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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Dossier: Food out of reach
27 January 2009

Nations turn to barter deals to secure food

Countries struggling to secure credit have resorted to barter and secretive government-to-government deals to buy food, with some contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In a striking example of how the global financial crisis and high food prices have strained the finances of poor and middle-income nations, countries including Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Morocco say they have signed or are discussing inter-government and barter deals to import commodities from rice to vegetable oil. [...] Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Programme, said senior government officials, including heads of state, had told the WFP they were facing "difficulties" obtaining credit to purchase food. "This could be a big problem," she told the Financial Times.
Financial Times
Hunger in the news
27 January 2009

At a Border Crossing Aid for Gaza Goes Nowhere

France sent technical equipment to help Gazans draw water from the ground. The Swiss sent blankets and plastic tarps. Mercy Corps, a relief agency, sent 12 truckloads of food. And on Tuesday all of it, including dozens of other trucks carrying sugar, rice, flour, juice and baby formula, sat in the hot sun here going nowhere. This normally quiet commercial crossing between Egypt and Israel has been turned into a parking lot of stalled, humanitarian aid, and in the city of El Arish there are even greater quantities of food, clothing and essential supplies, sitting, waiting and baking in the sun.
New York Times
Hunger in the news
27 January 2009

Kenya officials sacked as food crisis grows

Kenya has sacked a dozen senior agricultural officials amid a national food crisis that has left as many as 10m people facing imminent hunger. The dismissal of senior managers at Kenya’s cereals board came 10 days after President Mwai Kibaki said the country was facing a “national disaster” and called on international donors to help plug a forecast mid-year maize deficit of 190,000 tonnes. [...] The World Food Programme is currently feeding 1.2m people in Kenya but a spokesperson said it was expecting to be feeding 3.2m by March. WFP is still carrying out its own assessment of exactly how many people need assistance.
Financial Times
Hunger in the news
27 January 2009

Liberia declares state of emergency as caterpillar plague wrecks crops

Liberia has declared a state of emergency over a plague of caterpillars that has destroyed plants and crops and contaminated water supplies, threatening an already fragile food situation. Tens of millions of marching caterpillars have invaded at least 80 towns and villages in central and northern Liberia, preventing some farmers from reaching their fields and causing others to flee their homes. The inch-long pests – the caterpillar life stage of the noctuid moth – have spread to neighbouring Guinea and are threatening Sierra Leone, which has set up monitoring teams along its border.
The Guardian
Dossier: Food out of reach
27 January 2009

Nations pledge €5.5bn to alleviate hunger

More than a dozen countries on Tuesday committed €5.5bn over the next five years as part of a fresh initiative to alleviate global hunger and help impoverished farmers boost production of agricultural commodities. The commitments came after a United Nations conference on food security in Madrid, at which senior UN officials warned that the current combination of the financial crisis and high food prices would increase malnutrition levels. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said that the world worked hard to provide food aid to those who needed it last year. "I expect we will need to work harder in 2009, this year of recession," Mr Ban said in Madrid.
Financial Times
Hunger in the news
27 January 2009

Somalia faces catastrophe

The search for a government – any kind of government – to bring order to Somalia is growing increasingly desperate as warring Islamist factions, tribal clans and bandit gangs exploit a power vacuum created by this week's Ethiopian troop withdrawal. Just when it seemed the plight of Somali civilians could not get any worse, it did. Aid workers and human rights groups are not mincing words: catastrophe is just around the corner. [...] Even if the outside world suddenly wanted to do more on the ground, the inherent difficulties have become formidable after years of relative neglect. The World Food Programme said earlier this month that it might have to suspend food distribution after two of its employees were murdered.
The Guardian
Dossier: Food out of reach
27 January 2009

UN chief warns of food shortages in poor countries

Ban Ki Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, said Tuesday that the global economic crisis would raise already "intolerable" levels of world hunger, even though the high food prices that prompted riots in developing countries last year had eased. [...] Development and food-aid officials who gathered in Madrid said there was a risk that wealthy nations, consumed by their own economic woes, would overlook what Ban called "the shocking problem of ever-increasing world hunger." Josette Sheeran, head of the UN World Food Program, told delegates that while people were consumed with the problems on Wall Street and Main Street, they "must not forget places with no streets," The Associated Press reported. Sheeran said that more people are going hungry as remittances to poor countries fall and exports from developing nations slow because importers are buying less.
International Herald Tribune
Hunger in the news
27 January 2009

WFP signs agreement to feed poor Yemenis

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Yemen signed an agreement to feed more than half a million of the poorest Yemenis. [...] John M Powell, UN assistant secretary general and deputy executive director, signed the agreement on behalf of WFP. He will also travel to Aden, where WFP is providing food to 43,500 Somali refugees. Yemen is one of the countries hardest hit by increased food prices and, according to the 2008 Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of Food Insecurity Report, one in three Yemenis now suffers from chronic hunger, this means some 7.7 million people.
Trade Arabia
Dossier: Food out of reach
26 January 2009

World hunger 'near breaking point'

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Josette Sheeran, says the world may be reaching a point where the global system can no longer cope with the number of hungry people. "What we may be witnessing is a fundamental breakdown in food markets in a way that does not allow nations to feel secure that they can produce or purchase enough food to be able to feed their populations," she told the BBC at a UN emergency food summit in Madrid. After food prices rose last year the WFP found itself with 30 million more mouths to feed. The number of people in the world defined as "hungry" is now close to one billion for the first time. [...] Food prices may be lower than at the peak then, but remain volatile with world grain prices now around 80% higher than they were four years ago.
BBC News
Hunger in the news
26 January 2009

School lunches can nourish hope

Henri is just 11, but already his prematurely wizened face is that of a grown-up - a casualty of a daily job breaking rocks in the sun. By contrast, his small body resembles that of the average American 8-year-old. I met Henri last fall in Guatemala, while taking leave from my job with the World Food Programme. Guatemala has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere, and like many children, Henri bears hunger's marks. Yet thanks to an alternative school program and his own determination, Henri is able to study in the afternoon. In fact, he is the best math student in his class. [...] The World Food Programme provides meals to an average of 20 million schoolchildren each year. Often, the organization assists children who first came to school just to get a meal; they were too weak to focus on their studies. But with regular attendance - and meals - they are able to learn. Feeding children at school nourishes them and keeps them coming back. With more education and training, the Henris of the world can create a more stable society. But first they have to get out of the sun and into school.
Baltimore Sun

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