“The [U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization] FAO index of global food prices hit an 11-month low in October, reflecting sharp falls in grain, sugar and oils prices, the U.N. food agency said on Thursday, Reuters reports (11/3). “The agency attributes the decline to an improved supply outlook for a number of commodities and uncertainty about global economic prospects,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/3). “Nonetheless prices still remain generally higher than last year and very volatile, FAO said,” according to an FAO press release (11/3). On Tuesday, the World Bank Group released its Food Price Watch ahead of this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit, stating that “[w]orld food prices remain high and are hitting the poorest countries hard,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C (11/1).
Food Security and Nutrition
“‘First world’ health problems such as obesity and heart disease may be gaining ground in developing nations, but they are mostly afflicting the rich and middle class while poor people remain undernourished and underweight,” according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Reuters reports. “Researchers who looked at more than 500,000 women from 37 mid- and low-income nations in Asia, Africa and South America found that there was a clear divide between the better-off and the poor,” Reuters states, adding, “Across countries, the wealthier the women were, the higher their average [body mass index (BMI)], a pattern that held steady over time.” The news service notes, “The pattern is different from that seen in wealthy nations, such as the United States, where lower incomes and less education often correlate with higher weight” (Norton, 11/3).
“Millions of children and women of child-bearing age in North Korea face malnutrition which can leave them at higher risk of death or disease, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. UNICEF urged donors to fill a funding gap to prevent a “nutrition crisis” in the country, the news agency states (Nebehay, 11/1). According to Agence France-Presse, “UNICEF had asked for $20.4 million for 2011, but has received just $4.6 million” (11/1).
The VOA News audio program “Explorations” on Tuesday discussed international humanitarian aid in the Horn of Africa. The program features interviews with Kurt Tjossem, the International Rescue Committee’s regional director for the Horn of Africa and East Africa; Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy manager; and Nancy Lindborg, USAID’s assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.
“Food security concerns as the world’s population surpasses seven billion have prompted global companies to become more actively involved in ensuring future supplies, participants at an agricultural conference said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “The increased role has come at a time government involvement is hampered by the global financial crisis and led to fears a private sector-led expansion may focus on products with profit potential and neglect more effective alternatives,” according to the news agency. “‘We need to produce more food. The figures are debatable but we clearly need at least 50 percent more food in the next two or three decades,’ said Ian Crute, chief scientist at Britain’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board,” at the CropWorld 2011 conference (Hunt, 10/31).
“Countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching seven billion Monday with lavish ceremonies for newborn infants symbolizing the milestone and warnings that there may be too many humans for the planet’s resources,” the Associated Press/MSNBC.com reports (10/31). “With the world’s population more than doubling over the last half century, basics like food and water are under more strain than ever, say experts, and providing for an additional two to three billion people in the next 50 years is a serious worry,” AlertNet/Reuters writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says food production will have to increase by 70 percent to keep pace. “But climate change may be the greatest impediment to meeting this target, say experts,” the news agency notes (Kumar/Bhalla, 10/31).
Several countries in West Africa, including Niger, Mauritania and Chad, are facing food insecurity crises “unless the international community acts now, the United Nations warned on Friday,” AlertNet reports. “Communities in the Sahel, which faces increasingly frequent droughts, have not had time to recover from the last food crisis,” which hit the region last year, the news service reports.
In the clinic of Hilaweyn, one of four camps at Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado complex for Somali refugees seeking relief from famine and poor security conditions, “[a] massive infusion of humanitarian resources … appears to be turning the tide” against child mortality, according to Doctors Without Borders, which operates the clinic, VOA News reports. “When Doctors Without Borders opened the Hilaweyn clinic … in August, children were dying of malnutrition at the rate of more than one a day. Two months later, the clinic’s emergency coordinator Aria Danika said they treat 1,000 cases a day, and only one child has died in the past two weeks,” VOA writes (Heinlein, 10/28).
In a post in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ “Global Food For Thought” blog, Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy at World Vision, writes that the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in Cannes, France, next week “provides a critical opportunity for President Obama to galvanize G20 leadership in addressing…
“Despite a massive increase in humanitarian operations and international funding since famine was formally declared 100 days ago, the relief effort in Somalia is expected to miss almost all its key targets for 2011, a draft United Nations report reveals,” the Guardian reports, adding, “[m]alnutrition rates have more than doubled, less than 60 percent of the 3.7 million people targeted have received monthly food assistance, and only 58 percent of a targeted 1.2 million people received critical non-food aid items.”