Global Policy Forum

Emergency Food Relief System

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Picture Credit: UN Photo/Fred Noy
There is enough food in the world for every person to lead a healthy and productive life, but hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry every night, while large numbers of others suffer from obesity. The UN's Millennium Development Goals set forth a target of halving the proportion of hungry people by the year 2015. Political leaders of virtually every country have endorsed this goal, but implementation is sorely lacking. Food assistance is often too little and too late.  And it is frequently a means for donor countries to dump subsidized agricultural surpluses, damaging small producers in recipient countries where production is already insufficient. This page posts articles on world hunger and the inadequacy of existing levels of government funding for international emergency hunger relief.






GPF Perspectives


Food Aid for the Hungry? (January 2008)

This Global Policy Forum report critically reviews the global food aid system. Author Katarina Wahlberg argues that food aid donors fall short in prioritizing the needs of the poor and hungry. Instead, donor countries use food aid to promote their own national strategic and commercial interests. Such food aid not only fails to reduce hunger, it can also harm long-term food security in recipient countries.

Defining the Right to Food in an Era of Globalization: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (March 2006)

Expressing grave concern with the continuing increase in global hunger and the current food crisis in Africa, this report insists the time has come to view hunger and famine "as a violation of the human right to food." While national governments have the primary obligation to fulfill their citizens' right to food, in an era where domestic actions affect people in other countries, governments must assume obligations beyond their own borders. Being more powerful than individual states, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, as well as large transnational corporations must also take on due responsibility to fulfill this human right. (United Nations)

UN Documents


Food Aid Key in 2010 as Sudan Faces Crossroads (January 11, 2010)

The situation is Sudan is becoming more fragile and not only because of political instability. Amidst tribal tensions Sudan is facing increasing levels of hunger and malnutrition. Food supplies in the south are running low, cereal prices are rising and livestock prices falling. The food shortage is fuelled by drought and an increase in the number of Internally Displaced Persons fleeing conflict. Experts predict that 1.5 million people will need emergency food assistance in 2010.  (World Food Programme)

Contribution of Mr. Olivier De Schutter Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; 17th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-17) (May 2009)

The UN's Special Rapporteur on the right to food warns that as attention turns to increase food production in response to food price hikes, the solutions must not overlook social and environmental factors.  De Schutter's statement outlines the implications of the right to food framework for the CSD topics.  Sustainable food systems suitable to cope with climate change must prioritize the most vulnerable.  He recommends, among others, the regulation of monopolies in the global food chain, redistribution of land and international guidelines on largescale land grabs by foreign investors. (United Nations)

Southern Africa Braces for Poor Harvests (March 8, 2007)

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that "erratic weather patterns" in Africa may devastate agricultural output and lead to severe food shortages. The failure of donor countries to fully fund the WFP – which currently assists 4.3 million people in southern Africa alone – further threatens food security in the region.

FAO Urges Food Aid Reform (January 24, 2007)

A new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that governments spend one third of the global food aid budget on processing and shipping, thereby leaving less food aid for the intended beneficiaries. The FAO's State of Food and Agriculture report calls for reform, recommending cash distributions and "assistance aimed at improving markets," such as infrastructure development, as more effective alternatives to traditional food aid.

Funding Shortage Edges Millions of Southern Africans into Food Crisis (October 25, 2006)

Facing a US$60 million gap in funds, the United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to cut aid to 4.3 million people in southern African countries. The reductions will hit mother and child nutrition centres, school-feeding projects and food schemes for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis patients, "for whom nutrition is key in boosting immunity to diseases that have ravaged the region." Also food assistance provides a crucial "survival cushion" for many southern Africans while they finish schooling or learn new job skills.

Global Trends in Food Aid (June 6-8, 2006)

This report highlights how the complexity of each food insecurity situation prevents uniformity of food aid policy. Food supply agencies have different policies for developing, implementing, and following up on food programs. Using Sudan as a case example, the article shows how agencies can support the local economy by buying locally grown food and building up the local infrastructure system. (World Food Programme)

Kenya's Long Rains Too Late for Millions in Need of Aid (April 20, 2006)

The World Food Programme (WFP) draws attention to the continuing shortfall of funding needed to avoid mass-starvation in East Africa. After years of extreme drought, rainfalls came too late to provide relief for the food crisis. The WFP expects that 3.7 million people will depend on food aid until the beginning of 2007. In addition, muddy roads, which result from heavy rainfalls, obstruct food transportation to the most affected rural areas.

