In this post in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ “Global Food For Thought” blog, Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus, a global research program that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich staple food crops to improve nutrition globally, writes, “David Cameron’s decision to tie a hunger summit to the Olympics was imaginative … because Cameron saw how the Olympics, that celebrate the best of human athleticism and teamwork, could also be used to draw attention to those who will never ever come close to competing in an Olympics event.” He continues, “The Global Hunger Event exemplified the approach that we need if we are to race, not inch, towards the finish line of significantly improving nutrition by the next Olympic Games,” concluding, “Collectively, we must now assume this mantle of Olympian leadership if we are to bring down the historic and arbitrary barriers between agriculture, nutrition and health ” (8/17).
Environment and Climate Change
“Efforts to build resilience in the Sahel, a region chronically affected by drought and malnutrition, are highly fragmented, dysfunctional and ineffective, a report from Save the Children and World Vision said on Wednesday,” the Guardian reports. “While noting a strong consensus among governments, donors and aid agencies to better integrate humanitarian and development work, progress is still very limited, said the report, ‘Ending the Everyday Emergency,’ written by Peter Gubbels,” the newspaper writes. “Senior officials such as Kristalina Georgieva, the E.U. commissioner for humanitarian affairs, have stressed the need for a more integrated approach between the humanitarian and development sectors in preventing future similar crises in the Sahel,” the Guardian notes (Tran, 8/1).
“North Koreans hit by recent deadly floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance, an aid group said Wednesday after official media had reported 88 dead and nearly 63,000 homeless,” Agence France-Presse reports. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a team from the organization visited the provinces of South and North Pyongan in the west of the country to assess damage, the news agency notes (8/1). In another article, AFP notes that the U.N. also is sending a team to assess the damage and humanitarian needs of the worst affected areas (7/31). “Even before the latest flooding, a dysfunctional food distribution system, rapid inflation and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs have created what is thought to be widespread hunger,” Reuters writes (Park/Blanchard, 7/30). “Following an inspection visit last autumn, U.N. agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge,” according to AFP.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,'” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.
World Leaders, Scientists Gather In Stockholm For World Water Week; Researchers Warn Overconsumption Draining World's Water Supply
Some 2,500 officials, policymakers and scientists will gather this week at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for the largest annual meeting on water development issues as the international community recognizes World Water Week, observed August 26-31, VOA News reports. According to the news service, this year’s theme is “water and food security” (DeCapua, 8/24). “Global leaders assembled … at the opening session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste,” according to an SIWI press release (8/27).
U.S., France, Mexico To Hold Phone Conference To Discuss Need For Emergency Meeting On U.S. Drought, Food Security
“France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold a conference call at the end of August to discuss whether an emergency international meeting is required to tackle soaring grain prices caused by the worst U.S. drought in half a century,” Reuters reports. “A French agriculture ministry official said the call would decide whether to convene the first meeting of the G20’s Rapid Response Forum,” according to the news service, which notes, “The body was created last year to promote early discussion among decision-makers about abnormal market conditions with the aim of avoiding unilateral action” (Trompiz, 8/13). “The World Bank is already on alert for an increase in hunger and malnutrition,” the Guardian’s “Economics” blog writes, adding that “previous spikes in food prices also led to widespread social unrest.” According to the blog, “[p]opulation growth and rising incomes in the bigger emerging market economies — China, India and Brazil — was already a cause for concern even before the U.S. drought, but the price spike in recent weeks has underlined the growing pressures on the global supply chain” (Elliott, 8/13).
“The United Nations’ World Food Program [WFP] is appealing for $87 million to avert starvation in Zimbabwe’s rural areas where close to two million people need food aid,” VOA News reports, adding, “The U.N. agency says because of poor rainfall, this year’s hunger season in Zimbabwe has started earlier than in the past.” The news service highlights the “dire food situation” in the rural area of Buhera, part of Manicaland province, which “is one of the four regions the [WFP] says are worst affected by drought in Zimbabwe.” “We hear of people starting to sell their livestock at distress prices, reducing their number of meals in rural Zimbabwe, which is a clear indication that the food security situation is worsening,” Liliana Yovcheva of the WFP program office in Zimbabwe said, according to the news service (8/13).
“With one billion people chronically hungry and Earth’s population expected to increase by 50 percent before the end of the century, it’s time to get serious about family planning,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “At one point, the prevailing wisdom was that nations needed robust birthrates to protect their economic welfare, and that if only we could produce food more efficiently, feeding the Earth’s burgeoning population wouldn’t be a problem,” it continues, adding, “Now â€¦ we know better. Or we ought to.” The editorial continues, “No one has a good solution. That’s why family planning assistance is one of the most important forms of humanitarian aid that the United States and other developed nations can provide.” It concludes, “Without the necessary resources and an existing economy prepared to absorb large numbers of new workers, nations that promote high birthrates set themselves up for economic distress and political unrest” (8/10).
This post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Views from the Center” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and the director for Europe at CGD, addresses the recent hunger summit in London, citing two reasons for concern surrounding the discussion. “First, it is wrong to conflate the problem of hunger with the need to improve agricultural productivity. Hunger has very little to do with food production,” Barder writes, continuing, “Second, the conversation is too much about money and not enough about what we should do to address the structural causes of hunger and malnutrition.” He concludes, “If the [G8] leaders cannot get together and make meaningful decisions about something as important as this, why do they bother meeting at all?” (8/13).
Sustaining Focus On Global Hunger Critical To Improving Transparency, Accountability In Fight Against Malnutrition
“Malnutrition is easily neglected by parents, communities and governments,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” adding, “The signs are not visible until very acute, the impacts are felt long after the food and infection cycle has played out — and far beyond electoral cycles — and the causes are often mistakenly attributed to something else.” He continues, “The challenge is to avoid the fight against malnutrition being a compelling but periodic curiosity,” like the Olympics. Haddad questions how to maintain the current focus on global hunger and nutrition helped by the upcoming August 12 summit in London. “At that event, I hope there will be a commitment to make the effort that is expended in the fight against malnutrition more transparent, and to make those who fall short in their exertions more accountable,” he says and lists three tools “that can help.”