“Global food prices again rose in the first quarter [of 2012] on the back of higher oil prices, putting millions of people at risk of not having enough to eat,” according to a report released Wednesday by the World Bank, Agence France-Presse reports (4/25). The index showed the cost of food rose eight percent between December 2011 and March 2012 after four months of decline at the end of last year, Reuters notes, adding, “Even after the latest rise, food prices remain one percent below a year ago and six percent below the February 2011 historical peak, the World Bank said” (4/25). According to the Los Angeles Times, “In Africa, prices are especially steep due to the continent’s dependence on imports as well as trade restrictions between nations, hoarding, civil unrest and bad weather” (Hsu, 4/25). “The World Bank said it was hard to predict whether the surge in prices this year would lead to a new global food crisis since there is no mechanism to identify the onset of a global food crisis,” Reuters writes (4/25). A World Bank Group press release describes how the organization “is helping to put food first” (4/25).
Environment and Climate Change
A coalition of “[a]id agencies said on Monday they are facing a multi-million dollar funding shortage to deal with a food crisis in the Sahel,” News24 reports. “Action Against Hunger, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision said they have raised only $52 million of $250 million needed to provide emergency assistance to six million people in the region,” the news service writes, adding that the groups “have called for a donor pledging conference to rally wealthy governments and donors” (4/23). They also “are calling on G8 leaders to consider the Sahel crisis at their summit next month,” according to VOA News.
“Higher global food prices are hampering attempts to hit targets for food and nutrition,” and “rates of child and maternal mortality [a]re still ‘unacceptably high’ — partly as a result of surging commodity prices,” according to the Global Monitoring Report 2012, released by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday in Washington, D.C., the Guardian reports (Elliot, 4/20). The report says rising food prices have affected some countries’ ability to reach certain Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a World Bank/IMF press release notes.
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” blog administrator Mark Phelan recounts his recent visit to Niger and Mauritania, in Africa’s Sahel region, where he was “assessing nutrition-focused humanitarian assistance.” He writes, “We are indeed facing a crisis, but I am encouraged by what is being done differently, by ways we have applied lessons learned in the Sahel during food crises in 2010 and 2005, though we still have a long way to go.” He concludes, “I am encouraged that we have learned some important lessons from past crises. The U.S., in partnership with other donors, has taken early action in response to early warnings, and together, we are saving lives” (4/20).
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week “called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a ‘cascading crisis’ sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa, where 15 million people have been affected by the drought and conflict-related crisis in the area,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking to the Luxembourg Parliament on Tuesday, Ban said, “I call upon the world to respond. Simply put, we must do more — and do it quickly” (4/17). On Wednesday, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake appeared on BBC World News to discuss the drought and malnutrition among children. “Lake tells the BBC’s Jane O’Brien that his organization is trying to fight ‘donor fatigue,’ after years of crises in the region by” portraying the success stories of children in the region and through a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds, the news service notes (4/18).
U.S. Should Separate Diplomatic Pressures On N. Korea From Humanitarian Assistance, Provide Food Aid
A Seattle Times editorial says a “radical response” to North Korea’s rocket launch would be to “[k]eep diplomatic channels open with the 240,000 tons of food aid planned before” the launch. “Providing food aid is wholly apart from maintaining political and economic pressure on the country,” the editorial says, adding, “Sending food does not preclude international sanctions to deny North Korea access to electronic technology and military hardware.” The editorial suggests “[s]end[ing] the food aid with an insurance policy of sorts. Use the connections and credibility of nongovernmental organizations, including Mercy Corps and World Vision, to track the deliveries. … Get the United Nations involved as well.” The editorial concludes, “Keep diplomatic channels open. Move beyond the provocations and deliver basic food relief” to the more than one-quarter of North Koreans in need (4/15).
In the final article of a six-part series titled “Starving in India” in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog, series author Ashwin Parulkar of the Centre for Equity Studies writes that the research conducted for the articles shows “that India needs a new legal framework for dealing with chronic hunger and starvation.” He notes that “[t]he draft version of the National Food Security Bill that is being considered by India’s Parliament would guarantee discounted food-grains to 50 percent of the urban population and 75 percent of the rural population.” While “[m]uch of the debate on the measure has been over its cost and scope, … my biggest problem with the bill is the way it deals with starvation,” leaving it up to state governments to identify starving individuals and provide them with two meals a day for six months, Parulkar writes.
“The U.S. will halt planned shipments of thousands of tons in food aid to North Korea after the reclusive Asian nation’s launch of a long-range rocket, two Obama administration officials said,” Bloomberg News reports (Talev, 4/13). “Under a recent food deal with the United States, North Korea agreed to refrain from long range missile launches and nuclear tests,” CNN’s “1600 Report” writes (Yellin, 4/12). “North Korea’s rocket launch was a failed effort that nonetheless violated international law and jeopardized regional security, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said,” according to Bloomberg (4/13).
“Senior United Nations officials [on Tuesday] made impassioned appeals to the international community to make more resources available to assist millions of people affected by the severe food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, cautioning that global inaction could lead to a humanitarian disaster,” the U.N. News Centre reports (4/10). “UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake said at least one million — and possibly up to 1.5 million — children in the region face acute, severe malnutrition, putting them at risk of death from starvation or disease,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes, adding, “Unless donor countries provide more funds, ‘the result will be many children will die and many families will suffer,’ he said” (4/10).