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The Rwandan Genocide
Rwanda. 1994. 100 days. This was all it took for a band of Hutu extremists to commit the Rwandan Genocide, killing just under a million civilians. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has prompted yearly remarks around the world. The United Nations sponsors these, discussing the horrific implications of the event. Survivors have come forth to tell their stories as they work to make impacts to prevent genocides in the future.

What Was The Rwandan Genocide?

Two neighboring castes lead Rwanda; the Tutsis and the Hutus. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi was a power struggle between these dividing castes. Although the Hutus largely outnumbered the Tutsis, with “about 85% of Rwandans,” the Tutsi had been in power for a long time. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and civilians fled to neighboring countries. Rwanda remained under the Hutu dictatorship for many years following.

Long thereafter, a group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They stormed Rwanda in 1990 and fought until 1993 when both parties agreed upon a peace deal.

However, the peace agreement broke on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, a known Hutu, was shot down. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF for the killing. Soon thereafter started the mass genocide that resulted in the killing of over 800,000 people. Government troops backed up the Hutus, many of whom forced civilians and youths to fight and to exercise the slaughters. The RPF stormed the capital, Kigali, on July 4, 1994, to gain back power.

Help from The World Food Programme

The Rwandan genocide forced many civilians into starvation, often unable to provide for themselves or their families. The World Food Programme provided emergency food assistance to those in need, targeting the “fundamental role food plays for vulnerable communities fleeing from conflict.” One Rwandan that the WFP helped is Liberee Kayumba. A survivor of the genocide, she was only 12 when she lost both of her parents and brother, experiencing starvation following the conflict. Now working as a monitoring officer for the Mahama Refugee Camp organization, she helps others suffering from food insecurity.

On the WFP’s Website, Liberee tells her story. She says that the memories from the genocide helped motivate her to want to help people in need. Liberee remembers how food availability was the main problem after the genocide for her and other survivors. Therefore, she has exact memories of the meals the WFP distributed, which she thinks saved her life.

The United Nations Conducts The International Day of Reflection

The U.N. has mandated an information and educational outreach programme to help survivors and others cope with the ramifications of the Rwandan Genocide and their resulting losses. This program emerged in 2005 with the main themes of preventing genocide and supporting survivors. Around the world, events such as “roundtable discussions, film screenings, exhibits and debates” occur yearly.

The slogan of 2020’s event was International Day of Reflection. It marked the 26th anniversary of the genocide, with a virtual observance for all to join in on. Multiple officials and survivors made sure to show up, including Jacqueline Murekatete. She is a lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit organization Genocide Survivors Foundation. Murekatete lost her entire family in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when she was only 9 years old.

The U.N.’s yearly observance reminds us to reflect on past events and recount what we can do to promote resilience and growth among countries facing hardships. Those this horrific event impacted have the chance to mourn and reflect, looking toward the greater good as individuals strive to create a better future for all.

– Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in BurundiThe East African country of Burundi is one of the poorest in the world. Its meager economy relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, which employs approximately 90% of the people there. Burundi is Africa’s most population-dense country and nearly three out of every four people live below the poverty line. One of the lamentable realities of Burundi’s poverty is the effects it has on children. Child poverty is a serious issue in Burundi and the country has a current score of 5.46/10 on Humanium’s “Realization of Children’s Rights Index.”  Burundi is deemed a black level country by Humanium, meaning that the issue of children’s rights is very serious.

The State of Child Poverty in Burundi

In Burundi, 78% of children live in poverty. Poverty especially affects children in the rural parts of the country. Poverty also disproportionately affects children of the indigenous Batwa people. Additionally, child poverty in Burundi has seen an unfortunate and notable increase since 2015, when violent unrest occurred following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term, which was unconstitutional. The roots of the poverty problem in Burundi stem from a few different factors, the most predominant one being hunger.

Chronic Hunger in Burundi

Despite having an agriculture-centric economy, more than half of Burundians are chronically hungry.  The lack of food in the country is due to the fact that even at the peak of the harvesting season, food production is too low to sustain the population. Food production in Burundi can only cover a person for 55 days of the year. The lack of food also means prices are much higher. As a result, it is not uncommon for households to spend up to two-thirds of their incomes on food, even during harvesting season. One reason for Burundi’s difficulties in growing enough food has been frequent natural disasters that destroy crops and yields.

