Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Mozambique have joined the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which, launched earlier this year by the G8, is aimed at boosting food security and addressing malnutrition in Africa, VOA News reports. “The initiative includes partnerships with international corporations and African companies, and seeks to help bring 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years,” the news service writes. “The countries pledge to carry out reforms, including increasing domestic agriculture spending, improving land titling, ensuring access for women and families, and altering export and tax policies that have deterred outside agriculture investment,” VOA notes, adding, “They join Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, which have been part of the program since May” (9/27). “In addition, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that 21 additional private sector companies, most of them African companies, have signed letters of intent, committing themselves to invest an additional $500 million in African agriculture,” according to a Feed the Future press release (9/26).
Food Security and Nutrition
PRI’s “The World” reports on malnutrition in India, where “eight million children … suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to the Indian government.” However, the news service writes that “when it comes to treating those children, India lacks what many consider one of the best tools available: so-called ready-to-use therapeutic foods,” such as “the most well-known therapeutic food, Plumpy’Nut, … a patented concoction of peanut butter and micro-nutrients that allows severely malnourished children to be treated at home instead of at a hospital.” PRI notes, “Plumpy’Nut is not authorized for the treatment of malnutrition in India, and some doctors feared that dependence on a foreign import would come at the expense of the kind of locally produced food that Indian families prepare at home.”
Joint Report Calls For Action On Child Nutrition In Countries With Highest Numbers Of Malnourished Children
“Countries with the highest numbers of malnourished children urgently need to step up the way they respond to the problem in order to prevent millions of unnecessary deaths, according to a joint report,” titled the “Nutrition Barometer” and released on Friday by Save the Children and World Vision, AlertNet reports. According to the news service, the report, “which provides a snapshot of national governments’ commitments to addressing children’s nutrition, found that of 36 countries, where 90 percent of the world’s malnourished children live, almost a quarter have shown little progress in tackling the crisis” (Win, 9/21).
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.
“Stunting is a key factor holding back progress on children’s well-being, and Asia faces a significant challenge with millions of children under five stunted,” according to Save the Children’s 2012 Child Development Index (CDI), IRIN reports. The news service examines data from the 2012 State of the World’s Children report (.pdf), noting that nearly 60 percent of children under five in Afghanistan and Timor Leste have moderate to severe stunting, which puts children “at greater risk of illness and death, impaired cognitive development and poor school performance, say health experts.”
“Malnutrition is likely to be the most serious health threat linked to climate shifts in the coming decades, as farmers struggle to cope with more unpredictable weather, … epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts,” AlertNet reports. “Linkages between climate change, extreme weather and health have so far focused mainly on an expected increase in deaths from disasters and heat waves, as well as rising cases of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea,” the news service writes.
“For all its importance to human well-being, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “That means the problem of hunger is flaring up again, as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies have recently warned,” and in Africa, for example, “[t]he expansion of the … middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind,” he states.
Agence France-Presse reports on how poverty and hunger are forcing families in the rural village of Hawkantaki, Niger, to marry their daughters at increasingly younger ages, writing, “A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.” The news agency notes “one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of child marriage among the highest in the world, according to a UNICEF survey.” According to AFP, “Most of the marriages should be illegal under Niger’s law, which states that the minimum age of marriage is 15,” but the law “only applies for civil ceremonies officiated by the state. Marriages in villages are sealed inside mosques and fall under what is called ‘traditional law'” (Callimachi, 9/16).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
The following articles examining food and water security were published on Thursday. The U.N. News Centre writes, “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have called on the private sector to invest massively in agriculture, stressing that this is vital to winning the fight against hunger.” The news service adds, “Speaking at a high-level conference in Istanbul focused on promoting private agricultural investment and trade from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, [FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva] said that apart from important investments, financial and in-kind contributions, the private sector can make another important valuable contribution, namely political support to food security” (9/13).