Articles

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2013


 Swaziland is one of the world’s poorest countries; it relies heavily on international food aid, having been unable to produce sufficient food to feed its population since the 1970s. Agricultural production in Swaziland is low, in part because local farmers are denied access to land ownership and bank loans. Unable to purchase irrigation equipment or farming machinery, they depend on rainfall to water their crops. With more frequent droughts, agriculture is becoming even more precarious. Despite the country’s food crisis, it has recently come to light that in 2011 the government sold maize donated by Japan as food aid for US$3 million, an incident that according to Bertram Stewart the principal secretary of the Ministry of Economic planning, is not a one-off occurrence.  The government has not yet explained where the funds were redistributed. (IRIN

Looming budget cuts in the US could have positive effects on foreign aid programs. The US is the largest food aid donor in the world, sending vast amounts of its grain reserves to food insecure countries. It is also the only major donor country to send food rather than money to humanitarian crisis areas. The influx of cheap US grain often destabilizes local markets and undermines local small holders.  New proposals have been suggested to send money for local food procurement, which would benefit local farmers and empower local economies.  Observers also believe that this shift in policy would allow the aid to reach a larger number of people. According to Timi Gerson, from American Jewish World Service, if the United States were to change to this model of food aid “it would be able to reach 17 million more people”. (IPS)


2012

Why is Yemen's Food Crisis Off The World's Humanitarian Radar? (July 24, 2012)

As hunger levels in Yemen have doubled over the past two years, an escalating food crisis is destabilizing the country’s fragile economic and political situation after the Arab Spring. In response, the UN and many aid agencies have increased their humanitarian appeal for Yemen but adequate funding so far has failed to materialize. Observers point out that Yemen’s transition and humanitarian needs have not been underpinned by the money given to other Arab spring countries because of its lack of geopolitical importance for donors, the lack of media coverage and the competing demands of the Sahel hunger crisis. Donors’ failure to address the food crisis will add on to Yemen’s insecurity and potential for political unrest. (Guardian) 

“Famine May Have Ended, But For Us Hunger Has Not” (July 20, 2012)

Although the UN declared the end of Somalia’s famine in February, hundreds of thousands of famine refugees are still facing hunger. The food situation has worsened as aid agencies scaled down their assistance and corruption is widespread among international and national agencies, government officials and camp administrators. The lack of systemic programs to help refugees find a sustainable way of earning an income and return to their communities is pushing them back into the cycle of hunger. (IPS)

US Food Aid: The Special Interests Blocking Reform (July 19, 2012)

Beside big agribusinesses, smaller food companies, shipping companies and NGOs also have strong interests in blocking reforms in the controversial US food aid system, which it has become a lucrative business for them. Small food companies have developed special food aid product lines while some NGOs “monetize” food aid in local markets to generate cash for their development programs. The shipping industry also greatly benefits from the system as nearly two-thirds of the US food aid budget is spent on transportation and other non-food costs. The US food aid program must “untie” its budget and buy food closer to where it is needed because the current system is inefficient for the US government and damages the local economies. (Guardian) 

How Corporate Agribusiness Supplies the Lion's Share of US Food Aid (July 18, 2012)

The Guardian recently revealed that, in 2010-11, the US department of agriculture’s food aid program bought two-third of food from just three US-based agribusiness giants: ADM, Cargill and Bunge. This data supports the long-held critic that US food aid only serves US geopolitical interests and corporate welfare. The companies that benefit from the food aid business are the ones that pressure countries in the Global South to cultivate non-food crops for exports rather than to feed their people. They are also powerful political players who lobby the US government to maintain the legislation passed in the 1950s that dictates how US food aid must be purchased, processed and shipped by US companies. This approach to aid damages foreign countries’ markets and perpetuate their dependence on US “assistance.” (Guardian)

Sahel Hunger Crisis Risks Being Another Example of Too Little, Too Late (June 21, 2012)

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned about the Sahel hunger crisis in October last year, but governments and multilateral agencies failed to take action. Donor countries give assistance according to their political interests and have little motivation to address this crisis. The Sahel’s food insecurity may escalate to a full-scale famine if the emergency relief funding fails to materialize. Long-term approaches are needed to prevent future crises. (Guardian)

Saving Money and Lives: The Human Side of US Food Aid Reform (March 2012)

A new joint Oxfam-American Jewish World Service report finds that in 2010 over 17 million people could have been reached by US-funded food aid had the aid been sourced and delivered differently. Unlike many other donors, the US has restrictions on food aid and requires that aid must be bought from US companies and that at least 75 percent of the aid must be shipped on US-flagged vessels. The report urges Congress to curb these unfair and inefficient schemes, which undercut developing country farmers by flooding markets with US commodities and take up to an additional 14 weeks to reach their destination. (Oxfam)

Horn of Africa: Drought Warning Prompts Call for Early Action (February 29, 2012)