Hunger and Education

Hunger is so prevalent and intense in Burundi that despite having free and compulsory school for children between the ages of 7 and 13, the country faces growing dropout rates due to hunger. Another problematic issue for Burundian children facing poverty is schooling after the age of 13. After 13, school is neither free nor compulsory, making it exponentially less accessible and thus reducing opportunities for upward mobility. Much of Burundi’s education system has been negatively affected by Burundi’s civil war, as schools were destroyed and teachers were unable to teach.

Street Children in Burundi

Burundi has many “street children.” As the name suggests, these children live on the streets and are incredibly poor, left to fend for themselves. Street children have no humanitarian assistance from the government and consistently face police brutality, theft and arrests. Kids in Burundi become street children because families are sometimes too poor and hungry to stay together or they have to flee from child abuse or family conflict.

Organizations Addressing Child Poverty in Burundi

Although the reality of the child poverty situation in Burundi is dire, there are good things being done to improve the situation. While the government in Burundi is not providing adequate help, there are several humanitarian organizations providing assistance to those in need.

The NGO, Humanium, works on raising awareness, partnering with local projects to help children and providing legal assistance to victims of children’s rights abuses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working in Burundi since 1968 by providing food such as school meals, malnutrition rehabilitation to starved children and helping to improve food production. Additionally, organizations like Street Child are working to build schools and eliminate as many barriers to education as possible for children in Burundi and elsewhere. Groups like the WFP, Humanarium and Street Child do substantial work to help children in Burundi. It is vital that the work continues and that more organizations participate in alleviating child poverty in Burundi.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Cuba
Cuba’s geographic position in the Caribbean leaves it vulnerable to annual natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and heavy rain. Natural disasters have cost Cuba more than 20 billion USD since 2011, a cost that greatly impacts Cuba’s overall food security. Despite this, Cuba has consistently scored “low” (less than 5) on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) since 2005. A GHI score of <5 indicates that less than 10% of the population suffers from hunger, calculated by national rates of undernourishment, child wasting and stunting and child mortality. Hunger in Cuba has stabilized at 2.50% since 2002.

While still under the 10% line and decreasing, Cuba’s child stunting indicators are much higher than its other indicators. In 2005, child stunting was 4.8% higher than the next-highest indicator, child wasting, and still 2.7% higher in 2019. According to Cuba’s Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System, 31.6% of two-year-olds suffered from anemia in 2015.

Social Programs in Cuba

Many social programs in Cuba rely heavily on food importation and foreign aid from Venezuela and the U.S. Up to 80% of Cuba’s food is imported. The majority of food importation, about 67%, goes toward government social programs. This leads to long distribution lines for basic food products like rice, vegetables, eggs and meat. These lines for individual food products can last up to five hours as people wait to purchase groceries with government-issued ration books. Waiting for one ingredient at a time leads to some households choosing certain food products over others and reducing their nutrient diversity.

Fortunately, international and local organizations are also stepping in to help. Here are four organizations working to addressing hunger in Cuba.

  1. The World Food Programme: The World Food Programme (WFP) is working hard to improve nutrient diversity and reduce Cuban reliance on international imports. The WFP provides nutritional and food safety education programs for pregnant and nursing women, children and seniors. The organization also helps local producers and processors of beans improve the competitive pricing of their products. Additionally, the WFP collaborates with the Cuban government to develop a food security analysis program in conjunction with Cuba’s natural disaster response plan.
  2. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere: Smaller organizations strive to help Cuba improve its food security as well. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), for instance, helps Cuban farmers revive farmland and establish sustainable food production practices, which will improve crop returns and overall food security over time.
  3. The West India Committee: Similar to CARE, the West India Committee provides education and training to farmers to help keep farmland productive and efficient over a longer period of time.
  4. The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHR Cuba) has a different approach. FHR Cuba focuses on creating economic incentives to start and maintain small businesses, including livestock and agricultural farms. FHR Cuba gives out microcredit loans between $100 and $600 to applicants for business supplies. Participants are then required to file a monthly report. So far, the initiative has funded 70 entrepreneurs. All have been able to successfully repay their loan as their businesses take off.

