively few actually donate. This is unfortunate, because donations of any amount can go a long way. There are billions of people in the world that do not suffer from chronic hunger. If all of these people contribute even the tiniest amount that they can afford, hunger will be exponentially closer to being eradicated.

7. Live simply

People in developed nations put so much money towards things they don’t need, while people in the developing world struggle just to get by on a daily basis. Practicing some restraint in spending would free up money that could then be used towards eradicating hunger. This could be as simple as forgoing a cup of coffee each day.

8. Reduce food waste

Excess waste ties up resources that could be used elsewhere in the fight against hunger. It is important for people in developed countries to be mindful of those in developing nations by doing their best to consume only what they need.

9. Be involved in government

Exercise the privileges that come with living in a democratic society in the fight against hunger. Elected officials are in place to represent the voice of the people. If enough people express their concern about global hunger to elected officials, the collective voice cannot be ignored, and action must be taken.

10. Fight for livable wages

It is not enough to simply provide the world’s hungry with food. They must be equipped to provide for themselves. Otherwise, the problem of hunger is not actually solved. Many workers in developing nations are exploited by employers and are not paid nearly enough to provide food for themselves, much less their families. If global hunger is to be defeated, all people must be provided with opportunity to earn livable wages.

Matt Berg

Sources: YSA, WFPUSA, Huffington Post, World Hunger

Photo: World Food Programme

The World Food Program has been using food donations to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people since 1961. As the food aid arm of the United Nations, WFP has been consistent in giving food to support the social and economic development of those most in need. In more recent years, a large number of celebrities have stood up in support of the WFP’s cause. Here are five of the brightest stars that are dedicated to helping WFP end world hunger:

5. Christina Aguilera
The singer-songwriter sensation found success in 1999, and ten years later, decided to give back in a big way. In 2009, she became the spokesperson for World Hunger Relief and helped generate over $148 million in funding for WFP. In 2010, she visited Haiti where WFP set up school lunch programs.

4. Penelope Cruz
After achieving fame in Spanish cinema, Cruz spent two months in Nicaragua volunteering before becoming an international success. She joined WFP in 2005 and recorded a PSA, speaking out for over 800 million living on the edge of starvation daily.

3. Rachel Weisz
While working on her Oscar-winning role in “The Constant Gardner” in Kenya, Weisz witnessed WFP aid in action. She visited the slums where thousands of children go hungry every day and shortly after agreed to appear in a short trailer that ran in cinemas prior to screenings of the film. In 2007, she made a special Mothers Day appeal on behalf of WFP, asking that no child “inherit hunger.”

2. Drew Barrymore
Actress, director, producer, this one-woman powerhouse has been an Ambassador Against Hunger for WFP since 2007. In 2005 she made a trip to Kenya, where WFP fed nearly 500 children living in Nairobi’s Kibera Slum and returned in 2007 before being named an official Ambassador. “Feeding a child at school is such a simple thing,” Barrymore said, “but you can tell it works miracles.” In 2008, she personally donated $1 million to support WFP’s efforts in Kenya.

1. Sir Sean Connery
Legendary actor, the original James Bond, and constant contender for the title of “Most Interesting Man in the World,” Connery added WFP Partner to his long list of accolades in 2003, becoming the first film star to do so. Connery also advocates for a number of other causes, including wildlife conservation and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

– David Smith

Sources: World Food Program, Look to the Stars
Photo: Theiapolis

Somali refugees continue to arrive in Ethiopia in large droves due to poor growing conditions, food shortages, and continued conflict. While the situation is slowly improving, John Ging, Director of Operations in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, urges continued attention to the crisis and says, “I call on the international community to invest now to build the resilience of Somalis and stop the cycle of crisis they have endured far too long.”

To that end, The United Nations World Food Program, UNHCR, European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, and the government of Ethiopia have partnered to launch an aid project that provides Somali refugees with monthly cash installments in addition to food aid. Currently, 12,000 refugees are receiving monetary relief and the project plans to extend cash aid to 13,000 more by October.

Monetary relief allows Somali refugees to round out their diet with fresh produce, proteins, and dairy from the local market, providing an important supplement to the basic grains and non-perishables received from aid agencies. It also gives the refugees an opportunity to inject money into the local economy. This economic boost is helpful to the communities supporting the large number of refugee settlements.

Currently the refugees who are part of the pilot cash program receive 100 Ethiopian Birr per month, or about $5.00. The organizations backing this program are optimistic that these cash transfers will greatly alleviate the most acute suffering and make the refugee situation less of a burden. Between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen, there are over 1 million Somali refugees. The cash relief program gives refugees an opportunity to regain a little agency and make decisions about what groceries to purchase while also offering much needed hunger relief.

– Zoe Meroney

Sources: World Food Program, United Nations, All Africa
Photo: UNHCR