What Our Analysts Are Reading – December, 2022

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


The level of food insecurity in India is likely underreported, according to a recent article published by The New Humanitarian. While the 2022 Global Hunger Index ranked India at 107 out of 121 nations, recording the highest percentage (19.3%) of any country of “wasting” (below average weight for their height) in children under five, the government hasn’t logged a single death from starvation since 2016. Furthermore, the Medical Certification Cause of Death (MCCD), 2020 report found that fewer than a quarter of the 8.1 million registered deaths in India that year had known causes. Experts believe that many deaths can be attributed to the effects of hunger and starvation, but such causes go unnoticed, largely due to the way post-mortem examinations are carried out. For example, undernutrition is a key driver of tuberculosis (TB), and malnutrition raises the risk of TB-related death. However, malnutrition is not examined as an underlying cause in deaths from TB. “The post-mortem reports are not an accurate reflection of hunger or starvation deaths in the country,” an assistant professor at the School for Public Health and Human Development at O.P. Jindal Global University said. “Oral autopsies are much better at determining if the cause of death was hunger.” 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity, India’s hunger problems pre-date COVID. A 2019 national report found that stunting—a sign tied to chronic malnutrition—was on the increase in most states across the country. The same was found for rates of wasting. Over the last two decades, the Indian government has developed the Public Distribution System (PDS), based on biometric data, to combat hunger by distributing affordable staple foods to those in need. However, the system provides only minimal assistance to households, and many people are not adequately captured in the biometric database. For example, the system relies on fingerprint records for distributions, excluding individuals who do not have thumbs or fingers. Another concern is the December 2022 end to the government’s supplemental “free food program” which has provided families with five kilograms of grain monthly since April 2020. It remains to be seen if a recent petition seeking an order to establish a national food grid—which would include State-funded community kitchens—for those who don’t qualify for food aid under PDS will be implemented.  


piece by Vice News explored how bitcoin mining has exacerbated political and social issues in Kosovo. The country’s extremely cheap energy prices made it an ideal location for the electricity-exhaustive process necessary to mine bitcoin and increasingly expansive mining set-ups propagated throughout Kosovo, particularly in the Serb-majority northern provinces. Residents of this region have historically not paid for electricity; Serbia partially covered the costs, and the Kosovo central authorities simply never pursued the remaining bills. However, as the threat of war pushed Europe towards an energy crisis in January 2022, Kosovo was forced to ban crypto-mining in the country. Enforcement of the ban is often seen as unfairly targeting Serbs, as so many of the operations are in the Serb regions of the north, while ignoring the ethnic Albanians who set up and control many of the server farms.


On December 16, the UN’s newly-appointed Special Representative for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily briefed the Security Council on the progress of his mandated mission to promote the UN-sponsored political process out of protracted conflict towards free and fair elections. On the one year anniversary since Libya’s planned but postponed December 2021 elections, Bathily expressed concerns over the “signs of partition” between deadlocked rival administrations, security apparatuses, central banks, and courts, implicitly criticizing the intransigence of the Libyan political leadership in identifying a route out of the crisis. Bathily singled out particular criticism for the leaders of Libya’s two dueling legislative branches currently engaged in negotiations towards a constitutional basis for elections, the High Council of State’s Khalid Mishri and the House of Representatives’ Aguila Saleh, warning them that “disagreement on a very limited number of provisions of the constitutional basis can no longer serve as a justification to hold an entire country hostage.” After ten years of intermittent conflicts and political fragmentation, Bathily faces an uphill battle in mediating between entrenched political elites. 


The economic effects of the Ukraine conflict have reverberated worldwide, impacting the prices of food, fuel, and fertilizers. Nations particularly reliant on imports, such as the Philippines, are particularly vulnerable. Farmers in the Southeast Asian country are struggling not only with the increasing prices of agricultural inputs but increasing face challenges related to climate change as well. Typhoons have been hitting the islands with growing frequency and intensity—according to the Department of Agriculture, severe storms have destroyed or partially damaged more than $225 million dollars’ worth of agricultural land this year alone.   

Malnutrition is widespread in the country. The Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report found more than a quarter of children under five in the Philippines suffer from stunted growth, and the number is rising. To alleviate some of the effects of inflation, the country’s president has approved the extension of reduced tariffs on staple food imports through the end of next year. However, to offset food insecurity in the long run, the Philippines will need to produce more of its own food. This will be no easy task for future generations, as farmers face increasing challenges for little or no profit. 


Coda Story, a US-based media outlet focused on issues like oligarchy and disinformation, discusses how Kremlin narratives are targeting newsrooms across Africa to influence perceptions of Russia and the war in Ukraine. These narratives, pushed by Russian ambassadors’ frequent op-ed pieces, criticize European policies and its history of colonialism in Africa in relation to Europe’s position on the war in Ukraine. One Kenyan editor interviewed by Coda Story said he receives these types of op-eds on a near-daily basis. The newsletter mentions that while sympathy for Ukraine exists across Africa, Russia’s messages land well and softly. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Kremlin has increased its presence across Africa through high-level political visits, Russian private militias such as the Wagner group, and its pervasive messaging campaigns, which will likely continue in 2023.

Furthermore, Independent Russian outlet Proekt delves into the media, Telegram, and how the Russian government attempts to control the narrative domestically. The report outlines a range of topics, including the reportedly widespread practice of being paid for a “block” on posting negative content on Telegram, a recent crackdown on Telegram channel authors and administrators, shifts in coverage by military bloggers, and a critique on another outlet for publishing articles that cite anonymous “sources close to the Kremlin.” Overall, Proekt’s report adds further context on how the Kremlin is influencing the Russian-language media space, as well as pushes us to reflect on how other actors are engaging with the informational space.


An article for the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Institute (MEI) argues that though the cost of rebuilding post-war Ukraine will be high, firms from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) must be barred from establishing long-term presence in Ukraine’s energy, technology, and infrastructure sectors due to the potential threat to Ukraine and overall transatlantic security. While the PRC is known for investing heavily in Europe through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), such initiatives have lost popularity in Ukraine. Furthermore, PRC’s relationship with Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine has diminished Kyiv-Beijing relations. MEI encourages Western countries to be ready to deter malign investments and invest in Ukraine’s post-war rebuild.