Political and Economic Context

Recent political fighting and economic hardships have led to food shortages and new government-issued rations. These go beyond the already-existing food rations allotted per family. Since 2000, Cuba has relied on Venezuelan oil, but economic collapse in Venezuela caused the aid in oil exports from that region to be cut in half. Cuba relied on selling Venezuelan oil for hard currency to trade internationally for products like food.

Additionally, after Cuba affirmed diplomatic support for Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, the U.S. imposed strict sanctions. The U.S. sanctions have caused food prices to soar as Cuba seeks new, more expensive suppliers. Additionally, the national production of food fell in response to the economic crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 and plummeting tourism.

Improving Food Security

Cuba is seeking to improve its future food security by asking citizens to grow their own gardens and produce their own food. Due to how much of food is imported from abroad, very little food is produced in Cuba itself. For example, Cuba missed the mark of 5.7 million domestic demand for eggs by 900,000 eggs in March 2019, while Cuba’s main homegrown agricultural exports are luxuries like sugar and tobacco. Havana reportedly already produces 18% of its agricultural consumption, while other areas are only starting to begin farming and gardening initiatives. As agricultural supplies are also largely imported, Cubans must rely on organic farming techniques like “worm composting, soil conservation and the use of biopesticides.”

In conclusion, while Cuba has a long track record of preventing widespread hunger, the country needs to find new solutions to combat hunger in Cuba in the face of recent challenges like COVID-19 and faltering foreign aid. With the help of economic creativity like microloans and improving competitive bean prices, sustainable farming techniques taught by WFP, CARE and others and measures already in place to reduce Cuba’s reliance on food imports, Cuba has shown that it already has the infrastructure in place to meet these challenges.

Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

Biden's USAID Chief
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the U.S.’s federal agency for fighting international poverty. Now, many are interested in learning about Biden’s USAID chief candidates. USAID offers development assistance to countries to promote self-reliance. In 2019, the agency spent over $20 billion across 134 countries in 28 different service sectors including agriculture, basic healthcare and emergency response.

The actions of USAID are central to the U.S.’s actions on international poverty as a whole. President-Elect Joe Biden’s presidency is looming. Who he appoints as the head of USAID will be influential in shaping the agency’s actions for years to come. This role is particularly important as the world continues reeling from COVID-19. No formal nominee has been announced yet, but over the past few weeks, some have provided several names of who is on a shortlist to become Biden’s USAID Chief. These names include Ertharin Cousin, Liz Schrayer, Frederick Barton and Jeremy Konyndyk.

List of USAID Chief Candidates

  1. Ertharin Cousin: Ertharin Cousin served as executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) from 2012 to 2017. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Before this, in 2009, former President Barack Obama appointed her as ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role, she represented the U.S. in international talks regarding humanitarian issues. She also has experience with domestic humanitarian issues, having served as CEO of Feeding America, an organization of 200 food banks across the U.S. As of now, she tops the shortlist and many presume her to be a favorite to become Biden’s USAID chief.
  2. Liz Schrayer: Currently, Liz Schrayer is president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Commission, a coalition of hundreds of NGOs and businesses advocating for U.S. action and leadership through international development. She is also an advisor on multiple committees including USAID’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s Development Advisory Council. This prospective candidate for Biden’s USAID Chief has prior experience working with USAID and is another expert in the field of international development.
  3. Frederick Barton: Frederick Barton is the recent author of a 2018 book, “Peace Works – America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World.” He has experience as the U.S. Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York from 2009 to 2011. He also served as an advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2002 to 2009. He has a long history of work in the field, having been USAID’s founding director of its Office of Transition Initiatives in 1994, serving until 1999.
  4. Jeremy Konyndyk: Jeremy Konyndyk also has prior experience with USAID, having served as director of its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance from 2013 to 2017. In this role, he oversaw a team of 600 staff. He and his staff managed responses to disasters like the West African Ebola outbreak and the ongoing Syrian civil war. Konyndyk is currently on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee. He also served in the past as an advisor to the WHO Director-General.

Conclusion

Each of the above candidates is well qualified to become Biden’s USAID chief. Although no nominee has received an announcement yet, the future of the U.S.’s largest organization fighting international poverty seems to be in good hands.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Nepal
In Nepal, one in four people lives below the national poverty line, earning only $0.50 a day. This makes it nearly impossible for them to afford basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. In recent years, many organizations have provided aid to Nepal to improve living conditions and lower hunger levels. Outlined below are three organizations fighting hunger in Nepal.

