“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.”
Food Security and Nutrition
“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.”
Somali Militant Group Bans U.K. Aid Organization; Oxfam Warns Malnutrition In Somalia At 'Alarming' Level
“Militant Islamist rebels in Somalia on Monday announced a ban against another aid group working in a region of Somalia hit hard by hunger,” the Associated Press reports (Straziuso, 10/8). “Al-Shabab says the U.K.-based Islamic Relief was covertly working on behalf of other aid groups already banned, including the U.N. World Food Programme,” according to BBC News, which notes, “Islamic Relief says it has yet to be officially informed of the decision.” The news service adds, “Some 1.3 million people in need of food, clean water, and health care may be put at risk, the group says” (10/8).
The U.N. “revised down the number of the world’s hungry on Tuesday to just under 870 million but slammed the figure as ‘unacceptable’ and warned that the fight against hunger was slowing down,” Agence France-Presse reports. The report, launched by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) along with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), “said the number of hungry was down from one billion 20 years ago,” according to AFP (Milasin, 10/9). “That is better news than we have had in the past, but it still means that one person in every eight goes hungry. That is unacceptable, especially when we live in a world of plenty,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, Reuters notes. The new figures are based on revised calculation methods and new data, according to the news service (Hornby, 10/9).
Two U.N. experts have called for the creation of a “global fund to promote the creation of social safety nets for the most vulnerable people in poor countries,” the Guardian reports. Based on estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO), Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur for food, and Magdalena Sepulveda, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the creation of a $60 billion fund — with $20 billion funded by rich countries — “would have two functions: to help the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) put in place a ‘social protection floor’; and to serve as a reinsurance provider to step in if a state’s social protection system was overwhelmed by an unexpected event such as extreme drought or flooding,” the newspaper writes.
“Achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 is still within reach, but a strong, sustained acceleration of efforts is needed,” U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in a Reuters opinion piece. He notes a new report from the Rome food agencies shows the “global number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from a little over one billion people to 868 million — 852 million of them in developing countries.”
Foreign Policy reports on “a recent study by Ashley Fox of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine [that] compares rates of HIV infection across 170 regions in 16 sub-Saharan African countries.” Fox “found that in the poorest regions, it was richer people who were more likely to be infected with HIV, while in wealthier regions, the poor were more at risk,” the magazine writes, adding, “The reason, she argues, is that AIDS acts more like a chronic condition, such as obesity, than the infectious disease it is.” “In the three decades since it was identified, AIDS has gone through a remarkable socioeconomic mutation, from a condition closely identified with gay men in urban areas of the United States to one synonymous with poverty in the developing world,” Foreign Policy continues, adding, “Fox’s data suggest that despite more than 30 million deaths over the past 30-odd years, it’s still a disease we don’t understand very well” (Keating, November 2012).
“This month, President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative received a $1 billion pledge from U.S. organizations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, noting, “This pledge came on the heels of a $4 billion pledge by more than 60 companies from Africa and other continents.” He continues, “As co-chairman of the Congressional Ethiopia Caucus and the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, I commend these pledges and look forward to working with the administration as they are implemented.” However, he adds, “[t]hese are short-term fixes … to the long-term issues of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition facing millions.”