In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” blog administrator Mark Phelan recounts his recent visit to Niger and Mauritania, in Africa’s Sahel region, where he was “assessing nutrition-focused humanitarian assistance.” He writes, “We are indeed facing a crisis, but I am encouraged by what is being done differently, by ways we have applied lessons learned in the Sahel during food crises in 2010 and 2005, though we still have a long way to go.” He concludes, “I am encouraged that we have learned some important lessons from past crises. The U.S., in partnership with other donors, has taken early action in response to early warnings, and together, we are saving lives” (4/20).
Food Security and Nutrition
“USAID and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] to increase cooperation on the topic of food security in Africa,” Globes reports. “The agreement is part of USAID’s ‘Feed the Future’ initiative” and will allow “for closer cooperation on the issue of food security in four countries: Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda,” the news service writes (Dagoni, 4/19). The MOU is “the first of its kind, according to MASHAV head Daniel Carmon, though he stressed that ‘this MOU is not the start of the relationship; it’s the continuing and the strengthening of the relationship,'” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The assistance will include help with food production and crop cycles, as well as addressing environmental issues that go beyond the agricultural sector, Carmon said,” the newspaper notes (Krieger, 4/19).
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, the director of global health policy and a research fellow at the center, examines the connection between smallholder farming, agricultural productivity and nutrition. She writes, “For some time now, the food security movement has been stating that improving the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers improves nutritional status.” Glassman cites a statement delivered by G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting Chairs after a meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, which states, “Donor and partner government investments in agricultural development have proven to be one of the most effective means to promote broad-based economic growth, especially when they are nutrition-sensitive and target smallholder farmers and women.” She writes, “Are investments in agricultural development directed to small farmers ‘proven’ to improve nutritional status? I don’t think so,” and asks, “What is the G8 talking about?” (4/18).
World Bank To Strengthen Social Safety Net Programs To Support Those In Developing World Vulnerable To Economic Volatility
“The World Bank plans to strengthen its social safety net to help the 60 percent of people in the developing world who lack adequate protection from the impact of global financial volatility and rising food and fuel prices,” Bloomberg reports. “Expanding cash transfers, food assistance, public works programs and fee waivers to help nations respond to crises and fight persistent poverty will be the center of the agenda for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Development Committee meeting on April 21, the bank said [Wednesday] in Washington,” according to the news agency (Martin, 4/18). “Safety nets can transform people’s lives and provide a foundation for inclusive growth without busting budgets. … Effective safety net coverage overcomes poverty, and promotes economic opportunity and gender equality by helping people find jobs and cope with economic shocks, and improving the health, education, and well-being of their children,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, the Guardian notes (Elliott, 4/18).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week “called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a ‘cascading crisis’ sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa, where 15 million people have been affected by the drought and conflict-related crisis in the area,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking to the Luxembourg Parliament on Tuesday, Ban said, “I call upon the world to respond. Simply put, we must do more — and do it quickly” (4/17). On Wednesday, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake appeared on BBC World News to discuss the drought and malnutrition among children. “Lake tells the BBC’s Jane O’Brien that his organization is trying to fight ‘donor fatigue,’ after years of crises in the region by” portraying the success stories of children in the region and through a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds, the news service notes (4/18).
The ONE blog examines how G8 foreign ministers “will additionally prioritize smart and effective global health, agriculture and nutrition plans at this year’s [s]ummit.” According to a statement from the G8 ministers, they reaffirmed their commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, called for an AIDS-free generation, and stated investments in agricultural development show progress, particularly when focused on nutrition and women, the blog notes (4/17).
U.S. Should Separate Diplomatic Pressures On N. Korea From Humanitarian Assistance, Provide Food Aid
A Seattle Times editorial says a “radical response” to North Korea’s rocket launch would be to “[k]eep diplomatic channels open with the 240,000 tons of food aid planned before” the launch. “Providing food aid is wholly apart from maintaining political and economic pressure on the country,” the editorial says, adding, “Sending food does not preclude international sanctions to deny North Korea access to electronic technology and military hardware.” The editorial suggests “[s]end[ing] the food aid with an insurance policy of sorts. Use the connections and credibility of nongovernmental organizations, including Mercy Corps and World Vision, to track the deliveries. … Get the United Nations involved as well.” The editorial concludes, “Keep diplomatic channels open. Move beyond the provocations and deliver basic food relief” to the more than one-quarter of North Koreans in need (4/15).
In the final article of a six-part series titled “Starving in India” in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog, series author Ashwin Parulkar of the Centre for Equity Studies writes that the research conducted for the articles shows “that India needs a new legal framework for dealing with chronic hunger and starvation.” He notes that “[t]he draft version of the National Food Security Bill that is being considered by India’s Parliament would guarantee discounted food-grains to 50 percent of the urban population and 75 percent of the rural population.” While “[m]uch of the debate on the measure has been over its cost and scope, … my biggest problem with the bill is the way it deals with starvation,” leaving it up to state governments to identify starving individuals and provide them with two meals a day for six months, Parulkar writes.
“The U.S. will halt planned shipments of thousands of tons in food aid to North Korea after the reclusive Asian nation’s launch of a long-range rocket, two Obama administration officials said,” Bloomberg News reports (Talev, 4/13). “Under a recent food deal with the United States, North Korea agreed to refrain from long range missile launches and nuclear tests,” CNN’s “1600 Report” writes (Yellin, 4/12). “North Korea’s rocket launch was a failed effort that nonetheless violated international law and jeopardized regional security, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said,” according to Bloomberg (4/13).