“Severe droughts, rising grain prices and food shortages — the latest headlines are an urgent call for action,” and “it is time to step up our response,” Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. On September 13, the EBRD and FAO will convene the Private Sector for Food Security Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, “the largest and most important gathering of companies and decision-makers in agribusiness from the Caspian and Black seas to the Mediterranean … [to] discuss the key role of the private sector in feeding the world,” they note. “The simple truth is that the world needs more food, and that means more production,” they state, adding, “The private sector can be the main engine of such growth.”
Food Security and Nutrition
“World food prices stabilized in August at levels close to those reached in the food crisis of 2008,” according to the most recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, Reuters reports. “FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva called for international action to calm markets but also said the August price index, which remained unchanged from July, provided some cause for optimism,” according to the news agency. “‘Although we should remain vigilant, current prices do not justify talk of a world food crisis. But the international community can and should move to calm markets further,’ Graziano da Silva said in a statement,” Reuters writes (Hornby, 9/6).
In the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, David Lane, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, discusses his recent trip to Niger, where more than three million people are food insecure and suffer from malnutrition. “I had expected the trip would leave me feeling depressed and hopeless,” but “by the time I left Niger, I was filled with optimism and confidence in the multilateral assistance and development operations at work on the ground. Amongst their efforts, I saw the components needed to break Niger’s relentless cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” he writes. “I was impressed by how well the different U.N. organizations, … as well as their NGO partner organizations are coordinating their work,” Lane states, concluding, “Emergency and development assistance are both vital to a relief effort, and can be even more effective when integrated” (9/5).
Distribution Infrastructure, Effective Education Important For Success Of Micronutrient Powders To Treat Childhood Anemia
In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sam Loewenberg examines the administration of micronutrient powders as a treatment option for anemia, “one of the most pervasive problems affecting the world’s children, and one that goes largely unaddressed.” “The presence of anemia usually signifies a host of other micronutrient deficiencies that are more difficult to test for,” so micronutrient powders — such as Sprinkles, the original and most common formulation — “contain not just iron, but 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including iodine, zinc and vitamin A,” he writes. “The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of expert economists convened in 2008 to determine the world’s most effective aid interventions, put micronutrient supplements at the top of the list,” he continues, adding, “According to their estimate, the cost of providing vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the world’s 140 million children who are lacking them would cost $60 million per year. The benefits of this treatment would be worth more than $1 billion.”
Approximately one-third of children under the age of five in southern Afghanistan, about one million, have acute malnutrition, “with a level of deprivation similar to that found in famine zones, a government survey has found, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been poured into the region,” the Guardian reports. The U.N.-supported “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 29.5 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition there,” the newspaper states, noting that a level of more than 30 percent is one indicator of famine, as are death rates and families’ access to food.
“World leaders must take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months, the United Nations’ food agencies said in a statement on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “It said leaders must tackle both the immediate issue of high food prices, as well as the long-term issue of how food is produced and consumed at a time of rising population, demand and climate change,” the news agency writes (9/4).
Global Food Prices Rise 10% In July; World Bank President Says Increase Threatens Health Of Millions
“The World Bank said Thursday that drought in the U.S. and Eastern Europe crop centers sent global food prices soaring by 10 percent last month, raising a food security threat to the world’s poorest people,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/30). “From June to July, corn and wheat prices rose by 25 percent each, soybean prices by 17 percent, and only rice prices went down, by four percent, the World Bank said,” according to Reuters, which adds, “Overall, the World Bank’s Food Price Index, which tracks the price of internationally traded food commodities, was six percent higher than in July of last year, and one percent over the previous peak of February 2011” (8/30).
“The top United Nations relief official said [.pdf] today that humanitarian efforts to alleviate the devastating food crisis affecting Mali have begun to yield results, but warned that much still remains to be done and the situation could worsen without continued donor support,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/30). Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos “on Thursday called for more resources in Mali to save children from severe malnutrition,” Agence France-Presse reports. The widespread food crisis in the Sahel region is compounded in Mali by a militant insurgency in the north of the country, according to the news agency. “The food crisis, which follows a drought in 2011, has affected 4.6 million people in Mali alone,” and “[a]lmost 150,000 children across Mali have been treated for acute malnutrition … this year,” the news agency writes (8/30).
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Monday said the country’s central government and regional governments would provide $1.03 million to a fund aimed at reducing child malnutrition, Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times reports. “Humala said the government aims to lower the [child malnutrition] rate to 10 percent by 2016, from 23 percent in 2010,” according to the news service (8/28). “These funds, he said, will be used for the comprehensive care of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, the provision of vaccines, social programs, among others,” Bernama/NNN/Andina write. According to the news services, “The announcement was made during the signing of the National Commitment to the Coordinated Fight Against Child Malnutrition, which Humala described as a ‘concrete measure which must bring together all regional governments.'” He said, “What we want to do is eradicate malnutrition. As a government, we are going to fight as hard as we can to eradicate it,” the news services report (8/29).
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.