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Food Security and Nutrition

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New International Food Assistance Convention To Take Effect On January 1

“A new international food assistance convention will come into force on January 1 next year after the European Union ratified it this week, but critics say it lacks teeth,” AlertNet reports. “The significance of the new Food Assistance Convention is that it marks a shift away from traditional food aid — sacks transported from overseas and handed out on the ground by relief workers,” the news service writes, adding the new convention says food distribution should be undertaken only when necessary, with cash or vouchers otherwise being distributed for people to purchase food within their own communities. “The new convention — negotiated by the E.U. and 35 countries (the E.U. states plus Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States) — also underlines the importance of linking short- and longer-term food assistance efforts, to enable people to become better prepared for future disasters or high food prices,” AlertNet states.

Joint U.N. Assessment Finds Better Harvests In DPR Korea But Warns Undernutrition Persists Among 2.8M Vulnerable People

“There has been an increase in staple food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the second year running, but undernutrition persists for nearly three million people, according to a new United Nations assessment released” Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme’s (WFP) joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission “found that overall production for the main 2012 harvest and 2013 early season crops is expected to be 5.8 million metric tons, an improvement of 10 percent over last year,” the news service writes (11/12). “This, however, should not mask an ongoing struggle with undernutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet, especially for an estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people,” an FAO/WFP joint press release states (11/12). “DPR Korea still needs international help,” Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and mission co-leader, said in a statement, adding, “The new harvest figures are good news, but the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming,” Reuters writes (11/12).

FAO Food Price Index Falls Slightly During October

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, “which measures monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar,” fell slightly in October, “largely because of falling cereals and oils prices, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday,” Reuters reports (11/8). According to an FAO press release, the index “averaged 213 points in October 2012, down two points (one percent) from September.” Prices of cereals and oils fell, while the prices of sugar and dairy increased and meat prices remained stable, the press release notes, adding, “Food prices averaged eight percent lower during the first 10 months of this year compared to the same period last year” (11/8).

USAID Unveils Plans To Harmonize Nutrition Efforts

“The U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] has unveiled plans to harmonize its funding and efforts surrounding nutrition,” Devex reports. “The agency is working on a comprehensive strategy that will make the issue a priority in ‘high-impact interventions’ with nutrition as a component, such as in agriculture, health and humanitarian aid, Robert Clay, deputy assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, announced Nov. 5 at an event hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network in Washington, D.C.,” the news service writes.

Medical Aid Group Reports Syrian Troops Seizing Foreign Aid; WFP Warns Of Increasing Food Needs Among Refugees

“A medical aid group said on Wednesday Syrian troops are seizing foreign aid and reselling it or channeling it towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk,” Reuters reports (11/7). “Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, [Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM),] an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country, said,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reports. “However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent, denied their aid was being seized,” the newspaper adds (Larson, 11/7).

African Leaders Must Do More To Ensure Continent Meets Farming Potential

“Images of starving children, epitomized in news coverage from Ethiopia in the 1980s, have given Africa a reputation for famine that does an injustice to the continent’s potential,” Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and a member of the Africa Progress Panel, writes in a CNN opinion piece. “It’s true that a recent report by three U.N. agencies said nearly 239 million in Africa are hungry, a figure some 20 million higher than four years ago” and “recent crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel certainly highlight the desperate uncertainties of food supply for millions — malnutrition still cuts deep scars into progress on health and education,” he states. “But the Africa Progress Panel and many others believe that Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world,” he continues.

Nigeria Experiences Worst Flooding In 50 Years; Officials Fear Disease Outbreaks, Food Shortages

“Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century has killed 363 people since the start of July and displaced 2.1 million people,” according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, Reuters reports. Between July 1 and October 31, 7.7 million people were affected by the flooding and 18,282 people were injured, the agency said, the news service notes (11/5). In makeshift camps without “water, sanitation or medical care, authorities fear outbreaks of disease could make things worse,” VOA News reports. In addition, “emergency officials say with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland destroyed, they fear food shortages in the coming months,” according to the news agency. In October, “[t]he Nigerian government … allocated $112 million to help families that have been displaced in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states since the flooding began in July,” VOA writes (Murdock, 10/30).

Recent Africa Braintrust 2012 Forum ‘Informative, Inspiring’ For Those Committed To Continent’s Advancement

“Recently I attended the Africa Braintrust 2012 forum entitled ‘Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunity,’ hosted by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as part of their Annual Legislative Conference, in Washington, D.C.,” human rights activist Ivanley Noisette writes in the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, noting the event “concentrated on reinforcing support for promising development-aid strategies, providing a networking venue for interested professionals, encouraging foreign investment, and promoting the leadership of the CBC in advocating fair and just U.S. policy toward the many countries of Africa.” Noisette provides highlights from various panels at the event, noting, “The second panel, ‘Health Investments for Africa’s Future,’ featured presentations about HIV/AIDS and malaria progress, food security, agricultural development, and high-impact health initiatives.”

Failure To Renew U.S. Farm Bill Would Be Missed Opportunity To Help End Global Hunger

“The U.S. Farm Bill that was up for renewal in September in the House of Representatives could have included policies to support farmers in developing countries in their efforts to grow enough food to feed the local population,” but “Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire on Sept. 30,” Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog. “If Congress does not act quickly after the election to pass a new Farm Bill, the money that exists for emergency food aid will run out in 2013,” potentially putting “up to 30 million hungry people at risk in the event of a crisis,” she continues, adding, “The failure to renew and reform the Farm Bill would also mean a missed opportunity to help end global hunger in the long term through sustainable solutions.”

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.