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World Humanitarian Day: Three of the hungriest countries and how we can help

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There is little doubt that the past few decades have seen considerable improvements in world hunger levels. In 2017, the Global Hunger Index announced malnutrition was 27% lower than in 2000. This is principally due to investments in food security brought about through co-operation via global governance organisations including the United Nations.

However, the problem is far from fixed. 815 million people globally remain undernourished. This means individuals cannot lead healthy, fulfilled lives and manifests on a macro level in weakened education systems, poor healthcare and choked economies.

World Humanitarian Day presents an opportunity to reflect on food shortage and what still needs to be done to achieve Zero Hunger – one of the foci of the UN’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Here are three countries with some of the worst food insecurity threats in the world along with outlines of the current state of the aid designated to ease the crises.

 

1. Afghanistan

Image Source: Unsplash

A shortage of rainfall over winter has caused devastation to the agricultural sector in Northern and Western Afghanistan as droughts have suffocated the country. This has crippled the yearly harvest and caused mass death of livestock meaning 1.4 million citizens  are facing a critical food shortage.

Desperate circumstances have driven many families in the agricultural business to sell their precious livestock to raise capital for food. Unsurprisingly, this has introduced a heavy burden for financially-vulnerable Afghans who now have fewer assets from which to profit in the longer-term.

Despite the critical situation which has been evolving over the past few months, developed countries seem to be grasping the severity of the food shortage only in the last couple of weeks. On July 29th, the UK government became one of the first countries to collaborate with the UN on the crisis, announcing a £10 million aid budget to ease the Afghan food shortage.

International Development Secretary Penny Mourdant said on the issue: “We have taken decisive action to step in early before the worst of the drought strikes to help prevent needless pain and suffering”. The aid strategy will include nutritionally-dense foods to combat the ever-growing rate of malnutrition in the affected regions.

2. South Sudan.

Image Source: Unsplash

The South Sudanese food crisis is reaching ebullition as enduring civil conflict continues to impact trade links and public access to foodstuffs.

Some 60% of the population now face acute food insecurity in the wake of four years of civil war. Violent conflict has caused economic calamity which has driven up food prices, leaving families without access to the bare minimum nutrition necessary to lead healthy lives.

Displacement in violent regions has caused chaos for families in the agricultural business – farmers no longer having access to their stock means a decimated supply chain come harvest time later this year. This problem is compounded by disruption to transport due to violence and the monsoon. Things are only due to worsen with ongoing widespread political turmoil.

One major stumbling block that humanitarian organisations have come up against when attempting assistance is the alarming frequency of attacks on aid workers in the country.

Kenyi Alison, an Oxfam Emergency response officer, says: “I have seen a lot in the past seven years in South Sudan, and things are getting worse. Our major concern now is gaining access to locations where people need our help. In some areas, we even have to swim to reach them.”

Despite the risks, it is crucial that developed countries persist in encouraging long-term solutions for South Sudan. Oxfam’s bilateral approach of providing short-term aid (nutritionally-dense emergency food supplies) and long-term solutions (providing families with agricultural assets and education to urge them to produce food themselves) could be taken as a model aid plan for smaller humanitarian organisations, depending on the initiative’s success this summer.

3. Bangladesh.

Image Source: Pexels

Incessant rainfall during the monsoon season has meant destruction to farmland and devastation for the Bangladeshi agricultural industry.

An influx of Rohingya refugees this year has put further pressure on the region in which 91% of the refugee population is dependent on humanitarian aid organisations for food. A recent report by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has described emergency-level malnutrition in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps.

Earlier this year, the WFP claimed they needed “urgent support” to provide food assistance to the region. Their Joint Response Plan (JRP), launched in March, aims to invest 951 million USD into humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees during 2018.

Under the plan, the WFP have established an e-voucher programme which allows refugees more nutritious consumption choices – the organisation hopes to expand this initiative to all Rohingya refugees by the end of the year. Their Enhancing Food Security and Nutrition project has also been set up with the aim of providing education and investment funds to women to pull them out of poverty for good.

What more needs to be done?

Despite advances in the state of global hunger, international organisations and governments clearly still have far to go to eradicate persistent food shortage problems.

The most practical approach to food crisis aid is twofold and is exemplified by Oxfam’s South Sudan strategy above: encourage long-run institutional shifts through education, female empowerment and asset provision whilst offering necessary emergency short-term aid to plug the gaping hole in food supplies to prevent further unnecessary mortalities.

It is crucial for developed countries to follow in the footsteps of the UK government vis-à-vis Afghanistan and step up to help close this food gap. The onus is on us to pressure our governments that this is our priority, however many thousands of miles away these famines occur.

For more information on World Humanitarian Day visit http://www.un.org/en/events/humanitarianday/.

 

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