Regional climate scientists have predicted that drought is likely to return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months. These scientists are calling on governments, civili society and the media to take preventive action as many areas are still facing the cumulative impacts of several droughts. This forecast comes just weeks after the UN declared the Somalia “famine” over on February 3, 2012. (IRIN)

Lesotho: Weather Extremes Threaten Food Security (February 24, 2012)

Changing climate conditions are causing havoc for small farmers across the globe. This IRIN article focuses on the food security crisis in Lesotho, where changing weather patterns have caused some farmers to abandon farming and sell their land. The UN’s FAO has encouraged farmers to plant seed varieties that can be recycled for a few seasons. But this is only a short-term solution, for weather patterns will become more extreme unless the international community addresses the root causes of climate change. (IRIN)

How £50m in UN Food Aid for Starving Went to Buy Wheat from Glencore (February 6, 2012)

Despite a pledge by the World Food Programme to buy food from “very poor farmers,” the Guardian has revealed that the UN agency bought food worth over £50m ($78 million) from commodity giant Glencore International in 2011. Glencore controls 8% of the global wheat market and made headlines in 2010 when it urged Russia to put an export ban on wheat after the summer drought, a move that forced food prices up 15 percent in two days and drove thousands into extreme hunger. The investigation reveals that the UN agency often buys from large traders like Glencore and Cargill because they offer large quantities of food at prices that local farmers cannot provide. According to author and economist Raj Patel, this new wave of contracts points to the “increasing financialization of food in the 21st century.” So much for the WFP’s motto to “help people feed themselves.” (Guardian)

UN Declares Somalia’s Famine Over, but Says Millions across East Africa Still in Crisis (February 3, 2012)

The UN has reclassified the crisis in the Horn of Africa on their five-point scale from a “famine” to a “humanitarian emergency.” While some feel the gains are considerable, many fear that the announcement falsely signals to the international community that the Horn no longer needs help. Over 9.5 million people across the Horn of Africa region are still unable to support themselves, and aid groups fear that without access to food and clean water, the situation will deteriorate. (Washington Post

Drought Returns to West Africa’s Sahel, Bringing Hunger as Crisis Looms (January 22, 2012)

Aid agencies are warning of drought in the Sahel – a region spanning eight countries across Africa – estimating that over 12 million people will face food insecurity. The region is particularly vulnerable since it has not yet recovered from the last drought in 2010.  The situation is further exacerbated because of low harvests, high food prices, and donors suffering from “famine fatigue.” (Washington Post)

A Dangerous Delay (January 18, 2012)

In August 2010, early warning systems predicted the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, yet there was an insufficient response by national governments, donors, NGOs, and the UN, till people began to die. This is the conclusion made by aid agencies Oxfam International and Save the Children in a joint paper, titled A Dangerous Delay. The paper calls on all actors to review their approach to drought risk reduction, undertake preventative work on the basis of forecasts and endorse the Charter to End Extreme Hunger. Although the paper correctly calls on the international community to review its approach to humanitarian crises, it fails to list concrete actions that actors should take. (Oxfam)


2011

Food: Rumpus over GM Food Aid (October 18, 2011)

This article explores the debate around the use of genetically modified (GM) food aid in Africa. African countries are cautious on the subject of GM food and are suspicious of the differing opinions of two power blocks from the West (the EU and the US). Skeptics of GM food argue that foreign genes produce toxic proteins and contaminate the host country’s grain. (IRIN)

UN Shares Responsibility in Famine (August 10, 2011)

As the UN is turning away refugees in the Horn of Africa, this Inter Press Service  article calls attention to structural deficiencies in the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP is typically tasked with handling such crises, but is currently bankrupt and unable to raise money to help refugees in need. Shamefully, Northern countries are more concerned with granting bailouts to repay Western banks than prioritizing funding to UN aid agencies. An advisory committee to the UN Human Rights Council has requested that the Council not just condemn member states for failing to fund aid organizations, but “take responsibility on behalf of the world forum for the crisis.” (IPS Terraviva)

Aid to Horn of Africa Must Be Linked to Boosting Long-term Food Security-Ban (July 25, 2011)

In a meeting of delegates on the Horn of Africa convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on July 25, 2011, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an effective transformation of the current food system. Immediate responses to the famine in the region must be accompanied by plans for long-term sustainability, said Ban. Ban hopes that the meeting will encourage massive international support and a broad political commitment by the AU, the G-20 and the Committee for Food Security to bolster the agricultural sector. An estimated 11.6 million people have been affected by severe food shortages in Somalia, Ethiopia, Dijbouti and Kenya. The UN declared a state of famine in the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia on July 20, 2011. (UN News)

Africa’s Latest Food Crisis Needs a Long-Term Strategy (July 4, 2011)