World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) is a humanitarian organization run by the United Nations with the goal of fighting global hunger. WFP distributes more than 15 billion rations to people affected by hunger in countries around the world. Two-thirds of the countries it serves are affected by conflict. Statistically, people in conflict-ridden countries are three times more likely to be malnourished than their counterparts living in peaceful environments.

One of the countries WFP has been working to address food security and hunger in is Nepal. Roughly 36% of Nepali children under five are stunted due to hunger, while an additional 27% are underweight, and 10% suffer from wasting due to acute malnutrition. As part of their work to address hunger in Nepal, WFP established the Zero Hunger strategy, which is a program with the goal to achieve zero hunger by 2030. This program has directly helped strengthen the government’s capacity to improve “food security, nutrition, as well as emergency preparedness and response.”

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger was created to establish a stronger method for dealing with hunger. Over the past 40 years, it has provided life-saving services in more than 45 countries, one of which is Nepal. Since 2005, Action Against Hunger dedicated a team of 25 employees to address hunger in Nepal.

Nepal is very susceptible to natural disasters based on its proximity to the Himalayas. Its location causes more than 80% of the population to be at risk of storms, floods, landslides or earthquakes. A 2015 earthquake greatly affected Nepal’s Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts. In response, the team created and integrated water and sanitation reconstruction for the areas impacted.

In 2019, Action Against Hunger was able to provide treatments for severely malnourished children through two inpatient and 28 outpatient therapeutic care centers. The organization has carried out various livelihood programs that include helping Nepali citizens implement “home gardening, mushroom farming, poultry and integrated shed management” into their lives. In 2019 alone, the organization provided aid to 99,455 Nepali citizens. Among these citizens, 90,316 were reached by nutrition and health programs, 4,570 were reached by water, sanitation and hygiene programs and 4,569 were reached by food security and livelihood programs.

Feed the Future

Feed the Future was started with the intention of creating sustainable and long-term strategies that would put an end to chronic hunger and poverty across the globe. The organization now operates in twelve different countries affected by food insecurity to execute their goals.

In Nepal, almost 70% of the population works in agriculture; however, many farmers struggle to afford supplies to yield fruitful crops. Feed the Future works with the Nepali government and the agricultural private sector to “produce more diverse and nutritious foods, improve agricultural practices among farmers, and create more inclusive economic opportunities.” So far, the organization has increased nutrition access for 1.75 million children under the age of five. In 2018, it increased vegetable crop yields by 22% and raised farmers’ gross profit margins for vegetables by 17%. The organization also helped the farms it worked with generate $20 million in sales for their crops.

Eradicating Hunger

For years, Nepal has had high food insecurity and hunger due to economic hardships and natural disasters. However, organizations like the World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger and Feed the Future are making measurable and tangible differences in the lives of Nepali citizens. Through the work of these organizations and so many like them, eradicating hunger in Nepal is possible in the coming years.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Sudan
In 2011 South Sudan became the newest nation in the world. Gaining independence gave much celebration and hope for the future, yet South Sudan was created as a very undeveloped country. Nearly seven million people face the risk of starvation, which is 60% of the population in the country. In order to fight hunger in South Sudan, these organizations have come together to provide aid.

Rise Against Hunger

In parts of South Sudan such as Unity State and Jonglei, famine was officially declared in February of 2017. However, humanitarian organizations such as Rise Against Hunger fought to prevent worsening conditions. The national Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has reported that the extent of the famine has since diminished. One of the ways Rise Against Hunger fought against hunger in South Sudan is by supporting programs managed by Mothering Across Continents in Old Fangak. The programs focus on providing school meals for children, constructing sustainable food storage and stabilizing markets through the purchase of local foods. Through the efforts of this support, more than 1,300 school children have received aid at the Old Fangak community school.

