President Obama on Thursday announced “an additional $113 million in emergency relief assistance for the Horn of Africa … [to] support urgently needed food, health, shelter, water and assistance needs,” according to a White House statement. The additional aid adds to the approximately $870 million already provided to assist the region with emergency relief, according to the statement, which noted the administration is making long-term investments in food security through the Feed the Future initiative.
Environment and Climate Change
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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
“Speaking at a two-day development and investment conference for South Sudan in Washington, D.C., [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton said the newly independent country had the potential to be ‘one of Africa’s breadbaskets'” and said the U.S. would work with private sector partners to invest in the nation’s agriculture system, the Guardian reports. “However, aid agencies cautioned that the excitement about investment opportunities should not overshadow the country’s immediate humanitarian needs,” the newspaper writes.
“Archaic agriculture practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of Swaziland’s 1.1 million people in 2012, says a government agriculture official,” IRIN reports. “In the 1970s Swaziland was a net exporter of food, but since the early 1990s the country has been dependent on donor assistance to greater or lesser degrees. In 2010 about one in 10 Swazis depended on food aid,” according to the news service.
“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).