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Fighting inequality: President Lula’s Zero Hunger Program

Economy / -

Fame zero il modello Lula per la lotta alle diseguaglianze
©Bruno Ehrs/Corbis

Launched in 2003, the Brazilian president’s initiative has contributed to combating hunger in Latin America’s largest country. Today, its neighbors are looking with interest at the possibility of importing a similar model to help them achieve lasting social equality.

With over 50 million people rescued from hunger, Brazil’s "Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger) program, which was launched in 2003 by the then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and featured radical measures in regard to agriculture, and schools, as well as support to the poorest families, with special attention to children. Among the outcomes: Brazil was able to reignite its economy, and has become a point of reference in the field worldwide.

Data from the FAO
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has certified that Brazil has achieved its development objectives in terms of fighting hunger, with the number of undernourished people being reduced by nearly 10 million, from 22.8 million a 13.6 million, in just twenty years. Lula’s government’s declared objective was to effect a 50 percent reduction in the number of its citizens suffering from hunger, between 1990 and 2015. According to the FAO’s figures, that percentage is currently 54%. In 1990, some 15 percent of Brazil’s population went hungry. At the present time, it is just under seven percent.

Actions taken
With a budget of 500 million US dollars, Brazil’s Zero Hunger project has successfully reduced hunger, especially in the country’s poorest areas. A two-fold strategy was pursued. The “Bolsa Família” provided direct financial aid to the most disadvantaged families, and access to micro-credit was increased. Meanwhile, food was distributed directly to the poorest, so as to provide them access to essential nutrients.
 
The project also included building rainwater cisterns in the semi-arid areas of the country, opening low-cost restaurants, teaching good nutritional practice in schools; vitamins and iron supplements were also distributed. In addition, the fight to combat hunger included helping family-farmers, with government aid for this rising from one to four million dollars.
 
The government ministers who coordinated the program were at pains to stress that this was not a mere philanthropic mission based on “hand-outs”, but a policy that would set the foundations for helping establish certain human rights that had, to date, not existed.

The outcomes of the Zero Hunger (Fome Zero) Project
A research study undertaken by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) highlighted a 20 percent reduction in social inequality in Brazil since 2001, while a report commissioned by the World Bank called attention to a significant reduction in child labor among the children in the families that qualified for the “Bolsa Familiar”.
 
While hunger continued to be an emergency for hundreds of millions of the world’s inhabitants, Latin America is the geographic area where most effort has been applied to addressing this challenge, with Lula’s initiative being a guiding light.

Exporting the Fome Zero project to other countries
Brazil’s neighbors are currently looking at how the Zero Hunger project might be applied to their own situation. In Venezuela, the government has launched a number of programs to combat hunger. The largest so far has been “Mision barrio adentro" (Mission Inside the Neighborhood), whose aim is to guarantee acceptable standards of food and health security in the most disadvantaged social contexts. While positive results have been reported in some of Venezuela’s favelas, the success-rate overall has been inconsistent. Argentina, Latin America’s second-largest country, has also launched a government program to combat hunger. This might seem somewhat incongruous, since the country, which already holds much potential for social innovation, has a population of just 40 million inhabitants, along with the potential for producing food for ten times that many.
 

Competing for nutrients. When mother and baby are in conflict without knowing it

Sustainability / -

savetchildren malnutriz img rif
© Bijai Gajmer per Save the Children

Malnutrition and teenage pregnancies are a sad combination in many parts of the world, with Asia and Africa in the lead. Save the Children seeks to assist these young pregnant women and at the same raise awareness among communities and institutions against child marriage.

Kamala is 18 years old and this is her second attempt at pregnancy. A year ago she lost her first child, just four days after giving birth due to severe pneumonia. It’s for this reason that this time she has decided to prepare herself for childbirth, something that is possible thanks to the Save the Children health clinics. She’s following a healthy diet, has had all four prenatal visits, tetanus vaccines and takes regular iron supplements. Soon she’ll give birth, but this time she’s not afraid. She's happy and knows that she is taking good care of herself and her unborn child.
 
This story, which took place in Nepal, had a happy ending. It is just an example of the type of interventions that Save the Children performs all around the world, particularly in areas where child marriage and teenage pregnancies are very frequent.
 
Compared to children born to women aged 20 to 29 years, those born to teenage moms have half the chance of surviving the first month after birth. And worldwide, despite a decline in the number of infant deaths under the age of five, the number of deaths recorded in the first 28 days of a child's life is increasing. What’s more, according to some studies, the combination of malnutrition and the young age of the pregnant woman is one of the major causes of stunting in children (poor development caused by chronic malnutrition), which is linked to the mother’s health. Whilst the mother herself is still growing, pregnancy carries an increased risk for both her and the little one due to the "competition for nutrients" between mother and child.
 
A much more serious problem in Africa and Asia
Not surprising then, are the high maternal and infant mortality rates in many African countries and in Southern Asia (more than one third of infant deaths occurs in India and Nigeria). A total of 7 million girls under 18 years give birth each year (with 70,000 adolescents dying every year during childbirth): Out of this total, 95% of these births occur in developing countries; in Sub-Saharan Africa 50% of births are to teenage moms. Consider that in Niger, in 2010 around half of the mothers aged between 20 to 24 years had given birth before reaching the age of 18. The country has one of the highest levels of maternal and infant mortality: around 104 children (under five years old) per 1,000 births, and 630 women per 100,000 births. Sometimes the problem is also due to socio-cultural factors. It is for this reason that, as part of their awareness activities in the communities, Save the Children is putting pressure on the institutions.
 
 
 

Quinoa, from poor cuisine to stardom at the table

Taste / -

 
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Quinoa plants, Perù
Quinoa salad
© Marie-Laure Tombini/Oredia/Corbis
Harvesting Quinoa, Bolivia
© George Steinmetz/Corbis
Quinoa fields, Perù
© Hugues Herve/Hemis/Corbis
Winnowing Quinoa, Bolivia
© Patrick Escudero/Hemis/Corbis
Processing harvested Quinoa, Bolivia
© Tim Clayton/Corbis
White and Red Quinoa
© Marie-Laure Tombini/Oredia/Corbis
Stuffed Turnips with Quinoa
© Marie-Laure Tombini/Oredia/Corbis

Quinoa, mistakenly considered a cereal, is instead a herbaceous plant with thousands of properties. Cultivated for 5,000 years in the Bolivian Andes, it is a food that is becoming a star at the tables of Europe, where it is used especially as a substitute for rice and couscous.

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