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
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
26 January 2009

The Poor Ponder at Saleh’s Mosque

"I scratch my head in surprise when I see Al-Saleh Mosque," said 42 year-old farmer Ali Najee Thabet. The opening of the giant new mosque named after Yemen's president 2 months ago has confused the poor throughout the country, mainly when they hear it cost a surprising $60 million, a massive amount in a country where poor people are struggling to survive. [...] The United Nation World Food Program (WFP) Representative and Country Director Mohamed El-Kohen revealed that WFP warns of new horror times across the globe for poor people in Yemen, mainly because of the price hikes, hinting that hunger and food shortage are the way to political instability, especially in a country which many of its population are wracked by poverty. Additionally, WFP reported that Yemen is the second poorest Arab state, just next to Somalia. Yemen's current population is estimated over 22 million and it has the highest birth mortality rate in the world with an average of nearly 7 children per woman.
Yemen Post
Hunger in the news
26 January 2009

Transport costs, starvation and SA’s real bottom line

There may be few questions asked at the scene of disaster more terrifying than, how did we get here? [...] South Africans should consider carefully whether the warnings sounded by grain millers and farmers last week, that the country’s contracting freight rail service and its crumbling road network posed a threat to food security, are such a sign. [...] It is important to note that these conditions do not describe anything approaching a famine, as the World Food Programme (WFP) points out. A famine occurs when food insecurity is so acute that entire communities are migrating in search of food. The assumption is that even where conditions are dire, subsistence farming in SA still provides a degree of access to food that is relatively affordable.
Business Day
Dossier: Food out of reach
26 January 2009

UN official urges donors to release billions pledged for global food crisis

The United Nations urged donors Monday to release quickly billions of dollars in aid pledged at a food crisis summit last year after riots in developing countries over soaring prices. Jacques Diouf, director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and other delegates to an international meeting on food security warned that the global economic crisis must not cause countries to neglect the nearly billion people in the world that the U.N. says do not get enough to eat. The forum, organized by Spain and the United Nations, was designed to be a follow up to a 180-nation summit in Rome in June. [...] Josette Shearan, executive director of the World Food Program, said developing countries dependent on agriculture run the risk of getting left out as the world focuses on tumbling stock markets, flagging economic growth and failing banks. As people in developed countries fixate on Wall Street and Main Street, she told the conference, "we must not forget places with no streets." Shearan identified four effects the financial crisis is already having on the hunger crisis: remittances to poor countries like Haiti are down, nations that depend on exports of farm goods are suffering because of the economic slowdown in buyer countries, investment in agricultural infrastructure is declining and the credit crunch is particularly painful for small-scale farmers who need to borrow money for seeds and other supplies.
Baltimore Sun / AP
Dossier: Food out of reach
26 January 2009

UN debates global food cost rise

Just because the issue of food prices has not been in the headlines recently it has not gone away. Although prices have fallen from the highs recorded during the unprecedented spike at the beginning of 2008, they have not fallen back to where they had been before the crisis began. And many of the factors that contributed to the rise then are still driving prices up. [...] A World Bank report on economic prospects for 2009 concluded that it is not inevitable that there will be shortages of food and oil, but that careful policies need to be followed. The author of the report, Andrew Burns, said aid needs to be better targeted. "Action is needed at the global level to discourage export bans of food grains, strengthen agencies like the World Food Programme, and improve information about and coordination of existing domestic grain reserves," he said.
BBC News
Hunger in the news
26 January 2009

Warning of 'food crunch' with prices poised to rise

The world faces "the real risk of a food crunch" if governments do not take immediate action to address the agricultural impact of climate change and water scarcity, according to an authoritative report out today. Chatham House, the London-based think-tank, suggests the recent fall in food prices is only temporary and that they are set to resume an upward trend once the world emerges from the current downturn. "There is therefore a real risk of a 'food crunch' at some point in the future, which would fall particularly hard on import-dependent countries and on poor people everywhere," the report states. "Food prices are poised to rise again." [...] Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Programme, said she was expecting that this year would be at least as "challenging" as last year, when the number of undernourished rose by 40m to 963m people. "We are not seeing an alleviation of the hunger pressure," she told the Financial Times.
Financial Times

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