“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).
Food Security and Nutrition
In this ONE Blog post, Jennifer Wynn, an intern with ONE’s policy team, reports on a recent panel discussion held at George Washington University that examined the U.S. Farm Bill and its implications for global hunger and food security. “I would have never thought to make a connection between our farms and farms around the world … [b]ut after an evening with some of the field’s experts, it’s clear to me that domestic policy on agriculture has far-reaching impacts,” she writes. The panel included Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group; Margaret Krome of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute; and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (3/5).
“Top-down advocacy on health and climate at the U.N. level needs to be mirrored by bottom-up public health actions that bring health and climate co-benefits,” public health experts from institutions in Sweden, Germany and South Africa write in an article published in PLoS Medicine on Tuesday, a PLoS press release reports. “[T]here seems…
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Kelly Hauser, agriculture policy manager at ONE, writes that an amendment to the U.S. farm bill “could save money and lives in Africa.” “The farm bill is an unwieldy five-year bill dedicated to shaping the U.S. government’s policies and spending on energy, farm subsidies, food stamps, conservation policies, and international agricultural trade, which includes the largest donor food aid program in the world, known as ‘Food for Peace,’” she writes, adding, “By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, Congress has the opportunity to make changes to the farm bill that would allow U.S. food assistance to reach six million more people with the same amount of funding.”
The Senate on Thursday passed 64-35 the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, otherwise known as the farm bill, which “funds agriculture, farm and nutrition programs over the next five years,” The Hill’s “Floor Action Blog” reports. “The vote on the bill (S 3240) came immediately after the chamber finished a two-day marathon on consideration of 73 amendments to it,” the blog notes (Strauss, 6/21). On Wednesday, “[t]he Senate voted to continue food aid to North Korea, shooting down an amendment ending that aid and also approving a different one in support of it,” the blog reports in a separate article. According to the blog, “First, the Senate voted on an amendment by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) that was essentially a counter to an amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to cut off U.S. food aid to North Korea. The Kerry-Lugar amendment was approved in a vote of 59 to 40, and Kyl’s amendment failed 43 to 56” (Strauss, 6/20).
In a video message addressing the Rio+20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “announced a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ to rid the world of malnutrition,” Bloomberg News reports. “‘In a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry,’ Ban said. ‘I invite you all to join me in working for a future without hunger,’” the news agency notes. “Ending hunger would boost economic growth, reduce poverty and help protect the environment, as well as foster peace and stability, Ban said,” Bloomberg writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 13 percent of the world’s population, or 900 million people, suffer from hunger. Barbara Stocking, CEO of Oxfam, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg, “This is the first big idea on food to come out of the Rio+20 debacle. … But it is in total contrast to the lack of any action in the summit conclusions” (Ruitenburg, 6/22).
Simple Reforms To U.S. Farm Bill Would Enable International Food Aid Programs To Reach Millions More
“In this year’s farm bill, there is a crucial opportunity to reform how the United States handles international food aid programs,” GROW campaign manager Vicky Rateau writes in this post in Oxfam’s “The Politics of Poverty” blog, adding, “Simple reforms would enable aid agencies to reach millions more people when crises like the one emerging in the Sahel occur and they would not cost taxpayers a dime. In fact, reform could save taxpayers up to $500 million per year.” She concludes, “Changing food aid rules will not fix our farm bill overnight,” but “achieving the big, structural changes our food system desperately needs will require active and engaged citizens who are willing to stand up for what’s right” (6/21).
“Together with international partners, the United States has launched an unprecedented effort over the past three years to reverse a decades-long decline in agricultural investments,” with a goal of “alleviat[ing] the chronic hunger that afflicts nearly one billion people around the world, including an estimated 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean,” a VOA editorial states. “In the Americas, Feed the Future invests in rural areas of three focus countries: Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti,” the editorial continues, noting, “Over five years, investments and programs involving the entire agricultural value chain from seeds to farms to markets will assist one million vulnerable women, children and family members, mostly smallholder farmers, to escape hunger and poverty in these countries.” The editorial states, “By working together, the United States believes [Organization of American States (OAS)] members can contribute collectively to food security at both the hemispheric and global levels. To achieve that goal, OAS members must safeguard the political and economic progress that has been made to date” (6/12).
Politico examines the implications of the Senate’s draft farm bill on the maritime industry, noting the industry “makes much of its money on foreign-aid shipments, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development,” and writing, “The Senate’s farm bill extends [Food for Peace, the largest international food-aid program] for the next five years but pulls $40 million a year from shipments to go toward cash grants and the purchase of food in local markets.” The news service adds, “The success of the industry lies in the continued authorization of these programs with the farm bill looming before the Senate this week.”
“Fighting global hunger has traditionally been a bipartisan effort that has united administrations and congresses without regard to party. The Farm Bill developed by the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee continues that trend,” Dan Glickman, former U.S. agriculture secretary, and Richard Leach, president and CEO of World Food Program USA, write in a Politico opinion piece. They say the bill “provides more flexibility to draw on food aid stocks” when the U.S. responds to natural disasters or conflict situations; “increases efficiency by reducing costs linked with monetization — the practice of selling U.S. food aid commodities on foreign markets to generate cash for development programs”; “promotes enhanced nutrition, increasing the nutritional quality of food aid”; and “fosters greater coordination among U.S. programs and agencies,” allowing for short-term food aid responses to be linked with longer-term development objectives. The authors conclude, “Though additional steps still need to be taken to comprehensively address hunger, this Farm Bill enhances U.S. leadership in the fight against hunger and makes an important statement about Americaâ€™s values” (6/14).