In this episode of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Food Factor Podcast, WFP Deputy Director of Food Security Analysis Arif Husain examines “what the third food-price shock in five years means for the fight against hunger.” According to the podcast transcript, Husain discusses the factors behind the rise in food prices this year, lessons learned from previous “food price shocks” in 2008 and 2010, and how the WFP is being affected, among other topics (8/22).
Food Security and Nutrition
“Although food prices remain below their February 2011 peak, and the situation has not yet reached international crisis proportions, the recent spike is cause for serious concern,” Robert Hormats, U.S. under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, writes in this Foreign Policy opinion piece, adding, “That’s why it’s especially important now that countries not make matters worse, as some have done in recent years in the face of food shortages.” He continues, “In response to popular demands, governments in some exporting countries have in the past imposed restrictions on the sale abroad of domestically produced agricultural output,” noting, “These measures have taken many forms, such as export quotas, prohibitive export taxes, or outright bans.”
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
In this post in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ “Global Food For Thought” blog, Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus, a global research program that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich staple food crops to improve nutrition globally, writes, “David Cameron’s decision to tie a hunger summit to the Olympics was imaginative … because Cameron saw how the Olympics, that celebrate the best of human athleticism and teamwork, could also be used to draw attention to those who will never ever come close to competing in an Olympics event.” He continues, “The Global Hunger Event exemplified the approach that we need if we are to race, not inch, towards the finish line of significantly improving nutrition by the next Olympic Games,” concluding, “Collectively, we must now assume this mantle of Olympian leadership if we are to bring down the historic and arbitrary barriers between agriculture, nutrition and health ” (8/17).
“Efforts to build resilience in the Sahel, a region chronically affected by drought and malnutrition, are highly fragmented, dysfunctional and ineffective, a report from Save the Children and World Vision said on Wednesday,” the Guardian reports. “While noting a strong consensus among governments, donors and aid agencies to better integrate humanitarian and development work, progress is still very limited, said the report, ‘Ending the Everyday Emergency,’ written by Peter Gubbels,” the newspaper writes. “Senior officials such as Kristalina Georgieva, the E.U. commissioner for humanitarian affairs, have stressed the need for a more integrated approach between the humanitarian and development sectors in preventing future similar crises in the Sahel,” the Guardian notes (Tran, 8/1).
“North Koreans hit by recent deadly floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance, an aid group said Wednesday after official media had reported 88 dead and nearly 63,000 homeless,” Agence France-Presse reports. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a team from the organization visited the provinces of South and North Pyongan in the west of the country to assess damage, the news agency notes (8/1). In another article, AFP notes that the U.N. also is sending a team to assess the damage and humanitarian needs of the worst affected areas (7/31). “Even before the latest flooding, a dysfunctional food distribution system, rapid inflation and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs have created what is thought to be widespread hunger,” Reuters writes (Park/Blanchard, 7/30). “Following an inspection visit last autumn, U.N. agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge,” according to AFP.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,'” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.
World Leaders, Scientists Gather In Stockholm For World Water Week; Researchers Warn Overconsumption Draining World's Water Supply
Some 2,500 officials, policymakers and scientists will gather this week at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for the largest annual meeting on water development issues as the international community recognizes World Water Week, observed August 26-31, VOA News reports. According to the news service, this year’s theme is “water and food security” (DeCapua, 8/24). “Global leaders assembled … at the opening session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste,” according to an SIWI press release (8/27).
“For the first time researchers have discovered a link between overweight and obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa and infant mortality,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gate’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “In a study published in The Lancet this month, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine show a definitive correlation between maternal obesity and the prevalence of neonatal deaths (infants who die in the first 28 days of life) especially before two days of age.” She continues, “Now that there is growing maternal obesity in sub-Saharan Africa — albeit slow — this poses a stark contrast to the traditional indicators of neonatal deaths such as underweight mothers and lack of access to health services and trained health workers for pregnancy and delivery in developing countries” (8/24).
U.S., France, Mexico To Hold Phone Conference To Discuss Need For Emergency Meeting On U.S. Drought, Food Security
“France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold a conference call at the end of August to discuss whether an emergency international meeting is required to tackle soaring grain prices caused by the worst U.S. drought in half a century,” Reuters reports. “A French agriculture ministry official said the call would decide whether to convene the first meeting of the G20’s Rapid Response Forum,” according to the news service, which notes, “The body was created last year to promote early discussion among decision-makers about abnormal market conditions with the aim of avoiding unilateral action” (Trompiz, 8/13). “The World Bank is already on alert for an increase in hunger and malnutrition,” the Guardian’s “Economics” blog writes, adding that “previous spikes in food prices also led to widespread social unrest.” According to the blog, “[p]opulation growth and rising incomes in the bigger emerging market economies — China, India and Brazil — was already a cause for concern even before the U.S. drought, but the price spike in recent weeks has underlined the growing pressures on the global supply chain” (Elliott, 8/13).