The new head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva, began work on January 1, “pledging [on Tuesday] to increase the agency’s support to poor countries experiencing prolonged food crises,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/3). He “said volatility in food markets was likely to continue due to economic instability and currency market fluctuations,” according to Reuters (Hornby, 1/3).
Environment and Climate Change
“As the United States entered the traditional season of giving and renewal last month, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was increasing its emergency aid to the [Horn of Africa] region by $113 million,” a VOA editorial states, adding, “The new monies will be used for food, health, shelter, water and other needs.”
IRIN reports how “[a]n exchange between two leading world officials on how trade affects food insecurity in countries has helped focus attention on the stalled Doha trade talks.” A debate between Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteur on the right to food, and Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), “has reopened issues around the Doha talks which have been going on, in stop-start mode, for the last 10 years,” IRIN writes.
In this analysis, “IRIN discussed with aid agencies and Sahel food security analysts the subtleties of getting early warning messages right in such situations.” According to the news service, “Food security in the Sahel this year is part of a ‘persistent and predictable reservoir of chronic acute food insecurity,’ [experts] say, ‘in a predictable portion of the region’s population,’ and requires long-term structural aid not short-term fixes.” In addition, “much of the malnutrition in the region is caused by other factors: poor water quality, low-quality health care, poor sanitation and poor feeding practices,” IRIN writes. The article includes quotes from numerous food security experts (12/23).
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.
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.”