UNICEF on Friday “appealed … for $1.28 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to children in over 25 countries this year, with nearly one-third of the total amount earmarked for the crisis in the Horn of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/27). The agency also released its annual “Humanitarian Action for Children 2012” report, which “decried the rising levels of starvation and malnutrition among children under the age of five in many of the world’s troubled regions,” GlobalPost writes (1/27). UNICEF “said it was seeking nine percent less than in 2011, linked to lower needs in Pakistan and Haiti, but that its needs for fighting hunger had jumped by nearly 50 percent,” according to Agence France-Presse (1/28). The agency said more than one million children in Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition, Reuters reports (1/27).
Food Security and Nutrition
Business and political leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday agreed that the focus on the global financial crisis “won’t matter unless people have one basic thing: Enough food to eat,” the Associated Press reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates there are at least 925 million undernourished people in the world — almost one in seven,” the AP notes. FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “The problem is not the supply side. … The problem is the access — they don’t have the money to buy it or they don’t have the water and land they need if they are subsistence farmers,” according to the news service (Heilprin, 1/26).
“While the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) estimated figures on global hunger often grab headlines, the uncertainty surrounding the numbers receives relatively little media attention,” Guardian reporter Claire Provost writes in the newspaper’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In 2009, the FAO responded to a demand for global hunger figures with the projections that “by the end of the year … world hunger was likely to reach a ‘historic high,’ with 1.02 billion people going hungry every day,” Provost writes, adding, “Almost immediately, these figures seemed to take on a life of their own. References to the global hunger crisis affecting ‘one billion people’ or ‘one-sixth of humanity’ began appearing in speeches, media reports, and advocacy campaigns around the world.”
In this Al Jazeera opinion piece, Stan Cox, a senior scientist at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, reports on a proposed Food Security Act in India and examines whether the measure could help solve the country’s food insecurity. He writes, “So-called public food distribution systems (PDS) have operated for years in dozens of countries around the globe,” and notes, “India’s PDS has been selling subsidized food through ‘fair price shops’ on a national basis since the 1970s.” He continues, “The Food Security Act would increase the amount of grain going through the system by more than 75 percent. That would raise the total to 66 million tons, or more than one third of India’s entire grain production.”
This Financial Times analysis examines food security, writing, “Climate change, ill-judged policies, protectionism, urbanization and plain greed have all conspired to reignite Malthusian prophesies of a growing world population unable to feed itself.” The article states, “The prospect of more starving people as staples become unaffordable has put the question of food security firmly on to the top table of global policymaking,” and discusses the economics of food; production, access, and waste; and genetic modification of crops (Lucas/Fontanella-Khan, 1/25).
Gates Urges Governments, Wealthy Donors Not To Cut Aid To Poor Countries; Annual Letter Sets Foundation’s Priorities
In a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “told European lawmakers in Brussels not to cut aid to poor countries despite the economic and budgetary problems facing” European Union (E.U.) countries, Agence France-Presse reports. Gates “praised the [E.U.] whose support in health and development he said has been greater than that of the United States,” AFP notes (1/24). On Wednesday, Gates “will be at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he plans to exhort wealthy donors — especially governments — to keep funding a range of crucial projects in the developing world, from tuberculosis drugs and antimalaria bed nets to maternal care and vaccines,” the Wall Street Journal writes. Gates “plans to make his case by showcasing ideas, backed by his foundation, that have helped cost-effectively tackle problems in global health,” according to the newspaper (Naik, 1/25).
During a briefing on Tuesday, U.S. officials said famine conditions in Somalia have improved, but more than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa remain in need of emergency food, shelter or other aid, the Associated Press reports. “David Robinson, acting assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration, told reporters Tuesday the flow of refugees out of Somalia into neighboring countries has diminished, but thousands are still trying to get out and new camps are opening in Ethiopia and Kenya,” the news agency writes (Birch, 1/24). Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy for the Bureau of African Affairs, noted the U.S. has provided about $870 million in humanitarian aid to the region, with about $205 million going specifically to Somalia, according to the briefing transcript (1/24).
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, on Tuesday “urged the global community to take quick action to prevent millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region from slipping into a full-scale food emergency, warning that drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The area currently affected by the crisis covers a vast swath of territory, including Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger but concerns have also been extended to other countries in the region such as Burking Faso and Senegal,” according to the news service (1/24).
“A year of Yemen’s turmoil has exacerbated the number of malnourished children under the age of five to around 750,000, UNICEF said Tuesday, appealing to the government and the international community to help develop the country’s infrastructure to tackle the problem,” the Associated Press reports (Al-Haj/Batrawy, 1/24). “Conflict, poverty and drought, compounded by the unrest of the previous year, the high food and fuel prices, and the breakdown of social services, are putting children’s health at great risks and threatening their very survival,” UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis said today, concluding “a two-day visit to Yemen where she saw first-hand the impact of malnutrition on children’s health,” a UNICEF news note states (1/24).
PBS NewsHour on Monday aired the second installment in its “Food for 9 Billion” series, in which “Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions goes to the fishing village of Humay-Humay” in the Philippines and “speaks with families about their concerns that future generations won’t enjoy the same access to fish as a food staple and way of life,” the PBS NewsHour blog “The Rundown” reports. The video report looks at how “one organization is making birth control more readily accessible to those wishing to keep their families small,” according to the blog.