World hunger is on the rise and more than 800 million individuals worldwide are undernourished. Certain countries are reporting dangerous levels of malnutrition, leading to international concern. Many of the 3 million individuals who call the West Asian country, Armenia, their home are facing food insecurity. Despite mild economic improvements over the past few years, malnutrition and food insecurity levels have not fallen. Listed below are the top 10 facts about hunger in Armenia.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Armenia
- Six percent of the Armenian population were undernourished in 2015. Undernourishment results from a sustained low level of food intake. In addition, 16 percent of Armenians are also food insecure, i.e. absence of access to nutritious food.
- Armenia is struggling economically. The global economic crisis in 2008 caused extreme damage to landlocked, net food importing nations such as Armenia. In fact, the country’s economy contracted a staggering 14 percent in 2009 and has left lingering effects. Since then, the poverty rate in the country has increased to startling levels — In 2016, the number stood at a bewildering 29.4 percent — and growth has not returned to pre-crisis levels. National studies show that food insecure households are poorer.
- Nearly one in five youths under five were stunted. Stunting is the effect of long-term undernourishment, which leads to devastating effects on young people. Research by Ana Lydia Sawaya, an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, shows that malnutrition is linked to a higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production — factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life.
- Lack of nutrients is affecting mothers in Armenia. Child mortality is lowest and maternal survival is highest when a new mother is healthy at birth. Lack of nutrients and poor diet can exacerbate the difficulties of childbirth. According to 2011 national data, 26 percent of women of reproductive age suffered from anemia in Armenia. In 2005, 6 percent of women of reproductive age suffered from thinness. A healthy maternal dietary pattern reduces the risk of maternal mortality and increases the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy child.
- Food security is correlated to higher education. In Armenia, households that spent more money on education and whose family members had education beyond the secondary level tended to be more food secure. In urban areas outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, where poverty is higher and education levels lower, 22 percent of children were stunted in 2014.
- Some children, on the other hand, are facing the opposite problem of malnutrition. The number of overweight children in Armenia is growing and starting to cause health concerns. In the same urban areas outside Yerevan, 17 percent of children were overweight in 2014. Excessive eating and lack of physical exercise lead to long-term health consequences — such as diabetes and cancer. In addition, this can negatively affect the economy due to greater demand for social services.
- Food insecurity is not constant across the country. Northern states clock in consistently higher rates of food insecurity. Four provinces in Armenia faced food insecurity above the national average: Shirak (17 percent), Lori (17 percent), Tavush (16 percent) and the capital city, Yerevan (18 percent). These areas also are at a higher risk of being affected by natural disasters. Further, stunting and obesity have decreased in rural areas whereas it has increased in urban areas — where the majority of Armenians reside.
- Due to food insecurity and other factors that disrupt the likelihood of a nutritious diet — such as high unemployment and poverty — on average, more than 30,000 people emigrated from Armenia every year between 2007 and 2013. Many of those who decided to leave were males of prime working age. Still, diaspora remittances continue to help struggling families to rise above the poverty line.
- International aid organizations are present in the country. The World Food Programme has been active in Armenia since 1993 and other humanitarian groups are providing assistance as well. These groups focus on making policy recommendations and administering food supplies to those in need.
- Policies and programs are in place to alleviate mass malnutrition. For example, the Armenia Development Strategy for 2014–2025 plans to reduce poverty levels to 18 percent in 2021 and 13 percent in 2025. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2016–2020 focuses on, and even includes a rural development program to provide greater agricultural support to vulnerable populations. The WFP recommends that additional frameworks seek to develop a comprehensive national food security policy, lessen urban disparity and emphasize emergency preparedness, among others.
Armenia, a small, developing country, is still facing malnutrition. A good fraction of its population is facing the consequences of hunger. It is important to understand the top 10 facts about hunger in Armenia in order for political leaders to address these issues.