Hunger in the news

A daily selection of news reports from the world's media dealing with hunger and responses to it.
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Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

SOMALIA: Merka IDPs virtually out of food

Three months after aid deliveries to the south Somali coastal town of Merka stopped, several thousand displaced people are facing a food and water crisis, sources said. "What little food we had is gone; we have had no help in almost three months," Zeinab Sheikh Hassan told IRIN. "We are in a desperate situation and we need help now." [...] The UN World Food Programme (WFP) halted general distributions in Merka in January because of insecurity – except for some distributions to hospitals and supplementary feeding that has continued. "Our international staff were relocated from Merka at the end of October, but we still have national staff there," WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon said. "We are currently asking all local administrations and armed groups in South and Central Somalia to provide security commitments following the killing of two WFP staff within three days in January." WFP has reached agreements in many areas, but Merka has proved to be one of the more difficult. "We are moving toward a solution and will be able to return to full operations soon," Smerdon added.
Alertnet / IRIN
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

To put justice before peace spells disaster for Sudan

After seven months' deliberation, the judges of the international criminal court finally issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, this week. Their appeal for retributive justice, in the form of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, was solemnly echoed in European and US capitals, and universally by rights organisations and activist groups. Within hours, however, the Sudan government showed that the court and its backers were powerless to defend or feed the millions of Darfurians in whose name justice is being sought. [...] The UN agencies are still there. For the moment. But the World Food Programme relies on two now absent NGOs - Care and Save the Children - to distribute 80% of its rations. Will Khartoum allow the WFP to build a new food distribution infrastructure - a task of many months? Or will it simply insist on doing the job itself? Most likely the latter.
The Guardian
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

Darfur refugees face disaster as Sudan expels NGOs in al-Salaam Camp, North Darfur Bashir drives out 13 agencies in anger at his arrest warrant

Families who fled their homes in the face of government assaults in Darfur face a new emergency. Having fled to the safety of aid camps in search of shelter, food and water, they find the charities that supported them are being locked out by the very regime responsible for much of the region’s slaughter. Aid officials warn that a humanitarian emergency is in danger of becoming a disaster after 13 international non-governmental organisations were expelled by Sudan. [...] Human rights campaigners accused Sudan of holding the people of Darfur hostage. “Millions of lives are at stake and this is no time to play political games,” said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Africa programme. “These aid agencies provide the bulk of the humanitarian aid required by more than two million vulnerable people.” [...] Doctors and nurses with MSF were trying to contain two deadly outbreaks of meningitis before being expelled. Their clinics have closed. And the supply of food to 1.1 million people is in doubt, as the UN’s World Food Programme scrambles to find trucks to deliver sacks of grain. They had been using four of the expelled charities to get food to people in need.
Irish Times
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

A million face starvation as Sudan shuts down

[...] The Sudanese Government, having bombed more than two million people into camps [in Darfur], is expelling aid workers in retaliation against a world that wants to arrest its President. Aid officials warn that a humanitarian emergency is in danger of becoming a disaster. The move has put the supply of food to 1.1 million people in doubt, as the UN’s World Food Programme scrambles to find lorries to deliver sacks of grain. It had been using four of the expelled charities to get food to people in need.
The Times (UK)
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

Hunger Crisis at the Heart of North Korea's Troubles

Behind the long-range missile it is preparing to launch and the stockpile of plutonium it claims to have "weaponized," North Korea has an embarrassing and insoluble weakness. Under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, the country cannot feed its people. Perennially dependent on food aid, North Korea has become a truculent ward of the wealthy countries it threatens. [...] Inside North Korea, people with trading savvy can now get plenty to eat. But hunger remains widespread. About 37 percent of the population will require food assistance in the coming year, according to a U.N. food assessment in December, and a World Food Program official said the rate of stunting among children younger than 6 has changed little in the past five years.
Washington Post
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

Financial crisis to deepen extreme poverty

The global financial crisis sweeping through Wall Street and the European banking sector will touch the lives of the world’s most vulnerable, pushing millions into deeper poverty and leading to the deaths of thousands of children, according to a new United Nations study. Reduced growth in 2009 will cost the 390 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty around $18 billion, or $46 per person, warned the report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “This projected loss represents 20 per cent of the per capita income of Africa’s poor – a figure that dwarfs the losses sustained in the developed world,” UNESCO stressed in a press release.
UN News Centre
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

China: 20% extra into agricultural production

China will increase spending on agricultural production by 20% this year amid warnings that climate change could spark a future food crisis . Prime minister Wen Jiabao's announcement of an extra 121 billion yuan (£13bn) to boost farm yields and raise rural incomes was a central part of his annual budget speech at the Great Hall of the People. [...] Many Chinese people can remember the famines of the early 1960s which killed tens of millions of people. More recently, improved farming policies and technologies have given China a high level of self-sufficiency and growth. But the country's top economic planning body warned that this would be hard to maintain.
The Guardian
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

Many dead in Sri Lanka, says UN

The UN says that it estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed and wounded in the conflict in the north-east of Sri Lanka. The UN's US-based Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says civilians continue to lose their lives within the war zone. [...] "The world body has no verifiable numbers due to lack of access for relief workers, but estimates that thousands have been killed and wounded," the UN News Centre said. "The (government-designated) no-fire zone is believed to be very squalid and overcrowded and the UN has received information that people are dying from lack of food.
BBC News
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

Recession compounds world food crisis

The global economic downturn has compounded the food crisis, pushing more people over the brink of hunger and threatening stability around the world, the head of the United Nations' food relief agency said Tuesday. Food supplies are tight and expensive, and more people in poor countries are unable to afford what they need because of the recession, said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme. "I think the world would like to focus on one crisis at a time, but we really can't afford to," Sheeran told Reuters after a speech to a think-tank and aid groups. "These are not separate crises. The food crisis and the financial (crisis) are linking and compounding," she said, noting lack of food often leads to political instability.
Forbes / Reuters
Hunger in the news
6 March 2009

UN to see if Sudan's aid group ban is war crime

The U.N. human rights office will examine whether Sudan's decision to expel aid groups constitutes a breach of basic human rights and possibly a war crime, a spokesman said Friday. Rupert Colville said the Sudanese decision to expel relief workers from 13 of the largest aid groups constitutes a "grievous dereliction" of duty, putting the lives of thousands at risk. The World Food Program says some 1.1 million of the 2-3 million people it feeds each month are dependent on deliveries from the groups that have been expelled. [...] A senior foreign ministry official in Khartoum, Mutrif Siddique [...] claimed that major U.N. aid agencies were not affected by this expulsion decision and stressed that "hundreds of Sudanese NGO workers remain and work in Darfur." The World Food Program questioned whether the remaining aid groups would be able to fill the gap. "We simply don't have the capacity to carry out the life saving work of the NGOs," said the agency's spokeswoman in Geneva, Emilia Casella.
Associated Press (AP)

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