“North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex,” a move “signal[ing] that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation,” the New York Times reports. Some “analysts said the agreement allowed Mr. Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine,” the newspaper writes (Myers/Choe, 2/29).
Food Security and Nutrition
Only weeks after the U.N. declared an end to the famine in Somalia, regional climate scientists meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum have said preventive measures should be taken to stem the effects of drought that likely will return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months, IRIN reports. USAID’s “FEWS NET said people should expect erratic rain in southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya” and will “be releasing a detailed outlook in the coming weeks,” the news service notes. But “[o]ne of the problems highlighted was the lack of linkage between early warning and early action. ‘There is no framework that allows the trigger of funds when the early warning bell is sounded,’ said one aid worker,” IRIN writes (2/29).
With each of the three droughts in the Horn of Africa over the last decade, “the international community agreed that long-term measures were needed to prevent another tragedy. But each time, when the rains finally came, the world’s good intentions melted away,” Jose Graziano de Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. “We must ensure that this does not happen again by joining forces now to banish hunger from the region once and for all,” he continues.
“[T]oday, with the national debt approaching $14.7 trillion, Americans rightly demand fiscal responsibility. Yet efforts in Congress to cut billions from the president’s proposed budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are short-sighted,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. He adds that “all of our foreign aid programs and foreign policy initiatives — from sending diplomats to Afghanistan to helping reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa — cost less than one-tenth of our annual military expenditures” and “comprises a mere 1.5 percent” of President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request.
“People look to [the U.S.] to protect our allies; stand by our principles; serve as an honest broker in making peace; to fight hunger, poverty, and disease; to stand up to bullies and tyrants everywhere,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Tuesday in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and she added that to do so “takes more than just resolve. It takes resources,” ABS-CBNnews.com reports (Jaleco, 2/29).
Gates Calls For Greater Coordination Among U.N. Food Agencies, Announces Nearly $200M In Grants For Agricultural Development Projects
In a speech delivered at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome on Thursday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told IFAD, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the “approach being used today to fight against poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient” and asked the agencies “to unite around a common global target for sustainable productivity growth to guide and measure their efforts,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “Gates also announced nearly $200 million in grants, bringing to more than $2 billion the foundation’s commitment to smallholder farmers since the agriculture program began in 2006,” according to the press release (2/23).
“India is lagging in its effort to reach United Nations goals to reduce poverty and improve health and sanitation, but has shown significant progress boosting education, treating AIDS and addressing environmental concerns,” Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said last week, the New York Times’ “India Ink” blog reports. According to an Asia Pacific Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report (.pdf) released last week, which “graded the progress of the eight millennium goals using 22 socio-economic indicators …, India has reached goals set in seven indicators out of 22 and is on track to achieve three others, but is lagging behind in 12,” the blog notes.
UNICEF Warns 1M Children In Sahel At Risk Of Death, Disability Due To Malnutrition; Urges Donors To Provide $67M For Necessary Food Aid
UNICEF on Tuesday “warn[ed] an estimated one million young children in eight countries in the Sahel, who will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, are at risk of death or permanent disability” and “said … it urgently needs $67 million to provide special life-saving therapeutic feeding for these vulnerable children,” VOA News reports. With up to 23 million people in the region threatened with malnutrition caused by food shortages and drought, UNICEF spokesperson “Marixie Mercado says the crisis has not fully hit, so there still is time to prepare for it. But, in order to do that, she says, UNICEF urgently needs money to be able to put the needed supplies in place before time runs out,” VOA writes. So far, UNICEF has received $9 million of the $120 million needed this year for humanitarian assistance in the region, with $67 million needed now to procure ready-to-use therapeutic food for children, according to the news service (Schlein, 2/21).
The medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Thursday said the conditions for hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp are worsening and people there “are experiencing a ‘humanitarian emergency’ because of the scaling back of aid work,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (2/16). MSF “said the health of refugees at the complex is deteriorating, with recent outbreaks of measles, cholera and acute diarrhea,” and said an estimated one in 12 children is malnourished, VOA News writes. “Most of the refugees at Dadaab are Somalis who fled last year’s severe drought or Somalia’s chronic conflict,” the news agency notes. MSF “called on the Kenyan government, international aid groups, and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide ‘continuous support’ to the Dadaab camp, saying thousands of refugees are relying on their support,” according to the news agency (2/16).
“Relief agencies have warned that millions of North Koreans are malnourished, with the most vulnerable facing starvation in the coming months, despite reports that the impoverished state has received food aid from China and South Korea,” the Lancet reports. “The warning comes after the sudden death of the North Korea’s former leader, Kim Jong-Il, put on hold a possible deal in which it was preparing to accept 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S. in return for suspending its uranium enrichment program, which would give it a further means of developing nuclear weapons,” the journal writes. “The recent donations aside, U.N. agencies say that three million of North Korea’s 24 million people will require food aid this year, adding that children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition,” the Lancet notes, adding, “According to a report by [World Food Programme] and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, North Korea faces a food deficit of 414,000 tons this year” (McCurry, 2/18).