Despite its status as “the world’s fifth largest exporter of sugar, coffee and bananas,” Guatemala “has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Latin America,” with “half of all children under five” reportedly malnourished, Agence France-Presse reports. In a phenomenon being called “green hunger,” the failure of subsistence crops because of droughts and floods over the last few years has forced families to buy “their basic staples of corn and beans and rice from local markets,” according to the news agency, which also published an accompanying video.
Environment and Climate Change
The Council on Foreign Relations features an interview with Laurie Garrett, a CFR senior fellow for Global Health, in which she discusses the effects of the declining dollar, the struggling global economy and the rise in food prices on food aid pledges for the drought and famine in East Africa.Â “We…
“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).
A drought and “security crisis as a result of political conflicts, civil war and anarchy” in Somalia are to blame for the famine recently declared by the U.N., but “[t]he international community is also to blame for responding too slowly and neglecting its responsibilities in this preventable disaster,” a Lancet editorial says. “The USA, Europe, and other wealthy donors waited until pictures of starving children and desperate women made the evening news to hand over funds. China, Africa’s second largest trading partner after the USA, merely said it would pay ‘close attention’ to the disaster, and only pledged a modest $14 million of food aid on August 5, after U.S. House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, urged the country to do more,” the editorial states.
The news from the Horn of Africa is “mixed,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” reports, adding, “More food is getting through and security has improved for now, but tens of thousands of children have already died and many more are at risk.” According to NPR, “Aid groups were pleased last week when al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, pulled out of the capital, Mogadishu. That made a dangerous country a little bit less so for aid workers” (Keleman, 8/10).
Clinton Announces Additional $17M For Horn Of Africa, Urges Long-Term Investment In Agriculture, Food Aid
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute on Thursday that the U.S. has pledged an additional $17 million in emergency food aid to the Horn of Africa, with $12 million going to humanitarian operations in Somalia, Voice of America writes (Baragona, 8/11). “Clinton said â€¦ the new money – which comes on top of $105 million in U.S. assistance announced on Monday – would bring total U.S. humanitarian aid to the drought-hit region to more than $580 million this year,” Reuters reports (8/11).
“The Obama administration deserves credit for acting in advance to ameliorate the effects” of drought in East Africa, a New York Times editorial states, noting that USAID has been working since last summer, when the crisis was predicted, to “plac[e] food and other supplies in Kenya, Djibouti and South Africa” and “working on programs to help Somalia and other countries improve food production to avert future crises.”
The World Food Programme (WFP) does not plan “to reduce aid to Somalia following allegations that international food shipments there are being diverted,” the Associated Press reports. WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume “told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the WFP investigation so far has no evidence of a large-scale fraud scheme,” the news agency writes (8/16). Noting it has “strong controls â€¦ in place” in Somalia, “WFP said it was ‘confident the vast majority of humanitarian food is reaching starving people in Mogadishu,’ adding that AP reports of ‘thousands’ of bags of stolen food would equal less than 1 percent of one month’s distribution for Somalia,” the Associated Press writes in another article (8/15).
“Outside of immediate crisis relief,” such as the administration of measles vaccinations or oral rehydration therapy for children affected by diarrheal diseases, the U.S. government’s “past investments clearly are paying off” in the fight against drought and famine the Horn of Africa, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “U.S.-supported early-warning networks identified the famine threat a year ago,” the government is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. to lessen the risk of corruption and looting of food aid, and “the multi-year, multi-agency Feed the Future program [is] stimulat[ing] research into making plants more nutritious and crops more drought-resistant,” he notes.
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, U.S. representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, writes about her recent visit to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. “There is something remarkable about seeing how U.S. contributions â€“ both from our government and the private sector â€“ can be transformed into something as concrete and life-saving as a simple meal for a little girl. Washington has committed around $580 million to the relief effort. Hopefully that will save a lot more children here in Dadaab and around the Horn. The international community has provided around $1.4 billion, but it’s not enough â€“ I know that and we continue to push for more support from other donors. But it is a start and it is making a real and lasting difference,” she writes (8/12).