“U.S. officials have arrived in Beijing to meet with North Korean leaders about whether and how to resume food aid to the isolated and impoverished country, according to State Department officials,” the Washington Post reports (Wan, 12/14). “U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues Robert King and senior U.S. aid official Jon Brause met Thursday with North Korea’s director-general for American affairs, Ri Gun,” and “are to focus on strict monitoring mechanisms should the U.S. decide to give aid,” the Associated Press writes (Bodeen, 12/15).
Environment and Climate Change
The Guardian examines how ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) — “small packets of a sticky, peanut butter-like paste, fortified with minerals and vitamins, that can reverse severe malnutrition within six weeks” — “have revolutionized famine relief in Africa,” and asks whether these products could be produced in the countries in which they are being distributed. “The vast majority of RUTFs are produced in the U.S. or Europe, bought by aid agencies such as UNICEF, and transported great distances to reach those in need,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But a small group of social enterprises is questioning this business model, redesigning it with a more local footprint in mind.”
The U.N. on Sunday released its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2012, asking for $447 million in humanitarian assistance targeted toward four million vulnerable people in the country, Reuters reports (Fuchs, 12/18). A statement from the U.N. Inter-Agency Standing Committee said more than half of those at risk will be “severely food insecure” in the coming year, Agence France-Presse notes.
“Though approved by the Cabinet Sunday, the fate of the much-anticipated Food Security Bill, which will guarantee cheap food for India’s masses, is far from sealed,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports, noting that the “bill is to be tabled in Parliament this week.” When the bill comes up for a vote, after potentially spending weeks in committee, “all political parties are expected to support the bill which will provide subsidized food grains to 75 percent of the rural population and about half of urban households,” the blog writes.
“Humanitarian groups fear that the death of Kim Jong-il could worsen North Korea’s dire food situation, after the U.S. postponed a decision on potential aid,” the Guardian reports (Branigan, 12/21). “‘We need to see where (the North Koreans) are and where they go as they move through their transition period,’ said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland addressing questions about food aid on Tuesday. ‘We will obviously need to reengage at the right moment, but … we haven’t made any internal decisions here,’” MSNBC.com notes.
Scientific American examines the interface between climate change and human health, writing, “WHO research suggests that current warming of global average temperatures of just under one degree Celsius is responsible for an additional 150,000 deaths per year, largely due to agricultural failures and diarrheal disease in developing countries. … As a result, WHO — and a consortium of other public health organizations — declared climate change to be among the most pressing emerging health issues in the world at the recent climate negotiations … in South Africa.”
Recounting the factors that led to and conditions that persisted during the North Korean famine between 1995 and 1998, New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll says in this opinion piece in the magazine, “Better harvests and international food aid ended the worst suffering by 1998. Yet chronic food insecurity and shortages persist to this day.”
Health Of Millions Of Children In East Asia, Pacific At Risk Due To Climate Change, UNICEF Report Says
“Climate change is expected to worsen the plight of millions of children in East Asia and the Pacific who already lack food and clean water and are vulnerable to disease, … UNICEF said Monday … in its report (.pdf) ‘Children’s vulnerabilities to climate change and disaster impacts in East Asia and the Pacific,’” AlertNet reports. “‘Higher temperatures have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrheal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria,’ putting children at far greater risk of contracting these diseases and succumbing to their complications, the report said,” the news service writes.
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).
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).