“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.
Food Security and Nutrition
“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).
“With one billion people chronically hungry and Earth’s population expected to increase by 50 percent before the end of the century, it’s time to get serious about family planning,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “At one point, the prevailing wisdom was that nations needed robust birthrates to protect their economic welfare, and that if only we could produce food more efficiently, feeding the Earth’s burgeoning population wouldn’t be a problem,” it continues, adding, “Now â€¦ we know better. Or we ought to.” The editorial continues, “No one has a good solution. That’s why family planning assistance is one of the most important forms of humanitarian aid that the United States and other developed nations can provide.” It concludes, “Without the necessary resources and an existing economy prepared to absorb large numbers of new workers, nations that promote high birthrates set themselves up for economic distress and political unrest” (8/10).
This post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Views from the Center” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and the director for Europe at CGD, addresses the recent hunger summit in London, citing two reasons for concern surrounding the discussion. “First, it is wrong to conflate the problem of hunger with the need to improve agricultural productivity. Hunger has very little to do with food production,” Barder writes, continuing, “Second, the conversation is too much about money and not enough about what we should do to address the structural causes of hunger and malnutrition.” He concludes, “If the [G8] leaders cannot get together and make meaningful decisions about something as important as this, why do they bother meeting at all?” (8/13).
VOA News examines the impacts of drought in the U.S. on global food security. “More than half the United States is experiencing the dual problems of too little rain and temperatures that are too high,” the news service writes, adding, “Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute [IFPRI], said that’s not only driving up prices, but contributing to price volatility as well.” Noting “[t]he United States is the leading producer of corn and soybeans — two commodities that developing countries rely on,” the news service writes, “The decline in maize production has boosted prices by 30 percent in the past two months” and “[s]oybean prices are up 19 percent.” VOA adds price rises for corn and soybeans also have a negative effect on wheat and meat prices.
“The U.N.’s World Food Programme [WFP] said Tuesday it needs $48 million in food aid for about 11 percent of Malawi’s population who will face hunger due to bad crops,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘It is estimated that those needing food assistance in the southern African country will rise to 1.6 million people during the peak of the lean season early next year,’ the WFP said in a joint statement with Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID),” the news service writes.
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.
“Genetically modified rice could be a good source of vitamin A for children in countries where deficiency in the vitamin is common,” according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Reuters reports. “The study tested so-called Golden Rice against both spinach and supplements in providing vitamin A to 68 six- to eight-year-olds in China,” the news service notes. “Researchers found that the rice was as effective as the capsules in giving kids a boost of vitamin A, based on blood tests taken over three weeks,” and that “it worked better than the natural beta-carotene in spinach,” according to Reuters. “The product has been around for years, but it has yet to come into real-world use for a number of reasons,” the news service notes, adding, “Because it’s genetically modified, it has faced opposition from environmental groups and others.” Reuters writes, “There have also been questions about how efficiently the beta-carotene in Golden Rice can be converted into vitamin A, especially in children” (Norton, 8/15).
“The world urgently needs to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with lack of rainfall and the United States endures the worst drought it has experienced in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports. “The World Meteorological Organization [WMO] says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption,” the AP writes (Heilprin, 8/21). “Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,’ said [WMO] Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release,” the U.N. News Centre notes. “‘We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,’ he added, according to the news service (8/21). “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports food prices have climbed by six percent because of drought, ethanol production and high fuel costs, and are likely to go higher if drought continues,” VOA News adds (Schlein, 8/21).