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in six decades due to changing global weather patterns. Harvests have failed and food prices have skyrocketed in the past few months. It is estimated that over 10 million are currently suffering from food insecurity and rainfall is predicted to be insufficient in the coming years. These changes are expected to have dire effects on the region and NGOs that currently provide short-term emergency relief are working towards creating long-term solutions. Lack of access to markets, soil erosion and land tenure are a few of the problems which, if addressed, will make people less likely to be affected by droughts and failed harvests in the future. There must be a push to find political solutions at a national level and an international commitment to address climate change in order to create a more food secure world. (Guardian)

The Impact of Russia's 2010 Grain Export Ban (June 28, 2011)

In the summer of 2010, Russia’s grain crop harvest dropped severely due to an extreme heat wave. As a result, international grain prices soared and the Russian government instituted a grain export ban to protect local consumers. It has been suggested that the ban did not help bring down grain prices domestically or internationally and that, instead, poverty rose within Russia and in countries that rely on Russia for grains, such as Pakistan. This research project by OXFAM has found that the export ban, which lasted eleven months and ended on July 1, 2011, was not very effective and recommends that Russia engage with other exporting countries in the future to find new principles to “manage supply interruptions without export bans.” (Oxfam)

Aid Policy: New Mechanism to Boost Food Security (May 30, 2011)

A new global food security cluster has been created to support disaster-affected food insecure communities. This cluster will allow for immediate food aid as well as long term agriculture solutions while educating at-risk persons about available resources and aid programs. The new mechanism will use the needs of existing local clusters as a basis for planning. The aim is to put sound structures in place before humanitarian crises arise. (IRIN)

La Nina-Induced Drought 'To Affect Millions" (February 18, 2011)

The La Nina weather phenomenon causes serious drought conditions for many East African countries, sparking food security concerns. In Northern Kenya two people reportedly died of starvation. Due to the lack of rain, the Tanzanian government implemented nationwide rationing of hydro-powered electricity. According to the UN, people in Somalia need humanitarian aid urgently due to civil unrest and food insecurity. The combination of climate change and environmental degradation results in less food and more people living in poverty. (IRIN)

How Much Do Rich Governments Really Worry About Feeding the World  (January 27, 2011)

A recent report by hundreds of scientists presented to the UK government recommends that decision-makers should prioritize food production and food systems on the global political agenda. In 2009, after the global food crisis of 2008, many rich governments committed to solve problems related to agricultural production and output. Eight of the richest nations promised $20 billion over three years for food security and agricultural development, however less than one third of that has actually been allocated to developing countries. Much of those funds have actually not been delivered. (The Economist)

2010

Ethiopia: Government Denies Food Aid “Manipulated” for Political Gain (June 7, 2010)

In Ethiopia, food aid is used as leverage to gain political support. People who depend on food aid cannot risk supporting opposition parties in a famine-prone country. International programs and donors have a "structural incentive" to overlook human rights violations in relation to food aid because Ethiopia is a key ally of the West. Investigations into human rights abuse claims are conducted in conjunction with the Ethiopian government, thus lacking objectivity. (IRIN)

EU Raises the Bar on Food Assistance (April 2, 2010)

The EU has announced a new international emergency food relief policy. It will directly hand out cash or vouchers for food, or buy food from the needy country or nearby. Donors of food aid have been criticized for subordinating humanitarian assistance to political or security objectives. This policy hopes to promote food security in receiving countries by ending the practice whereby donor countries support their domestic farmers and  provide subsidized excess food stuffs as aid - also known as food dumping. While the new policy seems to lean in a positive direction, the framework does not address other important issues such as land grabbing by European firms. The response to the new directives by EU member states is not yet clear. (IRIN)

Funds needed to stem child malnutrition in Guinea (January 6, 2010)

Nutritional centres in Guinea have run out of essential food stock and the UN World Food Program is seeking funds to address the increasing demand for food aid. Last month, surveys showed that malnutrition rose from 6.9 to 8.4 percent in the capital, Conakry. Sheryl Martin from Helen Keller International underscores the need for local health centers to tackle malnutrition-related illnesses as many families cannot afford to go to big cities where most of the hospitals are located. (IRIN)

2009

Hunger Summit's Failure Exposes Grim Reality ( November 19, 2009)

The World Food Summit in Rome ended with little outcome much to the regret of developing countries and the world's one billion hungry. The governments agreed on neither financial targets nor concrete deadlines to eradicate hunger. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi was the only G8 leader to attend. Rich countries apparently do not want to tackle hunger in a broad UN setting, preferring instead conservative venues such as the World Bank and the G8. (IPS)

Disagreement Over Goals at U.N. Meeting on Hunger (November 17, 2009)

