Monday, January 30, 2012

Famine isn't an extreme event, it's the predictable result of a broken system | Global development |

Famine isn't an extreme event, it's the predictable result of a broken system

From the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, we must learn to be honest about the nature of a fundamentally flawed global food system

MDG : Food crisis in Sahael : Malnutrition in Niger
A child suffering from malnutrition in Mirriyah, Niger. Flaws in the global food system demand greater attention. Photograph: Sia Kambou/European Commission

Drought and famine are not extreme events. They are not anomalies. They are merely the sharp end of a global food system that is built on inequality, imbalances and – ultimately – fragility. And they are the regular upshot of a climate that is increasingly hostile and problematic for food production across huge swathes of the developing world.

For the third time in seven years, the Sahel region of west Africa is facing a toxic combination of drought, poor harvests and soaring food prices. In Niger, 6m people are now significantly at risk, together with 2.9m in Mali and 700,000 in Mauritania.

An immediate response is needed in order to avert a devastating food and nutrition crisis. In responding, however, we must also redefine the vocabulary of food crisis. It is our global food system that is in crisis. Last year's famine in the Horn of Africa, and the current woes in the Sahel, are the surface cracks of a broken system. These regional outbreaks of hunger are not, as such, extreme events.

Beyond semantics, this is a crucial distinction. In viewing these events as extreme and unexpected, we fail to acknowledge the regularity and predictability of hunger. This flaw is fatal, for it means failing to acknowledge that the food system itself is broken. It means failing to build readiness for persistent famine into international development and humanitarian policy. And it means waiting until people starve before doing anything.

The worst hunger crisis in a century hit Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti last year, affecting 13 million people and taking thousands of lives. International aid came thick and fast from mid-2011 onwards, by which point mass displacement, malnutrition and death had already taken hold.

Yet, according to a damning report from Oxfam and Save the Children, early warning systems flagged up the crisis as early as August 2010. A full response came only after decision-makers could see evidence on the ground of the failed harvests and starvation that had been accurately predicted.

Poor local governance is part of the story. Governments in the Horn of Africa – with the help of international relief and development agencies - should have set up comprehensive anti-drought plans in advance, and should have sounded the alarm earlier. Signs are already more promising in the Sahel. Aside from Senegal and Burkina Faso, all affected governments have been quick to declare an emergency, devise plans, and call in international aid.

But the international community must also ensure that its crisis response tools are fit for purpose. Food aid is often counter-cyclical: donors are more generous when prices are low due to significant harvests, which tends to be when needs are lower. So standing regional food reserves should be set up to enhance access to affordable stocks as soon as needs begin to rise. This would allow emergency stocks to be pre-positioned in risk-prone regions, so that – when local purchases are not possible – humanitarian agencies have access to food stocks below the market rate.

The problem is not just about governance shortcomings in Africa, and it is not just about the modalities of delivering food aid. It is also a problem of principle. For decades, we have taken the wrong approach to feeding the world. In many poor countries, investment in agriculture has focused on a limited range of export crops. Too little has been done to support smallholders, who produce food for their local communities. Yet, by supporting these poor farmers, we could enable them to move out of poverty, and enable local food production to meet local needs.

Diverse farming systems, agroforestry and reservoirs to capture rainfall are sorely needed in drought-prone areas such as the Sahel. This requires a real commitment to local food systems, and an acknowledgement that trade and aid cannot provide all the answers, especially when international grain prices are so high.

The solution is therefore twofold: we must plan adequately for the food crises that emerge within our broken food system, and we must finally acknowledge how broken it is. Only when we are honest about hunger will the world's most vulnerable populations receive the short-term aid and long-term support that they need.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Unicef appeals for $1.28 billion to help 97 million - Times LIVE

One-year-old Shukri Jama watches as his upper arm girth is measured at a clinic. File photo. Some 3.7 million Somalis are at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa country.
Image by: HO / REUTERS

The UN Children's Fund Unicef on Friday launched an appeal for $1.28 billion this year, with a third of the cash needed to help children in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.

The aid body said it was seeking nine percent less funds than in 2011, linked to lower funding needs in Pakistan and Haiti, but that its needs for fighting hunger had jumped by nearly 50%.

The East Africa and Southern Africa regions show the largest increase in funding needs, mainly to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Unicef expects to help about 97 million people in 25 countries and territories this year, it said.

