In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
Food Security and Nutrition
During the second day of a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sunday, leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific nations discussed food security, VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin called food security one of the most acute problems today as he opened the final day of talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit,” the blog writes (9/9). The leaders also discussed trade and innovative growth in the region, Xinhua notes (9/9). “During their meetings, the APEC leaders are expected to approve various initiatives, including one that will cut tariffs on environmental-related goods — such as waste-water treatment technologies — to five percent by 2015,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes, adding, “They also are expected to endorse measures for ensuring food security, protecting supply chains and beefing up emergency preparedness” (Berry, 9/8).
“About 1.6 million Malawians will need food aid before this year’s harvest, an eightfold increase from last year, because of poor crops and rising prices, the United Nations World Food Programme [WFP] said,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Latham, 9/7). The agency “warned that 15 out of 28 districts were affected by a deteriorating situation, owing to prolonged dry spells in the country,” Sapa/DPA/Times Live writes, adding, “The cost of food is seeing rapid inflation, pushing basic items out of the reach of many Malawians” (9/7). “Malawi will use 25,000 metric tons of stored corn to provide relief, while the U.S. will give food worth $7.8 million, according to [an emailed] statement,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “The U.K. will donate $4.7 million in funding, it said. The first phase of the aid operation will target 200,000 people, WFP said” (9/7).
“Severe droughts, rising grain prices and food shortages — the latest headlines are an urgent call for action,” and “it is time to step up our response,” Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. On September 13, the EBRD and FAO will convene the Private Sector for Food Security Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, “the largest and most important gathering of companies and decision-makers in agribusiness from the Caspian and Black seas to the Mediterranean … [to] discuss the key role of the private sector in feeding the world,” they note. “The simple truth is that the world needs more food, and that means more production,” they state, adding, “The private sector can be the main engine of such growth.”
“World food prices stabilized in August at levels close to those reached in the food crisis of 2008,” according to the most recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, Reuters reports. “FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva called for international action to calm markets but also said the August price index, which remained unchanged from July, provided some cause for optimism,” according to the news agency. “‘Although we should remain vigilant, current prices do not justify talk of a world food crisis. But the international community can and should move to calm markets further,’ Graziano da Silva said in a statement,” Reuters writes (Hornby, 9/6).
In the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, David Lane, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, discusses his recent trip to Niger, where more than three million people are food insecure and suffer from malnutrition. “I had expected the trip would leave me feeling depressed and hopeless,” but “by the time I left Niger, I was filled with optimism and confidence in the multilateral assistance and development operations at work on the ground. Amongst their efforts, I saw the components needed to break Niger’s relentless cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” he writes. “I was impressed by how well the different U.N. organizations, … as well as their NGO partner organizations are coordinating their work,” Lane states, concluding, “Emergency and development assistance are both vital to a relief effort, and can be even more effective when integrated” (9/5).
Distribution Infrastructure, Effective Education Important For Success Of Micronutrient Powders To Treat Childhood Anemia
In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sam Loewenberg examines the administration of micronutrient powders as a treatment option for anemia, “one of the most pervasive problems affecting the world’s children, and one that goes largely unaddressed.” “The presence of anemia usually signifies a host of other micronutrient deficiencies that are more difficult to test for,” so micronutrient powders — such as Sprinkles, the original and most common formulation — “contain not just iron, but 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including iodine, zinc and vitamin A,” he writes. “The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of expert economists convened in 2008 to determine the world’s most effective aid interventions, put micronutrient supplements at the top of the list,” he continues, adding, “According to their estimate, the cost of providing vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the world’s 140 million children who are lacking them would cost $60 million per year. The benefits of this treatment would be worth more than $1 billion.”
Approximately one-third of children under the age of five in southern Afghanistan, about one million, have acute malnutrition, “with a level of deprivation similar to that found in famine zones, a government survey has found, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been poured into the region,” the Guardian reports. The U.N.-supported “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 29.5 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition there,” the newspaper states, noting that a level of more than 30 percent is one indicator of famine, as are death rates and families’ access to food.
“World leaders must take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months, the United Nations’ food agencies said in a statement on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “It said leaders must tackle both the immediate issue of high food prices, as well as the long-term issue of how food is produced and consumed at a time of rising population, demand and climate change,” the news agency writes (9/4).
Global Food Prices Rise 10% In July; World Bank President Says Increase Threatens Health Of Millions
“The World Bank said Thursday that drought in the U.S. and Eastern Europe crop centers sent global food prices soaring by 10 percent last month, raising a food security threat to the world’s poorest people,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/30). “From June to July, corn and wheat prices rose by 25 percent each, soybean prices by 17 percent, and only rice prices went down, by four percent, the World Bank said,” according to Reuters, which adds, “Overall, the World Bank’s Food Price Index, which tracks the price of internationally traded food commodities, was six percent higher than in July of last year, and one percent over the previous peak of February 2011” (8/30).