Trading is one of the most important industries in the UAE, as this is one of the richest countries. The UAE also imports many products, among which foodstuff, machinery, and equipment occupy the first positions among the most imported products in the Emirates. The availability of food is not an issue for residents of the UAE; supermarkets carry all the food they could possibly need or want. But how can a nation with the parched territory and hot weather all year round have access to a wide variety of food? Simple: The UAE is greatly reliant on imports.
-Did you know?
UAE faces a trade deficit when it comes to its food market due to limited arable land, increasing climate issues, and acute water shortage.
-What are the challenges?
With the recent COVID-19 outbreak revealing the precarious nature of imports, the UAE is now putting a strategy in place by investing in technologies to find a solution to food security.
-How can this situation improve?
They need to reduce the imports through a new food strategy which is investing in ag-tech!!
This situation can be improved through “Magic – Breathable Sand” which is one of the solutions that was developed by the Dake Group in partnership with the Rechsand Technology Group from Beijing. This type of sand is covered with a specific technology that allows air to travel through its particles and captures the water that it contains. They believe that it could be applied to desert sand to retain water and fertilizer usage by 70% and 50% respectively.
It was then tested and it worked: they were able to grow around 28 fruit trees including mango and lemon groves.
Various institutions in the United Arab Emirates provide a range of funding options to modernize agriculture.
Dubai’s Food Tech Valley: It’s a new initiative that seeks to increase food production in the UAE and establish it as a major international destination for the sector. Based out of Dubai, ICBA works by assisting farmers and agricultural organizations in developing policies and methods that will maximize the management of local natural resources. They provide advice on the optimum crop varieties to harvest as well as soil and water quality.
Water Scarcity: To make seawater drinkable and useful for agriculture, the United Arab Emirates mainly relies on an expensive procedure called desalination.
“Water is scarce. And as we already know, 90% of the water available in the UAE is desalinated water which is very costly and consumes energy,” explains Idland.
If half of the water was saved and used for agriculture, 30 tons of tomatoes could be produced every day. Additionally, there would be less need for the expensive and energy-intensive process of desalinating seawater.
Vertical Farming and New Technologies: The past few years have seen a lot of attention paid to Vertical Farming. The government and the corporate sector have invested millions in the technique despite the significant expense associated with it. In order to develop vertical farming facilities in the Emirate, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced in April that it would invest $100 million in four businesses, one of which being AeroFarms.
-Visualization and Analysis.
By looking at the data from World Development Indicators, we get the results in Tableau as below: “Imports Vs. Exports”
The data line chart in the World Development Indicators shows the percentages of food exports and imports in the United Arab Emirates from 1999 to 2021 that led to a “Trade Deficit”.
-Things to note.
Why is it magical for Desert Farming and Food Security?
Breathable roots are produced by breathing sand, and they can change the forest or other green cover.
Given that desert soil is free of any chemical or fertilizer contamination, it encourages quicker adoption of organic farming techniques.
A small layer of sand can save billions of gallons of water annually by reducing water use for agriculture, farming, forestry, or gardens by 80%.
Additionally, the breathable sand can transform desert farming to increase production quantity and quality.
“Increasing self-production within the local region and reducing the reliance on imports is what we are focusing on,” says Chandra Dake.
“We [in the UAE]are only looking at a few hundred thousand hectares to be food secure, and it is not too far,” he says.
Authors: Tala Abdul Samad, Nour Al Bidewe, Basman Hariri, Sara Sadaka, Aziz Saliby, Jean-Pierre Sakr
Over the past two years, Lebanon has been witnessing compounded crises such as brain drain, poverty, unemployment, and inequality. On October 3rd, we wanted to listen to the factors that affected the Lebanese the most. Borhan, a 60-year-old man living in Beirut, was one of the people we met. We captured a video with him to show the suffering of the Lebanese since the start of the crisis where he comprehensively described the severe living conditions. As we all know, 2019 was a year of transformation for Lebanon, beginning with the October 17th revolution in 2019, following the global pandemic in 2020, and the rise of inflation. Borhan expressed the feelings of most Lebanese, where he identified the problems that we are facing as residents. Many people mentioned that specific sectors have been hit the most, therefore we would like to perform exploratory data analysis and surveys using different datasets to be able to identify inequalities. We are also interested in using a data-driven approach to identify gaps and inequalities that exist in the education, income, and health sectors.
As a result, we have exploited the World Bank’s World Development Indicatorsand we have identified several indicators which we have used as proxies to measure multidimensional poverty in Lebanon. We chose to have a topic related to the multidimensional poverty index in Lebanon compared to the Arab region. Since the multidimensional poverty index is calculated using three different dimensions, namely education, living conditions, and health, we decided to divide the three different dimensions among us.
