But how much do we know about the countries that participated in one of the most beloved sporting events in the world?
Eight of the countries competing this year are countries where the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) works on a regular basis to solve hunger.
Among Western Sahara refugees in Algeria, mothers and children see high rates of anemia—53 percent for children, 49 percent for non-pregnant women and 56 percent for pregnant women. WFP provides corn soya blend, sugar and vegetable oil rations to these mothers and children, targeting their malnourishment and health conditions.
Right now, WFP is working to fight malnutrition in Cameroon among refugees that have fled from nearby Central African Republic. Of those refugees, 1 out of 3 children suffer from malnutrition. And aside from this growing refugee crisis, 40 percent of Cameroon’s population of 20 million already live below the poverty line.
Ongoing violence in the country means up to 3.7 million Colombians have become internally displaced over the last two decades, and 95 percent of them face food insecurity. WFP is providing food assistance and working with government entities to boost food security.
Over 23 percent of Ivorians live on less than $1.25 a day, and primary school enrollment remains low. But WFP’s new school meals program provides daily meals to 571,000 kids; Ambassador Against Hunger José Mourinho got to take a look at the program during the World Cup.
While chronic malnutrition for children in Ecuador remains high, so does the possibility of natural disaster. In 2012, the country experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, impacting both homes and food security. WFP was able to deliver food assistance to 25,000 people during this time.
1 in every 4 kids in Honduras suffers from chronic malnutrition, and 75 percent of the rural populations live in extreme poverty. In the face of such challenges, WFP continues to support school meals, nutrition for mothers and children and agricultural production of small-scale farmers.
Ghana is classified as a food-deficit country, but WFP is working hard to change that. It serves daily cooked meals to 150,000 children and provides take-home rations for 30,000 girls, not only feeding them but encouraging families to send their daughters to school.
Although it’s fairly resource-rich, Iran needs help to provide for the influx of refugees coming from neighboring countries. Just in 2012, it saw 840,500 Afghan refugees and 45,000 Iraqi refugees. WFP aims to ensure food security among households in 19 refugee settlements.