Hunger is an often overlooked cause—and effect—of gender inequality
World Food Program USA
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Around the world, women and girls face many obstacles to advancement, such as unequal access to education, lack of economic opportunity, and disproportionate rates of violence. But one disadvantage women and girls experience often gets overlooked, even though it contributes to and is perpetuated by other gender inequality issues—hunger.


According to global statistics from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the face of hunger is largely female. From mothers sacrificing food for their children to girls' needs being neglected due to discrimination, women and girls experience food insecurity at disproportionate rates. Nearly 500 million women and girls don't have enough to eat, making them 60% of the world's food-insecure population.

Women and girls not getting adequate nutrition isn't just a problem for them personally, but for society as a whole. When mothers are malnourished, pregnancies and infant feeding are compromised, leading to unhealthy outcomes. When women don't get enough calories and nutrition, they struggle to find the energy required to work or care for their families. When girls go hungry, they can't learn well and their education suffers, leading to a cycle of disadvantage.

When women and girls thrive, communities thrive, so tackling hunger for women and girls may help remedy other gender inequality issues as well.

WFP is addressing women and hunger with several initiatives:

Providing School Meals

When families can't afford to send all of their children to school, they often choose to send their sons instead of their daughters. But if parents know meals will be provided at school, they are more likely to send their girls as well. School meals and take-home rations keep girls in the classroom, which makes them more likely to find jobs and build financial stability as adults. WFP has provided millions of school meals in 61 countries and was the world's largest provider of school meals in 2018.

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Supporting Female Farmers

More than half of the world's hungry people are small-scale farmers, and nearly half of small-scale farmers are women. However, only 13 percent of those female farmers are allowed to own land—another example of how gender inequality crosses over multiple issues. If female farmers had the same access to resources as males, they could feed 150 million more people. WFP works to empower female farmers by improving access to resources like fertilizer and farming equipment, as well as providing training in areas like improving production and developing business skills. Investing in local knowledge and tools helps women farmers become more self-sufficient, leading to greater food security for all.

Nourishing Mothers and Infants

More than 3 million children die of hunger each year, and 45 percent of deaths among children under 5 years old are caused by malnutrition. The first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to a child's second birthday, are a crucial period for mental and physical development—a time of life when adequate nutrition matters the most. That's why WFP designs nutritional programs and specialized food packets to treat and prevent malnutrition in mothers and children. Last year, WFP reached more than 15 million mothers and babies with their First 1,000 Days program, helping ensure that kids get the healthy start they need.

Empowering Women With Cash-Based Assistance

Hunger is a complex issue with various causes under diverse conditions. Sometimes the most helpful way to solve hunger is by providing cash-based assistance to people so they can buy food themselves, and women are the primary purchasers of food for their families. The power to choose what groceries their family needs restores dignity and contributes to dietary diversity, an essential element of nutrition. It can also strengthen local economies and reduce food costs, waging the hunger battle on more than one front at once. WFP uploads funds to e-cards to enable people to purchase food directly themselves.

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Solving hunger will require diverse approaches from different directions, and the United Nations World Food Programme is working on many fronts at once. Figuring out what to prioritize isn't always easy, but when it comes to hunger, focusing on women and girls has proven to be an effective strategy. When we feed women, we feed the world.

To learn more about what WFP is doing to solve hunger, go to WFP USA Women & Hunger. Want to join the fight to end hunger for women? Follow #WomenAreHungrier and take the #Pledge4Moms.

For many people, seeing any animal in captivity is a tragic sight. But when an animal cannot safely be released into the wild, a captive-but-comfortable space is the next best thing.

That's the situation for a dozen female pachyderms who have joined the Yulee refuge at the White Oak Conservation Center north of Jacksonville, Florida. The Asian elephants, who are endangered in the wild, are former circus animals that were retired from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2016. The group includes two sets of full sisters and several half-sisters. Elephants tend to live together in multi-generational family groups led by a matriarch.

Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter, who fund the refuge for rare species, say they are "thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore."

"We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats," the Walters said in a statement. "But for these elephants that can't be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives."

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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