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

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)
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

Winds of change in US food aid policy?

A shift towards a mixed system of procuring food aid, with purchases in the US and in the beneficiary country, is the way to go for future policy, says Andrew Natsios, a former senior US aid official, and a group of US-based NGOs and lobby groups for UN agencies. The US is the world largest donor of food and the only developed country yet to break the link between foreign food aid and supporting its own farmers, but US NGOs say sentiment is moving in favour of reforming US food aid policy, with the focus shifting towards buying food aid in the beneficiary country rather than shipping it from the US. [...] A Roadmap to end Global Hunger, with a flexible approach to aid that would allow the use of cash transfers, vouchers, and a mix of local and US food purchases has the backing of the Friends of the World Food Programme and the US Fund for UNICEF (UN Children's Fund), both US-based lobby groups.
Alertnet / IRIN
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

Sudan expels aid groups after arrest warrant

Sudan ordered at least 10 humanitarian groups expelled from Darfur on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the country's president. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the action "represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur" and urged Sudan to reverse its decision, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. Aid groups protested, saying they had no connection to the court and that their absence could lead to a crisis for for more than 2 million of war-weary Sudanese who need such basics as shelter, food and clean water. [...] The non-governmental aid groups ordered out were Oxfam, CARE, MSF-Holland, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, the Norweigan Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarites and CHF International. The Sudan Media Center said two Sudanese organizations, the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development and the Khartoum Amal Center for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, were also expelled, saying they cooperated with the court.
Associated Press (AP)
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

Afghanistan: Tempted by a Taliban job offer

A 25-year-old man we will call Shakir has told IRIN he rues rejecting an offer of “work” from a Taliban agent whereby he would get 500 Afghanis (about US$10) a day for carrying out attacks on government offices in Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan. Those who accepted the offer are better off, he thinks. “People are jobless, hungry and destitute so they agree to do anything for a small payment,” he told IRIN, refusing to give his name for fear the insurgents would kill him. The Farah ring-road linking southern and western provinces is risky for relief convoys. Dozens of food aid trucks hired by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) were attacked there in 2008, and Farah Province is seen as a hotbed of insurgency
IRIN News
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

Quest for food security breeds neo-colonialists

The black comedy of the banks has persuaded us to forget about food security. Food price inflation gripped the markets early last year and has surged again at the beginning of this year. For most of the world food continues to be a worry. The cost of food has not returned to the low levels that preceded the doubling and tripling of wheat and rice prices over 2007 and 2008. Credit is costly for farmers and after last year's massive harvest that brought down prices, planting has been weak. Anxiety about the future has spurred those countries with cash to make big investments in the soil. [...] There is an assumption of equality in the transaction — the trade of rice for oil — but history suggests that the harvesting of resources by those with capital in foreign countries which lack capital is a risky business. The director-general of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation suggested that the drive to buy up farmland in poor countries would create a “neo-colonial agricultural system”. [...] In Sudan, where the UN's World Food Programme is feeding millions of people, the irony of the Saudi farms is particularly bleak. But perhaps the UN's hand-wringing is just sentimental.
The Times (UK)
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

A Global Retreat As Economies Dry Up

[...] Singapore is an epicenter of what analysts call a new flow of reverse migration away from hard-hit, globalized economies, including Dubai and Britain, that were once beacons for foreign labor. Economists from Credit Suisse predict an exodus of 200,000 foreigners -- or one in every 15 workers here -- by the end of 2010. [...] "The collapse of globalization . . . is absolutely possible," said Jeffrey Sachs, a noted American economist. "It happened in the 20th century in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression, and could happen again. [...] Remittances -- the financial lifelines sent home by foreign workers -- are falling from Latin America to Central Asia. The drop has been so sharp in Kyrgyzstan, which relies on remittances for 27 percent of its gross domestic product, that the U.N. World Food Program was asked to rush in emergency food aid in November for the first time since 1992. "This is a new income hit to people who can afford it the least," said Josette Sheeran, the program's executive director.
Washington Post
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

WFP to distribute food aid to 5.2 million Zimbabweans

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced Thursday that it would provide 45,000 tonnes of emergence food aid to 5.2 million Zimbabweans in March but said recipients would continue to get reduced rations to meet the high demand. The UN agency said 4.6 million or nearly 90 percent of the recipients would be from vulnerable groups such as young children and those suffering from diseases like HIV and AIDS.
African Press Agency (APA)
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

End the plight of Asia's poppy farmers

Red and white opium poppies are back in colourful profusion once again, expanding across the mountainous landscapes of northern Laos after several years of intensive poppy eradication. Illicit cultivation is also on the rise in the Shan states of Burma. UN drug officials are alarmed that the effect of the global economic crisis on the value of cash crops is tempting impoverished hill farmers to return to growing the one crop that offers stable financial returns. [...] The wisdom and sustainability of UN's anti-opium strategy has been consistently challenged by NGOs, development workers and academics. Dr David Feingold, an anthropologist and expert on the Akha hill tribe says: "The opium eradication policy in Laos was both poorly conceived and poorly executed." Without viable alternatives, former opium farmers became destitute and dependent on emergency food aid from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP). Given that the UN millennium objectives are all about enhancing food security, the hastily implemented campaign against opium cultivation had achieved just the opposite.
The Guardian
Hunger in the news
5 March 2009

ICC gives solace to Darfur refugees

Quiet contentment is the best way to describe reactions to the news of Omar al-Bashir's indictment in the Farchana refugee camp - a dustbowl in the far east of Chad, home to 20,000 Sudanese from Darfur. Although some of the more educated camp leaders articulated their happiness at the verdict, there was no massive outpouring of jubilation, or much to show that today was different from any other. [...] As we journalists argue frantically with editors in London and kick malfunctioning equipment, a steady stream of ladies dressed in stunning yellow and orange striped fabric glide silently past with grain sacks and water balanced on their heads. The children start to wander off. Today's food distribution by the UN's World Food Programme seems to be the new show in town.
BBC News
5 March 2009

Saudis get first taste of foreign harvest

Saudi Arabia has announced the arrival of the first food crop harvested in Saudi-owned farms abroad, in a sign that the kingdom is moving faster than expected to outsource agricultural production. Rice, harvested in famine-hit Ethiopia by a group of Saudi investors, was presented to King Abdullah recently and comes as other countries are still in the early stages of investing in overseas farms. The Ethiopian origin is likely to raise concerns about the trend to outsource food production to poor African countries, some of which suffer from chronic hunger. In the past year the United Nations World Food Programme has helped to feed 11m people in Ethiopia, which has suffered crop failures and food distribution problems. Some analysts argue that foreign investment in agriculture, even if earmarked for export, could ultimately help poor countries, providing them with employment, infrastructure, access to agricultural technology and export tax revenues. However, western agriculture officials familiar with the Saudi plans say they are sceptical that the kingdom's investment in food production overseas will help poor countries such as Ethiopia.
Financial Times

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