Saturday, September 29, 2012

Horn of Africa faces food insecurity, slowing development, ministers warn UN General Assembly

28 September 2012 – A range of African ministers took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today to highlight the precarious situation arising from food insecurity and the slow-down in development due to the global economic crisis.
Tanzania’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Kamillius Membe, said food insecurity had deteriorated and the vulnerability of many developing countries increased since his nation’s President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete voiced serious concern over the issue at the UN a year ago.
“We must work collectively to address food insecurity,” he told the 67th Assembly on the fourth day of its annual General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York. “We must increase food production and productivity on a sustainable basis, strengthen agricultural systems and establish early warning mechanisms as we also must develop effective responses to calamities such as those in the horn of Africa and the Sahel region.”
Mr. Membe noted that the world's economy still remains fragile after the financial crisis of 2008, compounding the challenges of sustainable development. “This situation is further exacerbated by the effects of climate change, population growth, poverty, unemployment, hunger, diseases, growing economic inequalities within and among countries as well as lack of rule of law and violations of human rights,” he said.
“I know for sure that the global economic crisis is far from over,” he said. “Many reports are predicting the re-occurrence of the crisis which will certainly affect the flow of aid, trade, FDIs (foreign direct investment) and remittances to developing countries.”
He also reiterated the African demand for expansion of the 15-member Security Council to include two permanent members from the continent with veto powers.
Foreign Minister, Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé of Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister, Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé, said his country had suffered a food crisis this year because of a bad rainy season. “The cereal shortage has been exacerbated by a massive influx of tens of thousands of refuges from Mali, sometimes accompanied by their cattle,” he said.
Instability in northern Mali, where Islamic militants have seized control, imposing strict Sharia law, has caused more than 260,000 refugees to flee to neighbouring countries, further straining the already fragile social and economic infrastructure.
“The restoration of a stable and lasting peace in Mali will require a global approach combining political dialogue and the use of force essentially aimed at neutralizing transnational extremist groups whose presence in northern Mali is sure to deliver an irreparable blow to efforts for better governance and social and economic development,” he said.
Patrice Emery Trovoada, Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe.
The Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe, Patrice Emery Trovoada, lamented the inability of the United Nations to confront the situation in Mali – where the Islamic militants are also reported to have destroyed World Heritage religious sites – as well as the crisis in Syria, where over 18,000 people have been killed since an anti-government uprising erupted 18 months ago.
“Sadly our organization continues to suffer from the roadblocks that prevent urgent decisions that cannot be postponed from being taken and that undermine the forum’s credibility,” he said.
He added, “We need no further evidence of the urgency for in-depth reforms of our institution, primarily the Security Council, to put an end to the horrific images of children that are symbols of purity and innocence who are killed daily in Syria, to prevent the destruction of the world historic and cultural heritage by gangs of destructive criminals in Mali and Afghanistan and to prevent coups d’état or obvious attempts to destabilize states and democratic Governments.”
Edouard Niankoye, Foreign Minister of Guinea.
Guinea’s Foreign Minister, Edouard Niankoye, addressing the General Debate on Thursday, endorsed the Malian Government’s request to the Security Council for the deployment of an international force to restore the country’s territorial integrity.
“In neighbouring Mali, where terrorist and rebel groups have occupied the north for several months, the reinforcement of democratic institutions and the restoration of territorial integrity constitute major challenges that must be taken up,” he told the Assembly.
Therence Sinunguruza, First Vice President of Burundi.
Also speaking in the General Assembly on Thursday, Burundi’s First Vice President, Therence Sinunguruza, voiced his country’s hope that the Malian Government will find a rapid solution to the crisis in its north.
Burundi “is equally confident that Mali will soon renew the democratic process to establish institution stemming from free and transparent elections,” he said, referring to the March 2012 military coup when soldiers took control of the West African country.
The African ministers are among scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Advocacy agents call for swift action to prevent child malnutrition deaths | WNN – Women News Network



