“The world urgently needs to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with lack of rainfall and the United States endures the worst drought it has experienced in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports. “The World Meteorological Organization [WMO] says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption,” the AP writes (Heilprin, 8/21). “Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,’ said [WMO] Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release,” the U.N. News Centre notes. “‘We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,’ he added, according to the news service (8/21). “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports food prices have climbed by six percent because of drought, ethanol production and high fuel costs, and are likely to go higher if drought continues,” VOA News adds (Schlein, 8/21).
Food Security and Nutrition
“Years of bad luck and record-breaking maize prices have led land-locked Lesotho into a crisis,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports. “Prime Minister Tom Thabane declared a food security emergency on August 10, and a national vulnerability assessment warns that nearly 45 percent of the nation’s 2.2 million people will face moderate to severe food insecurity in the next few months,” the news service writes, adding, “While the crisis can be mitigated in the short term, Lesotho will need ongoing food support: It’s one of four countries in the world where nearly 100 percent of the population is projected to remain food insecure for the next ten years.”
International Community Must Address Challenges To Food, Water Security In A Systematic, Coherent Manner
“New ideas and approaches to the water and food nexus will be addressed at World Water Week,” which will take place in Stockholm, Sweden from 26-31 August, Anders Jagerskog, an associate professor and director of knowledge services at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), writes in this post in the AlertNet Blog. He highlights a report (.pdf) being launched by the institute called “Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and Opportunities for a Water and Food Secure Future,” noting it is aimed at “provid[ing] an overview of the areas that relate to food security and water” ahead of the event.
“Children in a refugee camp in South Sudan are dying at more than twice the rate internationally recognized as an emergency, according to new figures [.pdf] released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” the Guardian reports. “On an average day in the Yusuf Batil camp â€¦ three or four children under the age of five will die,” but, “[i]n a ‘normal’ emergency situation, the number would be one or two deaths daily for every 10,000 children,” the news service writes. “The overall mortality rate, which takes into account adults and older children, is also substantially above the emergency threshold,” according to the Guardian, which adds, “About 58 percent of the camp’s reported deaths have been children under five, while more than 25 percent have been people over 50” (Copnall, 8/20).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Eric Holt Gimenez, executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, reflects on the global implications of a drought in the U.S., writing, “[I]f the 2008 and 2011 food price crises are any guide, the global effects of the U.S. drought are fairly predictable.” He continues, “The failure of the U.S. corn harvests spells a disaster for the world’s poor, but not because the poor eat our corn. … The poor will suffer the third global food disaster in four years because the price of corn will push up the price of other food commodities, like wheat, soybeans and rice …, push[ing] up food prices overall.” He writes, “The global response to food crises is also well rehearsed,” and makes a number of predictions as to how USAID, the United States Department of Agriculture, “seed and chemical monopolies,” and “the mega-philanthropies” will respond to the crisis.
“America’s worst drought for 25 years is threatening the global economy as it cripples the country’s grain production and sends the price soaring,” the International Business Times reports, adding, “According to a report by HSBC, bloated food prices loom over the global economy and present the temptation for governments to hoard produce” (Croucher, 8/20). “When food prices spike and people go hungry, violence soon follows, [scientists and activists] say,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “Riots caused by food shortages — similar to those of 2007-08 in countries like Bangladesh, Haiti, the Philippines and Burkina Faso among others — may be on the horizon, threatening social stability in impoverished nations that rely on U.S. corn imports” (Kennedy, 8/21).
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
In this post in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ “Global Food For Thought” blog, Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus, a global research program that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich staple food crops to improve nutrition globally, writes, “David Cameron’s decision to tie a hunger summit to the Olympics was imaginative … because Cameron saw how the Olympics, that celebrate the best of human athleticism and teamwork, could also be used to draw attention to those who will never ever come close to competing in an Olympics event.” He continues, “The Global Hunger Event exemplified the approach that we need if we are to race, not inch, towards the finish line of significantly improving nutrition by the next Olympic Games,” concluding, “Collectively, we must now assume this mantle of Olympian leadership if we are to bring down the historic and arbitrary barriers between agriculture, nutrition and health ” (8/17).
“Downpours and heat waves caused by climate change could disrupt food supplies from the fields to the supermarkets, raising the risk of more price spikes such as this year’s leap triggered by drought in the United States,” Reuters reports. “Food security experts working on a chapter in a U.N. overview of global warming due in 2014 said governments should take more account of how extremes of heat, droughts or floods could affect food supplies from seeds to consumers’ plates,” the news service writes (Doyle, 8/15). “The U.N. and global leaders have paid particular attention in recent weeks to U.S. biofuels policy as drought ravages corn supplies,” The Hill’s “E2 Wire” blog notes, adding, “They say the country needs to free up more of its corn for food to combat rising prices that heavily affect poor nations” (Colman, 8/16).
“Genetically modified rice could be a good source of vitamin A for children in countries where deficiency in the vitamin is common,” according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Reuters reports. “The study tested so-called Golden Rice against both spinach and supplements in providing vitamin A to 68 six- to eight-year-olds in China,” the news service notes. “Researchers found that the rice was as effective as the capsules in giving kids a boost of vitamin A, based on blood tests taken over three weeks,” and that “it worked better than the natural beta-carotene in spinach,” according to Reuters. “The product has been around for years, but it has yet to come into real-world use for a number of reasons,” the news service notes, adding, “Because it’s genetically modified, it has faced opposition from environmental groups and others.” Reuters writes, “There have also been questions about how efficiently the beta-carotene in Golden Rice can be converted into vitamin A, especially in children” (Norton, 8/15).