“As we mark World Water Day, the alarming statistics underlying water scarcity are worth repeating. Worldwide 2.7 billion people are currently affected by water shortages,” Manish Bapna, acting president of the World Resources Institute (WRI), and Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s Aqueduct Project, write in a Forbes opinion piece, noting that population growth, increasing food demand, and climate change threaten access to water. “Clean, abundant water is essential for life and economic growth. Since it is a finite resource, we need to find solutions that will ensure we can use water more efficiently and mange water systems more wisely,” they state.
Food Security and Nutrition
“This year on World Water Day, Thursday, March 22, the United Nations highlights the critical role water plays in food security, at a time when water supplies are already under severe strain in many parts of the world,” VOA News reports. As the world’s population expands, “the demand for water is growing along with the demand for food,” and agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use worldwide, the news service notes (Baragona, 3/21). Additional information on World Water Day, which is coordinated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is available online from U.N. Water (3/22).
“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).
“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).
“Almost five million Yemenis are unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to preliminary findings of a United Nations survey,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/14). A World Food Programme (WFP) “survey on food security among 8,000 households in 19 of the country’s 21 governorates concluded that approximately five million people — about 22 percent of the population — are facing severe hunger, double the 2009 number and above the threshold at which food aid is required,” the Guardian reports (Ford, 3/14). The survey, “which was produced in collaboration with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Yemeni Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), also found that a further five million people are at risk of becoming severely food insecure as they face rising food prices and conflict,” the U.N. News Centre notes (3/14).
“Late Chadian government recognition of a food crisis, a slow build-up from aid agencies, and severe pipeline constraints due to closed Libyan and Nigerian borders mean food aid has not yet arrived in Chad, despite many thousands of people having already run out of food,” IRIN reports. “While staff in agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) are working furiously to beat the clock, a lead time of up to six months to get food to where it is needed means that the very soonest food will start to arrive is sometime in April,” the news service adds.
U.S. Officials Pledge Continuing Support For Solutions To Hunger In Africa; Oxfam Calls For Action Against Emerging Hunger In Sahel
“U.S. officials pledged Thursday to work for permanent solutions to ease hunger in the Horn of Africa, warning that Somalia remained a major crisis even though its famine is officially over,” Agence France-Presse reports. Testifying before a congressional commission on human rights, Nancy Lindborg, USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, “said that the United States and other major donors would meet in Kenya in late March to support longer-term Horn of Africa plans,” according to the news agency. She added, “We cannot afford to let people slide into crisis every couple of years and respond with massive humanitarian assistance,” AFP reports. According to Lindborg, the U.S. “provided $935 million during the crisis, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more,” the news agency notes (3/8).
NGOs Welcome Announcement Of U.S., North Korean Nuclear Arms Agreement That Could Bring Food Aid To Nation
“The State Department’s announcement that North Korea would halt nuclear activities in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid was welcomed by aid groups that have long struggled to raise money to feed hungry people under an unpopular regime,” the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog reports. Marcus Prior, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Asia said the group is “encouraged” by the development but it “remain[s] concerned about the level of nutrition, especially for children in poorer areas,” according to the blog. More than 90 percent of U.S. food aid has been delivered through the WFP since 1996, with the remainder channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a 2011 Congressional Research Service report (.pdf) says, the blog notes.
With each of the three droughts in the Horn of Africa over the last decade, “the international community agreed that long-term measures were needed to prevent another tragedy. But each time, when the rains finally came, the world’s good intentions melted away,” Jose Graziano de Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. “We must ensure that this does not happen again by joining forces now to banish hunger from the region once and for all,” he continues.
“North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex,” a move “signal[ing] that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation,” the New York Times reports. Some “analysts said the agreement allowed Mr. Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine,” the newspaper writes (Myers/Choe, 2/29).