“As the United States entered the traditional season of giving and renewal last month, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was increasing its emergency aid to the [Horn of Africa] region by $113 million,” a VOA editorial states, adding, “The new monies will be used for food, health, shelter, water and other needs.”
Environment and Climate Change
The new head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva, began work on January 1, “pledging [on Tuesday] to increase the agency’s support to poor countries experiencing prolonged food crises,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/3). He “said volatility in food markets was likely to continue due to economic instability and currency market fluctuations,” according to Reuters (Hornby, 1/3).
“Aid workers say malnutrition rates among children under five at the Dolo Ado camp [in Ethiopia] are alarming,” with “[o]ver 50 percent of children in Dolo Ado’s Hilaweyn camp and nearly half of all children in Kobe camp â€¦ suffering from malnutrition, according to a preliminary health survey from the United Nations refugee agency,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Severe drought, famine and conflict forced 300,000 people to flee Somalia” in 2011, according to U.N. estimates, and “[m]any have streamed into Ethiopia, which continues to receive hundreds of refugees every day,” the news service writes.
“While the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) estimated figures on global hunger often grab headlines, the uncertainty surrounding the numbers receives relatively little media attention,” Guardian reporter Claire Provost writes in the newspaper’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In 2009, the FAO responded to a demand for global hunger figures with the projections that “by the end of the year … world hunger was likely to reach a ‘historic high,’ with 1.02 billion people going hungry every day,” Provost writes, adding, “Almost immediately, these figures seemed to take on a life of their own. References to the global hunger crisis affecting ‘one billion people’ or ‘one-sixth of humanity’ began appearing in speeches, media reports, and advocacy campaigns around the world.”
“The United States and Sudan traded accusations [on Tuesday] over the humanitarian situation in the [border] states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, embattled since the north and south of Sudan split into two nations last summer,” the New York Times reports (MacFarquhar, 1/17). U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Monday sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council warning that food security could decline to an emergency level and could result in famine if action is not taken by the government in Khartoum, according to VOA News (Besheer, 1/17). Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Rice said, “The proximate cause of the problem … is that the government of Sudan has deliberately denied access to international NGOs, the United Nations, and international humanitarian workers to the most affected populations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile” and called the situation “unconscionable and unacceptable,” according to a transcript (1/17).
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva on Tuesday announced the appointment of Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s Rome-based food agencies, to head the U.N. World Food Programme, the Associated Press/CBS News reports (1/17). “Cousin … will succeed Josette Sheeran, also of the United States, who has held the post since 2007,” Reuters notes.
Psychological, organizational and budgetary factors contributed to why governments did not respond sooner to early famine warnings in the Horn of Africa, Hugo Slim, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, says in this Guardian opinion piece. In a new report (.pdf), Save the Children and Oxfam “suggest that government officials were reluctant to call a crisis until there was a crisis”; that organizing “NGOs and U.N. agencies to agree the scale of a problem and then to act in concert is always going to be difficult”; and that, “[m]ore importantly, budgets are still divided too strictly between emergency and development funds,” he writes.
“Scientists and aid organizations gave the world plenty of time to prepare, but a late response by the world’s donor nations cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa region,” the Christian Science Monitor’s “Global News Blog” writes about a report (.pdf) released on Wednesday by Save the Children and Oxfam (Baldauf, 1/18). “The two agencies blame ‘a culture of risk aversion’ among donors and NGOs, which meant the specially-built early warning system, FEWSNET, worked but was ignored until it was too late,” GlobalPost’s “Africa Emerges” blog writes (McConnell, 1/18). “A food shortage had been predicted as early as August 2010, but most donors did not respond until famine was declared in parts of Somalia last July,” the Associated Press/New York Times notes (1/18).
Al Jazeera examines the consequences of Somalia’s ongoing famine, “the worst hunger crisis seen here for two decades.” Many Somalis fled their rural homes to Mogadishu to escape drought and conflict, but “the city has become the epicenter of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the news service reports, adding, “While new arrivals say that conditions in the capital are better than elsewhere in the country, they are atrocious by any other measure.” In the city, “[m]alnutrition rates are more than double the emergency threshold,” and many refugees face homelessness as camps become more crowded, Al Jazeera reports (Wander 1/19).
“Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, arrived in Niger on Wednesday to see at first hand the extent of food shortages” in the country and announced the European Union (E.U.) “is doubling its humanitarian aid to the Sahel to nearly â‚¬95 million ($122 million) in response to the slow onset emergency in the region, where an estimated 300,000 children are affected by malnutrition annually,” the Guardian reports. Niger, a “vast landlocked country with an estimated 14.7 million people, most of whom live along a narrow border of arable land on its southern border, is bracing itself for a sharp rise in food insecurity in the ‘lean period,’ when food from the last harvest runs out,” the newspaper notes.