“Scientists and aid organizations gave the world plenty of time to prepare, but a late response by the world’s donor nations cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa region,” the Christian Science Monitor’s “Global News Blog” writes about a report (.pdf) released on Wednesday by Save the Children and Oxfam (Baldauf, 1/18). “The two agencies blame ‘a culture of risk aversion’ among donors and NGOs, which meant the specially-built early warning system, FEWSNET, worked but was ignored until it was too late,” GlobalPost’s “Africa Emerges” blog writes (McConnell, 1/18). “A food shortage had been predicted as early as August 2010, but most donors did not respond until famine was declared in parts of Somalia last July,” the Associated Press/New York Times notes (1/18).
Environment and Climate Change
“Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, arrived in Niger on Wednesday to see at first hand the extent of food shortages” in the country and announced the European Union (E.U.) “is doubling its humanitarian aid to the Sahel to nearly â‚¬95 million ($122 million) in response to the slow onset emergency in the region, where an estimated 300,000 children are affected by malnutrition annually,” the Guardian reports. Niger, a “vast landlocked country with an estimated 14.7 million people, most of whom live along a narrow border of arable land on its southern border, is bracing itself for a sharp rise in food insecurity in the ‘lean period,’ when food from the last harvest runs out,” the newspaper notes.
“The United States and Sudan traded accusations [on Tuesday] over the humanitarian situation in the [border] states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, embattled since the north and south of Sudan split into two nations last summer,” the New York Times reports (MacFarquhar, 1/17). U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Monday sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council warning that food security could decline to an emergency level and could result in famine if action is not taken by the government in Khartoum, according to VOA News (Besheer, 1/17). Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Rice said, “The proximate cause of the problem … is that the government of Sudan has deliberately denied access to international NGOs, the United Nations, and international humanitarian workers to the most affected populations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile” and called the situation “unconscionable and unacceptable,” according to a transcript (1/17).
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva on Tuesday announced the appointment of Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s Rome-based food agencies, to head the U.N. World Food Programme, the Associated Press/CBS News reports (1/17). “Cousin … will succeed Josette Sheeran, also of the United States, who has held the post since 2007,” Reuters notes.
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s official in Somalia, on Sunday said “tens of thousands of people will have died over the last year” in the country’s famine, adding that the rates of malnutrition are “amazingly high,” BBC News reports. “He said a quarter of a million Somalis were still suffering from the famine,” and he “said malnutrition rates have begun to drop but the crisis was likely to continue for the next six or seven months,” the news service notes (1/15).
Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece, “My top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push towards [achieving the first millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people living in hunger and extreme poverty by 2015], but also to look beyond it, to the final, total eradication of hunger from this planet. Obviously, it is not something that FAO can do alone. It needs a new international mobilization, the support of decision-makers everywhere, and a concerted effort by the entire U.N. family and other development partners.”
The U.N. “has received alarming reports of malnutrition in two Sudanese border states where the army is fighting insurgents,” according to Valerie Amos, U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Reuters reports. Since fighting broke out in June in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states near the border of the newly independent South Sudan, “U.N. agencies and aid groups have only been able to keep small teams of local staff on the ground and the government has stopped any aid workers visiting areas where there has been fighting,” the news service writes. Amos “urged Sudan to lift a ban on international U.N. staff traveling to both border states” so the agency could ensure it has staff with the correct skills on the ground, according to Reuters (Laessing, 1/4).
In Nepal, “a child malnutrition epidemic described by humanitarian organizations as a ‘silent emergency’ is claiming the lives of thousands of infants each year,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to government statistics 1.7 million children — nearly half of all under-fives — suffer from chronic malnutrition, a long-term condition also known as stunting,” the news service writes, adding, “Acute malnutrition, a condition known as ‘wasting’ blamed for half of Nepal’s infant deaths, is thought to affect 18 percent.”
“Aid workers say malnutrition rates among children under five at the Dolo Ado camp [in Ethiopia] are alarming,” with “[o]ver 50 percent of children in Dolo Ado’s Hilaweyn camp and nearly half of all children in Kobe camp â€¦ suffering from malnutrition, according to a preliminary health survey from the United Nations refugee agency,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Severe drought, famine and conflict forced 300,000 people to flee Somalia” in 2011, according to U.N. estimates, and “[m]any have streamed into Ethiopia, which continues to receive hundreds of refugees every day,” the news service writes.
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).