After President Barack Obama’s re-election on Tuesday, the following blog posts addressed possible foreign policy priorities during the next administration.
Food Security and Nutrition
“Images of starving children, epitomized in news coverage from Ethiopia in the 1980s, have given Africa a reputation for famine that does an injustice to the continent’s potential,” Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and a member of the Africa Progress Panel, writes in a CNN opinion piece. “It’s true that a recent report by three U.N. agencies said nearly 239 million in Africa are hungry, a figure some 20 million higher than four years ago” and “recent crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel certainly highlight the desperate uncertainties of food supply for millions — malnutrition still cuts deep scars into progress on health and education,” he states. “But the Africa Progress Panel and many others believe that Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world,” he continues.
“Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century has killed 363 people since the start of July and displaced 2.1 million people,” according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, Reuters reports. Between July 1 and October 31, 7.7 million people were affected by the flooding and 18,282 people were injured, the agency said, the news service notes (11/5). In makeshift camps without “water, sanitation or medical care, authorities fear outbreaks of disease could make things worse,” VOA News reports. In addition, “emergency officials say with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland destroyed, they fear food shortages in the coming months,” according to the news agency. In October, “[t]he Nigerian government … allocated $112 million to help families that have been displaced in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states since the flooding began in July,” VOA writes (Murdock, 10/30).
Recent Africa Braintrust 2012 Forum ‘Informative, Inspiring’ For Those Committed To Continent’s Advancement
“Recently I attended the Africa Braintrust 2012 forum entitled ‘Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunity,’ hosted by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as part of their Annual Legislative Conference, in Washington, D.C.,” human rights activist Ivanley Noisette writes in the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, noting the event “concentrated on reinforcing support for promising development-aid strategies, providing a networking venue for interested professionals, encouraging foreign investment, and promoting the leadership of the CBC in advocating fair and just U.S. policy toward the many countries of Africa.” Noisette provides highlights from various panels at the event, noting, “The second panel, ‘Health Investments for Africa’s Future,’ featured presentations about HIV/AIDS and malaria progress, food security, agricultural development, and high-impact health initiatives.”
“The U.S. Farm Bill that was up for renewal in September in the House of Representatives could have included policies to support farmers in developing countries in their efforts to grow enough food to feed the local population,” but “Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire on Sept. 30,” Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog. “If Congress does not act quickly after the election to pass a new Farm Bill, the money that exists for emergency food aid will run out in 2013,” potentially putting “up to 30 million hungry people at risk in the event of a crisis,” she continues, adding, “The failure to renew and reform the Farm Bill would also mean a missed opportunity to help end global hunger in the long term through sustainable solutions.”
“A combined effort by health, water, sanitation and nutrition partners, including the World Food Programme (WFP), to reduce alarming malnutrition rates amongst Sudanese refugees who have settled in Maban County of South Sudan, is beginning to yield fruit,” WFP reports in an article on its webpage, adding, “Parents say they have seen dramatic improvements in their children’s health.” Noting “more than 110,000 refugees [are] currently living in four different settlements in Maban County, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State,” the article writes, “Malnutrition rates soared to alarming levels in the refugee settlements. To address that, WFP in July scaled up its existing nutrition support for new mothers and children, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of undernutrition” (Herzog, 11/1).
“Despite a sudden increase in July this year, prices of cereals on world markets remained fairly stable,” Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), writes in an Inter Press Service opinion piece. “But there are no grounds for complacency, as cereals markets remain vulnerable to supply shocks and disruptive policy measures,” he states, adding, “In this context, the good harvests that are expected in the Southern Hemisphere are important.” He notes, “In the last 10 years we have seen major changes in the behavior of food prices,” and continues, “All this makes it timely to reflect on recent price events and the reactions of the international community, especially since price volatility is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”
“Aid workers say child malnutrition is reaching emergency levels in northern Mali, which has been under the control of armed militant groups since April,” VOA News reports. “Brussels-based aid organization Medecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World, says malnutrition rates among children under the age of five in occupied northern Mali are reaching ‘alarming levels,'” the news service writes, adding, “The NGO says it found that 13.5 percent of those children in the far northern Kidal region are suffering from acute malnutrition,” which is “double last year’s rate and well over the World Health Organization’s 10 percent alert threshold” (Look, 11/2).
“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
In an episode of Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story,” presenter Shiulie Ghosh and guests Chandra Bhushan, a climate change scientist and deputy director of the Centre for Science and Environment; Deborah Doane, the director of the World Development Movement and a specialist on corporate power who also blogs on food politics; and Philip Thornton of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) examine the politics of global food security. “Researchers are warning that rising global temperatures could see a shift in the world’s traditional staples and who grows them,” according to a summary of the episode, which cites a number of recent reports on the issue. But while “[t]he environmental factors are exacerbating the situation with food shortages and food price rises …, there is a lot about the politics of food that are getting in the way,” Doane says in the video report, noting, for example, “The reason that many countries are dependent on maize is they’re encouraged to grow maize for export” (11/1).