Action Against Hunger

Factors such as poor living conditions, climate change, limited access to clean water and public services lead to many becoming undernourished. The team at Action Against Hunger works to make hunger in South Sudan a thing of the past. The team focuses on bringing programs to local communities that work to prevent underlying causes of hunger. Teams at Action Against Hunger worked on supplying 7,215 families with agriculture support. They also constructed 71 kilometers of roads that will allow more easy access to schools, markets and health services. With 91,000 people living near poor-quality roads, these new 71 kilometers of roads will give much-needed relief to the people in South Sudan.

World Food Programme

Since December of 2013 civil war has been causing havoc in South Sudan. It has caused widespread destruction and death, which tanked the economy and reduced crop production and imports. This has made it difficult for 1.47 million displaced people to secure enough food for the year. To combat the hunger in South Sudan, the World Food Programme has worked to provide food assistance in nearly every part of the country since 2011. The organization also makes sure to provide nutritious food and nutrition counseling to pregnant women and children. The World Food Programme also establishes secure farming grounds in areas that do not see conflict.

Organizations such as Rise Against Hunger, Action Against Hunger and the World Food Programme are able to help prevent hunger in South Sudan and give relief for the people who are put at the risk of starvation. With the help of organizations aimed towards preventing hunger, the people of South Sudan are able to make steady progress towards food security.

Ashleigh Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

ugly foodSome countries are creatively battling hunger and food waste by repurposing and rebranding unappealing produce as “ugly food” in Africa. Two projects in Kenya and South Africa demonstrate an interest in reducing food waste to relieve food insecurity.

The Serious Problem with Food Waste

While hunger remains a pressing issue around the world, nearly one-third of all food that is grown or produced is thrown away before it can reach anyone’s dinner table. On the African continent, nonprofits and governments are confronting food waste as a barrier to relieving widespread hunger. These groups focus on improving data collection, promoting sustainable practices and improving food policy to reduce food waste after production.

Adaptability and innovation are key. The Minister for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development of Zimbabwe, Joseph Made, recently stated, “Obviously, new strategies and approaches are needed to reduce food losses and waste, especially due to the rapidly changing nature of agri-food systems and rapid urbanization.”

A New Approach to Reducing Food Waste

One increasingly popular approach to food waste is encouraging the use of unappealing or “ugly” foods. Ugly foods are fruits, vegetables or other food products that farmers, markets and shoppers reject due to discoloration or misshapenness. While perfectly edible and nutritious, these foods are unmarketable, so markets throw them away. In countries such as the U.S. and France, a growing number of businesses are buying ugly produce from farmers and markets and reselling them to shoppers who want to end excessive food waste.

Nonprofit Work Meets Ugly Food in Africa

In many African countries, nonprofit organizations are finding ways to repurpose unappealing foods to reduce food waste and end hunger. In South Africa, for instance, food waste is a huge problem. About 44% of all foods wasted in South Africa are fruits or vegetables. However, Slow Food is a nonprofit changing that. Through an initiative called World Disco Soup Day, Slow Food sponsors festivals in many cities around the world, including Johannesburg, where ugly vegetables are brought in to make an eclectic, community soup. By feeding the community, World Disco Soup Day raises awareness about food waste and teaches people how to use unappealing produce.

Similarly, according to the United Nations, “farms in Kenya reject up to 83 tons of perfectly nutritious vegetables simply because they are considered too ugly and off-putting for consumers.” An initiative sponsored by the World Food Programme is trying to change that by feeding schoolchildren with fruits and vegetables that would have been thrown away. This project in Nairobi, Kenya has been able to provide school lunches for over 2,200 students.

While still new, the ugly food in Africa movement is growing as a means of reducing food waste and hunger. Organizations like Slow Food and the World Food Programme are leading the way by using creative approaches to feeding communities.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Unsplash

Agricultural Sector in Kenya
Agriculture is one of the most critical production sectors in society. Proper agricultural techniques and efficient transportation of goods are crucial in reducing food insecurity. They are also vital in ensuring that everyone is provided with adequate nutrition. Based on a 2020 food insecurity projection by the European Commission, between 6% and 9% of Kenyans have faced food insecurity this year. This is a result of many factors in the agricultural sector in Kenya.

In Kenya, the agricultural sector makes up 24% of its GDP via direct agricultural production. It makes up an additional 3% via agricultural manufacturing and distribution. More than 80% have jobs in the farming sector in Kenya. Unfortunately, many barriers over the past decade have inhibited agrarian success in Kenya.

