“Yemen’s populist uprising and the political crisis that followed have pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian emergency, according to the United Nations and aid agencies,” the Washington Post reports, noting that “children have been hit especially hard.” The newspaper continues, “Fresh conflicts, including a raging battle between the government and Islamist militants, have disrupted basic services; water, fuel and electricity shortages affect nearly every aspect of life, from hospital operations to trash collection. Food prices are rising, and health services have collapsed. In a nation in which half the population is younger than 18, many aid workers fear that the political crisis and the problems it has spawned will be felt beyond this generation of children” (Raghavan, 1/8). The newspaper also provides a graphic on malnourishment rates in Yemen and select other countries (1/8).
Food Security and Nutrition
In this post in the Department of State’s “DipNote” blog, Ertharin Cousin, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, examines how improved nutrition and agricultural development are helping to bring Hondurans out of poverty and hunger. Reflecting on a recent trip to the country with “five journalists from Central and South America to see the work the United States and the U.N. Food and Agriculture agencies are doing in the field,” Cousin highlights a number of projects “improving the lives of poor and hungry rural families in the region” and concludes, “All the projects we saw are making a difference. Now we must scale them up, so more people can participate and benefit, and ultimately break free of assistance” (1/6).
Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece, “My top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push towards [achieving the first millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people living in hunger and extreme poverty by 2015], but also to look beyond it, to the final, total eradication of hunger from this planet. Obviously, it is not something that FAO can do alone. It needs a new international mobilization, the support of decision-makers everywhere, and a concerted effort by the entire U.N. family and other development partners.”
The U.N. “has received alarming reports of malnutrition in two Sudanese border states where the army is fighting insurgents,” according to Valerie Amos, U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Reuters reports. Since fighting broke out in June in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states near the border of the newly independent South Sudan, “U.N. agencies and aid groups have only been able to keep small teams of local staff on the ground and the government has stopped any aid workers visiting areas where there has been fighting,” the news service writes. Amos “urged Sudan to lift a ban on international U.N. staff traveling to both border states” so the agency could ensure it has staff with the correct skills on the ground, according to Reuters (Laessing, 1/4).
In Nepal, “a child malnutrition epidemic described by humanitarian organizations as a ‘silent emergency’ is claiming the lives of thousands of infants each year,” Agence France-Presse reports. “According to government statistics 1.7 million children — nearly half of all under-fives — suffer from chronic malnutrition, a long-term condition also known as stunting,” the news service writes, adding, “Acute malnutrition, a condition known as ‘wasting’ blamed for half of Nepal’s infant deaths, is thought to affect 18 percent.”
“Aid workers say malnutrition rates among children under five at the Dolo Ado camp [in Ethiopia] are alarming,” with “[o]ver 50 percent of children in Dolo Ado’s Hilaweyn camp and nearly half of all children in Kobe camp â€¦ suffering from malnutrition, according to a preliminary health survey from the United Nations refugee agency,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Severe drought, famine and conflict forced 300,000 people to flee Somalia” in 2011, according to U.N. estimates, and “[m]any have streamed into Ethiopia, which continues to receive hundreds of refugees every day,” the news service writes.
The new head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director-General JosÃ© Graziano da Silva, began work on January 1, “pledging [on Tuesday] to increase the agency’s support to poor countries experiencing prolonged food crises,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/3). He “said volatility in food markets was likely to continue due to economic instability and currency market fluctuations,” according to Reuters (Hornby, 1/3).
“As the United States entered the traditional season of giving and renewal last month, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was increasing its emergency aid to the [Horn of Africa] region by $113 million,” a VOA editorial states, adding, “The new monies will be used for food, health, shelter, water and other needs.”
The State Department has released a series of fact sheets examining the U.S. government’s two-year progress in Haiti. One fact sheet examines government efforts to “lessen the severity of the [cholera] outbreak” in Haiti. Another fact sheet looks at the challenges of food security in Haiti, stating, “Even before the January 12, 2010 earthquake, Haiti faced significant challenges to food security. â€¦ Prior to the earthquake, 40 percent of households were undernourished and 30 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition.” A fact sheet on health states that the U.S. government “has been providing access to health services for 50 percent of the people of Haiti for the last five years, including a basic package of health services (primarily maternal and child health) and more sophisticated HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services.” Additional fact sheets on the government’s work in Haiti can be found on the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator website (12/28).
IRIN reports that “[a]id workers hope ‘shocking’ new malnutrition figures from a survey conducted in western Yemen will help highlight the serious humanitarian situation in the country and prompt donors to act immediately.” The survey, conducted by Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population and supported by UNICEF, “found a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of 31.7 percent — meaning nearly one third of children surveyed suffered from either moderate or severe acute malnutrition — of which nearly 10 percent were severe cases. These figures are more than double the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent,” IRIN writes (12/27).