A child of Somali refugees at a camp in Malkadiida, Ethiopia August 2011. As drought and famine ravaged their home country, thousands of Somalis fled to refugee camps across the border. Infants and children continue to be the most vulnerable group to face severe malnutrition when famine strikes impacted regions. Image: Eskinder Debebe/UNphoto
(WNN/AN) Bangkok, THAILAND: AltertNet is reporting that countries with the highest numbers of malnourished children urgently need to step up the way they respond to the problem in order to prevent millions of unnecessary deaths, according to a joint report produced by charities Save the Children and World Vision.
The “Nutrition Barometer”, which provides a snapshot of national governments’ commitments to addressing children’s nutrition, found that of 36 countries, where 90 percent of the world’s malnourished children live, almost a quarter have shown little progress in tackling the crisis.
Without swift action, a commitment made in May 2012 by the World Health Assembly – the decision making body of the World Health Organization – to reduce the number of chronically malnourished children by 40 percent by 2025 would not be achieved, the report warned, urging world leaders gathering in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting to tackle the issue.
India, despite experiencing strong economic growth in the past few years, shares the bottom rank – countries defined by the study as having low levels of political, legal and financial commitment and little changes to the high rates of malnutrition – with Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen.
These three countries, together with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger, Ethiopia and Madagascar, also have the worst nutrition and child survival outcomes, the report said.
While malnutrition itself may not kill children, it is the underlying cause of the deaths of 2.3 million children under five years in 2011 – more than a third of the total, the report said.
Peru, Guatemala and Malawi were applauded for topping the list, with political will and committed resources to fight child malnutrition achieving results.
SILENT CRISIS
Despite the overall positive trend of child survival, including nearly halving the number of children dying before their fifth birthday between 1990 and 2011, “progress in reducing childhood under nutrition has been slow,” the report said.
“Rates of stunting are falling too slowly, and the proportion of wasted children (suffering acute weight loss) actually rose during the last decade,” it added.
“Malnutrition remains a critical problem and it’s a very complex problem,” Michel Anglade, Save the Children’s director for campaigns and advocacy in Asia, told AlertNet.
“Therefore to address this we need very strong political commitment. There’s also a need for financial commitment. Unless (they’re there), it’s very difficult to have good outcomes or significantly reduce the level of malnutrition,” he added.
Around 170 million children under five under also suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting, which hinders cognitive growth and economic potential. Stunted children, shorter than average height, complete fewer years of schooling and earn less income as adults.
“Stunting is called ‘a silent crisis’ because it’s not something very well-known or very visible. You will notice if a child is severely malnourished but you may not notice just by looking at the child that he or she is stunted,” said Anglade.
“And because it’s less visible, it’s something which has not been addressed properly,” he added.
SOUTHEAST ASIA IMPROVING, BUT LONG WAY TO GO
Four of five Southeast Asian countries included in the report – Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines – are showing signs of progress while Cambodia is lagging behind.
Still, almost all of the countries except Indonesia show weak political and financial commitments.
While strong outcomes despite weak commitments could be a result of rapid economic growth, there are concerns that aggregated figures may be hiding huge inequalities.
“The story in Asia is that of growing inequality,” said Anglade.
“Even if the situation overall seemed to have improved, when you start to disaggregate this data you will see that children living in the poorest part of the population or remote provinces are in fact far worse than the national average,” he added.
“What we’re calling for is that the commitment must reach all the children and especially the most vulnerable.”
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WNN/AN

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Changing rainfall exposes over 3.7 Ethiopians to famine


