The Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from distributing food in southern areas of Somalia under its control, accusing the organization of delivering out-of-date food, the Guardian reports. “The new ban could deal a major blow to aid operations in the dangerous south of the country as the ICRC was one of only a few international agencies still able to operate there after al-Shabab banned 16 other groups last November,” the newspaper reports. Famine continues to threaten 250,000 people in the region, according to the Guardian (Chonghaile, 1/31).
Environment and Climate Change
UNICEF on Friday “appealed … for $1.28 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to children in over 25 countries this year, with nearly one-third of the total amount earmarked for the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/27). The agency also released its annual “Humanitarian Action for Children 2012” report, which “decried the rising levels of starvation and malnutrition among children under the age of five in many of the world’s troubled regions,” GlobalPost writes (1/27). UNICEF “said it was seeking nine percent less than in 2011, linked to lower needs in Pakistan and Haiti, but that its needs for fighting hunger had jumped by nearly 50 percent,” according to Agence France-Presse (1/28). The agency said more than one million children in Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition, Reuters reports (1/27).
“While the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) estimated figures on global hunger often grab headlines, the uncertainty surrounding the numbers receives relatively little media attention,” Guardian reporter Claire Provost writes in the newspaper’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In 2009, the FAO responded to a demand for global hunger figures with the projections that “by the end of the year … world hunger was likely to reach a ‘historic high,’ with 1.02 billion people going hungry every day,” Provost writes, adding, “Almost immediately, these figures seemed to take on a life of their own. References to the global hunger crisis affecting ‘one billion people’ or ‘one-sixth of humanity’ began appearing in speeches, media reports, and advocacy campaigns around the world.”
This Financial Times analysis examines food security, writing, “Climate change, ill-judged policies, protectionism, urbanization and plain greed have all conspired to reignite Malthusian prophesies of a growing world population unable to feed itself.” The article states, “The prospect of more starving people as staples become unaffordable has put the question of food security firmly on to the top table of global policymaking,” and discusses the economics of food; production, access, and waste; and genetic modification of crops (Lucas/Fontanella-Khan, 1/25).
During a briefing on Tuesday, U.S. officials said famine conditions in Somalia have improved, but more than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa remain in need of emergency food, shelter or other aid, the Associated Press reports. “David Robinson, acting assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration, told reporters Tuesday the flow of refugees out of Somalia into neighboring countries has diminished, but thousands are still trying to get out and new camps are opening in Ethiopia and Kenya,” the news agency writes (Birch, 1/24). Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy for the Bureau of African Affairs, noted the U.S. has provided about $870 million in humanitarian aid to the region, with about $205 million going specifically to Somalia, according to the briefing transcript (1/24).
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, on Tuesday “urged the global community to take quick action to prevent millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region from slipping into a full-scale food emergency, warning that drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The area currently affected by the crisis covers a vast swath of territory, including Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger but concerns have also been extended to other countries in the region such as Burking Faso and Senegal,” according to the news service (1/24).
PBS NewsHour on Monday aired the second installment in its “Food for 9 Billion” series, in which “Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions goes to the fishing village of Humay-Humay” in the Philippines and “speaks with families about their concerns that future generations won’t enjoy the same access to fish as a food staple and way of life,” the PBS NewsHour blog “The Rundown” reports. The video report looks at how “one organization is making birth control more readily accessible to those wishing to keep their families small,” according to the blog.
“For the third time in the past decade, drought has returned to the arid, western shoulder of Africa, bringing hunger to millions,” and “[a]id agencies are warning that if action is not taken now, the region known as the Sahel could slip into crisis,” the Associated Press reports. “Aid workers also worry that donors are suffering from ‘famine fatigue,’ as the looming West African crisis comes just six months after Somalia’s capital was declared a famine zone,” the news agency writes.
Al Jazeera examines the consequences of Somalia’s ongoing famine, “the worst hunger crisis seen here for two decades.” Many Somalis fled their rural homes to Mogadishu to escape drought and conflict, but “the city has become the epicenter of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the news service reports, adding, “While new arrivals say that conditions in the capital are better than elsewhere in the country, they are atrocious by any other measure.” In the city, “[m]alnutrition rates are more than double the emergency threshold,” and many refugees face homelessness as camps become more crowded, Al Jazeera reports (Wander 1/19).
Psychological, organizational and budgetary factors contributed to why governments did not respond sooner to early famine warnings in the Horn of Africa, Hugo Slim, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, says in this Guardian opinion piece. In a new report (.pdf), Save the Children and Oxfam “suggest that government officials were reluctant to call a crisis until there was a crisis”; that organizing “NGOs and U.N. agencies to agree the scale of a problem and then to act in concert is always going to be difficult”; and that, “[m]ore importantly, budgets are still divided too strictly between emergency and development funds,” he writes.