“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.
Food Security and Nutrition
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).
“As the United States entered the traditional season of giving and renewal last month, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was increasing its emergency aid to the [Horn of Africa] region by $113 million,” a VOA editorial states, adding, “The new monies will be used for food, health, shelter, water and other needs.”
The State Department has released a series of fact sheets examining the U.S. government’s two-year progress in Haiti. One fact sheet examines government efforts to “lessen the severity of the [cholera] outbreak” in Haiti. Another fact sheet looks at the challenges of food security in Haiti, stating, “Even before the January 12, 2010 earthquake, Haiti faced significant challenges to food security. â€¦ Prior to the earthquake, 40 percent of households were undernourished and 30 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition.” A fact sheet on health states that the U.S. government “has been providing access to health services for 50 percent of the people of Haiti for the last five years, including a basic package of health services (primarily maternal and child health) and more sophisticated HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services.” Additional fact sheets on the government’s work in Haiti can be found on the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator website (12/28).
IRIN reports that “[a]id workers hope ‘shocking’ new malnutrition figures from a survey conducted in western Yemen will help highlight the serious humanitarian situation in the country and prompt donors to act immediately.” The survey, conducted by Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population and supported by UNICEF, “found a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of 31.7 percent — meaning nearly one third of children surveyed suffered from either moderate or severe acute malnutrition — of which nearly 10 percent were severe cases. These figures are more than double the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent,” IRIN writes (12/27).
IRIN reports how “[a]n exchange between two leading world officials on how trade affects food insecurity in countries has helped focus attention on the stalled Doha trade talks.” A debate between Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteur on the right to food, and Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), “has reopened issues around the Doha talks which have been going on, in stop-start mode, for the last 10 years,” IRIN writes.
In this analysis, “IRIN discussed with aid agencies and Sahel food security analysts the subtleties of getting early warning messages right in such situations.” According to the news service, “Food security in the Sahel this year is part of a ‘persistent and predictable reservoir of chronic acute food insecurity,’ [experts] say, ‘in a predictable portion of the region’s population,’ and requires long-term structural aid not short-term fixes.” In addition, “much of the malnutrition in the region is caused by other factors: poor water quality, low-quality health care, poor sanitation and poor feeding practices,” IRIN writes. The article includes quotes from numerous food security experts (12/23).
President Obama on Thursday announced “an additional $113 million in emergency relief assistance for the Horn of Africa … [to] support urgently needed food, health, shelter, water and assistance needs,” according to a White House statement. The additional aid adds to the approximately $870 million already provided to assist the region with emergency relief, according to the statement, which noted the administration is making long-term investments in food security through the Feed the Future initiative.
Recounting the factors that led to and conditions that persisted during the North Korean famine between 1995 and 1998, New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll says in this opinion piece in the magazine, “Better harvests and international food aid ended the worst suffering by 1998. Yet chronic food insecurity and shortages persist to this day.”
“Humanitarian groups fear that the death of Kim Jong-il could worsen North Korea’s dire food situation, after the U.S. postponed a decision on potential aid,” the Guardian reports (Branigan, 12/21). “‘We need to see where (the North Koreans) are and where they go as they move through their transition period,’ said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland addressing questions about food aid on Tuesday. ‘We will obviously need to reengage at the right moment, but … we haven’t made any internal decisions here,'” MSNBC.com notes.