“Though approved by the Cabinet Sunday, the fate of the much-anticipated Food Security Bill, which will guarantee cheap food for India’s masses, is far from sealed,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports, noting that the “bill is to be tabled in Parliament this week.” When the bill comes up for a vote, after potentially spending weeks in committee, “all political parties are expected to support the bill which will provide subsidized food grains to 75 percent of the rural population and about half of urban households,” the blog writes.
Food Security and Nutrition
The Guardian examines how ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) — “small packets of a sticky, peanut butter-like paste, fortified with minerals and vitamins, that can reverse severe malnutrition within six weeks” — “have revolutionized famine relief in Africa,” and asks whether these products could be produced in the countries in which they are being distributed. “The vast majority of RUTFs are produced in the U.S. or Europe, bought by aid agencies such as UNICEF, and transported great distances to reach those in need,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But a small group of social enterprises is questioning this business model, redesigning it with a more local footprint in mind.”
The U.N. on Sunday released its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2012, asking for $447 million in humanitarian assistance targeted toward four million vulnerable people in the country, Reuters reports (Fuchs, 12/18). A statement from the U.N. Inter-Agency Standing Committee said more than half of those at risk will be “severely food insecure” in the coming year, Agence France-Presse notes.
“India’s cabinet agreed on Sunday to tackle widespread malnutrition with food subsidies for two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion population, a move that may shore up support for the government but carries risks for the faltering economy,” Reuters reports. “The new scheme aims to tackle rates of child malnutrition that are worse than in sub-Saharan Africa, but critics say slowing growth and a widening fiscal deficit in Asia’s third largest economy mean the timing of the bill is irresponsible,” the news agency writes (Prusty, 12/18).
“Speaking at a two-day development and investment conference for South Sudan in Washington, D.C., [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton said the newly independent country had the potential to be ‘one of Africa’s breadbaskets'” and said the U.S. would work with private sector partners to invest in the nation’s agriculture system, the Guardian reports. “However, aid agencies cautioned that the excitement about investment opportunities should not overshadow the country’s immediate humanitarian needs,” the newspaper writes.
“Archaic agriculture practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of Swaziland’s 1.1 million people in 2012, says a government agriculture official,” IRIN reports. “In the 1970s Swaziland was a net exporter of food, but since the early 1990s the country has been dependent on donor assistance to greater or lesser degrees. In 2010 about one in 10 Swazis depended on food aid,” according to the news service.
“U.S. officials have arrived in Beijing to meet with North Korean leaders about whether and how to resume food aid to the isolated and impoverished country, according to State Department officials,” the Washington Post reports (Wan, 12/14). “U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues Robert King and senior U.S. aid official Jon Brause met Thursday with North Korea’s director-general for American affairs, Ri Gun,” and “are to focus on strict monitoring mechanisms should the U.S. decide to give aid,” the Associated Press writes (Bodeen, 12/15).
The U.N. on Tuesday issued its 2012 consolidated appeal process (CAP), or joint appeal, for $1.5 billion to fund 350 projects in Somalia, “where famine and conflict have already cost tens of thousands of lives,” the Guardian reports (Chonghaile, 12/13). “The $1.5 billion appeal is based on a realistic assessment of the emergency needs of four million people in crisis, tens of thousands of whom will die without assistance,” Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said, Agence France-Presse notes.
Africa’s Sahel region is facing a potential “food crisis,” “[b]ut the good news is that the world’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) is giving West African countries and donor nations a period of time to prepare, says the aid group Oxfam,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. “Early reports suggest that as many as six million people in Niger and 2.9 million people in Mali live in vulnerable areas, where low rainfall, falling groundwater levels, poor harvests, lack of pastureland, rising food prices, and a drop in remittances from family members living abroad are starting to take their toll,” according to the newspaper.
“The United Nations said on Friday it was seeking $268 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe next year, with half the money to be used to buy food for more than 1.4 million people facing shortages” in 2012, Reuters reports. “The humanitarian situation in the country has continued to improve over the past couple of years. However, challenges still exist such as food insecurity” and lack of access to safe water, which has led to cholera and typhoid outbreaks, Alain Noudehou, country head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, the news service notes (12/9).