“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).
Food Security and Nutrition
“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).
U.S. and U.N. food agencies on Friday said three famine zones in Somalia had been downgraded to emergency status, as aid had reduced death rates, but “three other areas — including the refugee communities of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu — remain in the famine zone,” the Associated Press/CBSNews reports. The agencies “warn[ed] that a quarter million Somalis face imminent starvation, and that military battles are preventing food deliveries,” according to the AP (11/18). The U.N. Food Security Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) said in a statement, “Overall, food security outcomes remain the worst in the world, and the worst in Somalia since the 1991/92 famine,” Agence France-Presse notes (11/18).
As part of its series on the relationships between human, animal and environmental health, titled “The Infection Loop,” HuffPost Green examines how changes in climate and landscape, human movement, agricultural practices, and microbe adaptation are affecting the spread of malaria. “Our disease-fighting weaponry has certainly improved in recent years, from the widespread distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets to hopeful progress towards a malaria vaccine,” but some “experts suggest that getting ahead of the disease, let alone maintaining a lead, is far easier said than done,” according to the article, which includes quotes from malaria researchers working in several academic disciplines (Peeples, 11/16).
Inter Press Service examines how doctors and aid workers in and around Mogadishu, Somalia, “are warning that famine victims in internally displaced camps have become vulnerable to contagious diseases like cholera and measles, as conditions here are ripe for an outbreak.” Sanitation and access to food and drinking water are the greatest concerns, IPS reports, adding that “[w]hile international aid continues to be delivered to Somalia, relief efforts at some camps have dwindled or stopped.” The news service writes, “The Somali government’s Mogadishu spokesman Mohamed Abdullahi Arig told IPS that the government needed help to prevent a possible cholera outbreak and to prevent other communicable diseases from spreading in the camps. ‘The government is more vigilant, but our capacity is too little. We need the international community’s assistance in this sector,’ Arig said” (Abokar, 11/17).
High-Level Panel Releases Recommendations To Address Food Security, Climate Change In Anticipation Of U.N. Meeting
In advance of a U.N. climate change conference this month in Durban, South Africa, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, a high-level international panel, on Wednesday announced its recommendations (.pdf) for achieving food security while addressing the effects of climate change, VOA News reports. The panel, which includes scientists from 13 countries who are experts in agriculture, climate, economics, trade, nutrition and ecology, “spent the past year analyzing many climate studies — a year that included climbing food prices, humanitarian disasters and political unrest — all of which, it says, threaten food security,” VOA writes (DeCapua, 11/16). “The seven high-level recommendations include significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade; sustainably intensifying agricultural production on the existing land base while reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and reducing losses and waste in the food system,” a commission press release states (11/16).
“Cholera has broken out in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya, home to nearly 500,000 Somali refugees, the United Nations said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports (Nebehay, 11/15). “There are now 60 cases of cholera in [Kenya’s Dadaab complex], including 10 laboratory-confirmed cases and one refugee death, according to Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),” the U.N. News Centre writes.
Health Of Millions Of Children In East Asia, Pacific At Risk Due To Climate Change, UNICEF Report Says
“Climate change is expected to worsen the plight of millions of children in East Asia and the Pacific who already lack food and clean water and are vulnerable to disease, … UNICEF said Monday … in its report (.pdf) ‘Children’s vulnerabilities to climate change and disaster impacts in East Asia and the Pacific,'” AlertNet reports. “‘Higher temperatures have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrheal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria,’ putting children at far greater risk of contracting these diseases and succumbing to their complications, the report said,” the news service writes.
Former U.N. SG Annan Criticizes G20 For Not Taking More Action On Climate Change That Affects Food Security
Speaking at the launch of Stanford University’s Center for Food Security and the Environment at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies on Thursday, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan “criticized world leaders … for failing to take bold action on climate change, which he said threatens to worsen the food crisis that has already left a billion people hungry,” ABC News reports. “Failing to address the problem will have repercussions on health, security and stability, he warned,” the news service writes. He “praised ‘Feed the Future,’ the U.S. initiative to reduce poverty and under-nutrition, and said he met recently with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and [USAID Administrator] Raj Shah,” ABC News writes. Annan said, “If we pool our efforts and resources we can finally break the back of this problem” (Donald, 11/11).
“Washington is in an era of budget-cutting, so we frequently hear calls to shrink or eliminate U.S. foreign-assistance programs,” which is why “several religious groups … are highlighting how these programs reduce global poverty and hunger, saving millions of lives,” Richard Stearns, president of World Vision USA, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. However, he says “evangelical Christians [are] largely absent from this religious coalition” and notes that “a Pew survey earlier this year found that 56 percent of evangelicals think ‘aid to the world’s poor’ should be the first thing cut from the federal budget.”