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Archive for July 15th, 2012

Will Raila Odinga survive Miguna’s onslaught?

Posted by African Press International on July 15, 2012

There is a lot of heat in Raila Odinga’s corner where many hard-hitting boxers have surrounded him, as Kenya moves closer to the General Elections 2012/2013. Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s secret deals revealed by his former trusted aide Miguna Miguna in his book released Saturday is damaging for a leader hoping to win the presidency. ODM nominated Member of Parliament Rachel Shebesh interviewed by Jeff Koinange of K24 TV says Miguna’s revelation of Raila’s secrets is behaving like a wife or a husband revealing what happens inside their home. Although she thinks the revelation of corruption in the Prime Minister’s office is damaging, she hopes it does not hurt the PM’s chances to win the elections and become the next president.

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Raila, according to many who have never worked with him, looked at him differently until insider Miguna came out with all the things that has been taking place during the 3 years her was working closely with ODM leaders.

Miguna, in his book reveals how ODM ministers close to Raila misuse government funds, some even using government money to purchase clothes to the tune of thousands of shillings. Can you imagine Minister of Lands James Orengo’s suit costing  6000 US dollars using tax-payers money as stated in the book? If this is true, then there is no other word other than say this is madness!

Miguna says he will come back soon with 2 other books and that he has hard-hitting diaries. The hope here is that those being hurt by his revelation take the heat with calmness and not resort to elimination of Miguna Miguna. He has, however said that he does not fear being killed because all he has will come out even if he is away because he has hidden the information far away in safe places.

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Cholera: The victims: children, The transmitters: fish, Vaccine: a new approach

Posted by African Press International on July 15, 2012

Containing cholera early on can avert mass outbreaks such as the Lake Chad Basin in 2010 (file photo)

FREETOWN/DAKAR,  – After years of cyclical cholera outbreaks in West Africa, water and sanitation standards are still notoriously low in most of the affected countries, but in some areas the cholera response is working better now than in the past. IRIN spoke to governments and aid agencies about innovations and traditional wisdom for preventing cholera.

By the end of June 2012, cholera had killed nearly 200 people in West Africa and infected 10,330 according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Numbers are continuing to rise, particularly in the Sahel zone, where a recent upsurge has killed 60 people and infected 2,800. On 2 July 34 cases and two deaths – both children – were reported in northern Mali near Gao, on the edge of the Niger River.

Elsewhere in West Africa case numbers are rising, but are lower than this time in 2011, when 82,070 people had contracted cholera, or in 2010 when 60,000 West Africans in the Lake Chad Basin, which includes parts of Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, were infected.

But West Africa is just at the start of its rainy season – cholera usually peaks between August and December.

Cholera is characterized by diarrhoea and vomiting, and can cause death within hours if it is particularly virulent, or hits weak victims like children.

The victims: children

Francois Bellet, the West Africa water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme specialist at UNICEF, worries that people who are hungry or malnourished as a result of the food crisis in the region are particularly vulnerable to infection. UNICEF is particularly concerned about the Sahel, where the spread of cholera is aggravated by a massive displacement of people fleeing the conflict in northern Mali.

In some areas – such as Niger’s regions along the Niger River – the Ministry of Health reports nearly three times as many cholera patients this year as in 2011.

An estimated 400,000 children in Niger are suffering from severe malnutrition this year. “A child below the age of five who has recovered from severe and acute malnutrition will be back for treatment in a matter of days or weeks if he or she is drinking contaminated water,” Guido Borghese, UNICEF’s advisor on Child Survival and Development, said in a communiqué.

The transmitters: fish

Cholera spreads along West Africa’s waterways – coastal regions, rivers and lakes – where busy fishing and trade routes run. The coast is “like a cholera highway”, said Bellet, as are major waterways such as the Niger River, which flows through Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin and Nigeria.

The bacteria build up under the scales of fish and are often still there if the fish on sale in the markets have not been properly cleaned.

Given the role of women role in cleaning, descaling, smoking and selling fish in most of West Africa, it is they and their children who are particularly vulnerable to infection. Children make up some 80 percent of the cases in Sierra Leone’s Port Loko district, according to UNICEF.