Housing is a significant indicator of the multidimensional poverty (MDP), and based on ESCWA calculations, the main indicators to assume whether housing is counted as depreciation for a household or not are ‘Overcrowding rate’ – the percentage of the population living in an overcrowded household – ‘Housing type’ i.e. houses, apartments, row houses, townhouses and duplexes, ‘Sanitation quality’ – availability of handwashing facilities, toilet cleanliness.
Historical data related to housing utilities in Lebanon was gathered from theCentral Administration of Statistics (CAS), which contains significant indicators to measure MDP such as water, electricity, gas, actual rent, furnishings, household equipment and routine household, and others. Data is shown monthly from December 2007 till September 2022.
This data reported many indicators highlighting the increase in poverty on multiple sides. It is worth reporting that the consumer price index (CPI) Housing Utilities in Lebanon records the highest score this September 2022 (363.3) compared to October 2021 (215.9).
Looking at the nutrition level, food inflation was detected as the cost is more skewed to the right for the year 2021-2022; rising food prices reduce the purchasing power of food consumers. Another devaluation could be mentioned in the transportation sector, as the transportation sub-index of the CPI basket in Lebanon increased by 2339 points in September of 2022 (3,725), compared to August 2021 (1,386); the cost of transportation is significantly increasing, resulting in a limitation to access in the transportation sector.
It is worth mentioning that the CPI in Lebanon has more than doubled over the past year, peaking this September 2022 at a score of 1,611.4 against 714.8 in October 2021, and a higher CPI indicates higher inflation. This eventually leads to adjustments in the cost of living and income, which tends to worsen inequality or poverty as it hits income and savings harder for poorer or middle-income households than for wealthy households.
As stated by Joao Martins, MSF Head of Mission in Lebanon, “The crisis in Lebanon has been driven by years of corruption and now we are seeing that this can contribute to the destruction of an entire health system just as effectively as war or a natural disaster”. As a result, it is important to conduct a deep dive analysis on the healthcare system in Lebanon which is a dimension that measures multidimensional poverty.
First we will look at the current health expenditure (%of GDP) which takes into account the public and private health expenditure. By comparing Lebanon to the Arab World, we can notice that the current health expenditure is higher along the mid 2000 with Lebanon having 11% in 2000 while the Arab World having 4%. After that, Lebanon witnessed a decrease and the Arab World an increase reaching a value of 9% and 5%, respectively. The decrease in the expenditure in Lebanon has negatively affected the healthcare system as medication and vaccines are becoming scarce. Looking more closely, we can see in the next graph that the access to immunization has tremendously decreased in Lebanon. On average the access to vaccines (such as DPT, HepB3, and measles) has decreased from 83% (2000) to 67% (2021).
On another hand, we evaluated the demand for private insurance in Lebanon. As we can see, the demand has decreased from 70% (2000) to 45% (2021). This decrease is due to all private insurance companies converting their payment method to fresh U.S. dollars and since the NSSF benefits have diminished due to the economic crisis, most Lebanese people are now left with no proper access to health assistance.
We also conducted a survey on school and university students to analyze access to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic which was also identified as the new normal.
You can be part of our project by filling this online survey. Your answers are highly valuable to the development of our dashboard since the larger the sample size, the more accurate our results would be.
At a later stage, we would like to present our results to our target audience which are UN agencies, local NGOs, and Lebanese ministries. We got a total of 135 responses from all over Lebanon where the survey was populated via social media platforms. The majority of the respondents were university students or graduates. Most of them were unemployed or employed in a full time position.
We asked the respondents about their evaluation to their online experience; the answers rated their experience as poor or fair. On a scale from 1 being a very bad experience and 5 being a very good experience, most of the respondents rated the effectiveness of online learning as 3. In addition, we asked about the preferred type of education; the majority answered the traditional physical method as the most preferred following the hybrid method as second preferred. These answers make us conclude that the online learning experience was not that good in Lebanon. This might be due to the lack of training from the government and the teachers.
To further explore the facilities that were available to ease the online learning experience, we asked the people about their access to devices, electricity and internet. For the devices, the majority had access to devices that were mainly Mobile phones or laptops. Most of the respondents have access to electricity but not all the time while almost all the respondents have access to internet but the variance changed between access all the time and access but not all the time. Most of the respondents reflected that they couldn’t focus and they weren’t serious about their studies during online learning. Furthermore, on a scale from 1 being not at all to 5 being for sure, we asked the people about their willingness to retake the online experience. The answers varied between 1 and 2 mainly.