In Rome, the World Summit on Food Security has attracted only few leaders of rich countries. The summit reveals the wide gap between the rich and the poor countries' agriculture and trade policy. In addition, the summit has failed to fulfill expectations on aid and agriculture assistance. Change seems far away and leaders have expressed their concern that the conference will produce little of substance. (New York Times)

Cash Does not Always Mean Quality Food Aid (November 11, 2009)

Some donor countries have changed their food aid policy and started to provide aid agencies with cash instead of food packages. This allows for local sourcing, which strengthens local agriculture, lowers costs and provides more culturally appropriate foods. But donor countries have not addressed the importance of food aid quality. According to a recent report by Médecins Sans Frontières less than 2% of the food aid addresses nutritional needs. (IRIN)

Global Food Reserves - Framing the Context for a New Multilateralism (October 2009)

In 2008, food prices reached historically high levels, leaving millions of additional people in hunger. Policy makers and civil society have called for public food reserves in order to stabilize prices and mitigate the food emergency. International agricultural and trade policy have led to price instability, with devastating effects on developing countries. This paper calls for a discussion in which food reserves form part of a reformed trade system. (Share the World's Resources)

Rome - Food Capital of the World (October 5, 2009)

One billion people go hungry and 30 countries find themselves in a food emergency. After the World Food Conference of 1974, the UN created the World Food Council and the International Fund for Agricultural Development in order to manage and anticipate food and hunger crises. However, the current crisis caught the world by surprise. Now, the FAO has invited countries to another summit in Rome - the World Summit on Food Security. It remains to be seen if the world can take urgent action to promote long-term sustainable solutions. (Inter Press News Service)

No Quick Fix for Malnutrition and Hunger (February 24, 2009)

Médecins Sans Frontií¨res (MSF) argues that most of the food aid shipped to the hungry consists of poor quality, cereal-based food, which has a low vitamin and protein content, lacking nutritional value. Such food programmes may curb hunger, but do little to address long term malnutrition. In line with MSF, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) propose that governments and aid agencies should shift away from these inefficient food programmes, towards a focus on food production, tackling hunger at its roots. They suggest investment in local agriculture and small scale farms as the only way to gain food security to overcome hunger and malnutrition. This would enable people to feed themselves and break away from dependency on food aid. (Inter Press Service)

2008

Darfur Withers as Sudan Sells Food (August 10, 2008)

Sudan, a country that receives a billion pounds of food from international donors, is exporting its own crops and capitalizing on high global food prices. Sudan presents the classic case of a country that exports food while its people go hungry. Another famous case is British controlled Ireland during the potato famine in the mid-19th century. This article seems to favor government control of food markets, a position that the otherwise free-trade-oriented New York Times has opposed in other cases. Though clearly propagandistic against Sudan, the article poses broad questions about trade, food and government responsibilities.

Food Aid Emergency (August 7, 2008)

The food aid system is fraught with problems rooted in the global economic system's historical trends and vulnerabilities. The author advocates "untied" food aid, which allows humanitarian agencies to procure food in the "cheapest and most developmentally appropriate market." However, the US, the world's largest food aid donor, requires that 75 percent of its food aid is sourced in the US and shipped to the recipient country on US vessels. In addition, food aid donations are falling as the price of food raises the cost of providing aid. (Foreign Policy In Focus)

Food Aid Reform: Buy Locally (June 9, 2008)

The US is the largest contributor of international food aid. But, under US law, at least 75 percent of its food aid must be processed and purchased in the US and shipped on US vessels. Finding a sustainable solution to the global food crisis requires that world leaders and international organizations shift towards locally procured food aid. Not only is locally purchased food cheaper and more efficient, it also supports local agricultural production and creates economic opportunities for small-scale farmers in recipient countries. (Partnership for a Secure America)

UN Sets Up Food Crisis Task Force (April 29, 2008)

In the face of "widespread hunger, malnutrition and social unrest on an unprecedented scale," the United Nations is setting up a task force. The task force, chaired by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and made up of heads of UN agencies and the World Bank, aims to financially support farmers and assist countries with a food deficit in buying seeds. The World Bank pledges to double lending for agriculture in Africa and to provide quicker and more flexible financing to poor countries. It is not clear how, and if, this task force will address long-term threats to international food security such as the distorting EU agricultural subsidies or climate change. (BBC)

A Perfect Storm of Hunger (April 1, 2008)

A "perfect storm" of causes – rising food and oil prices, poor harvests, the falling dollar and an increased demand for biofuels – dramatically increases the World Food Programme's (WFP) operating costs. The WFP already struggles to feed the millions of people that rely on food aid. The new caseload of people no longer able to afford food will put additional strains on the WFP budget. These mostly urban populations in for instance Central America and Afghanistan cannot afford the nearly doubled prices for basic foodstuffs. (Los Angeles Times)

World Food Program Issues "Emergency Appeal" for Funds (March 25, 2008)

