“The Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] sent a distress call Tuesday to the international community declaring that more than six million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of Africa, including more than a million children exposed to severe malnutrition,” CNN reports. “The distress call was issued at the end of a two-day, high-level meeting [in Lome, Togo] to address the issue of food security in the region, especially in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad,” the news service adds.
Environment and Climate Change
U.N. High Level Task Force On Global Food Security To Shift Focus To 'Zero Hunger Challenge' Initiative
“In the wake of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High Level Task Force on Global Food Security will be reoriented to focus on a new initiative as part of its efforts to ensure a coherent U.N. system approach to the issue of food and nutrition security,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Noting “Ban launched an initiative known as the ‘Zero Hunger Challenge,’ which invites all countries to work for a future where every individual has adequate nutrition and where all food systems are resilient,” at the conference last week, the news service writes, “The Task Force will be reoriented to focus on the challenge’s five objectives as a guide for a coherent U.N. system approach to food and nutrition security.”
“The European Commission needs to develop a proper and integrated strategy on nutrition backed by a significant increase in funding, according to a report” on the E.U. and nutrition development policy that is supported by international organizations, companies and non-governmental organizations, the Guardian reports. The newspaper notes that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates up to one billion people are undernourished worldwide, and the World Food Programme says it will take $11.8 billion annually to address 90 percent of child malnutrition cases.
“Journalists, policy experts, bloggers (including myself) and World Food Programme staff joined in a robust discussion last week about the current hunger situation in Africa’s Sahel region, including its causes and what can be done moving forward,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, noting, “In the Google+ hangout, streamed on YouTube, Denise Brown, the World Food Programme’s country director for Niger, logged on from the capital, Niamey, to report precisely what is happening in the region and how people are faring in the wake of no rains, failed crops, and increased food prices.” She continues, “One of the primary points that Brown emphasized was about early warning systems and data propelled early intervention,” and concludes, “The state of the hunger crisis in the Sahel dictates that aid must happen now. But those who are working in the region, like Brown, understand that to prevent another food shortage next year ideas to combat another hunger season have to be employed” (6/8).
“Tens of thousands of people uprooted or trapped by conflict in northern Mali are going without enough food, leading to a spike in cases of children suffering from malnutrition, medical aid groups say,” AlertNet reports. “The situation in northern Mali is also being compounded by a wider food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa, where the United Nations estimates that 18 million people are facing hunger due to a combination of drought, failed crops, insect swarms, and high food prices,” the news service writes. “Aid workers warn that living conditions in Mali’s troubled north will worsen unless security improves, enabling better access for humanitarian groups, and donors provide more funding for relief operations,” AlertNet notes, adding that charity groups working in the region say mothers and children are being affected most by malnutrition (Fominyen, 6/28).
The European Commission (E.C.) on Monday “announced an increase in funding to the Sahel by 40 million euros [$50.5 million] as the food crisis is set to peak in the coming weeks putting 18 million people at risk from hunger,” the Guardian reports, noting that the new money brings the total amount from the E.U. to 337 million euros, or $425 million (Tran, 6/18). The E.C. made the announcement at a donor meeting in Brussels, where international representatives sought to mobilize aid, according to VOA News (Palus, 6/18). “Aid agency Oxfam urged donors at the meeting to fill a ‘massive funding gap’ to fight hunger in the Sahel,” Reuters writes (Ebbs, 6/18).
African Sahel Faces Food Insecurity Despite Record Increase In Cereal Production; New Partnership To Address Food Supply In Middle East, North Africa
“According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) quarterly forecast of agricultural production and food,” the world is expected to see a record increase in cereal production in 2012, “[b]ut despite the positive global trends, countries in Africa’s Sahel region continue to face serious challenges to food security due to locally high food prices and civil strife, FAO said in a news release,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are currently some 18 million people facing food insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon and Nigeria,” the news service notes (6/13).
Discussing the meeting of G20 leaders taking place this week in Los Cabos, Mexico, the Financial Times states, “Food security, long only a concern for aid advocates and farming ministers, is now hotly debated among G20 leaders.” Though food prices have stabilized recently, they are much higher than in the past, causing widespread food insecurity and leading to about one billion chronically hungry people worldwide, the newspaper notes. The “initial reaction” of the G20, and the G8, was to supply emergency food aid, “[b]ut as the era of high food prices appears to be here to stay, the focus of the G20 is slowly shifting from fighting the emergency to addressing the long-term problem,” the Financial Times writes.
U.N. Food And Agriculture Agencies Urge G20 To Increase Efforts To Fight Hunger; G20 Launches AgResults Initiative
As G20 leaders wrapped up their meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Tuesday, the U.N. food and agriculture agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) — issued a joint statement “call[ing] on them to redouble their efforts to fight hunger” and “welcom[ing] the priority given to food and nutrition security at the summit,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The agencies “noted that food security is closely linked to other issues on the agenda of G20 — such as infrastructure development and restoring growth in countries in crisis” — and emphasized the role of partnerships in improving food security, according to the news agency. The “agencies also welcomed the continuing recognition by the G20 of the pivotal role of smallholder agriculture to global food security and to boosting productivity in a sustainable manner,” the news agency writes (6/19).
“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.