“The Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] sent a distress call Tuesday to the international community declaring that more than six million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of Africa, including more than a million children exposed to severe malnutrition,” CNN reports. “The distress call was issued at the end of a two-day, high-level meeting [in Lome, Togo] to address the issue of food security in the region, especially in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad,” the news service adds.
Environment and Climate Change
“The U.S. government aid agency on Tuesday warned that a humanitarian crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen was being ‘overlooked’ despite escalating to levels seen in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Five million people need urgent aid and five million more are facing food insecurity out of a population of 25 million people, [Nancy Lindborg, a USAID assistant administrator, told AFP in Rome after a visit to the country], adding that the crisis had been ‘exacerbated’ by conflict and a political transition,” AFP writes.
International Community Should Focus On Resilience, Not Just Relief, In Response To Drought In Horn Of Africa
“Over the past year, 13.3 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia were thrown into crisis as a result of drought in the Horn of Africa, the worst in 60 years,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in this Devex opinion piece. “Droughts cannot be prevented, but they can be predicted and mitigated thanks to investments in early warning systems, satellite technology and on-the-ground analysis,” he writes, adding, “By identifying those communities facing the gravest risks and strategically focusing our efforts, we can help them withstand crisis.”
“U.N. officials say they expect 18 million people in West Africa will go hungry this year, including three million young children whose lives or health will be at risk,” the Associated Press reports. David Gressly, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, told reporters on Tuesday that at least one million children’s lives will be threatened by malnutrition in 2012, and malnutrition will cause health problems for another two million children under age five, according to the news agency. Gressly said drought, failed harvests, and political instability were making this the worst hunger crisis to hit the region since 2005, the AP notes (5/29).
“Sustainable development cannot be realized unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, the [Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] said in a policy document prepared for the Rio+20 Summit to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro,” an FAO press release reports. “At the Rio Summit, we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, according to the press release. The report says, “Improving agricultural and food systems is essential for a world with both healthier people and healthier ecosystems,” the release notes (5/30). According to Reuters, “The governments attending the Rio+20 summit in June should commit themselves to speed up efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition and use the U.N.’s voluntary guidelines on the right to food, the FAO said” (5/30).
“With a growing population and an onslaught of new planetary pressures expected to limit terrestrial food production, the conversation about how we’re going to feed a hungry planet should include the oceans,” Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and actor Ted Danson write in the Huffington Post’s “Green” blog. “We need to produce 70 percent more food to meet the coming hunger needs, with meat production alone increasing from 270 million metric tons in 2009 to 470 million metric tons in 2050, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization,” they continue, adding, “The oceans will provide us an opportunity to meet that demand in a way that’s eternally renewable, but only if we start taking the appropriate steps right now.”
Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).
Aid Agencies Warn April's Steep Increases In Grain Prices Will Affect Sahel Nations During Lean Season
“Unexpectedly sharp price rises in April for local cereals like millet, rice, and maize in parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad mean many vulnerable people in the drought-hit Sahel could find it even harder to get enough to eat,” IRIN reports. “Prices are expected to keep rising until the end of August — during the lean season — but the size of recent hikes has surprised food price analysts and humanitarian aid personnel,” the news service writes (5/25). In an article detailing the situation in Senegal, the Associated Press notes, “More than one million children under five in this wide, arid swath of Africa below the Sahara are now at risk of a food shortage so severe that it threatens their lives, UNICEF estimates” (Larson, 5/27).
“This G8 summit was, yet again, a missed opportunity for international leaders to make a real commitment to long-term food security and support for African and developing world farmers,” Eva Clayton (D-N.C.), a former Congresswoman and former assistant director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “The World” blog. “In the realm of food security, the G8 had an ideal opportunity to provide a clear solution that embraces trade and opportunity, a new paradigm if you will, in international development and food security,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, G8 leaders emerging from Camp David still spoke of the same old aid commitments without any backbone, all the while ignoring the impact that trade barriers and U.S. and European multi-billion dollar subsidies have on food production in those countries most in need of development.”
U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).