In this 2009 file photo, Ethiopian farmers collect wheat in their field in Abay, north of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. REUTERS/Barry Malone
By Pawlos Belete
ADDIS ABABA (AlertNet) – Millions of Ethiopians face severe food shortages as a result of the failure of crucial seasonal rains, a problem increasingly linked to climate change.
The Ethiopian government announced last month that 3.7 million of its citizens will require humanitarian assistance between August and December of this year, up from 3.2 million in January. The 16 percent increase follows the failure of the Belg rains, which normally fall between February and May and are essential to the country’s secondary harvest.
The lack of rainfall is being blamed on climate change, with experts saying it is leading to erratic rain patterns and disruption to normal seasonal changes.
Mohamed Ahmed, a farmer in his early 40s, is one of the millions dealing with the consequences of the rainfall changes. He feeds his family of seven by farming a one-hectare (2.5 acre) plot inherited from his father in the village of Doba in the east of the country, 325 km (203 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.
But Ahmed’s land has declined in productivity over the past two decades, even as the size of his family has grown.
“Last season (Belg) I (could) barely sow,” the farmer said grimly. “The rain came almost a month later than the usual time. It is sometimes heavy and sometimes light. The yield is not impressive at all.”
Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, employing 62 million people (about three-quarters of the population), ensuring more than 85 percent of the country’s export earnings and contributing 43 percent of GDP, official figures show.
Most parts of Ethiopia have two rainy seasons and one dry period. Long heavy rains from mid-June to mid-September, known as kiremt, enable the main crop growing season, Mehir, which leads to a harvest from October to January.
The shorter and more moderate Belg rains are important for short-cycle crops such as wheat, barley, teff, and pulses, which are harvested in June or July, and for long-cycle cereals such as corn, sorghum and millet.
FARMING MORE LAND
Faced with deepening food insecurity and poverty as a consequence of changing weather conditions, the government has responded by trying to boost agricultural production.
Ethiopia harvested more than 218 million quintals of crops in the most recentMehir season, surpassing the previous season’s production by 13 million quintals and beating government targets by 3 million quintals, according to the government’s Central Statistical Authority. Produce from smallholder farms grew by 7.4 percent compared to the same season last year.  
The increases are due to additional land being put under cultivation, following large-scale resettlement programmes by the government, aimed at relocating farmers to more productive land. The government has not yet produced an official tally of number of people resettled, but unofficial figures give the total as more than 1.5 million over the past five years.  
More than 12.8 million hectares (31.6 million acres) of land are now under cultivation in Ethiopia, almost one million hectares (2.5 million acres) or 8 percent more than in the last Mehir season.
Despite the increased yields, production is still less than 90 percent of the amount required to provide sufficient nutrition to all the population, according to a report issued last year by the Ethiopian Economic Association, a nongovernmental organisation.
Throughout the country, prices for staple foods remain relatively high, and with inflation hovering around 20 percent in July, they are not expected to decrease before the next harvest enters the market, experts say.
The failure of the Belg crop is raising fears of a humanitarian crisis among organisations working to provide drought relief in the country.
In July, the World Food Programme (WHP) forecast a significant drop in long-cycle Mehir crops such as maize and sorghum in many lowland and mid-altitude areas of Ethiopia during the next harvest season, following below-average Belg rainfall. The majority of crops produced in Ethiopia are categorized as long-cycle crops, needing at least six months to grow.
In a speech last month, Abdou Dieng, the WFP’s humanitarian food coordinator in Ethiopia, said that the lateness and weakness of the Belg rains had taken a toll on agricultural production in areas of the central highlands, particularly in the regional states of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region, central Oromiya, and eastern Amhara.
Pastoralist areas also have been hard hit and “vulnerability remains high due to the lingering impact of last year’s drought emergency,” Dieng said.
Somali and Oromiya are the regional states most affected by food shortages, together accounting for two-thirds of those seeking relief assistance.
While the Belg harvest accounts for no more than 10 percent of the country’s total annual grain production, it may provide up to 50 percent of the yearly food supply in some highland areas, such as Wollo and Shewa regions, experts say.
PASTORALISTS AFFECTED
The Belg rains are also the main annual rains for the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, where they supply critical pasture and water for livestock. Even in regions where the rains do not irrigate an extra harvest, they are still crucial for seed-bed preparation for Mehir crops.
The failure of the Belg crop ironically comes at a time of strong economic growth for Ethiopia. Speaking at a national workshop for disaster reduction last year, the state minister of agriculture, Sileshi Getahun, cautioned that the country’s growth rate of 11 percent for the past seven years was vulnerable to changes in the climate.
“While we are proud of this achievement and realize the benefits, we are also aware of how much natural disasters can hinder growth,” Getahun said. “These disasters are becoming more regular and pronounced in terms of frequency, intensity, and coverage due to climate change.”
Pawlos Belete is a journalist based in Addis Ababa.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

About Me

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.