Political Climate and Environmental Barriers

Following a controversial presidential election in December 2017, conflict broke out in Kenya. Throughout the months of conflict, more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed. More than 500,000 fled their homes to avoid violent areas. This displacement negatively impacted the agricultural sector in Kenya. It separated farmers from their property and destroyed crops.

Additionally, the climate of Kenya makes it susceptible to drought, flooding and landslides. Roughly 83% of Kenya is on “arid” or “semi-arid” land. These areas are much more likely to suffer from droughts, which drastically diminish crop yields. These droughts also impact livestock in Kenya by depleting water availability and grazing locations. Many areas in Kenya also experience periods of continued rainfall that can cause flooding. Flooding can overwater crops and cause an increase in livestock-related diseases.

Increasing Cost of Agricultural Inputs

The rising price of necessary agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, has been making it difficult for farmers to compete with importers. Importers can sell their products at lower costs and push local producers out of the market. In the first half of 2018, food imports rose by more than 50%. For a country whose economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, this can be very detrimental.

Policy

In recent years, the Kenyan government has begun implementing subsidies on farm inputs such as fertilizer. These subsidies have made local farmers equip to compete in the agricultural market. In tandem with this, the government has been improving rural infrastructure so that these farmers have access to a broader customer pool.

In addition to these policies, the Kenyan government has been working on implementing educational programs. These programs provide farmers with a comprehensive understanding of agricultural diversification techniques and irrigation strategies. The climate of Kenya can make it exceedingly difficult to sustain agricultural growth. Therefore, educational resources could improve the crop yields of farmers.

Nonprofit Work

It is estimated that each day, 83 tons of produce grown on Kenyan farms are rejected after being deemed aesthetically imperfect for export. In many cases, these products end up in landfills. In January 2017, the World Food Programme began an initiative to reduce the amount of wasted food in Kenya.

This program diverted these “ugly” fruits and vegetables from landfills to schools. These products help make school lunches for those in disadvantaged communities. This program both combats childhood hunger and reduces food waste. Within the first four months of this program being enacted, it provided more than 11,000 pounds of produce to schoolchildren.

To combat food insecurity and help raise the GDP in Kenya, innovations in its agricultural sector need to be made. These changes will require investment in crop-related technologies and resources, either by the government or by international donors.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

world hunger aid app
Chronic hunger is still an issue that plagues many countries and communities around the world. Many solutions proposed to solve world hunger have been ongoing for decades, yet the problem persists. In the technology-focused 21st century, these attempts at solutions have become increasingly digital. One such digital solution is a world hunger aid application from the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

The World Food Programme

The World Food Programme is the U.N.’s top organization in charge of managing and solving world hunger crises. It is focused on emergency food aid as well as helping communities maintain high nutrition standards. The WFP’s efforts are responsible for the allocation and distribution of billions of rations, worldwide to food-insecure communities each year.

Most of these food aid efforts happen on the ground, in the affected areas. However, a new initiative from the WFP can involve far more people in the crusade against world hunger. The solution is the world hunger aid application, “ShareTheMeal.”

ShareTheMeal: How Does it Work?

Launched in 2015, ShareTheMeal is a one-of-a-kind world hunger aid application. Its sole purpose is to allow users worldwide, to donate meals to adults and children around the world via their smartphones or tablets. To participate, users simply tap a button to send an $0.80 donation to the WFP, which covers the cost of one meal.

ShareTheMeal also allows users to assist with its mission in several other ways. Within the user interface, the hunger aid application splits donation tiers into higher amounts, such as “Feed a Child for a Week” or “Feed a Child for a Year,” which correspond to a donation value, to fund that goal. The application also has a feature called “The Table,” where a monthly donation matches the user with the family they are supporting. This allows users to receive updates on how their donations helped a specific family.

In addition to its general donation tiers, ShareTheMeal has real-time, cause-specific donation sections. These include assisting with the famine crisis in Yemen and supporting Syrian refugees in Iraq. The application’s “Teams” option also allows users to form teams with friends, coworkers or family members to meet a donation goal.

ShareTheMeal’s Impact

To date, ShareTheMeal has donated more than 78 million meals to people in need via its 2+ million users on iOS alone. It has received thousands of five-star reviews for its efforts and was named the Google Play Store’s Best Social Impact app. ShareTheMeal has also been featured by several major global news outlets, from CNN, Forbes and Al Jazeera to Spiegel Online.

