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Food Security and Nutrition

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U.N. Warns Somalia Remains In Need Of Assistance One Year After Famine Declaration

The U.N. warned Tuesday that more than 2.5 million people in Somalia remain in need of assistance despite international aid efforts and the situation could worsen unless more effort is made to build on gains since famine was declared in July 2011, Agence France-Presse reports. “Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died last year after extreme drought and war pushed several areas of southern Somalia into famine” last year, the news agency writes.

“‘Mortality and malnutrition rates in Somalia have improved dramatically but remain among the highest in the world,’ Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in the Kenyan capital,” according to AFP. He noted that a $576 million gap remained in funding, about half of what is needed, the news agency notes (7/17). The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, on Tuesday said more than one million Somalis had fled the country due to food shortages and insecurity, BBC News reports, noting the agency also said the flow of refugees had slowed (7/17).

IRIN Examines Food Security Issues

“With the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and food security experts, IRIN takes a closer look” at how droughts worldwide are affecting grain and cereal supplies, the resulting price fluctuations, and how these issues affect food aid operations. Though experts say a crisis is not imminent, “there is concern that staple grains like maize and wheat could become less affordable for the poor, and sharp fluctuations in prices or volatility could disrupt the efforts of grain-importing poor countries to stay within their budgets,” IRIN writes. In addition, “[t]he price of maize and wheat will affect agencies like WFP, said [Maximo Torero, director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)],” IRIN notes, adding that Torero said, “But at this point I will not be alarmist, although cautious” (7/12).

Sahel Region Experiencing Increase In Cholera Cases, UNICEF, WHO Warn

UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).

Food Insecurity In Africa's Sahel

Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, examines the “massive food crisis … brewing in Africa’s Sahel” in this post on CFR’s “Democracy in Development” blog. She writes, “The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe,” and goes on to highlight the situations in Mali and Niger. She says ending the “‘buy American’ tied aid policy,” implementing longer-term solutions other than food aid, and providing additional funding for relief efforts would help alleviate the situation in the Sahel (7/4).

Cutting Funding For International Food Aid 'Not The Best Answer' To Saving Money In U.S. Budget

In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”

Mothers, Children In Northern Mali Most Affected By Food Insecurity Due To Conflict, Drought

“Tens of thousands of people uprooted or trapped by conflict in northern Mali are going without enough food, leading to a spike in cases of children suffering from malnutrition, medical aid groups say,” AlertNet reports. “The situation in northern Mali is also being compounded by a wider food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa, where the United Nations estimates that 18 million people are facing hunger due to a combination of drought, failed crops, insect swarms, and high food prices,” the news service writes. “Aid workers warn that living conditions in Mali’s troubled north will worsen unless security improves, enabling better access for humanitarian groups, and donors provide more funding for relief operations,” AlertNet notes, adding that charity groups working in the region say mothers and children are being affected most by malnutrition (Fominyen, 6/28).

Amending U.S. Farm Bill Could Save Money, Help Food Aid Reach Millions More

In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Kelly Hauser, agriculture policy manager at ONE, writes that an amendment to the U.S. farm bill “could save money and lives in Africa.” “The farm bill is an unwieldy five-year bill dedicated to shaping the U.S. government’s policies and spending on energy, farm subsidies, food stamps, conservation policies, and international agricultural trade, which includes the largest donor food aid program in the world, known as ‘Food for Peace,'” she writes, adding, “By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, Congress has the opportunity to make changes to the farm bill that would allow U.S. food assistance to reach six million more people with the same amount of funding.”

U.N. High Level Task Force On Global Food Security To Shift Focus To 'Zero Hunger Challenge' Initiative

“In the wake of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High Level Task Force on Global Food Security will be reoriented to focus on a new initiative as part of its efforts to ensure a coherent U.N. system approach to the issue of food and nutrition security,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Noting “Ban launched an initiative known as the ‘Zero Hunger Challenge,’ which invites all countries to work for a future where every individual has adequate nutrition and where all food systems are resilient,” at the conference last week, the news service writes, “The Task Force will be reoriented to focus on the challenge’s five objectives as a guide for a coherent U.N. system approach to food and nutrition security.”

European Commission Needs Comprehensive Strategy To Address Malnutrition, Report Says

“The European Commission needs to develop a proper and integrated strategy on nutrition backed by a significant increase in funding, according to a report” on the E.U. and nutrition development policy that is supported by international organizations, companies and non-governmental organizations, the Guardian reports. The newspaper notes that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates up to one billion people are undernourished worldwide, and the World Food Programme says it will take $11.8 billion annually to address 90 percent of child malnutrition cases.

IRIN Examines Efforts Against Malnutrition Amid Increasing Food Insecurity In Chad

IRIN examines efforts to tackle malnutrition amid increased food insecurity in Chad. “Like in the rest of the Sahel region, a mix of drought, poor rains and harvests as well as rising food prices have resulted in food insecurity and subsequent malnutrition,” the news service writes, noting, “Chad’s ’embryonic’ economy is among factors limiting the local diversity of food sources and income, notes USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), adding that sociocultural care practices and poor health systems are also to blame.”

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