“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).
Food Security and Nutrition
“South Korea said on Monday that it would send 6.5 billion won, or $5.7 million, in aid to North Korea through UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency,” the New York Times reports. South Korea last year suspended aid to North Korea through UNICEF and the WHO, but Seoul last month resumed aid through the WHO, the newspaper notes (Choe, 12/5). “Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday it will donate about $5.7 million to UNICEF programs to send medicines and vaccines and help malnourished North Korean children,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes (12/5).
“Although advances in vaccines, nutrition and family health have dramatically reduced the number of child deaths in the past 50 years, nearly eight million children younger than five still die every year,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this CNN opinion piece. She adds, “To me, this number is unacceptable, because most of these deaths could be avoided” by providing antibiotics, sterile medical supplies, or education on breastfeeding, as well by improving access to nutrient-rich foods and effective contraceptives.
“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).
Relief Officials Concerned Over Malnutrition Among Children In Ethiopian Refugee Camps Despite Food Aid
Humanitarian aid officials are concerned about high levels of malnutrition among young children at the Dolo Ado refugee camps in southern Ethiopia “despite the free availability of Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste in a plastic wrapper for treatment of severe acute malnutrition,” the Guardian reports. “‘Maybe they’re not eating it properly,’ said Giorgia Testolin, head of the refugee section of the World Food Programme Ethiopia. ‘The food is there, there is easy access, but why is the situation so bad? This needs to be investigated,'” the newspaper writes, adding a report (.pdf) out last month from USAID and the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) noted some refugees, including children, sell or trade Plumpy’nut for other supplies, such as sugar, tea leaves, powder milk and meat. Overcrowding in the camps also presents problems, as 8,000 people await the opening of a fifth camp, which has been delayed because proper sanitation facilities are not yet ready, according to relief officials, the newspaper notes (Tran, 11/22).
“The triple threat of HIV, poverty and food insecurity is increasingly exposing children to abuse, exploitation and other human rights violations” in Lesotho, Inter Press Service reports in an article examining child poverty in the small southern African country. “In the country of 1.8 million, a good 500,000 out of 825,000 boys and girls live under 1.25 dollars a day and without proper shelter, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Almost 40 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and are stunted. Both under-five and infant mortality have persistently gone up in the past decade,” IPS writes, adding, “To make matters worse, Lesotho is one of the three countries in the world worst affected by HIV/AIDS. Every fourth Basotho is infected with the virus, leaving a quarter of children orphaned” (Palitza, 11/23).
More than one million Zimbabweans will need food aid between now and March 2012 because of poor harvests and food prices out of reach for vulnerable families, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said Monday, the Associated Press reports (11/21). The agency “said it was facing a $42 million funding shortfall for food aid it planned to provide to vulnerable households in Zimbabwe’s hardest-hit areas until the start of the harvest season in March,” Reuters writes (11/21). According to a recent survey, “12 percent of the rural population will not have the means to feed themselves adequately during the lean season,” a WFP press release notes, adding, “Most at risk are low-income families hit by failed harvests, and households with orphans and vulnerable children” (11/21).
“If we are to succeed in alleviating poverty and providing the necessary framework for sustainable development on our planet, there is no more pressing need than ensuring the supply of affordable food for our people,” Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” He continues, “There are two keys to tackling this problem, enhancing production — particularly in Africa — and ensuring that trade in food flows unhindered from the lands of the plenty to the lands of the few. Without immediate action in these two areas, there is a risk that hunger will become even more widespread, with many million more lives at stake” (11/21).
“Up to three million people in Afghanistan are facing hunger, malnutrition and disease after a severe drought wiped out their crops and extreme winter weather risks cutting off their access to vital food aid, a group of aid agencies warned Friday,” Reuters reports. Poor rains in many parts of the country destroyed crops and food prices have nearly doubled since last year, causing many families to skip meals, move into neighboring countries, or take loans to purchase food, the groups said, according to the news agency. The U.N. made an emergency appeal for $142 million in October to help families affected by the drought, but only seven percent has been funded by international donors, Reuters notes (Bhalla, 11/18).