“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully â€¦ to learn fully â€¦ and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).
Environment and Climate Change
“Rain may be ‘significantly’ below average in the Horn of Africa’s main growing season, potentially threatening a region still recovering from famine in 2011, the Famine Early Warning Systems [FEWS] network reported” in a statement (.pdf) on its website on Tuesday, Bloomberg writes. “Rain from March through May in the region, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, is expected to begin late and amount to only 60 percent to 85 percent of average, the U.S.-funded provider of food-security warnings” said in the statement, according to Bloomberg (Ruitenberg, 4/4). “The report warned of ‘significant impacts on crop production, pasture regeneration, and the replenishment of water resources’ in a region that in 2011 suffered one of its worst drought-related food crises in decades,” IRIN reports (4/5).
U.S. Suspends $13M In Aid To Mali Following Coup; U.N. Security Council Expresses Concern Over Humanitarian Crisis In Mali, Sahel Region
“The United States is suspending at least $13 million of its roughly $140 million in annual aid to Mali following last month’s coup in the West African nation, the State Department said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, noting the “suspension affects U.S. assistance for Mali’s ministry of health, public school construction and the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production.” According to the news agency, “U.S. law bars aid ‘to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.'” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, “These are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid goes directly to the government of Mali,” Reuters notes (4/5). France and the European Union also immediately suspended all but essential humanitarian aid to the country, according to the Associated Press/USA Today.
Humanitarian Agencies Suspend Aid Programs In Northern Mali After Armed Groups Ransack, Loot Offices, Warehouses
After armed groups in the north of Mali “ransacked government offices, hospitals, hotels, private property as well as the offices and warehouses of aid groups” over the weekend, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) “suspended some activities in the northern and central regions of Mali,” according to a WFP spokesperson, AlertNet reports. “Tuareg-led rebels seeking to carve out an independent state in the north of Mali, and local Islamists, seized the garrison town of Gao, the ancient trading post of Timbuktu and the town of Kidal over the weekend,” the news service writes.
UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region
UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,'” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).
U.S. Government Releases $120M In Emergency Assistance To Help Drought-Affected West African Countries
In a press statement released on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is “‘deeply concerned’ about the humanitarian situation in West Africa” and announced $120 million in emergency assistance, United Press International reports. According to the news service, the U.N. “estimates that more than 15 million people are facing food shortages and malnutrition due to a lingering drought” and “more than one million children are threatened” (3/30).
“This week, urgently needed food — 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers — will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel,” Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog. She says that in addition to food aid, “USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities,” with the aim of “alleviat[ing] poverty and build[ing] community resilience to withstand future shocks” (3/30).
“The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Eckert, 3/29). “Under a deal reached last month, North Korea agreed to a partial nuclear freeze and a moratorium on missile testing in return for U.S. food aid,” but “Pyongyang then announced it would use a long-range rocket to launch a satellite,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes (3/28). Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy on Wednesday “told lawmakers North Korea had violated [the] moratorium agreement and could not be trusted to deliver the aid properly,” BBC News writes (3/28). The aid package, containing 240,000 tons of food and nutritional products, “was expected to target the most needy in North Korea — including malnourished young children and pregnant women,” VOA News notes (Ide, 3/28).
“Officials in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, [in] northwestern Somalia, are appealing for food aid and potable water for thousands of families who have lost their livelihoods in the current drought,” IRIN reports. “In February, [the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP)] provided food assistance to nearly 150,000 people in Somaliland, according to Challiss McDonough, WFP’s senior spokesperson for East, Central and Southern Africa,” according to the news service. Food insecurity in some areas is classified at “crisis level,” with children, expectant and nursing mothers, and the elderly most affected, IRIN notes. “WFP is shifting its focus from emergency assistance towards targeted programs, including building reservoirs, wells and roads which support communities’ resilience to seasonal shocks, according to spokesperson McDonough, who said that in the past year WFP had doubled the number of nutrition programs in Somalia,” the news service writes (3/30).
“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).