The Guinea-Sierra Leone outbreak started on the island of Yeliboya in Sierra Leone’s Kambia district before spreading to islands off the coast of Guinea and into Forecariah prefecture. Islands in Boffa prefecture are known for their poor sanitation services and high levels of trade – perfect conditions for cholera to spread, said Bellet.

Vaccine: a new approach

The cyclical nature of cholera and the fact that immunity builds after large-scale epidemics are some of the reasons for this year’s lower caseload, said practitioners.


Photo: Anna Jefferys/IRIN
Cholera prevention in Guinea is paying off

In Chad – which so far has zero cases this year compared to 5,000 in 2011 – widescale prevention efforts have paid off. And in Guinea the response has been much quicker and more coordinated this year.

In addition, a new approach has been tested in Guinea – notably a cholera vaccine used by Médecins Sans Frontières-Switzerland (MSF) for the first time in Africa to stem an epidemic.

The vaccine has had good results so far. In the Boffa and Forecariah prefectures of Guinea, where 77 percent of the population were given the double dose, and 95 percent received a single dose, there have been no cases reported since, said Iza Ciglenecki, innovation coordinator for diarrhoeal diseases at MSF-Switzerland. It is too early to know the full results, she said, but when used in other regions the vaccine has been 65-75 percent effective in stemming the spread of the disease.

This is potentially a huge step forward, but at US$3.70 for two doses the vaccine is expensive. The World Health Organization (WHO) and NGOs are discussing guidelines for when to use it in response to future epidemics. “If we multiply these interventions in the future, we could even create regional stocks to make it cheaper, but it is too early to say – we need to learn more first,” said Francois Verhoustraeten, Guinea programme officer at MSF-Switzerland.

All responding agencies, including MSF, stressed that the vaccine is not a standalone solution and should be seen as a supplementary activity. “We put a lot of effort into all the strategies at once,” Ciglenecki told IRIN, referring to the need to raise awareness of public hygiene, targeting cholera hot spots, setting up early warning systems, and treating water. Agencies such as MSF, UNICEF and Action contre la faim (ACF) – Action against Hunger – an international NGO, have been implementing these measures for years in West Africa’s cholera-prone areas.

Moringa, alum stone
Chadians and Malians put the leaves of the moringa tree into well-water, which kills some pathogens, while Tuaregs and West African fishermen use alum stones to clarify murky water, a very effective process, though to be 100 percent safe it should still be treated or boiled, said UNICEF.

Modern medical breakthroughs should not replace important basic hygiene practices: wash your hands after defecating, before cooking or eating, and try to disinfect water that may be dirty, say aid agency staff. Neither should they negate the usefulness of age-old techniques, said Bellet.

Speed

Guinea’s response has been quick this year. People have learned lessons from the 2007 and 2008 outbreaks, the latter of which took one and a half years to clear up, said Grant Laeity head of emergencies for UNICEF in West Africa.

The Sector Chief of Khounyia in Kaback Island, Forecariah, told UNICEF that this year’s cholera strain was particularly virulent (he has witnessed six outbreaks on the island). But the local health clinic managed the cases within a couple of hours, and the next day sent samples for confirmation to Conakry, the capital, 35km away. A full water and sanitation package was sent to the island four days later.

In late June Guinea reported 997 cholera infections and 41 deaths, with about 50 cases in Conakry.

''If we could have what we had in Guinea across the region it would mean… when cholera broke out we could go and nip it in the bud''

Monitoring has also improved. Six surveillance posts have been set up in high-risk zones across the country to detect potential cases and respond to them immediately, said Beatriz Navarro Rubio, head of ACF in Guinea.

“In Guinea we saw good surveillance plus an early declaration by the authorities, leading to prompt action by all, which was encouraging,” said Laeity “If we could have what we had in Guinea across the region it would mean… when cholera broke out we could go and nip it in the bud.”

Coordination between the responding actors has been “very good” said Rubio. Inter-agency disaster simulation exercises had taken place shortly before the outbreak, so everyone was ready to step into gear when cholera hit.

