“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,'” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).
“This past June, more than 100 participants gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases hosted by the WHO-AFRO to discuss the challenges, resources requirements, and goals to controlling and eliminating Africa’s NTDs,” the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. “Immediately following that meeting, NTD program managers met at the Annual Regional NTD Program Managers Meeting, where they discussed the recently finalized multi-year integrated NTD control and elimination plans, a huge step towards controlling and eliminating NTDs in the region,” the blog writes, noting, “Though still in draft form, the Accra Call to Action called for increased political support for NTD control, and invited partners in all sectors to contribute resources to this effort” (Jarrett, 10/9).
Agence France-Presse reports on how poverty and hunger are forcing families in the rural village of Hawkantaki, Niger, to marry their daughters at increasingly younger ages, writing, “A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.” The news agency notes “one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of child marriage among the highest in the world, according to a UNICEF survey.” According to AFP, “Most of the marriages should be illegal under Niger’s law, which states that the minimum age of marriage is 15,” but the law “only applies for civil ceremonies officiated by the state. Marriages in villages are sealed inside mosques and fall under what is called ‘traditional law'” (Callimachi, 9/16).
“Malnutrition is likely to be the most serious health threat linked to climate shifts in the coming decades, as farmers struggle to cope with more unpredictable weather, … epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts,” AlertNet reports. “Linkages between climate change, extreme weather and health have so far focused mainly on an expected increase in deaths from disasters and heat waves, as well as rising cases of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea,” the news service writes.
In a guest post on USAID’s “IMPACT Blog,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of DNDi North America, writes, “The United States government and its country partners should be commended for the tremendous achievements in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) NTD Program” and the National Institutes of Health. “However, not all NTD research is created equal,” she writes, adding, “Beyond basic research, much more research and development (R&D), including late-stage product development, for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics is urgently needed for those NTDs where adequate tools do not exist.” Noting that African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) “are not yet included in the USAID NTD Program,” Cohen says “greater commitment to developing new NTD treatments and other tools is sorely needed if disease control or elimination is to be achieved” (9/18).
“African leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly called [Wednesday] for innovative solutions to accelerate the response to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to advance health for people on the continent,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “At their meeting at U.N. Headquarters, the leaders discussed the African Union (A.U.) Roadmap, which outlines long-term sustainable strategies to finance and provide access to HIV treatment and prevention services and other health services in Africa as called for in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the news service writes, adding, “Leaders echoed the need for strong political leadership and enhanced country ownership and, as a first step, agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap, according to a news release issued by UNAIDS” (9/26).
Speaking at the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday “called for urgent international support for the people and governments of West Africa’s Sahel region, warning that the area is at a critical juncture with 18 million people affected by a severe food crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Political turmoil, extreme climatic conditions and fragile economies are combining to create a perfect storm of vulnerability,” Ban said, according to the news service. “The Sahel region is currently facing a swathe of problems, which are not only political but also involve security, humanitarian resilience and human rights,” the news service writes (9/26).
In this blog post on FeedtheFuture.gov, Tjada McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future, and Jonathan Shrier, acting special representative for global food security and deputy coordinator for diplomacy for Feed the Future, answer five questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was established by the G8 in May 2012. They report on the progress of the New Alliance, “which is a unique partnership between African governments, members of the G8, and the private sector to work together to accelerate investments in agriculture to improve productivity, livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers.” In addition, they discuss the relationship between Feed the Future and the New Alliance; the role of nutrition in the New Alliance; how the New Alliance will ensure accountability among its partners; and why the New Alliance focuses on Africa (9/26).
David Winder, chief executive of WaterAid USA, highlights the findings of the recently released UNICEF report on child mortality in this Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, saying the decrease in annual number of child deaths “is great news, but is tempered by sobering statistics, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa,” who continue to face high rates of mortality. “However all is not lost and much can be done to ameliorate the situation. Improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is a key step in preventing many of these needless deaths,” he writes, adding, “Known collectively as WASH, these three basic services are important factors in preventing pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading causes of mortality among children between one month and five years of age.”
“For all its importance to human well-being, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “That means the problem of hunger is flaring up again, as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies have recently warned,” and in Africa, for example, “[t]he expansion of the … middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind,” he states.