The World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing to donor nations to help bridge its $500 - $650 million budget shortfall. This is the first time the WFP has had to launch an emergency appeal due to a market-generated crisis. Spiraling costs of food and fuel are impairing the organization's work and it needs additional donations to continue to support the 73 million people that rely on it. A growing number of people can no longer afford to buy essential foodstuffs, which will likely deepen the funding crisis. (Los Angeles Times)

High Food and Oil Prices Swelling Ranks of Hungry: WFP (March 6, 2008)

Due to a 40 percent price increase in the price of fuel and grain since mid-2007, the World Food Programme (WFP) has a $500 million budget shortfall. Josette Sheeran, head of the WFP, points to increases in oil and food commodity prices, the booming economies of China and India, bad harvests and droughts, and a shift to biofuels as the main causes of the budget deficit. She argues that governments must take swift action before the crisis leads to social unrest and malnutrition, pointing out that there have already been food riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco. (Associated Press)

Feeding the World? We Are Fighting a Losing Battle, UN Admits (February 26, 2008)

Global food prices have surged upwards, creating a "new face of hunger" in 2008. The World Food Programme (WFP) will not have enough funds to meet existing needs, let alone meet new demands arising because of the price hike. Joachim von Braun, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute points to rising incomes as the main cause of the food crisis. WFP officials identify two further causes of the crisis: climate change and the use of agricultural produce for biofuels instead of food. (Guardian)

2007

As US Food Dollars Buy Less, International Agencies Differ Over How to Use Aid (October 2, 2007)

World food prices are soaring which means every dollar of the US food aid budget buys less food for distribution to poor countries. A coalition of NGOs is urging Congress to increase the food aid budget and use a larger part of it for long term development projects. The NGOs suggest that poor countries should have more of a say on how and where to spend food aid resources and this will help reduce the poor countries' dependency on foreign aid in the future. USAID and the World Food Program oppose this suggestion, claiming such an arrangement would reduce their flexibility to respond to emergencies. (New York Times)

Unrest in Myanmar Could Block Food Aid For 500,000 People, UN Food Agency Warns (September 28, 2007)

Following the weeks of unrest in Myanmar, the local government has restricted the movement of food and people, severely hampering the activities of the World Food Program in the country. This could mean that as many as 500,000 people who are dependent on the aid for survival find themselves without access to food . Over the next three years, the WFP aims to feed 1.6 million people in Myanmar, but in addition to facing logistical restrictions, the program is also suffering funding shortages and may have to cut back on its operations. (UN News)

Who Does US Food Aid Benefit? (September 12, 2007)

NGOs and other critics are concerned that US food aid programs benefit the agribusiness and shipping industry more than the poor, as the US government requires its food aid to be grown, packaged and shipped from the US. In response to US requirements, CARE recently rejected a food aid package worth US$45 million. The food crops for aid are also heavily subsidized and sold to generate money for development projects, preventing any local competition from poor countries. However, purchasing locally grown food crops would benefit the economies of developing countries as well as ensure rapid food delivery in a crisis situation. (In These Times)

Charity Finds that US Food Aid for Africa Hurts Instead of Helps (August 14, 2007)

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization, is refusing US$45 million a year of US food aid after determining that US food aid is not only inefficient but in some cases it also hurts the people it is trying to help. This inefficiency results from the US purchasing food from US farmers, paying US vessels to ship the food overseas, and then donating it to aid groups who sell the food in poor countries to raise money for development projects. CARE argues that this practice hurts local production and in many cases reduces the effects of its development work. Moreover, a CARE representative says, renouncing the money will allow the organization to "candidly address the flaws in the American strategy to combat world hunger." (International Herald Tribune)

How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor (April 24, 2007)

A surge in demand for alternative fuels such as ethanol has caused the price of corn to rise to its highest level in ten years. Because corn is a staple food for billions of impoverished people around the world, these price increases have "potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security," argues this Foreign Affairs article. The authors further point out that "political and corporate interests" dominate the ethanol industry, so that corn growers in rich countries receive substantial government subsidies which diminish the competitiveness of their developing country counterparts.