Guinea’s Ministry of Health has taken a strong lead in bringing the Ministries of Education, and Energy and Water Resources on board to agree on simple countrywide messaging that is spread in schools and on local radio said Guarav Garg, a communications specialist at UNICEF in Sierra Leone. The messages have reached an estimated one million of Guinea’s six million people. “Coordination ebbs and flows, but they [the Health Ministry] are in control,” said Garg.

“Most of the cases have been addressed, which shows that the individual and collective prevention measures that we have taken are starting to work,” said Dr Hawa Touré, national director of the Ministry of Health.

Sierra Leone: slow

In Sierra Leone the response has been less efficient. UNICEF said some 2,742 cases have been reported since February, starting in Kambia and Port Loko in the north, then moving to Pujehun in the south.

A spike in the number of cases in Kambia town in late May “set off alarm bells”, said Garg, as it is just a 2.5 hour drive from the capital, Freetown. “Rains have come early and a lot of people live close to rivers and openly defecate – this is a bad combination,” he noted.

Cholera new to Africa
Indian texts report cholera in India 2,500 years ago, but the disease is fairly new to Africa. The first reports of cases appeared 1970, and are thought to have been spread by pilgrims returning from Mecca. In 1971 it infected 14,000 Chadians.

So much untreated sewage has been pumped into Sierra Leone’s rivers and coastal waters that much of the water itself is contaminated with the cholera bacteria, UNICEF said.

The Ministry of Health has tested and chlorinated water points since December 2011, but most people use private wells, so it is not known whether they have been chlorinated or not, Garg told IRIN.

Innovations in cholera prevention here include UNICEF’s community-led approach to improved sanitation – which has vastly improved public hygiene in parts of the six districts where it has been implemented, but Kambia is not among them.

Sierra Leone has two things in its favour, said Garg: improving WASH services is a strong pillar in the government’s upcoming poverty reduction strategy, and elections will be held in December. “The last thing you want is a cholera outbreak before the elections – they’re [the government] realizing you can keep on responding, or you can start to prevent,” he commented.

Priorities

As well as improving surveillance, better understanding the region’s cholera hot spots, and speedier government declarations of an outbreak, in a region with high volumes of cross-border trade and people-movement, coordinated prevention and response now needs to be a priority, say aid agencies.

In Côte d’Ivoire for instance, the current outbreak spread from Ghana; in 2011 cholera spread from Nigeria to Chad to Cameroon; cholera regularly passes between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

The governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea should quell further cross-border spread by quarantining the disease and creating a “protective shield” in the forested area between the countries, says UNICEF.

And all affected countries need to carry out cross-border simulation exercises – as recently took place in the Lake Chad Basin – so agencies understand their role as soon as an outbreak hits.

aj/js/he
source www.irinnews.org

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Mali’s crisis could destabilize neighbouring states

Posted by African Press International on July 15, 2012

Mali Islamist rebels occupying swathes of northern Mali

DAKAR,  – After a military coup toppled president Amadou Toumani Touré and rebels took control of northern Mali, regional negotiators are now grappling with a complex political and security crisis requiring the quick formation of a credible government and caution over armed intervention, analysts say.

Swathes of the desert north, including the key towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, have been seized by the Ansar Dine Islamist militia, who have ties to Al-Qaeda and have imposed strict Islamic law that they would also prescribe for the whole country. Mali’s interim government is unelected and weak and its leader, President Dioncounda Traoré, is yet to return home after being attacked and injured by a mob at the presidential palace in May.

Insecurity has curtailed aid operations in the north, causing more misery to a population already struck by a harsh drought. More than 340,000 Malians have fled their homes to other regions and neighbouring countries.

Peace efforts by the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), are yet to make an impression and sending a 3,000-strong force is being considered. ECOWAS has requested authority to deploy but the UN Security Council has asked for more details about the mission.

“Any military intervention, unless it is heavily backed by Western countries, will get very messy. The whole of West Africa could become a nightmare,” said Jeremy Keenan, a professorial research associate at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“It is difficult for anybody to do anything until there is a government in Bamako [capital of Mali]. There should be some sort of a recognized government immediately. Without that, it is very difficult to get to the next step, which is to get a peace process going,” Keenan told IRIN.

