Discussing the meeting of G20 leaders taking place this week in Los Cabos, Mexico, the Financial Times states, “Food security, long only a concern for aid advocates and farming ministers, is now hotly debated among G20 leaders.” Though food prices have stabilized recently, they are much higher than in the past, causing widespread food insecurity and leading to about one billion chronically hungry people worldwide, the newspaper notes. The “initial reaction” of the G20, and the G8, was to supply emergency food aid, “[b]ut as the era of high food prices appears to be here to stay, the focus of the G20 is slowly shifting from fighting the emergency to addressing the long-term problem,” the Financial Times writes.
Food Security and Nutrition
With “the highest level of chronic malnutrition after Afghanistan, affecting 60 percent of under fives,” Yemen is facing levels of acute malnutrition that are equal to or worse than those in Africa’s Horn or Sahel, UNICEF’s Yemen representative Geert Cappelaere said on Friday in London, AlertNet reports. “If you don’t do anything about these incredible high levels of malnutrition, in the short term you may have more and more children dying. In the long term, the cost of inaction for a country like Yemen may be up to $1.5 billion a year,” he said. According to AlertNet, “The figure comes from a World Bank estimate that the cost of failing to address malnutrition could be 2-3 percent of a country’s GDP.” Cappelaere “said that in some areas it had almost nothing to do with access to food, but rather to lack of access to drinking water or sanitation. He said bringing down malnutrition levels would require integrated investment in water, sanitation, nutrition, education, and health,” the news service writes (Batha, 6/15).
“Agriculture faces dual challenges: becoming more sustainable on a dwindling resource base while having to feed an increasing number of people,” Paul Polman, CEO of consumer goods company Unilever, and David Servitje, CEO of baking company Group Bimbo, who serve as co-chairs of the G20’s B-20 Food Security Task Force, write in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding, “To provide food and nutrition security in the coming decades will require a major and sustained effort by all stakeholders, including business.” They continue, “The good news is that food security is firmly on the political agenda of the Group of Eight, the Group of 20 and at this week’s U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). And business has been invited to contribute.”
“The new U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which is derived from a Presidential Policy Directive, builds on numerous accomplishments of U.S.-Africa policy to strengthen democratic institutions, promote regional peace and security, engage with young African leaders, and promote development, trade, and investment,” a White House fact sheet, titled “Obama Administration Accomplishments In Sub-Saharan Africa,” states. The fact sheet contains information on the Feed the Future initiative, the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. Government’s responses to humanitarian crises and disasters, as well as other programs and engagements (6/14).
Writing in a commentary on the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) webpage, Ambassador William Garvelink, a senior adviser with the CSIS Project on U.S. Leadership in Development, and Kristin Wedding, a fellow with the CSIS Global Food Security Project, examine the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative that “aims to move 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade through agricultural growth and development.” “While the goal is to be applauded, notably absent from the New Alliance is the key role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play in implementing and delivering solutions, often to the populations who need it most,” they state. Noting the importance of private sector involvement, they conclude, “One hopes that the G20 will discuss food security in a more robust way than the G8, with a more comprehensive, whole-of-community approach to reducing food insecurity and malnutrition and recognize the critical role of NGOs in this most important endeavor” (6/14).
“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).
African Sahel Faces Food Insecurity Despite Record Increase In Cereal Production; New Partnership To Address Food Supply In Middle East, North Africa
“According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) quarterly forecast of agricultural production and food,” the world is expected to see a record increase in cereal production in 2012, “[b]ut despite the positive global trends, countries in Africa’s Sahel region continue to face serious challenges to food security due to locally high food prices and civil strife, FAO said in a news release,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are currently some 18 million people facing food insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon and Nigeria,” the news service notes (6/13).
“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).
“Relief groups are stepping up their appeals for aid to tackle the worsening food crisis in West Africa, where more than 18 million people face hunger,” the Guardian reports. “Relief agencies have been sounding the alarm for months about the effects of drought on the Sahel — a region stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The situation has been made worse by the knock-on effect of the Libyan uprising that has destabilized Mali” (Tran, 6/12). UNICEF “forecasts that, over the course of 2012, at least 1.1 million children would need to be treated and 5,200 specialist treatment centers will need to be established to cope with the crisis,” the U.N. News Centre notes (6/11).
“Millions of North Koreans suffer chronic food shortages and dire health care …, and there are no immediate signs of reforms to spur economic growth, the United Nations says” in a report released Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports (6/12). “The U.N. described serious humanitarian conditions in North Korea in its report, saying 16 million people continue to suffer from chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition rates, and deep-rooted economic problems,” VOA News writes, adding that the U.N. “is calling for the international community to put aside political differences and boost funding to help address what it says are the dire humanitarian needs of North Koreans” (6/12).