The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its latest Food Price Index on Thursday, saying the Index “in November was virtually unchanged from its October level,” an FAO press release reports, adding, “At the new level of 215 points, the Index was 23 points, or 10 percent, below its peak in February 2011 but remained two points, or one percent, above its level in November 2010” (12/8). The report “also pointed out that, despite some improvements in Somalia thanks to substantial humanitarian assistance and favorable rains, food insecurity is expected to remain ‘critical’ in drought-affected areas until the harvest of short-season crops in early 2012,” the U.N. News Centre writes, adding, “In the Horn of Africa as a whole, food insecurity remained critical for some 18 million people” (12/8).
Environment and Climate Change
Inter Press Service features excerpts from an interview with Jose Graziano da Silva, former Brazilian minister of food security, “who takes over as the new director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Jan. 1.” Graziano da Silva “believes it is possible to eradicate hunger in the world” and “says that what is needed is an increase in political commitment, the mobilization of even modest resources, and the adoption of absolute rather than relative targets,” according to IPS (Frayssinet, 12/8).
“The United Nations said on Friday it was seeking $268 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe next year, with half the money to be used to buy food for more than 1.4 million people facing shortages” in 2012, Reuters reports. “The humanitarian situation in the country has continued to improve over the past couple of years. However, challenges still exist such as food insecurity” and lack of access to safe water, which has led to cholera and typhoid outbreaks, Alain Noudehou, country head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, the news service notes (12/9).
“Millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region need urgent help to cope with food shortages brought on by erratic rainfall and drought, and at least one million children in the area face malnutrition next year, U.N. agencies warned,” AlertNet reports. “The World Food Programme (WFP), which called for a new type of response to climate-related crises, estimates that between five and seven million people in the semi-arid zone just south of the Sahara need assistance now,” and it “said the situation would worsen if nothing was done to help the countries in need — as more people are expected to run out of food supplies by February and March next year,” the news service writes (Fominyen, 12/9).
The U.N. on Tuesday issued its 2012 consolidated appeal process (CAP), or joint appeal, for $1.5 billion to fund 350 projects in Somalia, “where famine and conflict have already cost tens of thousands of lives,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 12/13). “The $1.5 billion appeal is based on a realistic assessment of the emergency needs of four million people in crisis, tens of thousands of whom will die without assistance,” Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said, Agence France-Presse notes.
Africa’s Sahel region is facing a potential “food crisis,” “[b]ut the good news is that the world’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) is giving West African countries and donor nations a period of time to prepare, says the aid group Oxfam,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. “Early reports suggest that as many as six million people in Niger and 2.9 million people in Mali live in vulnerable areas, where low rainfall, falling groundwater levels, poor harvests, lack of pastureland, rising food prices, and a drop in remittances from family members living abroad are starting to take their toll,” according to the newspaper.
“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).
“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.
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.