Renegade soldiers who overthrew Touré in March said the coup was in response to the government’s failure to effectively tackle the Tuareg rebellion in the north, but instead the ensuing power vacuum in Bamako, in the south, made it easier for the insurgents to achieve and consolidate their territorial gains, as government troops offered little resistance.

The discordant ambitions of the Tuareg fighters in the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Ansar Dine Islamist militia broke up a fleeting alliance between them soon after the coup, with the Islamists denouncing the separatist demands of the secular Tuaregs, who do not support the strict interpretation of Islam favoured by their comrades-in-arms.

After bloody turf wars, Ansar Dine recently overpowered the Tuareg rebels in Gao, and then desecrated the ancient tombs of revered clerics in the UNESCO heritage city of Timbuktu, where they have also provoked the indignation of residents forced to live under their strict edicts. Ansar Dine is reported to have placed mines around Gao to prevent counterattacks.

“Ansar Dine and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) are just like international criminals used to causing all forms of terror,” said Abba Maïga, an entrepreneur in Gao, whose construction business has collapsed since the Islamist occupation.


Photo: US Army Africa
Senegalese and Malian soldiers train with U.S. special forces in Mali (file photo)

“They pretend to act in the name of Islam, whose values they should defend. Unfortunately, these outlaws do what Islam forbids – they steal, rape, kill, lie and are promiscuous,” he said.

Timbuktu resident Issa Mahamar said, “Ansar Dine is made up of drug- and arms-traffickers.”

In late June, residents in Kidal held a protest against the Islamists, who forcefully dispersed the demonstration.

“The constitution states that Mali is a secular country. Ansar Dine’s way is wrong – they don’t have any popularity in Kidal,” said a local resident who gave his name only as Imrane. He said he was a member of a regional youth movement and resistance against Ansar Dine was simmering.

There are fears that Mali’s crisis could destabilize neighbouring states, who are already hosting thousands of refugees. The absence of government authority or control in the country’s vast north could provide an opportunity for extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda to find a safe haven.

“The crisis is a threat to regional stability, even though it has been largely contained within Mali up to now. Some of the radical Islamist rebel groups now in Mali want to promote Sharia [law] across the Sahel. Meanwhile, the 22 March coup was a setback to West African democracy,” said Paul Melly, a journalist and associate fellow of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, a British think-tank.

Mali’s nomadic Tuaregs have led an insurgency for land and cultural rights in the north since the early 1990s. Their attacks intensified in recent years and in January they launched an offensive against government troops. With the arrival of the Ansar Dine Islamist fighters and an influx of arms after Libya’s civil war in 2011, they swept through northern Mali with ease, taking advantage of the coup in Bamako.

However, with the MNLA having lost ground to Ansar Dine, a negotiated settlement to the crisis appears increasingly complicated, with growing doubts as to whether the Islamists are interested in a stable and peaceful Mali.

Observers say northern Mali is now home to a variety of armed groups of religious extremists, secular rebels, secessionists and bandits, all with competing interests, including criminal enterprises like trafficking drugs, people and goods.
Nonetheless, a peaceful resolution should bring together the main actors, including members of Ansar Dine who are not hostile to negotiations.

The talks should tackle the root causes of Mali’s crisis, which include the absence of an inclusive democratic government, the plight of northern Malians, and the role of the military in the country’s democracy, said David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at a South African think-tank, the Institute for Security Studies.

“The first step is restoring political coherence in Bamako,” said Zounmenou, noting that there was a tense relationship between Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra and President Traoré.

“The next step is to work on the opportunity provided by the Ansar Dine – there are some elements who are willing to negotiate.”

Chatham House’s Melly said the MNLA would be open to talks, especially after the loss of Gao, while Ansar Dine would be willing to talk on grounds of protecting their economic interests.

“Ansar Dine may be open to compromise. Economic interests – trans-Saharan smuggling of drugs, cigarettes, people – are not much discussed, but are an important part of the picture. Some rebels may be more interested in protecting their business interests than in ideological issues, but of course there is a limit to what government can offer without conniving in trafficking,” Melly told IRIN.