"The list of countries includes many long standing or so-called 'silent' emergencies, but the crisis in Somalia and in other countries in the Horn of Africa accounts for nearly one-third of the total amount," a Unicef report said.

The Horn of Africa countries are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The second highest funding priority is for assistance to the Democratic Republic of Congo, representing 11% of the total, while the amount sought for Sudan makes up 8%, with Pakistan at 7%.

"Although the distribution of funding required between the various sectors has been fairly constant over the last five years," the needs for nutrition in 2012 are up 47% and "now represent 30% of all of these needs compared to 19% in 2011," said the organisation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ethiopia: Six Months into East Africa Famine Emergency, a Story of Survival | ReliefWeb

Three-year-old Mohammed lives in a tent with his mother, grandmother and aunt in Kobe camp, part of the Dolo Ado Complex in Ethiopia. Nearly 140,000 Somali refugees have sought refuge at Dolo Ado where International Medical Corps has worked since 2009 to provide critical humanitarian services. Following the outbreak of famine and severe drought nearly six months ago in East Africa, International Medical Corps quickly expanded our nutrition, sanitation and hygiene interventions throughout the region, focusing on treating and preventing malnutrition.

Originally from the Bay Region of Somalia, Mohammed’s family fled to Ethiopia to escape severe drought and insecurity in their home town, leaving Mohammed’s father behind to take care of their home. The long trek to reach the refugee camps in Ethiopia was very arduous with many days spent without food and only some sweet tea taken sporadically to abate their hunger. During the journey, Mohammed became sick due to hunger and a lack of safe drinking water. By the time he arrived at the camps, his condition had grown considerably worse due to a persistent cough and diarrhea. His mother Habiba brought Mohammed to International Medical Corps’ team at Kobe for treatment. The young boy was severely emaciated and fighting for his life. International Medical Corps staff examined and referred Mohammed to the Stabilization Center at the local health clinic where he was able to receive the appropriate medical attention for severe malnutrition and additional complications.

Following Mohammed’s discharge from the inpatient ward, International Medical Corps staff registered him to our Supplementary Feeding Program at International Medical Corps’ Community Nutrition Center (CNC) where he was able to receive nutrient-dense, therapeutic foods and have his nutrition and health status monitored closely until he regained his strength. Habiba also received regular health and nutrition education at the CNC to enable her to give Mohammed the follow-up care he needed. She was also given information on simple techniques she could use in her home to ensure he stays healthy like proper hand-washing before preparing meals and eating a balanced diet. Today, Mohammed is once again a healthy and energetic toddler and his mother is incredibly happy that she was able to find the resources to help her son.

“I thought that serving people food is a simple thing,” says Daniel, International Medical Corps’ Nutrition Manager at Dolo Ado. “(But) I have seen nutrition's impact on the vulnerable especially children under five years. With the support of International Medical Corps the children who have been malnourished get the coverage they need.”

In addition to our programs at Dolo Ado, International Medical Corps is also working in drought-affected regions throughout Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as in the Dadaab complex in Kenya which is the largest refugee settlement in the world. Our relief programs include nutrition, water/sanitation/hygiene, primary health care, gender-based violence and protection, among other services.

Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ethiopia - In areas once affected by famine, Ethiopia builds capacity to wipe out malnutrition UNICEF

