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U.N. Food Agencies To Hold Meeting On Assistance To Africa’s Sahel Region

“The leaders of United Nations aid agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments will meet on Wednesday in Rome to discuss how to urgently scale up assistance in Africa’s Sahel region, where drought and food shortages are threatening millions of lives,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “This gathering comes at a critical moment as humanitarian agencies are gearing up their response in an effort to prevent a crisis becoming a disaster,” U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, according to the news service. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization last year warned that irregular rains during 2011 “would lead to a significant drop in production and increased food insecurity,” the news service writes (2/13).

One Quarter Of Young Children Worldwide Suffer Effects Of Malnutrition, Save The Children Survey Shows

“Malnutrition is the root cause of the deaths of 2.6 million children each year, and the bodies and brains of 450 million more will fail to develop properly due to inadequate diet over the next 15 years unless immediate action is taken, according to a survey published Wednesday by” Save the Children, the Guardian reports (Tisdall, 2/14). “A quarter of young children around the world are not getting enough nutrients to grow properly, and 300 die of malnutrition every hour,” according to the survey, “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,” the Independent writes (Valley, 2/15).

Seven Sahel Region Nations Declare Emergencies With At Least 12M People Threatened By Hunger

“Seven out of the eight governments in [Africa’s] Sahel … have taken the unprecedented step of declaring emergencies as 12 million people in the region are threatened by hunger,” Inter Press Service reports. “Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria have all called for international assistance to prevent yet another hunger crisis on the continent,” the news service writes, noting that Senegal “has refrained from announcing an emergency, largely for political reasons,” as it is holding presidential elections later this year (Palitza, 4/15).

U.N. Meeting Delegates Urge International Community To Respond Thoroughly, Rapidly To Drought-Stricken Sahel

“Delegates at a meeting convened by the United Nations to draw up strategies to respond to the humanitarian crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region [on Wednesday] called for comprehensive and rapid assistance to the millions of people affected, especially children and women,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/15). “Heads of U.N. agencies and representatives from governments, the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States met in Rome to discuss a joint response to the situation in the region,” the Guardian notes (Ford, 2/15). “U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva warned there is ‘little time to act,'” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (2/15).

UNICEF Warns 1M Children In Sahel At Risk Of Death, Disability Due To Malnutrition; Urges Donors To Provide $67M For Necessary Food Aid

UNICEF on Tuesday “warn[ed] an estimated one million young children in eight countries in the Sahel, who will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, are at risk of death or permanent disability” and “said … it urgently needs $67 million to provide special life-saving therapeutic feeding for these vulnerable children,” VOA News reports. With up to 23 million people in the region threatened with malnutrition caused by food shortages and drought, UNICEF spokesperson “Marixie Mercado says the crisis has not fully hit, so there still is time to prepare for it. But, in order to do that, she says, UNICEF urgently needs money to be able to put the needed supplies in place before time runs out,” VOA writes. So far, UNICEF has received $9 million of the $120 million needed this year for humanitarian assistance in the region, with $67 million needed now to procure ready-to-use therapeutic food for children, according to the news service (Schlein, 2/21).

Gates Calls For Greater Coordination Among U.N. Food Agencies, Announces Nearly $200M In Grants For Agricultural Development Projects

In a speech delivered at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome on Thursday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told IFAD, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the “approach being used today to fight against poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient” and asked the agencies “to unite around a common global target for sustainable productivity growth to guide and measure their efforts,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “Gates also announced nearly $200 million in grants, bringing to more than $2 billion the foundation’s commitment to smallholder farmers since the agriculture program began in 2006,” according to the press release (2/23).

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).