“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).
Environment and Climate Change
In this post in State Department’s “DipNote” blog, Paul Weisenfeld, assistant to the administrator of the USAID Bureau of Food Security, writes of the new film “The Hunger Games,” “I was struck by how much the premise relates to the very heart of what we are trying to address at USAID and through Feed the Future.” He continues, “Among other themes, the book touches on the fundamental right everyone should have: access to food,” and concludes that the movie is “an entry point for discussion and engagement on a very real issue based on an incredible pop culture success. If it gets people talking about hunger, the need for political will and access to resources, the consequences of inaction, and the transformative power of our collective commitment, that — for me — is a success beyond any box office record the film might set” (3/22).
Speaking at State Department headquarters in recognition of World Water Day on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “announced a new partnership of organizations to apply the nation’s abundant experience in water issues to solving global water challenges,” according to IIP Digital. “The partnership will bring together more than 30 agencies, institutions and advocacy organizations with diverse experience and knowledge of water issues,” the news service writes (Porter, 3/22). The U.S. Water Partnership will “creat[e] a platform for fostering new partnerships among the U.S.-based private sector and the non-profit, academic, scientific, and expert communities” and “will mobilize the ‘Best-of-America’ to provide safe drinking water and sanitation and improve water resources management worldwide,” according to a State Department press release (3/22). “Something as simple as better access to water and sanitation can improve the quality of life and reduce the disease burden for billions of people,” Clinton said, VOA News notes (3/22).
“As we mark World Water Day, the alarming statistics underlying water scarcity are worth repeating. Worldwide 2.7 billion people are currently affected by water shortages,” Manish Bapna, acting president of the World Resources Institute (WRI), and Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s Aqueduct Project, write in a Forbes opinion piece, noting that population growth, increasing food demand, and climate change threaten access to water. “Clean, abundant water is essential for life and economic growth. Since it is a finite resource, we need to find solutions that will ensure we can use water more efficiently and mange water systems more wisely,” they state.
“This year on World Water Day, Thursday, March 22, the United Nations highlights the critical role water plays in food security, at a time when water supplies are already under severe strain in many parts of the world,” VOA News reports. As the world’s population expands, “the demand for water is growing along with the demand for food,” and agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use worldwide, the news service notes (Baragona, 3/21). Additional information on World Water Day, which is coordinated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is available online from U.N. Water (3/22).
IRIN examines malnutrition in Chad, writing, “Hovering at around 20 percent in some places, Kanem Region in western Chad is well-known for having some of the world’s highest continual severe acute malnutrition rates,” and, “unless something is done to improve the country’s ‘dysfunctional’ health system (as described by half a dozen interviewees), these malnutrition rates are unlikely to change significantly.” The news service “spoke to Ministry of Health staff, aid workers, government officials and mothers to find out if anything can be done to wean Chad from its dependence on emergency nutrition interventions.”
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that more than a million children below the age of five in the Sahel are facing a disaster amid the ongoing food crisis in the drought-prone region of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/16). “‘More extreme conditions could see this number rise to about 1.5 million and the problem is that funding is not coming in at the rate that we need in order to prepare properly,’ [UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado] said. ‘So far we have received just one-fifth of the $119 million we have asked for in 2012,'” VOA News writes (3/16).
“Almost five million Yemenis are unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to preliminary findings of a United Nations survey,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/14). A World Food Programme (WFP) “survey on food security among 8,000 households in 19 of the country’s 21 governorates concluded that approximately five million people — about 22 percent of the population — are facing severe hunger, double the 2009 number and above the threshold at which food aid is required,” the Guardian reports (Ford, 3/14). The survey, “which was produced in collaboration with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Yemeni Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), also found that a further five million people are at risk of becoming severely food insecure as they face rising food prices and conflict,” the U.N. News Centre notes (3/14).
“Late Chadian government recognition of a food crisis, a slow build-up from aid agencies, and severe pipeline constraints due to closed Libyan and Nigerian borders mean food aid has not yet arrived in Chad, despite many thousands of people having already run out of food,” IRIN reports. “While staff in agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) are working furiously to beat the clock, a lead time of up to six months to get food to where it is needed means that the very soonest food will start to arrive is sometime in April,” the news service adds.
FAO Officials, Country Representatives Meet In Vietnam To Discuss Food Security, Nutrition In Asia-Pacific Region
Representatives of 40 member countries of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as senior officials from the agency, on Monday opened the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction,” Xinhua/China Daily reports (3/12). Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director general, “sa[id] rising food prices and frequent natural disasters are making it harder to ease hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes, adding he “said the challenge of eradicating hunger has also been complicated by the effects of climate change, trade policies, soaring crude oil prices and the growing use of food crops for biofuels.” According to the blog, “ministers [at the meeting] will review a report on measures to speed up progress toward the goal of cutting hunger levels in half in Asia-Pacific by 2015,” a “target was set at a World Food Summit in 1996” (3/12).