US Rethinks Foreign Food Aid (April 22, 2007)

Rather than purchasing food grown in the US and shipping it abroad, the Bush administration has proposed spending a quarter of the food aid budget on crops from poor countries geographically closer to hunger crises. Although this reform – already implemented by most other major food aid donors – would "speed delivery, improve efficiency and save many lives," it faces opposition from the agribusiness and shipping industries which profit off the current policy. However, rising shipping costs have halved the amount of aid that reaches countries with food shortages, leading the US government "to rethink [its] approach to fighting world hunger." (International Herald Tribune)

Even as Africa Hungers, Policy Slows Delivery of US Food Aid (April 7, 2007)

Despite the "dire" shortage of food rations faced by the UN World Food Program (WFP), the US government refuses to change a law that requires most of its food donations be domestically grown and then shipped to recipient countries – an inefficient and costly process. International aid groups such as Oxfam estimate that amending this law to allow cash donations to the WFP could "feed at least a million more people" and "save 50,000 more lives." (New York Times)

Despite Bumper Grain Crop, 33 Countries in Food Crisis (April 3, 2007)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Iraq and Lesotho top a list of 33 countries facing "widespread lack of access to food" and "exceptional shortfalls" in food production. Although the FAO predicts a 4.3 percent increase in world cereal production this year, approximately half of that will come from the production of grains like maize to meet the "surging demand for ethanol fuel" rather than being directed toward global food supplies. (Agence France Presse)

Poor Infrastructure Undermines Food Safety in West Africa (March 11, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article reports that underdeveloped infrastructure is a leading cause of food insecurity in Africa. Meat imports frequently thaw in transit due to an unreliable supply of electricity and substandard technology, allowing food-borne illnesses like salmonella "to flourish." NGOs and government officials therefore argue that improving domestic infrastructure is "the only way the poorest countries can cope" with international trade.

2006


Drought in Africa: Ethiopia's Bitter Harvest (October 24, 2006)

In fall 2006, the worst drought in a decade claimed the lives of five men in the 13 family Ethiopian village of Magado. Food aid prevented hunger-related deaths, but after watching 99 percent of their cattle die and their livelihoods destroyed, the men hanged themselves out of shame and despair. Despite early alarms of the coming drought, emergency aid only arrived "long after the cattle were beyond salvation." According to Care International, the aid system regrettably tends to respond only "when an emergency is at its height," disproportionately treating the symptoms of emergency hunger, rather than preventing its causes with a quicker response. (Independent)

Undying Hunger in the Hinterland (August 14, 2006)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has long provided rice in exchange for work or children's school attendance in the "food deficit areas" of Nepal's northwestern districts. But in 2006, the most severe drought on record has created exceptionally high food shortages. With children dying and people trying to survive on wild vegetables, WFP decided to provide emergency rice rations in ten districts. However, WFP has raised only 17 percent of the finances needed for the emergency operation. Unless governments provide more money, WFP will have to end the operation prematurely and leave many districts entirely to their own fate. (Inter Press Service)

The Politics of Aid in Ethiopia (August 1, 2006)

This BBC article discusses the practice whereby governments of poor countries receive direct budget support from European governments. The big European donors have not given food aid to the Ethiopian central government since the political and social chaos caused by the 2005 election. Instead, they donate cash to regional authorities, showing disapproval of the central government without hurting the poor. The author suggests that this "test of how to manage the relationship when things go wrong" exemplifies how donor countries can continue aid allocation even when the larger parties cannot negotiate.

Causing Hunger: An Overview of the Food Crisis in Africa (July 24, 2006)

This Oxfam report draws attention to hunger in Africa. The report describes the root causes of hunger and calls on governments and donors throughout the world to recognize and work with marginalized, rural groups.

Africa Famine Response "Too Little, Too Late" – Oxfam (July 23, 2006)

This Reuters article warns of the increasing frequency of food shortage emergencies, worsened by conflict, AIDS, and climate change. Oxfam suggests that governments and aid agencies should address the root causes of these problems rather than deliver "start-stop" forms of help. Oxfam proposes that donor governments rethink their food aid policies to further build self-sufficiency within countries in crisis.

UN Disaster Relief Fund Makes First Donations for Under-Resourced Emergencies (May 10, 2006)

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), launched by the United Nations to respond quickly to humanitarian crises, redistributes a third of its money to chronically under-funded emergencies. Five months after its creation, CERF for the first time provided such funding to 11 African countries and Haiti. Of the targeted US$450 million, governments have only pledged US$254 millions to the Fund. Worse still, out of those pledged funds, donor countries have only come through on US$159 million. (UN News)

A World Addicted to Hunger: Part 2 (May 3, 2006)

In this article, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) make clear that, thanks to highly developed early warning systems, rich governments can prevent most famines. However, donor countries seldom prioritize "preventability" and hesitate to give money until the press shows pictures of ongoing humanitarian crises. Inter Press Service also points out differencing opinions between the FAO and the WFP on the impact of direct food shipments to starving people.

