Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why are so many Africans hungry? | GlobalPost

UN calls for Africa to increase food production to reduce malnutrition and to boost economic growth.
South kordofan 5 6 2012 1
A child from Sudan's Nuba Mountains shows signs of severe malnutrition in a feeding center at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. (Trevor Snapp/GlobalPost)
Why are so many Africans going hungry?
Why is the continent plagued by famines?
Right now an estimated 15 million Africans are threatened with starvation in West Africa's Sahel region including Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, as well as parts of northern Senegal, northern Nigeria and Cameroon.
Last year some 50,000 to 100,000 people died in the famine that hit Somalia as well as Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti.  
These famines are occuring with regularity because too many Africans are dependent upon subsistence agriculture and are dependent upon natural rainfall and outdated agricultural methods. They need help from their governments to become more productive farmers.
That's the view of a new report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which was issued today in Nairobi.
It's not just the famines. Wars also create conditions where people cannot grow adequate food, such as the current situation in Sudan.
But even in peacetime, many African countries have chronically malnourished populations. Nearly 218 million people on the continent are undernourished and this number is expected to rise. The situation affects children in particular, with 55 million children malnourished, representing 40 percent of African children under five, according to the BBC.
Africa's positive economic growth, estimated to be five percent this year, cannot be sustained if a large proportion of Africa's people are going hungry, reported AP. 
“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. Inclusive growth and people-centered approaches to food security are needed,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the launch of the report which was attended by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.
Chronic food deficits in sub-Saharan Africa are a result of decades of poor governance, said Tegegnework Gettu, an assistant secretary-general and regional director for the UNDP bureau in Africa.
Africa has the knowledge, the technology and the means to end hunger and food insecurity but lacks the political will and dedication, said Gettu, according to AP.
"Africa must stop begging for food. That is an affront to both its dignity and its potential," he said. "If some African countries can acquire and deploy jet fighters, tanks, artillery and other means of destruction, why should they not be able to master agricultural know-how? Why should African be unable to afford technology, tractors, irrigation, seed varieties and training needed to be food secure?"
The UNDP report calls for improved rural infrastructure and health services to farmers.
Some success stories point the way for Africa.
Malawi had been short of food for years and but within two years it produced 1.3 million ton surplus because the government rolled out a a massive seed and fertilizer subsidy program to peasant farmers. 
And Ghana has become the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve a Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of its hungry people 2015. This was achieved partly by policies which encouraged cocoa farmers to boost output.
This UNDP video shows the problem and suggests solutions.

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