More than one million Zimbabweans will need food aid between now and March 2012 because of poor harvests and food prices out of reach for vulnerable families, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said Monday, the Associated Press reports (11/21). The agency “said it was facing a $42 million funding shortfall for food aid it planned to provide to vulnerable households in Zimbabwe’s hardest-hit areas until the start of the harvest season in March,” Reuters writes (11/21). According to a recent survey, “12 percent of the rural population will not have the means to feed themselves adequately during the lean season,” a WFP press release notes, adding, “Most at risk are low-income families hit by failed harvests, and households with orphans and vulnerable children” (11/21).
Environment and Climate Change
“If we are to succeed in alleviating poverty and providing the necessary framework for sustainable development on our planet, there is no more pressing need than ensuring the supply of affordable food for our people,” Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” He continues, “There are two keys to tackling this problem, enhancing production — particularly in Africa — and ensuring that trade in food flows unhindered from the lands of the plenty to the lands of the few. Without immediate action in these two areas, there is a risk that hunger will become even more widespread, with many million more lives at stake” (11/21).
“Up to three million people in Afghanistan are facing hunger, malnutrition and disease after a severe drought wiped out their crops and extreme winter weather risks cutting off their access to vital food aid, a group of aid agencies warned Friday,” Reuters reports. Poor rains in many parts of the country destroyed crops and food prices have nearly doubled since last year, causing many families to skip meals, move into neighboring countries, or take loans to purchase food, the groups said, according to the news agency. The U.N. made an emergency appeal for $142 million in October to help families affected by the drought, but only seven percent has been funded by international donors, Reuters notes (Bhalla, 11/18).
U.S. and U.N. food agencies on Friday said three famine zones in Somalia had been downgraded to emergency status, as aid had reduced death rates, but “three other areas — including the refugee communities of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu — remain in the famine zone,” the Associated Press/CBSNews reports. The agencies “warn[ed] that a quarter million Somalis face imminent starvation, and that military battles are preventing food deliveries,” according to the AP (11/18). The U.N. Food Security Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) said in a statement, “Overall, food security outcomes remain the worst in the world, and the worst in Somalia since the 1991/92 famine,” Agence France-Presse notes (11/18).
“The crisis in the Horn of Africa, which has left more than 13 million people at risk of starvation, will continue into the spring, and possibly the summer,” European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday, Reuters reports (Batha, 12/6). She “said investing in the Sahel now was not just the ethically and morally right thing to do, but would be less expensive than waiting for disaster to strike, as was the case in Somalia,” the Guardian writes, adding, “Seven million people are already facing shortages in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, with major shortfalls in food production in many areas. The figures point to a massive problem of food availability next year, according to the European commission” (Tran, 12/7).
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its latest Food Price Index on Thursday, saying the Index “in November was virtually unchanged from its October level,” an FAO press release reports, adding, “At the new level of 215 points, the Index was 23 points, or 10 percent, below its peak in February 2011 but remained two points, or one percent, above its level in November 2010” (12/8). The report “also pointed out that, despite some improvements in Somalia thanks to substantial humanitarian assistance and favorable rains, food insecurity is expected to remain ‘critical’ in drought-affected areas until the harvest of short-season crops in early 2012,” the U.N. News Centre writes, adding, “In the Horn of Africa as a whole, food insecurity remained critical for some 18 million people” (12/8).
Inter Press Service features excerpts from an interview with Jose Graziano da Silva, former Brazilian minister of food security, “who takes over as the new director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Jan. 1.” Graziano da Silva “believes it is possible to eradicate hunger in the world” and “says that what is needed is an increase in political commitment, the mobilization of even modest resources, and the adoption of absolute rather than relative targets,” according to IPS (Frayssinet, 12/8).
“The United Nations said on Friday it was seeking $268 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe next year, with half the money to be used to buy food for more than 1.4 million people facing shortages” in 2012, Reuters reports. “The humanitarian situation in the country has continued to improve over the past couple of years. However, challenges still exist such as food insecurity” and lack of access to safe water, which has led to cholera and typhoid outbreaks, Alain Noudehou, country head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, the news service notes (12/9).
“Millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region need urgent help to cope with food shortages brought on by erratic rainfall and drought, and at least one million children in the area face malnutrition next year, U.N. agencies warned,” AlertNet reports. “The World Food Programme (WFP), which called for a new type of response to climate-related crises, estimates that between five and seven million people in the semi-arid zone just south of the Sahara need assistance now,” and it “said the situation would worsen if nothing was done to help the countries in need — as more people are expected to run out of food supplies by February and March next year,” the news service writes (Fominyen, 12/9).
The U.N. on Tuesday issued its 2012 consolidated appeal process (CAP), or joint appeal, for $1.5 billion to fund 350 projects in Somalia, “where famine and conflict have already cost tens of thousands of lives,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 12/13). “The $1.5 billion appeal is based on a realistic assessment of the emergency needs of four million people in crisis, tens of thousands of whom will die without assistance,” Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said, Agence France-Presse notes.