Finally, we asked the people about the disadvantages of online learning. Some of the responses include poor network, electricity cuttage, procrastination, weak communication, lack of motivation to study, more distraction, professors are not equipped with the resources, challenging experience for both students and professors. From this survey, we can conclude that Lebanon wasn’t prepared well for such a situation, especially its basic infrastructure which includes bad electricity and network services.
FROM “Man up, you can’t be depressed just because this happened!” TO “Why are you looking so sad and tired? Are you depressed? You can talk to me if you want..”
To begin with, according to the World Bank dataset on development indicators, it is clear that men’s average suicide mortality rate is significantly higher than females.
Surprisingly, males are three times more suicidal than females, reaching an average of 14.3 male suicides per 100,000 males, while 4.4 female suicides per 100,000 females.
But why is this the case?
While comparing countries with high unemployment rates and countries with low unemployment rates, the following analyses were investigated:
To begin with, in Countries with highest unemployment rates, the suicide mortality rates for both men and women are higher.
However, when faced with difficult economic situations:
Females suicide mortality rates were higher by 150%
Males suicide mortality rates were higher by 217%
This leads to the conclusion that men’s mental health tends to be more susceptible to financial burdens.
So, what should be done?
A potential solution would be providing unemployment benefits, which are governmental compensations that are provided for unemployed people. These compensations help secure a stable income after the layoff of an employee, and they improve unemployed people’s productivity in the labor market by improving job matching and connecting employees to employers.
In addition, this solution can be helpful in mitigating the impact of unemployment on the psychological wellbeing of people.
As the following illustration shows, both females’ and males’ suicide mortality rates are higher in countries with loweradequacy and coverage of unemployment benefits
More specifically, males’ suicide rates are 31% lower in countries with high adequacy and coverage of unemployment benefits.
Thus, in order to mitigate the males’ suicide mortality, several recommendations are suggested to be effective.
First, it is highly recommended that suicide prevention groups intensify their focus on men and encourage them to express themselves and seek psychological help.
Equally important, in countries with high unemployment rates, governments should work on providing unemployment benefits and ensure their wide coverage of the unemployed.
Childbirth is considered to be a landmark and joyous moment in any woman’s life. And although health experts say that no two childbirth experiences are the same, it is quite astounding that this can, in many cases, reach the extreme of death. According to statistics released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank Group, around 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns die every year of preventable causes . This turns childbirth into an event to be feared as it poses a significant threat to the lives of many women across the globe. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, quality education is defined as one the of the seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs), so how can education help mitigate childbirth mortality?
“Pregnancy is not a disease. It should not lead to deaths. Every maternal death should be regarded as an abnormality.” – Vivianne Ihekweazu, Director of the Nigerian Health Watch 
How are Childbirth Deaths Related to Education?
The World Development Indicators data from the World Bank  allows us to look into the impact of education on childbirth by exploring the percentage of births that are handle by skilled health staff. In the figure below, we plot the average life expectancy at birth in years with respect to the average percentage of births attended by skilled staff for each country. There is a clear positive correlation between the two variables. We therefore conclude that children who are delivered by skilled health workers during labor are more likely to have a higher life expectancy.
However, the impact of having educated people overseeing child delivery does not stop here. Unfortunately, carrying out child delivery without proper understanding of the necessary health procedures has more alarming implications. In the dashboard below, we notice a sharp decrease in both maternal mortality (women dying during labor) and neonatal mortality (newborns dying at birth) in countries where more childbirths are handled by skilled health workers. This implies that many of the childbirth related deaths can be attributed to the lack of necessary health skills.
Where are these Childbirth Deaths Mostly Occurring?
Below we find the places that suffer the most from this by selecting the countries that have a below average percentage of births attended by skilled staff.
By looking at the geographical distribution of these countries we unsurprisingly find that the majority is located in Africa. Furthermore, we notice that the educational attainment in these countries is significantly lower than countries that have more professionally handled childbirths. This is an expected causality since to have more skilled people perform childbirth procedures we need more educated people.
So the Solution Is, Educate More People!
“The benefits of education permeate all walks of life right from the moment of birth.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO 
In light of the above, we clearly need to have more educated people that are able to professionally handle childbirth procedures. This is especially needed in developing countries where childbirth mortality is more pronounced. A key approach strategy here is to educate the local birth attendants and community midwives that are already active in these communities. These local and community health workers are already more connected to the women and families in their towns making their newly found skills more accessible and allowing them to spread health awareness to pregnant women in their communities . Finally some communities in rural Africa are located in remote locations faraway from any medical supply and service centers. Therefore, setting up portable medical outposts near these towns would greatly enhance the quality of services provided by birth attendants.