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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.”

Aid Workers Warn Child Nutrition Reaching Emergency Levels In Northern Mali

“Aid workers say child malnutrition is reaching emergency levels in northern Mali, which has been under the control of armed militant groups since April,” VOA News reports. “Brussels-based aid organization Medecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World, says malnutrition rates among children under the age of five in occupied northern Mali are reaching ‘alarming levels,'” the news service writes, adding, “The NGO says it found that 13.5 percent of those children in the far northern Kidal region are suffering from acute malnutrition,” which is “double last year’s rate and well over the World Health Organization’s 10 percent alert threshold” (Look, 11/2).

Financial Times Examines Demographic, Economic, Policy Changes Affecting Global Food Security

The Financial Times examines “[a] complex cocktail of demographic, economic, and policy changes [that] can be blamed for increased pressure on the food supply.” The newspaper writes, “Climate change is having a number of effects on food production,” and notes “the effect of climate change is not only felt in steady, incremental shifts but also in volatility, unpredictability and an increase in extreme storms, floods and droughts.” However, “[c]limate change is certainly not the only culprit when it comes to food insecurity,” the newspaper writes, adding that “increasingly affluent citizens in countries such as China and India want to consume more better quality food and meat, both of which are highly resource intensive,” and “[c]ompetition for agricultural land has intensified, with increased biofuel production and expanding urban areas.”

Failure To Renew U.S. Farm Bill Would Be Missed Opportunity To Help End Global Hunger

“The U.S. Farm Bill that was up for renewal in September in the House of Representatives could have included policies to support farmers in developing countries in their efforts to grow enough food to feed the local population,” but “Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire on Sept. 30,” Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog. “If Congress does not act quickly after the election to pass a new Farm Bill, the money that exists for emergency food aid will run out in 2013,” potentially putting “up to 30 million hungry people at risk in the event of a crisis,” she continues, adding, “The failure to renew and reform the Farm Bill would also mean a missed opportunity to help end global hunger in the long term through sustainable solutions.”

Food Insecurity In Africa's Sahel

Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, examines the “massive food crisis … brewing in Africa’s Sahel” in this post on CFR’s “Democracy in Development” blog. She writes, “The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe,” and goes on to highlight the situations in Mali and Niger. She says ending the “‘buy American’ tied aid policy,” implementing longer-term solutions other than food aid, and providing additional funding for relief efforts would help alleviate the situation in the Sahel (7/4).