“This week, urgently needed food — 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers — will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel,” Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog. She says that in addition to food aid, “USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities,” with the aim of “alleviat[ing] poverty and build[ing] community resilience to withstand future shocks” (3/30).
Food Security and Nutrition
“The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Eckert, 3/29). “Under a deal reached last month, North Korea agreed to a partial nuclear freeze and a moratorium on missile testing in return for U.S. food aid,” but “Pyongyang then announced it would use a long-range rocket to launch a satellite,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes (3/28). Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy on Wednesday “told lawmakers North Korea had violated [the] moratorium agreement and could not be trusted to deliver the aid properly,” BBC News writes (3/28). The aid package, containing 240,000 tons of food and nutritional products, “was expected to target the most needy in North Korea — including malnourished young children and pregnant women,” VOA News notes (Ide, 3/28).
“Officials in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, [in] northwestern Somalia, are appealing for food aid and potable water for thousands of families who have lost their livelihoods in the current drought,” IRIN reports. “In February, [the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP)] provided food assistance to nearly 150,000 people in Somaliland, according to Challiss McDonough, WFP’s senior spokesperson for East, Central and Southern Africa,” according to the news service. Food insecurity in some areas is classified at “crisis level,” with children, expectant and nursing mothers, and the elderly most affected, IRIN notes. “WFP is shifting its focus from emergency assistance towards targeted programs, including building reservoirs, wells and roads which support communities’ resilience to seasonal shocks, according to spokesperson McDonough, who said that in the past year WFP had doubled the number of nutrition programs in Somalia,” the news service writes (3/30).
“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, discusses the passage of the House Budget Committee’s “budget alternative last week that calls for reduced spending for international affairs.” “Perhaps the oddest and most counter-productive recommendation is to eliminate Feed the Future but continue U.S. food aid, also known as PL 480, in its stead,” she writes, continuing, “PL 480 is not a long-term program to promote food security. … It is a ‘feed the now’ rather than a ‘feed the future’ approach” (3/26).
In this post in State Department’s “DipNote” blog, Paul Weisenfeld, assistant to the administrator of the USAID Bureau of Food Security, writes of the new film “The Hunger Games,” “I was struck by how much the premise relates to the very heart of what we are trying to address at USAID and through Feed the Future.” He continues, “Among other themes, the book touches on the fundamental right everyone should have: access to food,” and concludes that the movie is “an entry point for discussion and engagement on a very real issue based on an incredible pop culture success. If it gets people talking about hunger, the need for political will and access to resources, the consequences of inaction, and the transformative power of our collective commitment, that — for me — is a success beyond any box office record the film might set” (3/22).
In a post on Science Blogs’ “The Pump Handle,” Liz Borkowski, a research associate at the George Washington University School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, recognizes World Water Day, discusses the importance of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and writes, “This World Water Day is both a celebration of an achievement and a reminder that we still have a long way to go before everyone has the water, sanitation, and food needed to live healthy lives” (3/22).
USAID’s water team on Thursday, World Water Day, published a new edition of their Global Waters Magazine to recognize the day, according to USAID’s IMPACTblog. The issue is available as an e-zine or a downloadable file (3/22). Also on Thursday, the Guardian’s “DataBlog” published graphics depicting the latest data from UNICEF and the WHO, which “show targets for safe drinking water are being met ahead of time” (Evans, 3/22).
Speaking at State Department headquarters in recognition of World Water Day on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “announced a new partnership of organizations to apply the nation’s abundant experience in water issues to solving global water challenges,” according to IIP Digital. “The partnership will bring together more than 30 agencies, institutions and advocacy organizations with diverse experience and knowledge of water issues,” the news service writes (Porter, 3/22). The U.S. Water Partnership will “creat[e] a platform for fostering new partnerships among the U.S.-based private sector and the non-profit, academic, scientific, and expert communities” and “will mobilize the ‘Best-of-America’ to provide safe drinking water and sanitation and improve water resources management worldwide,” according to a State Department press release (3/22). “Something as simple as better access to water and sanitation can improve the quality of life and reduce the disease burden for billions of people,” Clinton said, VOA News notes (3/22).
“As we mark World Water Day, the alarming statistics underlying water scarcity are worth repeating. Worldwide 2.7 billion people are currently affected by water shortages,” Manish Bapna, acting president of the World Resources Institute (WRI), and Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s Aqueduct Project, write in a Forbes opinion piece, noting that population growth, increasing food demand, and climate change threaten access to water. “Clean, abundant water is essential for life and economic growth. Since it is a finite resource, we need to find solutions that will ensure we can use water more efficiently and mange water systems more wisely,” they state.