“The leaders of United Nations aid agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments will meet on Wednesday in Rome to discuss how to urgently scale up assistance in Africa’s Sahel region, where drought and food shortages are threatening millions of lives,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “This gathering comes at a critical moment as humanitarian agencies are gearing up their response in an effort to prevent a crisis becoming a disaster,” U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, according to the news service. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization last year warned that irregular rains during 2011 “would lead to a significant drop in production and increased food insecurity,” the news service writes (2/13).
Food Security and Nutrition
“While the headlines out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings in Davos primarily focus on getting (or keeping) the global economy on track, it’s a welcome development when nutrition and health information also rise to the top of the priorities list, reminding world leaders of the inextricable link between nutrition, health and well-being of the people on our planet and that of our global economy,” Klaus Kraemer, director of Sight and Life, a not-for-profit nutrition think tank, writes in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog.
Crop Failures, Returning Migrants, Weather Patterns Threatening To Worsen Malnutrition In Africa’s Sahel, Horn Regions
“Sahel states are bracing for a long, potentially deadly hungry season, many weakened by the return of people from Libya who are unemployed, armed and creating fresh strife in already-vulnerable countries,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Crops have failed across a massive swathe of eight countries after late and erratic rains in 2011, and aid agencies have raised the alarm of a food crisis bigger than that which left millions hungry in 2010,” according to the news agency (Blandy, 2/11). In an article examining hunger among children in Mauritania, Inter Press Service writes that “other countries in the Sahel … are affected as well: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal,” adding, “Twelve million people will soon suffer severe food insecurity and hunger in this region, aid agencies warn” (Palitza, 2/10).
The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “warned [Wednesday] that millions of people in South Sudan are facing worsening hunger and called for urgent action to improve food security through adequate food aid and projects to boost agricultural production,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/8). “[C]onflict, population displacement and high food prices” are threatening food security for 4.7 million in the new nation this year, up from 3.3 million in 2011, according to a report (.pdf) from the agencies, Reuters notes. “Of those, about one million people are severely food insecure, and that number could double if fighting continues and prices keep rising, the report said,” the news agency writes (2/8).
A new report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) “says Arab countries face a serious food security challenge and that poverty rates are much higher than official numbers suggest,” VOA News reports, adding, “It blames the situation on vulnerability to volatile food prices, natural disasters and water scarcity” (DeCapua, 2/6). The report, titled “Beyond the Arab Awakening: Policies and Investments for Poverty Reduction and Food Security,” offers three key policy recommendations: to “improve data and capacity for evidence-based decision-making,” to “foster growth that enhances food security,” and to “revisit the allocation and efficiency of public spending,” an IFPRI press release states (2/6).
“India’s plan to roll out an ambitious food security program to give cheap foodgrains to the poor and malnourished won’t succeed unless the government revamps a creaky distribution network and boosts other infrastructure such as storage and transport, Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said Wednesday,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
More than “50 food security officials from 30 countries, and international and regional organizations” are meeting at the State Department in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the L’Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security, which was endorsed at the 2009 G8 Summit and “mark[ed] a turning point for international efforts to achieve sustainable global food security,” according to a State Department media note. Participants “will discuss coordination efforts between partner and donor governments; investments in research to improve food security; tracking progress toward meeting the L’Aquila commitments; and using Managing for Development Results to enhance the impact of investments in food security,” the media note states (2/2).
“Famine conditions have ended in war-torn Somalia six months after they were declared, but the situation remains dire with a third of the population needing emergency aid, the U.N. said on Friday,” Agence France-Presse reports (Vincenot, 2/3). “‘Long-awaited rains, coupled with substantial agricultural inputs and the humanitarian response deployed in the last six months, are the main reasons for this improvement,’ the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva told journalists in Nairobi after visiting southern Somalia,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes (2/3). “‘We have three months, let’s say, to work to avoid another possible famine from a drought. We cannot avoid the drought â€¦ but we can avoid famine from drought,’ Graziano da Silva said, stressing the need for long-term measures to strengthen agricultural capacity,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 2/3).
The Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from distributing food in southern areas of Somalia under its control, accusing the organization of delivering out-of-date food, the Guardian reports. “The new ban could deal a major blow to aid operations in the dangerous south of the country as the ICRC was one of only a few international agencies still able to operate there after al-Shabab banned 16 other groups last November,” the newspaper reports. Famine continues to threaten 250,000 people in the region, according to the Guardian (Chonghaile, 1/31).
“Doctors in Zimbabwe said more than 800 cases of typhoid have been reported in Harare, the capital, in an outbreak of the bacterial disease,” GlobalPost reports (Conway-Smith, 1/29). “Health services director Dr. Prosper Chonzi raised fears of a cholera outbreak given the health conditions that gave birth to typhoid,” Xinhua writes (1/28). Chonzi “said … a clean-up and awareness campaign is underway,” according to GlobalPost (1/29).