“A year after the worst drought in 60 years sent 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa into crisis, we are now facing a rising threat of crisis in the Sahel — an arid belt that stretches from Senegal through Niger and Burkina Faso to Chad,” Nancy Lindborg, head of democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance at USAID, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “The Blog.” She notes, “Today, rising food prices, another failed rain, and conflict in Mali and Libya, means that between seven and 10 million people are at risk of sliding into crisis as we enter the lean season of the months ahead,” and writes, “As we focus on the rising crisis in the Sahel, we are committed to responding immediately and acting on the most important lessons learned from the Horn response.”
Environment and Climate Change
NGOs Welcome Announcement Of U.S., North Korean Nuclear Arms Agreement That Could Bring Food Aid To Nation
“The State Department’s announcement that North Korea would halt nuclear activities in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid was welcomed by aid groups that have long struggled to raise money to feed hungry people under an unpopular regime,” the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog reports. Marcus Prior, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Asia said the group is “encouraged” by the development but it “remain[s] concerned about the level of nutrition, especially for children in poorer areas,” according to the blog. More than 90 percent of U.S. food aid has been delivered through the WFP since 1996, with the remainder channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a 2011 Congressional Research Service report (.pdf) says, the blog notes.
“North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex,” a move “signal[ing] that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation,” the New York Times reports. Some “analysts said the agreement allowed Mr. Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine,” the newspaper writes (Myers/Choe, 2/29).
Only weeks after the U.N. declared an end to the famine in Somalia, regional climate scientists meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum have said preventive measures should be taken to stem the effects of drought that likely will return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months, IRIN reports. USAID’s “FEWS NET said people should expect erratic rain in southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya” and will “be releasing a detailed outlook in the coming weeks,” the news service notes. But “[o]ne of the problems highlighted was the lack of linkage between early warning and early action. ‘There is no framework that allows the trigger of funds when the early warning bell is sounded,’ said one aid worker,” IRIN writes (2/29).
With each of the three droughts in the Horn of Africa over the last decade, “the international community agreed that long-term measures were needed to prevent another tragedy. But each time, when the rains finally came, the world’s good intentions melted away,” Jose Graziano de Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. “We must ensure that this does not happen again by joining forces now to banish hunger from the region once and for all,” he continues.
Gates Calls For Greater Coordination Among U.N. Food Agencies, Announces Nearly $200M In Grants For Agricultural Development Projects
In a speech delivered at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome on Thursday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told IFAD, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the “approach being used today to fight against poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient” and asked the agencies “to unite around a common global target for sustainable productivity growth to guide and measure their efforts,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “Gates also announced nearly $200 million in grants, bringing to more than $2 billion the foundation’s commitment to smallholder farmers since the agriculture program began in 2006,” according to the press release (2/23).
UNICEF Warns 1M Children In Sahel At Risk Of Death, Disability Due To Malnutrition; Urges Donors To Provide $67M For Necessary Food Aid
UNICEF on Tuesday “warn[ed] an estimated one million young children in eight countries in the Sahel, who will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, are at risk of death or permanent disability” and “said … it urgently needs $67 million to provide special life-saving therapeutic feeding for these vulnerable children,” VOA News reports. With up to 23 million people in the region threatened with malnutrition caused by food shortages and drought, UNICEF spokesperson “Marixie Mercado says the crisis has not fully hit, so there still is time to prepare for it. But, in order to do that, she says, UNICEF urgently needs money to be able to put the needed supplies in place before time runs out,” VOA writes. So far, UNICEF has received $9 million of the $120 million needed this year for humanitarian assistance in the region, with $67 million needed now to procure ready-to-use therapeutic food for children, according to the news service (Schlein, 2/21).
“Relief agencies have warned that millions of North Koreans are malnourished, with the most vulnerable facing starvation in the coming months, despite reports that the impoverished state has received food aid from China and South Korea,” the Lancet reports. “The warning comes after the sudden death of the North Korea’s former leader, Kim Jong-Il, put on hold a possible deal in which it was preparing to accept 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S. in return for suspending its uranium enrichment program, which would give it a further means of developing nuclear weapons,” the journal writes. “The recent donations aside, U.N. agencies say that three million of North Korea’s 24 million people will require food aid this year, adding that children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition,” the Lancet notes, adding, “According to a report by [World Food Programme] and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, North Korea faces a food deficit of 414,000 tons this year” (McCurry, 2/18).
U.N. Meeting Delegates Urge International Community To Respond Thoroughly, Rapidly To Drought-Stricken Sahel
“Delegates at a meeting convened by the United Nations to draw up strategies to respond to the humanitarian crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region [on Wednesday] called for comprehensive and rapid assistance to the millions of people affected, especially children and women,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/15). “Heads of U.N. agencies and representatives from governments, the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States met in Rome to discuss a joint response to the situation in the region,” the Guardian notes (Ford, 2/15). “U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva warned there is ‘little time to act,'” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (2/15).
“Seven out of the eight governments in [Africa’s] Sahel … have taken the unprecedented step of declaring emergencies as 12 million people in the region are threatened by hunger,” Inter Press Service reports. “Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria have all called for international assistance to prevent yet another hunger crisis on the continent,” the news service writes, noting that Senegal “has refrained from announcing an emergency, largely for political reasons,” as it is holding presidential elections later this year (Palitza, 4/15).