Malnutrition Kills 10 Children Every Minute (May 3, 2006)

A report released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reveals that 146 million children worldwide suffer seriously from underweight, with 73% of them living in only 10 countries. In South Asia, almost every second child suffers from malnutrition – with 57 million living only in India. As China and most Latin American countries are "on track" to achieve the Millennium Goals related to children's malnutrition, Africa and the Middle East show insufficient or no progress at all. Sad but true – in a world where 170 million children suffer of obesity, rich countries fail to provide enough aid to feed the world's poor children. (Independent)

Feeding a Hungry World: A Vision for Food Aid in the 21st Century (April 21, 2006)

This Bread for the World report analyzes and proposes means to improve the "efficiency" and "effectiveness" of food aid. Although food donation may relieve the world's hungry, some countries give food based on their own domestic agricultural and trade interests, undermining local markets and development needs. The report calls for "moral and political leadership" to alleviate world hunger in a manner that better improves long-term food security.

Economist Pushes Insurance as Answer to Disasters (April 11, 2006)

According to Jeffrey Sachs, insurance covering natural disasters could give poor countries the chance to act immediately in case of emergency. The economist and UN advisor hopes the concept could also enable poor countries to gain independence from unpredictable and slowly deployed international aid. In March 2006, French AXA was the first company to issue insurance for an entire country, when agreeing to cover Ethiopia in case of droughts. (AlertNet)

Bush's Fake Aid (March 10, 2006)

Four years after announcing an increase in US development aid to $5 billion, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has proved itself incapable of helping the world's poor. Since its creation the MCC excluded experienced aid organizations and experts from its activities and promoted a neoliberal approach to development. In addition, the US government provided less than half of the funds it initially pledged to the organization. (Rolling Stone)

World Warned It Must Do Better as 20m Face Threat of Famine in Africa (March 8, 2006)

Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) James Morris describes the humanitarian situation on the Horn of Africa as the worst in his experience. The WPF needs urgent donations to avoid major food crises in Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Tanzania. The article asks governments to give more money directly to multilateral aid institutions that buy food locally instead of providing bilateral government support or food exports. According to the Guardian, US$5.2 billion would be enough to allow the WFP to eliminate hunger for children in the whole of Africa.

World's First Humanitarian Insurance Policy Issued (March 6, 2006)

A small group of donor countries, including the US, contracted the private insurance company AXA to cover the risk of droughts in Ethiopia. In this pilot project developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank, an annual amount of US$930,000 would lead to immediate payments of US$7 million if rainfalls drop "significantly below historic averages." However, neither the WFP nor AXA provide details regarding the deal. Furthermore, opening humanitarian aid activities to corporate interests is a "risky business."

Report Warns Malnutrition Begins in Cradle (March 3, 2006)

According to a World Bank report, malnutrition in the first two years of a child's life causes irreversible damages on its future state of health. Many aid programs in poor countries provide meals to pre-school and school children and therefore only address children above the age of three. Educating mothers on how to feed their babies and improving sanitation and health care facilities could be important steps to eradicate child malnutrition in poor countries. (New York Times)

New Fund Promises Enhanced Aid Response (February 14, 2006)

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) represents a new approach to humanitarian crises. It enables the emergency relief coordinator, responsible for the allocation of all aid, to take immediate action without the need to confirm available funding with donor governments. However, rich governments have only pledged US$185 million of a targeted US$500 million so far. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Africa's Hunger - A Systemic Crisis (January 31, 2006)

This BBC article looks at the main factors causing Africa's continuous struggle for agricultural self sufficiency. Decades of underinvestment in rural areas, hundreds of armed conflicts, HIV and high fertility rates turned Africa from a net food-exporter in the 50s into a continent dependent on foreign aid and food imports. Furthermore, many rich countries destroy local agricultural markets with subsidized food exports while abusing aid for their own corporate interests.

UN Seeks $240 Mln of Food Aid for West Africa (January 16, 2006)

The World Food Program (WFP) calls attention to the shortfall of aid money which could cost the lives of millions in Africa's Sahel region. Governments and private donors have provided US$18.4 million so far, but around US$237 million is required only for 2006. Also, food crises in other parts of the continent divert donors' attention from this continuously crisis-shaken region. (Reuters)

Millions in Africa Starving (January 7, 2006)

On the Horn of Africa about 11 million people "are on the brink of starvation" due to extreme droughts and ongoing political conflicts. The situation in parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia is highly critical. In Somalia, governments have only donated about 25% of the 58,000 tons of food aid needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. The World Food Program had to halve food rations to Angolan and Congolese refugees in Zambia in order to respond to the urgent needs of the people. (Toronto Star)

Fixing the Humanitarian Aid System (January 2006)

This article likens the international emergency relief system to a "lottery" where media coverage decides which countries receive aid. Furthermore, donor governments' tie their decreasing contributions to their economic and political interests. Africa Renewal calls for a more predictable and fair distribution of aid funds and urges governments to support initiatives like the United Nation's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). In addition, the article clarifies the controversy between food-shipments and locally bought food.

 

 

 

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