Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s “budget includes a big boost in spending on reducing malnutrition,” with an increase for malnutrition programs of “58 percent in fiscal 2012-13 to 158 billion rupees, or about $3 billion,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports. “Despite its rapid economic growth, India has struggled with persistently high rates of malnutrition, far worse than many worse-performing economies,” according to the blog.
Food Security and Nutrition
“Almost five million Yemenis are unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to preliminary findings of a United Nations survey,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/14). A World Food Programme (WFP) “survey on food security among 8,000 households in 19 of the country’s 21 governorates concluded that approximately five million people — about 22 percent of the population — are facing severe hunger, double the 2009 number and above the threshold at which food aid is required,” the Guardian reports (Ford, 3/14). The survey, “which was produced in collaboration with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Yemeni Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), also found that a further five million people are at risk of becoming severely food insecure as they face rising food prices and conflict,” the U.N. News Centre notes (3/14).
“Late Chadian government recognition of a food crisis, a slow build-up from aid agencies, and severe pipeline constraints due to closed Libyan and Nigerian borders mean food aid has not yet arrived in Chad, despite many thousands of people having already run out of food,” IRIN reports. “While staff in agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) are working furiously to beat the clock, a lead time of up to six months to get food to where it is needed means that the very soonest food will start to arrive is sometime in April,” the news service adds.
FAO Officials, Country Representatives Meet In Vietnam To Discuss Food Security, Nutrition In Asia-Pacific Region
Representatives of 40 member countries of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as senior officials from the agency, on Monday opened the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction,” Xinhua/China Daily reports (3/12). Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director general, “sa[id] rising food prices and frequent natural disasters are making it harder to ease hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes, adding he “said the challenge of eradicating hunger has also been complicated by the effects of climate change, trade policies, soaring crude oil prices and the growing use of food crops for biofuels.” According to the blog, “ministers [at the meeting] will review a report on measures to speed up progress toward the goal of cutting hunger levels in half in Asia-Pacific by 2015,” a “target was set at a World Food Summit in 1996” (3/12).
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa,” Agence France-Presse/Vanguard reports (3/10). “In a news release, the [FAO] said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in countries in the Sahel, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/9). FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” according to AFP (3/10).
U.S. Officials Pledge Continuing Support For Solutions To Hunger In Africa; Oxfam Calls For Action Against Emerging Hunger In Sahel
“U.S. officials pledged Thursday to work for permanent solutions to ease hunger in the Horn of Africa, warning that Somalia remained a major crisis even though its famine is officially over,” Agence France-Presse reports. Testifying before a congressional commission on human rights, Nancy Lindborg, USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, “said that the United States and other major donors would meet in Kenya in late March to support longer-term Horn of Africa plans,” according to the news agency. She added, “We cannot afford to let people slide into crisis every couple of years and respond with massive humanitarian assistance,” AFP reports. According to Lindborg, the U.S. “provided $935 million during the crisis, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more,” the news agency notes (3/8).
U.S. Envoy For N. Korea Says Administrative Concerns Over Food Aid Resolved, Would Not Provide Details, AP Reports
Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, on Thursday said talks with North Korean officials over food aid had “resolved the administrative issues we were concerned with,” although “[h]e declined to disclose details before reporting back to Washington,” the Associated Press reports. “The talks follow a deal announced last week in which the U.S. offered 240,000 tons of food aid in return for North Korea freezing long-range missile and nuclear tests and for halting a uranium enrichment program that would be monitored by U.N. inspectors,” the news agency writes. “The U.S. … wanted to ensure that the assistance reaches North Koreans who need it, rather than being diverted to the military or other groups as was suspected with some previous international aid shipments,” and while King “said that those concerns about the shipments had been resolved, … he did not discuss how deliveries would be monitored,” according to the AP (3/8).
“While only a small part of the Farm Bill, food assistance is a critical component of our nation’s global development and national security strategies, reaching 50 million people a year,” Ellen Levinson, executive director of Alliance for Global Food Security and president of Levinson & Associates, writes in the Hill’s “Congress Blog,” adding, “Improvements made to international food aid programs in the 2008 Farm Bill have borne fruit.” She notes, “By 2050, world population is expected to reach nine billion and food production will have to increase by 50-70 percent to keep pace.”
“U.S. envoys said there was progress in talks Wednesday on arrangements for the first U.S. government food aid shipment to impoverished North Korea in three years, part of an agreement aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programs,” the Associated Press reports. Negotiators reached an agreement last week to provide 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid “in exchange for North Korea agreeing to freeze nuclear activities and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors,” the news agency continues. Special envoy Robert King “and senior aid official Jon Brause said the talks are intended to ensure proper procedures and safeguards are in place to make sure that nutritional aid for about one million North Koreans gets to those who need it most,” including children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly, according to the AP. Officials are expected to meet again Thursday, the AP notes (3/6).
Delegates from humanitarian aid groups from the Arab and Muslim world at a conference in Cairo on Sunday urged international aid agencies to utilize Syrian civil society and private sector groups to deliver medical and food aid inside the country, where anti-government protests have displaced hundreds of thousands and pushed many below the poverty line, IRIN reports. “Access was among the main points of discussion at the meeting, hosted by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and The Humanitarian Forum, which called for better coordination in the delivery of aid both inside Syria and to refugees in neighboring countries, especially in the area of access to health care,” the news service writes.