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011
Habtam Byabel, a health worker at the Geter Meda health post in Ethiopia's Lasta District counsels Seta Temesgen, whose daughter is recovering from severe acute malnutrition.
Treating malnutrition at the village level
Geter Meda is located in Lasta District, Amhara Region, an area that was affected by the two great famines of the late twentieth century, those of 1973–74 and 1984–85. A lot has changed since those crises, when there were no government systems in place to adequately respond to droughts or the nutritional needs of affected communities.
In 2004, the Government of Ethiopia, with support from partners including UNICEF, rolled out the Health Extension Programme, which trained more than 30,000 health extension workers to provide an integrated package of health, nutrition and sanitation services to largely rural populations.
The health extension workers – who are mostly women – are assigned to village health posts, where they are supported by volunteer community health workers. Every three months, these health workers and volunteers conduct Community Health Days for children under age 5 and for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These children and women receive vaccinations, vitamin A supplements, deworming tablets, malnutrition screenings, as well as counseling on health, nutrition and sanitation issues. Children identified with severe acute malnutrition – but without complications such as fever – are referred to health posts for outpatient therapeutic feeding.
© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011
Habtam Byabel, a health worker at the Geter Meda health post, measures the arm circumference of 7-month-old Aynadis, a sign of her nutrition status.
This programme has had major success identifying and treating severe acute malnutrition. National capacity to treat this deadly condition at the community level has grown from almost zero in 2004. Prior to the introduction of village-level OTPs, people with severe acute malnutrition needed to go to the nearest health center or hospital, many hours or even days away. Village-level OTPs now cover an average population of 5,000 people each.
According to the Ministry of Health, more than 300,000 severely malnourished children were treated in eight drought-affected regions of Ethiopia between January and November 2011 – with an 84 per cent cure rate and 0.6 per cent death rate.
Preventing future malnutrition
Habtam Byabel, a health extension worker at the Geter Meda Health Post, is conducting weekly check-ups for children in the OTP.
She counsels the patients’ mothers, then weighs the children and checks their mid-upper arm circumference – a measure of their nutritional status. Before they leave, Ms. Byabel gives them ready-to-use therapeutic foods for the week.
© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011
Seven-month-old Aynadis plays with her mother, Seta Temesgen, at the Geter Meda health post in Lasta District, Ethiopia.
“She told me to prepare porridge made from ingredients that we have available at home,” Ms. Temesgen said after her consultation. “Also give her one and a half of these [ready-to-use therapeutic foods] together with your breast milk.”

And Aynadis will not only receive treatment, she will also get help avoiding malnutrition in the future. Geter Meda’s community-based nutrition programme offers monthly growth monitoring for children under 2 years old, and conducts community discussions at which villagers can identify problems that may result in malnutrition. Then, together with health workers, villagers agree on plans to resolve these problems.
These activities have greatly improved the nutritional status of children like Aynadis. Even during 2011, a drought year, the number of children participating in Geter Meda’s OTP had declined from the year before.
“Last year we had eight children in the OTP. Now we have three. When these children are discharged we don’t expect that there will be any more,” said Ms. Byabel.
“My vision, when it comes to nutrition,” she continued, “is for all the children to be healthy and to grow up to be productive citizens.”

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman Team up to Fight Famine

superhero image

Batman, Superman and the rest of the Justice League of America are about to start fighting the famine in the Horn of Africa as part of We Can Be Heroes, a massive effort by DC Entertainment, Time Warner and three key NGOs to provide food and nourishment to those in need.
The campaign, announced on Monday, will donate up to $2 million over two years to three organizations working to stop the famine: MercyCorps, Save the Children and the the International Rescue Committee.
We Can Be Heroes uses the DC Comics line of superheroes — including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and the Green Lantern — to help raise awareness (and money) for a good cause. DC has promised to match any and all donations made through up to $1 million.
DC and other Time Warner divisions, such as Warner Bros., will all participate in corporate matching plans wherein any money donated by employees will be matched by their parent organization.
There is also an eshop where you can purchase clothing or accessories with 50% of the profits going to the three charities.
The whole campaign centers around the idea of “heroes” and how anyone (not just a superbeing born on Krypton) can change the world. The campaign’s tagline — “One small act can make you a hero” — extends not just to the everyday people but to the Africans suffering on the ground, said George Rupp, International Rescue Committee’s president and CEO.
Such people often have to fight for survival or overcome great odds to provide for their families and are also heroes, Rupp says.
The odds are not in Africa’s favor. The famine is the worst to hit the region in 60 years with more than 13 million people currently at risk. More than 750,000 children under the age of five are malnourished and in Somalia alone, one child dies every six seconds.


