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.
Environment and Climate Change
“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).
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 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).
IRIN examines how a ban on aid by an armed rebel group in northern Yemen is putting children’s health at risk, writing, “Thousands of people under ‘siege’ by armed rebels in northern Yemen lack food and health care, which has already resulted in deaths and risks killing many more, local leaders and aid workers say.” The news service discusses the ongoing sectarian conflicts and describes efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide medical care and supplies (12/6).
“The crisis in the Horn of Africa, which has left more than 13 million people at risk of starvation, will continue into the spring, and possibly the summer,” European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday, Reuters reports (Batha, 12/6). She “said investing in the Sahel now was not just the ethically and morally right thing to do, but would be less expensive than waiting for disaster to strike, as was the case in Somalia,” the Guardian writes, adding, “Seven million people are already facing shortages in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, with major shortfalls in food production in many areas. The figures point to a massive problem of food availability next year, according to the European commission” (Tran, 12/7).
“Only a binding global accord on cutting greenhouse gases will spare Africa, the world’s poorest continent, more devastating floods, droughts and famine, a senior African climate change official said on Tuesday” at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, Reuters reports. “The talks, bringing together nearly 200 nations, have repeatedly struggled to get a new deal to update the Kyoto Protocol, whose crucial clause on enforcing targets on carbon cuts expires at the end of next year,” the news service writes. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, chair of the Africa Group, “said legal force was the only way to make polluters take the necessary action and states who failed to deliver should in effect be ‘named and shamed,'” according to the news service (Lewis, 12/7).
“Al-Shabab rebels banned some U.N. and international aid agencies from working in Somalia on Monday and began seizing and looting some of their offices in southern and central areas of the country, the Islamist group and aid sources said,” Reuters reports (Ahmed et al., 11/28). “Among the agencies al-Shabab banned on Monday were UNICEF, the World Health Organization, UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, German Agency For Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Action Contre la Faim, Solidarity, Saacid and Concern,” the Associated Press/Washington Post notes (11/28). In a statement, al-Shabab, “[t]he main Islamist insurgent group in Somalia, which is still in the throes of a major food crisis classified as famine in some regions, … accus[ed] them of ‘illicit activities and misconduct,'” IRIN writes (11/28). “The al-Shabab statement accused the groups of exaggerating the scale of the problems in Somalia for political reasons and to raise money,” according to BBC News (11/28)
“A United Nations assessment published [Friday] finds that the main annual harvest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has improved compared to last year but serious nutrition concerns persist, especially among young children,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that while harvests are expected to increase by about 8.5 percent over 2010, the country will still have a cereal import requirement of 739,000 tons,” the news service writes (11/25). According to the Associated Press/Washington Post, “The report says nearly three million people will continue to require food assistance next year. U.N. officials have appealed to wealthy countries to put aside politics to help hungry North Koreans” (11/25).