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 February 2009

Wait and see

On January 30th, after months of repeatedly failed negotiations, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition, decided to enter a government of national unity alongside President Robert Mugabe. More accurately, Mr Tsvangirai at last bowed to the huge political and diplomatic pressure exerted on him by South Africa and other regional countries to do a deal. [...] Contrary to frequent misreporting in Zimbabwe, Western sanctions are targeted very narrowly at Mr Mugabe and those senior ZANU-PF politicians who have helped bring a once-prosperous country to its knees. They have played no part in Zimbabwe’s economic ruin; that is mostly Made in Zimbabwe. Humanitarian aid should continue to flow to those United Nations agencies and NGOs that are directly helping millions of desperately poor and cholera-infected ordinary Zimbabweans.
The Economist
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

GM crops 'may give lower yields'

US researchers have criticised claims that genetically modified (GM) crops can help feed a hungry world. GM crops have been a "spectacular under-performer" in terms of yields, according to Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Recent yield gains are just as likely to result from conventional breeding techniques as they are from genetic engineering, he says. GM crops cover about 10% of all commercial farmland globally.
BBC News
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

China Battles Worsening Drought

China's leaders ordered emergency measures to battle one of the country's worst droughts in decades, which is threatening to damage nearly a fifth of China's wheat harvest and millions of livestock. [...] A poor harvest could mean higher food prices at a time when rising unemployment has been especially acute among migrant factory workers, many of whom are returning to the countryside after layoffs from city jobs. The government, however, says it isn't yet worried about the effect of the drought on food supplies because of current stockpiles and because it could further subsidize the rural poor if conditions worsen.
Wall street Journal
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

Tails you win: prize for catching 40,000 rats is a colour TV

A poor farmer from northern Bangladesh was awarded a 14in colour television yesterday after being crowned the country’s rat-killing champion. Binoy Kumar Karmakar, 40, used traps, poison and flooding to kill 39,650 rats over the course of a year, equivalent to one every 13 minutes, according to government officials and local media reports. He cut off and kept the creatures’ tails as proof of his claim to the top prize in the competition, which was organised by the Government to stop rats from eating scarce food supplies. [...] Last year a plague of rats in the southeastern region of Chittagong Hill Tracts destroyed the crops of tens of thousands of people, and caused famine in some remote villages. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributed aid to 120,000 people for four months after the infestation had forced villagers – mostly from local hill tribes – to live on wild roots.
The Times (UK)
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

Israeli crossing ban halts UN program preaching non-violence to Gaza's young

Beyond the worsening shortage of food, mattresses, blankets and clothes for Gaza's 1.4 million beleaguered residents, Israel's continued closure of most access points is depriving the United Nations of paper to print out a human rights program to teach children to eschew violence, a senior UN official said on Thursday. [...] Also in Gaza, the UN World Food Program (WFP) announced Thursday that it will provide ready-to-eat meals for hospital patients who might otherwise go hungry due to food and fuel shortages. The assistance is in addition to the agency's regular distributions of wheat flour, cooking oil and chickpeas to 365,000 people affected by conflict and food shortages. WFP is aiming to distribute more than 40,000 ready-to-eat meals in the coming days. The packages, which contain items such as canned meat, chicken curry, cheese and biscuits, are part of the first tranche of ready-to-eat meals donated by Saudi Arabia in response to WFP's "Operation Lifeline Gaza" appeal.
Xinhua
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

UN: 250K Civilians Facing Food Crisis in Sri Lanka

The United Nations warned Friday that civilians caught in the shrinking sliver of territory still controlled by the rebels are facing a massive food crisis, and convoys may not be able to deliver supplies until late next week. [...] Adding to concerns, the World Food Program said that the entire population of the Vanni is facing a food crisis. They are completely dependent on humanitarian aid, but WFP said it has not been able to get a supply convoy into the conflict zone since Jan. 16. A convoy that was supposed to enter during a 4-hour "humanitarian window" Thursday could not go because the agency did not receive the necessary clearance from government officials, Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the agency in Geneva, told reporters. The earliest they would be able to send in another convoy is next Thursday, she said.
ABC News (USA)
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

Gaza: U.N. Agency Stops Its Imports

The United Nations agency that distributes food to a majority of Gaza’s refugees said Friday that it was suspending imports of goods because Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, had twice stolen aid from it. The agency said that it would not import any more until the stolen goods were returned and assurances were given that the theft would not recur.
New York Times
Hunger in the news
6 February 2009

War zone faces food crisis in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan president promised to safeguard civilians caught in the war between the government and Tamil rebel forces, as the UN warned on Friday that the entire conflict zone was facing a massive food crisis. The humanitarian crisis was building as the military continued its relentless offensive, which has almost routed the Tamil Tigers and virtually ended their 25-year war for a separate Tamil nation in this Sinhalese-majority country. [...] Emilia Casseli, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Geneva, said that the entire population of the Vanni was facing a food crisis. About 250,000 people there are completely dependent on humanitarian aid, but the food program has not been able to get a supply convoy into the conflict zone since Jan. 16, she said. A convoy that was supposed to enter during a four-hour "humanitarian window" on Thursday could not go because the agency did not receive the necessary clearance from government officials, she said.
International Herald Tribune / AP
Aid professionals
6 February 2009

Zimbabwe's children suffer as schools stay closed

On a recent school day morning, Florence Marembo was all dressed up with nowhere to study: The 12-year-old instead played with a dozen other students on the grounds of her school in a suburb of Zimbabwe's capital. Her teachers at Gwinyiro Primary School said they wouldn't work until the government pays them in foreign currency because they can't even afford the bus fare amid the country's economic meltdown. [...] The swift decline of an education system that once was the pride of the region has matched the general unraveling of Zimbabwe's economy and infrastructure as President Robert Mugabe clings to the power he has held for 28 years. Aid groups warn the closures also mean that hundreds of thousands of children will go hungry unless the schools open because it's the only place many children can get a proper meal. [...] The U.N. World Food Program has increased its estimate of the number of Zimbabweans in need of emergency food aid from 5 million to 7 million. Zimbabwe's population was set at 12 million in a 2002 census, but more than a quarter of the population has fled the country's political and economic crisis since then.
The Boston Globe / AP
Hunger in the news
5 February 2009

Champion rat killer claims his prize

A poor farmer from northern Bangladesh was crowned the country's rat killing champion on Thursday with a final score of 39 650 dead rodents after a year-long hunt. Binoy Kumar Karmakar, 40, used traps, poison and flooding to kill his quarry, and collected their tails to prove his success rate and claim a prize from the government. [...] Last year an invasion of rats in Bangladesh's southeastern Chittagong hill tracts region wiped out crops and caused a famine in some remote villages. The UN's World Food Programme distributed food aid to 120 000 people for four months after the invasion forced affected tribal people to live on wild roots.

IOL / SAPA-AFP

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