Mali will either find peace or the crisis could descend into a situation similar to Somalia’s near-endless civil war, in which case an armed intervention would be necessary, Zounmenou said.

“The principle of responsibility to protect will call for a military intervention. It is extremely difficult, and I don’t see any country taking that responsibility.”

ob/sd/he
source www.irinnews.org

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Maize and soybean-based aid will be more expensive

Posted by African Press International on July 15, 2012

Maize and soybean-based aid will be more expensive: Women measuring out portions of corn soya blend for dispensing to mothers in Somali Region in Ethiopia during the drought in 2011

JOHANNESBURG,  – In the Russian summer of 2010, the worst drought recorded in 38 years destroyed its wheat crops, sending the world into another food-price crisis, dumping millions into hunger and inflating food import bills in poor countries. Two years later, the world is experiencing the consequences of another eventful northern summer.

The worst drought in nearly 25 years in the US, the world’s largest producer of maize, has shrivelled most of its crop. Hot weather has also affected crops in South America, Russia, Kazakhstan and China. Maize and wheat prices have climbed in the past two weeks – the question is, ‘Are we headed for another crisis?’

What will this mean for food aid operations? With the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and food security experts, IRIN takes a closer look.

Are we headed for a crisis?

“No,” say food security experts, but there is concern that staple grains like maize and wheat could become less affordable for the poor, and sharp fluctuations in prices or volatility could disrupt the efforts of grain-importing poor countries to stay within their budgets. “It is still early days – it might just rain in the US and the situation could improve dramatically,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary of the Intergovernmental Group on Grains (IGG) at FAO.

“Our stocks of cereals are relatively comfortable and the situation is not comparable to 2010/11 [when wheat stocks were smaller] or to 2007/08 [when stocks of the main staple grains, wheat and maize, fell to record lows].”

Prices might not spike as much, said Abbassian, after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) took everyone by surprise with its monthly forecast on 11 July. It showed an even smaller harvest than anticipated, with a projected drop in demand taking stocks off export for use in biofuel production. Following the announcement, the price of maize dropped by two percent, but overall the prices of staples – maize, soybeans and wheat – remain high. Maize and soybeans are traded globally as feed for livestock, but when prices rise some buyers use wheat as a substitute, which affects the price. 

Christopher Barrett, a professor of applied economics at Cornell University in the US, said in an email he believed the transmission of any increase in maize and soybean prices to other main staples, such as wheat or rice, and any impact on hunger and poverty would be “fairly modest”.

He said there were substitutes besides wheat for maize and soybeans. “So… livestock producers’ cost increases are less than the increased market price of corn/soy, and meat/milk/egg prices don’t increase as much as producer costs – plus, those are commodities purchased disproportionately by better-off consumers,” he noted.

“While there is an impact, it’s nothing like when rice or wheat prices spike [as in 2008 and 2011] and much more directly impact poor consumers. The big maize and soy consumer is China, which has ample financial reserves and government control to effectively buffer local consumers if needed, unlike the Philippines, Egypt or various African countries. So while I’m watching the commodity markets’ response to the present extreme weather events in the Midwestern US, I don’t anticipate anything like 2008 or 2011 at this point.”


Photo: Produced by Maximo Torero/IFPRI based on FAO data
A few countries produce the bulk of the world’s staple cereals: Major exporters’ shares of global maize and wheat exports, 2008

Maximo Torero, director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said he anticipated that a hike in maize prices would be felt more in major importing countries in North Africa, Central America and Mexico.

But global prices do transmit to other major maize producers like South Africa. Grain South Africa’s senior economist Wessel Lemmer said the price of yellow maize was up by 16 percent compared to 2011, and white maize 28 percent higher. He said while maize stocks were comfortable, but affordability would be an issue in the coming months.

How will it affect aid operations?

The price of maize and wheat will affect agencies like WFP, said Torero. “But at this point I will not be alarmist, although cautious. Remember, aid agencies not only provide raw staples, they provide combinations of nutritious products also.”

