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Millennium Villages Project Research Yields Positive Results, But Some Researchers Question Methods Used

“Death rates among children under five at the [Millennium Villages Project (MVP)] — set up in Africa to demonstrate what is possible if health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are tackled simultaneously — have fallen by a third in three years compared with similar communities, according to the project’s first results,” published in the Lancet on Tuesday, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 5/8). The study “offers quantitative evidence of the success of the MVP model at nine Millennium Village sites in sub-Saharan Africa,” Nature News writes, adding, “Between 2006 and 2009, mortality in under-fives fell by an average of 22 percent, reaching a level roughly two-thirds of that in control villages not involved with the project, where child mortality seemed to rise.”

To Maintain Growth, Africa Needs To Improve Food Security, UNDP Report Says

“Africa needs to boost agricultural productivity and address the debilitating hunger that affects 27 percent of its population if it is to sustain its economic boom, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said [in a report] on Tuesday,” Reuters reports (Migiro, 5/15). In its first-ever “Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future,” UNDP “notes that with more than one in four of its 856 million people undernourished, sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s most food insecure region,” the Guardian writes. According to the newspaper, the report says, “Hunger and extended periods of malnutrition not only devastate families and communities in the short term, but leave a legacy with future generations which impairs livelihoods and undermines human development.”

Despite Progress, More Effort 'Urgently' Needed To Prevent Maternal Mortality In Africa

Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. … Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”

U.N. Officials Warn 18M People Will Be Affected By Hunger In African Sahel This Year

“U.N. officials say they expect 18 million people in West Africa will go hungry this year, including three million young children whose lives or health will be at risk,” the Associated Press reports. David Gressly, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, told reporters on Tuesday that at least one million children’s lives will be threatened by malnutrition in 2012, and malnutrition will cause health problems for another two million children under age five, according to the news agency. Gressly said drought, failed harvests, and political instability were making this the worst hunger crisis to hit the region since 2005, the AP notes (5/29).

Humanitarian Groups Call On G8 To Address Food Security At Upcoming Summit

Several humanitarian groups say that despite the G8’s pledge made at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit to provide $22 billion over three years to improve agriculture and food security, “the commitment is about to expire” and “much more needs to be done to end hunger,” VOA News reports. Neil Watkins, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid, said he expects G8 leaders at their upcoming summit at Camp David later this month will promote a new food security initiative with greater private sector involvement, according to VOA. “Gawain Kripke of Oxfam America praised President Obama’s food security efforts since 2009,” the news service writes, adding that Kripke said, “[W]e’ve been calling for President Obama to keep that momentum up — to keep pushing for bigger and better and more ambitious goals and more ambitious resource commitments.”

U.N. Officials Warn Additional Funding Will Be Needed To Fight Food Insecurity In African Sahel

“Sahelian governments and local and international aid groups are struggling to cope with both the continual arrivals of people fleeing … northern Mali, and the mounting number of hungry people across the region as the lean season gets underway,” IRIN reports. According to UNHCR, nearly 300,000 people have been displaced within Mali or fled to surrounding countries, and IRIN reports “governments are already struggling to get aid to millions of their inhabitants, who are facing hunger due to drought.” The news service writes, “The U.N. estimates that 16 million people across the Sahel are facing hunger this year, and hunger levels are rising.” IRIN continues, “This complex mix of slow and fast-onset crises means the U.N. will be revising or launching new funding appeals from the current $1 billion to $1.5 billion in coming weeks, said Noel Tsekouras, deputy head of office at the West Africa bureau of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Dakar” (5/4).

At Least 1M Children At Risk Of Death In Sahel Drought Crisis; European Commission Donates Over $20M To UNICEF Appeal

“At least one million children are at risk of dying of malnutrition in the central-western part of Africa’s Sahel region due to a drought crisis, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said [Wednesday], adding that more resources are urgently needed to help those in need,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “There are currently 15 million people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea,” the news service writes, adding, “The nutrition crisis is affecting people throughout Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.”

As MDGs Set To Expire In 2015, U.N. Panel To Advise On Approaches To Development; African Progress Panel Calls For 'Big Push' On Continent

“The presidents of Indonesia and Liberia — Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, are to co-chair a U.N. panel to advise on approaches to development after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015,” SciDev.Net reports. “Announcing the chairs to the U.N. General Assembly [on Wednesday], Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, also said he would appoint an assistant secretary-general for post-2015 development planning,” the news service writes, adding, “The panel will consider the mixed success of the eight MDGs, which were set in 2000 and provide targets for reducing poverty and promoting social development through such areas as education, reduction of HIV infection rates and infant mortality” (Irwin, 5/12).

National Program In Botswana Focuses On Increasing Male Circumcision Rate

Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all have launched national campaigns urging men to undergo circumcision to help reduce their risk of contracting or transmitting HIV infection, but “all the countries are lagging far behind their targets,” Agence France-Presse reports in an article focusing on efforts in Botswana. A three-year-old campaign in Botswana, aimed at convincing 460,000 men to get circumcised, “has reached only seven percent of this figure,” the news agency notes, adding, “Now the government has enlisted the help of top musicians and launched a new series of advertisements touting ‘safe male circumcision’ as a lifeline.”