“This year on World Water Day, Thursday, March 22, the United Nations highlights the critical role water plays in food security, at a time when water supplies are already under severe strain in many parts of the world,” VOA News reports. As the world’s population expands, “the demand for water is growing along with the demand for food,” and agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use worldwide, the news service notes (Baragona, 3/21). Additional information on World Water Day, which is coordinated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is available online from U.N. Water (3/22).
Food Security and Nutrition
IRIN examines malnutrition in Chad, writing, “Hovering at around 20 percent in some places, Kanem Region in western Chad is well-known for having some of the world’s highest continual severe acute malnutrition rates,” and, “unless something is done to improve the country’s ‘dysfunctional’ health system (as described by half a dozen interviewees), these malnutrition rates are unlikely to change significantly.” The news service “spoke to Ministry of Health staff, aid workers, government officials and mothers to find out if anything can be done to wean Chad from its dependence on emergency nutrition interventions.”
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that more than a million children below the age of five in the Sahel are facing a disaster amid the ongoing food crisis in the drought-prone region of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/16). “‘More extreme conditions could see this number rise to about 1.5 million and the problem is that funding is not coming in at the rate that we need in order to prepare properly,’ [UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado] said. ‘So far we have received just one-fifth of the $119 million we have asked for in 2012,'” VOA News writes (3/16).
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s “budget includes a big boost in spending on reducing malnutrition,” with an increase for malnutrition programs of “58 percent in fiscal 2012-13 to 158 billion rupees, or about $3 billion,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports. “Despite its rapid economic growth, India has struggled with persistently high rates of malnutrition, far worse than many worse-performing economies,” according to the blog.
“Almost five million Yemenis are unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to preliminary findings of a United Nations survey,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/14). A World Food Programme (WFP) “survey on food security among 8,000 households in 19 of the country’s 21 governorates concluded that approximately five million people — about 22 percent of the population — are facing severe hunger, double the 2009 number and above the threshold at which food aid is required,” the Guardian reports (Ford, 3/14). The survey, “which was produced in collaboration with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Yemeni Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), also found that a further five million people are at risk of becoming severely food insecure as they face rising food prices and conflict,” the U.N. News Centre notes (3/14).
“Late Chadian government recognition of a food crisis, a slow build-up from aid agencies, and severe pipeline constraints due to closed Libyan and Nigerian borders mean food aid has not yet arrived in Chad, despite many thousands of people having already run out of food,” IRIN reports. “While staff in agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) are working furiously to beat the clock, a lead time of up to six months to get food to where it is needed means that the very soonest food will start to arrive is sometime in April,” the news service adds.
FAO Officials, Country Representatives Meet In Vietnam To Discuss Food Security, Nutrition In Asia-Pacific Region
Representatives of 40 member countries of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as senior officials from the agency, on Monday opened the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction,” Xinhua/China Daily reports (3/12). Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director general, “sa[id] rising food prices and frequent natural disasters are making it harder to ease hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes, adding he “said the challenge of eradicating hunger has also been complicated by the effects of climate change, trade policies, soaring crude oil prices and the growing use of food crops for biofuels.” According to the blog, “ministers [at the meeting] will review a report on measures to speed up progress toward the goal of cutting hunger levels in half in Asia-Pacific by 2015,” a “target was set at a World Food Summit in 1996” (3/12).
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa,” Agence France-Presse/Vanguard reports (3/10). “In a news release, the [FAO] said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in countries in the Sahel, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/9). FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” according to AFP (3/10).
U.S. Officials Pledge Continuing Support For Solutions To Hunger In Africa; Oxfam Calls For Action Against Emerging Hunger In Sahel
“U.S. officials pledged Thursday to work for permanent solutions to ease hunger in the Horn of Africa, warning that Somalia remained a major crisis even though its famine is officially over,” Agence France-Presse reports. Testifying before a congressional commission on human rights, Nancy Lindborg, USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, “said that the United States and other major donors would meet in Kenya in late March to support longer-term Horn of Africa plans,” according to the news agency. She added, “We cannot afford to let people slide into crisis every couple of years and respond with massive humanitarian assistance,” AFP reports. According to Lindborg, the U.S. “provided $935 million during the crisis, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more,” the news agency notes (3/8).
U.S. Envoy For N. Korea Says Administrative Concerns Over Food Aid Resolved, Would Not Provide Details, AP Reports
Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, on Thursday said talks with North Korean officials over food aid had “resolved the administrative issues we were concerned with,” although “[h]e declined to disclose details before reporting back to Washington,” the Associated Press reports. “The talks follow a deal announced last week in which the U.S. offered 240,000 tons of food aid in return for North Korea freezing long-range missile and nuclear tests and for halting a uranium enrichment program that would be monitored by U.N. inspectors,” the news agency writes. “The U.S. … wanted to ensure that the assistance reaches North Koreans who need it, rather than being diverted to the military or other groups as was suspected with some previous international aid shipments,” and while King “said that those concerns about the shipments had been resolved, … he did not discuss how deliveries would be monitored,” according to the AP (3/8).