The application has directly contributed to the WFP’s efforts to continue providing aid to communities affected by global hunger. ShareTheMeal combines peoples’ desire to support a cause with the technology that permeates their everyday lives — in a masterfully simple idea that offers tangible results. In doing so, the application brings the world of charity to a new generation of contributors via its smartphone presence.

Outlook — Positive

As hunger persists around the globe, ShareTheMeal continues to grow and evolve today. The world hunger aid application announced that during the next five years, it aims to donate 800 million meals to the world’s poor. ShareTheMeal’s goal is massive, but with its millions of users, exceptional usability and the emotional connections it creates between users and those they assist (with their donations) — this clever piece of technology seems to be on track to succeed in its quest to end global starvation.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Eswatini
The Kingdom of Eswatini (referred to as Swaziland until 2019) is a small country in the southern tip of Africa, bordering South Africa and Mozambique. The country has a dense population of around 1.14 million, and it is estimated that 63% live below the poverty line. Eswatini is currently ranked 74 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index and received a GHI score of 20.9, putting them at a “serious” hunger level. The 2019 Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (VAA) estimated that as much as 25% of the rural population — around 232,000 people — experience severe hunger and food insecurity during the lean season.

Little to no rain across Eswatini poses a huge threat for the harvest season. Many farmers choose not to plant their usual amount of crops in anticipation of severe drought, and crop production is projected to decrease by 30% in the coming years. Labor opportunities on farms also decrease, as a result depriving some people of their source of income for the season. Decreased crop yield leads to a huge spike in prices, which limits food access for those already living in poverty.

Hunger Leads to Increased Sickness and Disease

Sickness and disease are typically more prevalent in tight-knit communities that face hunger and poverty daily. Often, sickness in impoverished countries is a direct result of prolonged deficiencies of essential nutrients and inadequate caloric intake. Eswatini has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 25% of the population being infected. HIV is a disease that harms the immune system, meaning many Swazi citizens experiencing HIV are at a heightened risk for other infections.

The under-five mortality rate for children in Eswatini is 54 out of 1,000 live births, the lowest value on record as of 2018. In terms of maternal health in Swazi women, there is not enough data on their specific nutrition and diet habits. However, it is important to note that approximately one-third of women of childbearing age experience HIV, compared to only 19% of men. The high prevalence of HIV in pregnant and nursing mothers increases the likelihood that their children will experience nutrient deficiencies as a result. Fortunately, HIV can be prevented with proper sexual practices and an increase in condom usage.

Factors Increasing Hunger in Eswatini

Citizens have attempted to import maize from the neighboring country of South Africa, but much of it is confiscated by border control due to strict limitations on the amount of foreign products allowed into the country. Government officials claim that these regulations help protect domestic vendors and farmers, but many citizens are unable to afford the local prices. With limited access to imported goods and steep domestic rates, many Eswatini people are left helpless and hungry.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all the residents of the Kwaluseni township have lost their jobs, forcing people to stay home and avoid going to their place of work. Already impoverished citizens, now with no source of income, have resorted to scavenging for food. Some have even been sighted consuming weeds for sustenance. Local soup kitchens and schools were also forced to shut their doors due to coronavirus concerns, leaving more than 11,000 children without daily access to meals. Before, children received two meals a day provided by the government and various international donors. Now, the Swazi government has offered little to no aid to combat the exacerbated hunger crisis, especially in its larger cities.

Foreign Assistance Has Begun, But It’s Not Enough

Many foreign aid organizations have helped fund the World Food Programme (WFP) in Eswatini, reaching over 55,000 people in vulnerable areas this past year. WFP also provides support to many orphans and vulnerable children by establishing Neighbourhood Care Points for food and social services across the country. While much is being done to help the people of Eswatini, more resources are needed to cover a growing funding gap.

The hunger crisis in the Kingdom of Eswatini is an immense threat to the livelihoods and wellbeing of Swazi people. As a result, organizations such as the WFP are stepping in to help those in need. Along with the help of outside organizations, understanding hunger in Eswatini is an important step toward finding a long-lasting, successful solution.

Mya Longacre
Photo: Flickr