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).
Environment and Climate Change
“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.
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).
Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Mozambique have joined the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which, launched earlier this year by the G8, is aimed at boosting food security and addressing malnutrition in Africa, VOA News reports. “The initiative includes partnerships with international corporations and African companies, and seeks to help bring 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years,” the news service writes. “The countries pledge to carry out reforms, including increasing domestic agriculture spending, improving land titling, ensuring access for women and families, and altering export and tax policies that have deterred outside agriculture investment,” VOA notes, adding, “They join Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, which have been part of the program since May” (9/27). “In addition, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that 21 additional private sector companies, most of them African companies, have signed letters of intent, committing themselves to invest an additional $500 million in African agriculture,” according to a Feed the Future press release (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).
“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.
“World leaders must take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months, the United Nations’ food agencies said in a statement on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “It said leaders must tackle both the immediate issue of high food prices, as well as the long-term issue of how food is produced and consumed at a time of rising population, demand and climate change,” the news agency writes (9/4).
The following articles examining food and water security were published on Thursday. The U.N. News Centre writes, “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have called on the private sector to invest massively in agriculture, stressing that this is vital to winning the fight against hunger.” The news service adds, “Speaking at a high-level conference in Istanbul focused on promoting private agricultural investment and trade from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, [FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva] said that apart from important investments, financial and in-kind contributions, the private sector can make another important valuable contribution, namely political support to food security” (9/13).
“Around 2.1 million Somalis still need food aid and are facing a critical situation despite a fall in the number of people at risk in the last six months, the United Nations said Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Overall, despite the recent improvements, the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains critical and must remain on the global agenda to avoid the risk of reversing the gains made,” Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, according to the news agency. “In 2011, famine in the country caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and affected more than four million people, or more than half of the population, according to the U.N. agency’s figures,” AFP writes (9/11).
“Support is being rolled out in Burkina Faso as part of a European Union (E.U.)-UNICEF joint action for improving nutrition security in Africa,” UNICEF reports in an article on its webpage. “Funded by the E.U., and in partnership with UNICEF, the Government of Burkina Faso and local NGOs, the project aims to improve nutrition security among women and young children,” the article states, noting, “The approach is broad based and begins with education.” According to the article, “The project will, it is hoped, revolutionize local food production and local diet in Burkina Faso, moving the country away from recurrent nutritional crisis to nutritional independence” (9/10).