Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, reflects on the one-year anniversary of the declaration of famine in Somalia in this post in the State Department’s DipNote blog, stating, “Because of lessons learned during the last Somalia famine in the early 1990s, we were able to mount a smart and effective response.” She continues, “USAID worked around the clock in the region and in Washington to ensure strategies, supplies and partners were in place, including creative approaches to address the limited humanitarian access in many parts of Somalia.” Though the famine abated in February, “the situation remains tenuous in Somalia,” Lindborg notes, concluding that “it is imperative to address the need for a stable, legitimate government that can meet the needs of the Somalia people. This is a priority of the U.S. government and our international partners” (7/26).
Environment and Climate Change
GlobalPost correspondent David Case interviews Jonathan White, an expert on food, hunger and development and head of the German Marshall Fund’s International Development Project, about the global food crisis, asking, “[I]s the crisis really new? What’s causing it? And what’s being done to address it?” The interview highlights the current drought in the U.S. and examines its effect on the global population, among other topics (7/26).
Though the level of humanitarian needs in 2011 was lower than the previous year, “38 percent of appeals for financing made by the U.N. went unmet,” according to the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) Report 2012,” the Guardian reports. “The U.N. had requested $8.9 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of 62 million people [in 2011] … compared with an appeal for $11.3 billion to help 74 million people in 2010. Nonetheless, it received only $5.5 billion of its 2011 request,” the newspaper notes. “The GHA 2012 report said aid had gone to recent larger humanitarian disasters at the expense of small, less high-profile crises,” the Guardian states (Mead/Bakosi, 7/20).
The Guardian has analyzed “hundreds of food aid contracts awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2010-11 to show where the money goes,” the newspaper reports. “Two-thirds of food for the billion-dollar U.S. food aid program last year was bought from just three U.S.-based multinationals,” ADM, Cargill, and Bunge, the newspaper notes, adding that “these three agribusinesses sold the U.S. government 1.2 million tons of food, or almost 70 percent of the total bought” (Provost/Lawrence, 7/18). In a separate article, the Guardian writes, “Food aid has also become a valuable business for a variety of smaller food companies,” as well as shipping firms and non-governmental organizations (Provost, 7/19). In an interactive feature, the Guardian “[e]xplore[s] which companies sold food aid products to the government last year, what was bought, and where it was sent” (Provost/Hughes, 7/20). And another article describes how the newspaper analyzed the data (Hughes, 7/19).
1M Yemeni Children Face Severe Malnutrition, Contribute To 62M People Worldwide In Need Of Humanitarian Aid, U.N. Says
“One million Yemeni children face severe malnutrition within months as families struggle to pay for food in one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, the U.N. World Food Programme has warned,” Reuters reports. “Political turmoil has pushed Yemen to the brink of a humanitarian crisis and aid agencies estimate half the country’s 24 million people are malnourished,” the news agency adds (Abdullah/al-Ansi, 7/19). According to BBC News, “The U.N. estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life-threatening levels of malnutrition and that 10 million Yemenis go to bed hungry” (Antelava, 7/19).
Gains In Child Health, Education Threatened By Increase In Malnutrition, Save The Children Report Says
“More children survived past their fifth birthday and attended school at the end of the 2000s than a decade before, but a rise in acute malnutrition could undermine these unprecedented gains,” according to a report released Thursday by Save the Children, AlertNet reports. Between 2005 and 2010, “1.5 million more children suffered from wasting or acute weight loss … than in the first half of the 2000s,” the news agency reports, adding, “This happened as high, volatile food prices and increasingly extreme weather made food less affordable for many poor families, tipping some into crisis” (Nguyen, 7/19). According to the report, Japan is the best place for children, and Somalia “is ranked last among the nations considered following a food crisis last year which killed tens of thousands of children,” the Independent notes. “According to Save The Children, the overall proportion of acutely malnourished children grew by 1.2 percent during the previous decade,” the newspaper writes (Diaz, 7/19).
The U.N. warned Tuesday that more than 2.5 million people in Somalia remain in need of assistance despite international aid efforts and the situation could worsen unless more effort is made to build on gains since famine was declared in July 2011, Agence France-Presse reports. “Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died last year after extreme drought and war pushed several areas of southern Somalia into famine” last year, the news agency writes.
“‘Mortality and malnutrition rates in Somalia have improved dramatically but remain among the highest in the world,’ Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in the Kenyan capital,” according to AFP. He noted that a $576 million gap remained in funding, about half of what is needed, the news agency notes (7/17). The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, on Tuesday said more than one million Somalis had fled the country due to food shortages and insecurity, BBC News reports, noting the agency also said the flow of refugees had slowed (7/17).
“With the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and food security experts, IRIN takes a closer look” at how droughts worldwide are affecting grain and cereal supplies, the resulting price fluctuations, and how these issues affect food aid operations. Though experts say a crisis is not imminent, “there is concern that staple grains like maize and wheat could become less affordable for the poor, and sharp fluctuations in prices or volatility could disrupt the efforts of grain-importing poor countries to stay within their budgets,” IRIN writes. In addition, “[t]he price of maize and wheat will affect agencies like WFP, said [Maximo Torero, director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)],” IRIN notes, adding that Torero said, “But at this point I will not be alarmist, although cautious” (7/12).
Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, examines the “massive food crisis … brewing in Africa’s Sahel” in this post on CFR’s “Democracy in Development” blog. She writes, “The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe,” and goes on to highlight the situations in Mali and Niger. She says ending the “‘buy American’ tied aid policy,” implementing longer-term solutions other than food aid, and providing additional funding for relief efforts would help alleviate the situation in the Sahel (7/4).
In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”