In this episode of CNN’s “Amanpour,” correspondent Christiane Amanpour talks with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, about childhood stunting, which “threatens 180 million children below the age of five all over the world.” According to the show’s summary, “[m]illions of children around the world are threatened with death, lowered I.Q. and deformities by [the] life-altering condition — one that can be avoided simply by eating enough nutrients.” “It’s probably the least understood, most under-appreciated development issue, human issue, perhaps in the world,” Lake says in the video (Burke/Krever, 10/16).
Food Security and Nutrition
“The international community is gathering in Italy for World Food Day on Tuesday with a round of U.N.-hosted talks on how to keep global food prices in check and help prevent future commodity market crises,” the Bangkok Post reports. “The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is holding a week-long meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, which is made up of U.N. officials, farming experts, and civil society representatives,” the newspaper notes (10/16). The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Agricultural Cooperatives — Key to Feeding the World” to coincide with the International Year of Cooperatives, according to an FAO press release.
Noting “[a]round 170 million children under the age of five are stunted” globally, actor and UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow writes in a CNN opinion piece, “For too long, stunting has been a silent crisis — a personal tragedy for each family,” but “the suffering of some 170 million children constitutes a global catastrophe that calls for an urgent response.” Traveling with UNICEF for more than a decade, Farrow says, “Wherever there is poverty, it is the children who pay the highest price.” She continues, “At this moment, one million children throughout the Sahel region of Africa are at risk of dying.” Farrow highlights progress made in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake “caus[ed] hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries” in the country and writes, “There is more work to do, but we can see that even in challenging circumstances it is possible to work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children, pregnant women, and mothers have access to food and drinkable water.” She concludes, “In the name of some 170 million children, let’s pull together and end the obscenity of hunger and stunting” (10/16).
U.N. SG Says Eliminating Discrimination, Providing Nutrition, Health Care Will Help Women Care For Families
“Highlighting the role in women in producing much of the world’s food and caring for the environment, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message marking the International Day of Rural Women, [Monday] said that eliminating discrimination that prevents rural women from realizing their full potential is crucial to ending global hunger and poverty,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/15). “In his message, Ban said rural women typically live without the guarantee of basic nutrition, health services, and necessities such as clean water and sanitation,” UPI writes. “When food and nutrition security are improved, rural women have more opportunities to find decent work and provide for the education and health of their children,” Ban said, according to UPI (10/15). VOA News reports on an initiative launched recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and U.N. Women, which aims “to speed economic empowerment and gender equality of rural women,” according to the news service (DeCapua, 10/15).
On the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Tokyo on Thursday, Japan and South Korea each pledged an additional $30 million over three years for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), established in 2010 to help improve food security in low-income countries, Reuters reports (10/12). U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “stated that the United States is prepared to contribute an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors, up to a total U.S. contribution of $475 million, … and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation indicated its intent to double its commitment,” a World Bank press release states, adding, “The U.S. will also include the pledges made earlier this year — from Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom — in this challenge, bringing total financial commitments to GAFSP to date to $1.3 billion” (12/11). “U.S. President Barack Obama ‘took the view that the durable solutions to crisis of chronic hunger had to be … more than just delivering food aid. It had to be about promoting sustainable economic growth in agriculture,’ Geithner said,” according to the China Post (10/13).
IRIN reports on how the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “us[ed] a new set of indicators in its annual report, ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World,’ prepared jointly with the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.” According to the news service, “The report revises the number of hungry down to 870 million people, saying the number used after the 2007-2008 food price spike — one billion — was inaccurate because of a lack of updated country data and faulty methodology.” While the new methodology takes into account factors such as food distribution and undernourishment, the report authors acknowledge limitations in the new data because it is based on national surveys, which “are not readily available or of uncertain quality,” according to IRIN. “Still, the new methodology does not capture the short-term effects of food price surges or other economic shocks,” the news service writes, adding, “FAO says it is working to develop a wider set of indicators to capture a better sense of the quality of food people have access to as well as other dimensions of food security” (10/11).
“Our global food security challenges are daunting: food price spikes and increasing food prices look set to continue unabated, around one billion are suffering from chronic hunger, and we must feed a growing population in the face of a wide range of adverse factors, including climate change,” but “I believe there is reason for optimism,” Sir Gordon Conway, professor of international development and agricultural impact at Imperial College London, writes in the Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog. “Yes we can feed the world, but only if we accept that agricultural development is the best route to achieving sustainable economic growth in developing countries, and achieve an agriculture that is highly productive, stable, resilient and equitable,” he continues, adding, “I believe there are four interconnected routes to achieving a food secure world: innovation, markets, people and political leadership.”
“The U.K. has announced that Â£35 million ($56 million) in aid over the next three years will be aimed at improving nutrition for mothers and children in Yemen amid fears that a hunger crisis will derail fragile gains in the Middle East’s poorest country,” the Guardian reports. “More than 10 million people in Yemen, a country with a population of around 24.7 million, are thought to be at risk because of insufficient food,” and “[i]n the worst-affected parts of the country, as many as one in three children are suffering from life-threatening acute malnutrition,” the newspaper notes. “The U.K. funding will go towards long-term support to help improve nutrition for 1.65 million women and children in 60 of the most vulnerable, deprived and conflict-affected districts in the eight governorates where the need is greatest,” according to the Guardian (Tran, 10/10).
“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,'” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).
“Among causes of child malnutrition in India are not just poverty or inadequate access to food but also a lack of nutritional knowledge among families,” Nisha Malhotra, an instructor of economics at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Live Mint opinion piece. “Impressive growth and rising prosperity in the past three decades have not alleviated child malnutrition in the country,” she writes, noting, “An alarming 43 percent of children under age three in India are stunted, 48 percent are underweight, and 17 percent are ‘wasted.'” She continues, “In my research, I have emphasized and verified the importance of poor feeding practices in infancy to explain chronic child malnutrition in India,” adding, “Poverty is, of course, a contributor to poor feeding practices, but it is neither the sole reason for the situation nor the most significant reason.”