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Crop Failures, Returning Migrants, Weather Patterns Threatening To Worsen Malnutrition In Africa’s Sahel, Horn Regions

“Sahel states are bracing for a long, potentially deadly hungry season, many weakened by the return of people from Libya who are unemployed, armed and creating fresh strife in already-vulnerable countries,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Crops have failed across a massive swathe of eight countries after late and erratic rains in 2011, and aid agencies have raised the alarm of a food crisis bigger than that which left millions hungry in 2010,” according to the news agency (Blandy, 2/11). In an article examining hunger among children in Mauritania, Inter Press Service writes that “other countries in the Sahel … are affected as well: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal,” adding, “Twelve million people will soon suffer severe food insecurity and hunger in this region, aid agencies warn” (Palitza, 2/10).

Millions Of North Koreans Face Malnutrition Despite Recent Food Aid, Relief Agencies Warn

“Relief agencies have warned that millions of North Koreans are malnourished, with the most vulnerable facing starvation in the coming months, despite reports that the impoverished state has received food aid from China and South Korea,” the Lancet reports. “The warning comes after the sudden death of the North Korea’s former leader, Kim Jong-Il, put on hold a possible deal in which it was preparing to accept 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S. in return for suspending its uranium enrichment program, which would give it a further means of developing nuclear weapons,” the journal writes. “The recent donations aside, U.N. agencies say that three million of North Korea’s 24 million people will require food aid this year, adding that children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition,” the Lancet notes, adding, “According to a report by [World Food Programme] and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, North Korea faces a food deficit of 414,000 tons this year” (McCurry, 2/18).

Islamist Rebel Group Bans ICRC From Southern Areas Of Somalia Under Its Control

The Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from distributing food in southern areas of Somalia under its control, accusing the organization of delivering out-of-date food, the Guardian reports. “The new ban could deal a major blow to aid operations in the dangerous south of the country as the ICRC was one of only a few international agencies still able to operate there after al-Shabab banned 16 other groups last November,” the newspaper reports. Famine continues to threaten 250,000 people in the region, according to the Guardian (Chonghaile, 1/31).

Joint U.N. Assessment Finds Better Harvests In DPR Korea But Warns Undernutrition Persists Among 2.8M Vulnerable People

“There has been an increase in staple food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the second year running, but undernutrition persists for nearly three million people, according to a new United Nations assessment released” Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme’s (WFP) joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission “found that overall production for the main 2012 harvest and 2013 early season crops is expected to be 5.8 million metric tons, an improvement of 10 percent over last year,” the news service writes (11/12). “This, however, should not mask an ongoing struggle with undernutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet, especially for an estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people,” an FAO/WFP joint press release states (11/12). “DPR Korea still needs international help,” Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and mission co-leader, said in a statement, adding, “The new harvest figures are good news, but the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming,” Reuters writes (11/12).

International Community Should Break Sahel Region’s Food Insecurity Cycle In 2013, U.N. Official Says

The continuous cycle of food insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region has created vulnerabilities among families who are unable to recover following multiple droughts and crop failures, VOA News reports. U.N. Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel David Gressly said the international community needs to break the food insecurity cycle in 2013, by building resilience through long-term solutions that will help the 18 million people across nine countries affected by food shortages in 2012, according to the news service. “Gressly said this means reducing chronic child malnutrition, improving irrigation and drainage systems, diversifying food sources, finding better ways to preserve food stocks, and addressing potentially harmful cultural practices,” VOA writes. “The regional food security advocacy coordinator for British aid group Oxfam, Al Hassan Cisse, said better grain storage and programs like universal health insurance are other keys to resilience,” the news service notes (Lazuta, 11/19).

Public-Private Partnerships Can Help Improve Nutrition Worldwide

InterAction President and CEO Sam Worthington, as part of a series organized by the Chicago Council On Global Affairs’ Global Agriculture Development Initiative and InterAction to highlight the importance of public-private partnerships in agricultural development, writes in the Chicago Council’s “Global Food for Thought” blog that recent figures showing one in eight people in the world is undernourished is “a call to collective action.” He continues, “The private and public sectors have enormous potential to work together and leverage each other’s added value to spur this kind of economic development in a way that will, ultimately, decrease hunger and improve nutrition.” Worthington concludes, “Smart public-private partnerships that draw on the added value of government, business and civil society will ensure that we can reduce hunger and improve nutrition in sustainable, people-centered ways that ultimately improve lives and save them” (10/31).

Roger Thurow Discusses Securing Global Food System In Feed The Future Blog

The Feed the Future blog features an interview with Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a ONE Campaign fellow. Thurow says, “Securing the global food system is also one of the biggest — if not the biggest — challenge facing us in the coming decades. … And it is important to not just focus on increasing production, but to put nutrition — growing a cornucopia of more nutritious food — at the center of our efforts as well.” He discusses Feed the Future and says two “important aspects” of the program are “an emphasis on long-term agricultural development (rather than solely focusing on short-term emergency food aid relief) and a focus on the smallholder farmers of the developing world” (11/20).

Global Food Prices Remain Stable But High, World Bank Reports

“Global food prices remained stable, though close to 2008 record levels, the World Bank said on Thursday, as it warned that a ‘new norm’ of costlier food was setting in and threatening to increase hunger and malnutrition in the world’s poorer regions,” Reuters reports. “In an update of its quarterly ‘Food Price Watch’ report, the World Bank said the absence of ‘panic policies,’ such as food export restrictions, had helped stabilize commodity prices since price spikes in July,” the news service writes. “The World Bank food price index shows that while prices have stabilized they are seven percent higher than a year ago,” according to Reuters. “In particular, grains are up 12 percent from a year ago and close to the all-time high set during a global food price crisis in 2008, when food riots broke out in Asia and Africa,” the news service notes. “The World Bank urged governments to strengthen safety nets for the poorest and ensure that nutrition was factored into the help given to poor households,” Reuters writes, adding, “U.N. agencies have estimated that some 870 million people are chronically malnourished” (Wroughton, 11/29).

Bringing Malnutrition Into The Political Spotlight

“Most people think malnutrition is all about not having enough food or enough of the right kind of food to eat,” but while “[t]his is a big part of the story … there are many other links in the chain,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in a BBC Magazine opinion piece. “So dealing with malnutrition means fixing all the links in the chain — food, health, sanitation, water and care,” he states. “We know that handwashing with soap helps prevent diarrhea. We know that fortifying flour and salt with key vitamins and minerals bolsters nutrient intake for those with low quality diets. We know that deworming improves nutrient absorption by the gut,” he continues.

Leaders Must Continue To Address Food Price Volatility, Food Security

“Despite a sudden increase in July this year, prices of cereals on world markets remained fairly stable,” Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in an Inter Press Service opinion piece. “But there are no grounds for complacency, as cereals markets remain vulnerable to supply shocks and disruptive policy measures,” he states, adding, “In this context, the good harvests that are expected in the Southern Hemisphere are important.” He notes, “In the last 10 years we have seen major changes in the behavior of food prices,” and continues, “All this makes it timely to reflect on recent price events and the reactions of the international community, especially since price volatility is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”