U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week “called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a ‘cascading crisis’ sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa, where 15 million people have been affected by the drought and conflict-related crisis in the area,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking to the Luxembourg Parliament on Tuesday, Ban said, “I call upon the world to respond. Simply put, we must do more — and do it quickly” (4/17). On Wednesday, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake appeared on BBC World News to discuss the drought and malnutrition among children. “Lake tells the BBC’s Jane O’Brien that his organization is trying to fight ‘donor fatigue,’ after years of crises in the region by” portraying the success stories of children in the region and through a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds, the news service notes (4/18).
Food Security and Nutrition
World Bank To Strengthen Social Safety Net Programs To Support Those In Developing World Vulnerable To Economic Volatility
“The World Bank plans to strengthen its social safety net to help the 60 percent of people in the developing world who lack adequate protection from the impact of global financial volatility and rising food and fuel prices,” Bloomberg reports. “Expanding cash transfers, food assistance, public works programs and fee waivers to help nations respond to crises and fight persistent poverty will be the center of the agenda for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Development Committee meeting on April 21, the bank said [Wednesday] in Washington,” according to the news agency (Martin, 4/18). “Safety nets can transform people’s lives and provide a foundation for inclusive growth without busting budgets. … Effective safety net coverage overcomes poverty, and promotes economic opportunity and gender equality by helping people find jobs and cope with economic shocks, and improving the health, education, and well-being of their children,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, the Guardian notes (Elliott, 4/18).
“[A]nti-poverty advocates [are] urg[ing] President Obama to ‘find political will to end global hunger’ during the upcoming G8 Summit at Camp David,” Inter Press Service reports. Members of ActionAid last week held signs in front of the White House “that read ‘Obama: Find the Will to be a Hunger Hero at the G8,’ next to a cutout of the president in a superhero suit,” the news service writes (Panagoda, 4/7). And “[a] new report by ONE Campaign said increased donor support for agricultural investment plans in 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America could lift about 50 million people out of extreme poverty,” Reuters notes. “ONE said it would launch its ‘Thrive’ campaign in France, Germany, Britain and the United States to highlight the need to tackle the causes of hunger,” the news service notes.
“The world appears reluctant to open its wallets to relief organizations dedicated to saving the lives of Africa’s children until it’s official. They want the United Nations to declare a famine,” a Globe and Mail editorial states. “UNICEF is to be credited for its preemptive global effort to break this tragic cycle of paralysis and delayed response in the case of the Sahel,” where “[o]ne million children are currently at risk of dying of acute malnutrition,” the editorial continues, and highlights a fundraising campaign launched by the organization last week, called #SahelNOW.
The Guardian examines child malnutrition in Chad, where “[r]ising therapeutic feeding center admissions highlight the growing urgency of the situation in one of Sahel’s driest, most remote areas.” Chad’s Kanem region “is one of the worst-hit regions in the current food crisis, which UNICEF estimates is affecting approximately 15 million people in the Sahel,” the news service writes. “‘The needs are many and varied in Chad, as we are facing multiple crises,’ said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, during a visit to Mao,” according to the Guardian. The news service writes, “Chad has a cereal deficit of about 400,000 tons this year, and stocks of only about 40,000 tons” (Hicks, 4/10). “The United Nations has warned that at least one million children under the age of five across Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe famine and malnutrition due to drought,” Press TV reports, adding, “UNICEF said it needs $120 million to tackle the looming crisis” (4/10).
The cause of malnutrition in India — which “results in a loss of productivity, indirect losses from impaired cognitive development, and losses from increased long-term health care costs” — is “not so much a lack of nutrient-rich food, but rather a weakness in the food supply chain,” William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in an opinion piece in The Diplomat. “Rather than correct supply chain issues, which would increase availability of food while reducing costs, the government” has passed a National Food Security Bill that would subsidize grain purchases “at a time when it can ill afford the expense associated with underwriting grain purchases for almost two thirds of the country’s population,” he continues.
Officials from the U.S., African Union and the international community “are working with Sudan’s government to open humanitarian access to” the country’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where refugees “fleeing fighting between local militia and government troops” have gathered and are in need of food aid, VOA News reports. The officials are asking “Khartoum to approve a plan for humanitarian corridors as more than 140,000 new refugees have left for South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia,” the news service writes, adding that Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, “said there are ways to get food aid into Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile without Khartoum’s consent, but they are inadequate to the need” (Stearns, 4/2). On Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved by voice vote a resolution (.pdf) urging an end to cross-border conflict and “calling for ‘the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to South Kordofan, Blue Nile and all other conflict-affected areas of Sudan,'” Agence France-Presse reports (3/31).
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).
In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, former U.S. Ambassador Jack Chow, who served as a special representative for HIV/AIDS under former Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently is a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Public Policy, examines the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid and how “[t]he technological versatility of airborne drones, the flying robots that are already transforming warfare, … has the potential to revolutionize how humanitarian aid is delivered worldwide.” He describes the work of several start-up companies looking to employ drones for such a purpose, saying “waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful ‘first strike’ capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas.”
“The policy changes in the [Senate's draft Farm Bill] represent improvements to U.S. food aid policy, but we think Congress could do more,” Kelley Hauser, a policy analyst with ONE, writes in this post on the Care2 blog. She describes a letter sent by ONE to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), “asking them to buy emergency food aid closer to where it is needed — to save on shipping and food costs, as well as to speed up delivery” and “to require more efficiency when organizations sell U.S.-grown food in developing countries to fund development projects.” She concludes, “By increasing the impact of our food aid dollars and making monetization more efficient, we can save more lives and help more people break the cycle of malnutrition and poverty as part of ONE’s Thrive campaign” (Matsuoka, 4/27).