Yet despite those stats, the famine in the Horn of Africa has received comparatively little media attention. The public mind and wallet is often drawn to acute and sudden disasters — the natural disasters in Haiti and Japan, for example — but it is harder to engage the public with slow burning or more complicated crises such as the famine in Africa.
That’s the real value of We Can Be Heroes. The hope is that by using recognizable superheroes, Time Warner and its NGO partners can leverage the DC brand to raise awareness and create mainstream interest in fighting the famine.
“America is a wonderful country about generosity when we know about the problem and that’s what this particular partnership is about,” said Cokie Roberts, political commentator and Board Trustee for Save the Children. “This campaign will have superheroic help which will make a tremendous difference.”
DC has been fighting famine for some time when, 20 years ago, it released “Heroes Against Hunger,” a comic book meant to shine a light on the hunger crisis in Ethiopia.
DC is now throwing money and media behind their corporate responsibility. For Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros., it’s a way to show that corporations can also be heroes: “There’s a huge wealth gap in this country and I think corporations have an obligation to a bottom line, but they can also be enormously generous,” Robinov said.
After two years, DC will take a survey of whether We Can Be Heroes has made a difference — but that won’t be the end of the line. The partnership will continue to look for ways to help and to involve its own employees in causes around the world. As with like DC’s Justice League, Time Warner is hoping its individual divisions can form one unbeatable team.
We’ve heard of celebrities helping a cause, but should superheroes get involved? What about We Can Be Heroes do you like and what could be done better? Let us know in the comments below.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Famine :- Celebrity singers help United Nations slow famine in Horn of Africa | Women News Network

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Fleeing drought and famine in their home country, thousands of Somalis have taken up residence across the border in Dollo Ado, where a complex of camps is assisted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) August 2011. Image: Eskinder Debebe/UNPhoto

(WNN) NEW YORK: As the effects of drought continue to wreck havoc in the Horn of Africa for 13.3 million people who have faced changed lives in the worst climate the region has experienced in decades leaving 250,000 displaced Somalis in urgent need of famine crisis assistance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working to encourage greater food security for women, children and families who would otherwise go with little access to adequate food.

Efforts to bring adequate food, stability, a sense of home and proper health care to the region have faced many challenges. As roaming militias in southern Somalia have created interceptions of food aid and relief supplies, international agencies, like those working closely on-the-ground with the UNDP, have continued to push through.

To help raise donations for international efforts to reach more people who are suffering in the Horn of Africa, celebrity a cappella singing group ‘The Dartmouth Aries’ of Dartmouth College has released a new song that speaks directly to the needs with the deadly ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.

“We at UNDP are deeply grateful to the Aires for using their musical gifts and their celebrity to help raise awareness of the plight of people in the Horn of Africa,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. ”Drought is not avoidable, but famine is. It arises from conditions which the international community can help address. UNDP is working hard to build resilience, restore livelihoods, and support communities moving to a sustainable path. Public awareness of and support for this work is essential.”

On Jan. 7, before a sold-out concert at Lincoln Center, the award-winning all-male 17 member undergraduate singing ensemble visited United Nations headquarters to record “Calling My Children Home,” along with a message on behalf of UNDP. The song, which draws on traditional ballads, evokes a close-knit clan scattered to distant regions, much as the ongoing famine has forced starving families to leave their villages and walk, often for weeks, in search of food.

“Calling My Children Home” was originally written and released by song writers and musicians Doyle Lawson, Charles Waller and Robert Yates in 1977. It was later made popular by celebrity signers Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt in the 1987 album they worked on together called “Trio.”

The Dartmouth Aires a cappella group began performing as a university sponsored singing ensemble in 1946 but today’s modern version of the singers didn’t achieve international celebrity until 2011 when they secured a spot as finalists in the NBC network television show “The Sing-Off.” As one of five university groups and the only Ivy League musicians competing, they placed second and now have a global following. They also performed with invitation by the U.S. White House in December 2011.

“We wanted to give something back,” Dartmouth Aires business manager Ethan Weinberg said. “We have a larger following now, and we wanted to use our reach for a good cause.”

Countries in the Horn of Africa that have been facing severe drought are now also facing the worst food crisis in 20 years. UNDP has been working with communities in the region as an essential part of the response, addressing underlying factors of livelihoods and governance. Many children have been disproportionally impacted by the crisis in the region which has caused what the UNDP describes are “shocking mortality levels.”

To date 800,000 people in the Horn of Africa region have become refugees as 1.46 million are now facing life as an IDP – Internally Displaced Person. “Support to the most vulnerable,” is the goal of the UNDP as well as gender empowerment in programs that place emphasis on key influences women play in the region with their connection on-the-ground to food security.

Last month, the United Nations appealed for USD 1.5 billion to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in Somalia during 2012.


The efforts to bring food to regions impacted by severe famine in the Horn of Africa is an uphill climb as international humanitarian communities work together with the UNDP to bring greater food security to the region. See this December 2011 update on the region from the UNDP.