In a tough financial climate, the agency was already experiencing problems raising funds for its operations, said WFP’s Jane Howard, and high prices did not help. “High and volatile food prices affect WFP in two ways: it costs us more to purchase food for the hungry, and the number of people needing food assistance increases. We have calculated that a 10 percent increase in the price of the commodities in a typical WFP food basket costs us an additional US$200 million a year to buy the same amount of food.”


Photo: Produced by Maximo Torero/IFPRI based on FAO data
A few countries produce the bulk of the world’s staple grains: Major exporters’ shares of rice exports, 2008

Afghanistan is a good example of a country “where we are quite worried about the prospect of lower funding levels, especially now that donor countries are facing some very tough economic decisions at home. The price of wheat is only a small part of the picture – and bear in mind that although the average price of wheat flour in main city markets of Afghanistan in June 2012 was still above pre-crisis levels (about 35 percent higher than from January to October 2007) – but lower than last year by about 13 percent,” Howard said.

Moreover, it’s worth remembering that in addition to “hunger” per se, chronic malnutrition is a significant issue in Afghanistan, with half of all children under five being stunted. WFP has been planning its defences against sudden price hikes since the 2007/08 crisis. It set up a Forward Purchase Facility in 2008 to buy food in advance while market prices are low, which has helped WFP minimize “the impact on our budget”, said Howard.

“This year our Executive Board doubled the amount available under the Forward Purchase Facility, approving the allocation of up to $300 million. WFP’s Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, told a board meeting on 4 June, ‘The Forward Purchase Facility has served to greatly enhance WFP’s emergency response in places including the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, helping country offices gain, on average, 56 days of supply lead-time and maximizing every dollar used’,” Howard noted.

Why are there spikes?

While you cannot do anything about the weather, economists and food experts like Barrett and Steve Wiggins, development and agriculture expert at the Overseas Development Institute, a UK-based think-tank, said sharp fluctuations in prices are a symptom of a structural problem of low stocks.

“It was pretty inevitable that maize prices would spike if there were a whiff of a harvest failure, since stocks have never been rebuilt to anything like a safe level,” said Wiggins. “Without stocks, almost all the adjustment will have to be by price. A fundamental underlying factor here is the way that maize demand has risen over the last 5 to 10 years, repeatedly blindsiding most expectations. Hence, farmers have been playing catch-up. This might have been the year when mass planting and more intensive production would have finally caught up and allowed stocks to grow, but the weather has intervened.”

FAO’s Abbassian said the problem was that the bulk of global production of the world’s main staple grains relied on a handful of countries. “If climatic or any other exogenous shock affects either of these, then it impacts the global prices and volatility.”

Torero agreed. “We need to have big producers to be able to have a more geographically diversified world portfolio of food. If not, we will keep seeing the problems we have been seeing since 2007.”

Wiggins said while he agreed that the world did “depend heavily on US maize exports”, the range of exporters is, I think, growing”. He cited the growth of Black Sea countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as producers and exporters of major staples like wheat.

More on food crises
 Why everything costs more?
 How to fix a “broken” supply system
  Is there a crisis?
 Price volatility – causes and consequences
 Sahel Crisis
 Food crisis in-depth
 A question of dignity

These countries are located in a part of the world that is extremely vulnerable to environmental shocks, Abbassian said. The Russian drought in 2010 also affected wheat crops in these countries. This year, poor rains have affected wheat yield in Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

What happened to the weather?

The planting season in the US began on a high note, with favourable weather. Farmers planted more than 39 million hectares of maize, 5 percent more than in 2011, making it the highest acreage under maize in the last 75 years. The third largest soybean crop ever was put in. All planting was completed by May. “The farmers responded to the need to build more stock and they diversified to protect themselves by planting both maize and soybeans,” said Abbassian.

Then record high temperatures and poor rainfall – less than 50 percent of normal precipitation in the corn-belt, a group of Midwestern US states where maize is traditionally grown – wilted most of the standing maize. In the past few weeks, just when the plants needed moisture in the crucial pollination phase, there was little or none. “Irrigating this scale of farms is out of question – we would need to empty an ocean,” said Abbassian.

The USDA announced this week that only 48 percent of crops were in a “good to excellent” condition, down from 72 percent at the beginning of June. This is the worst good to excellent rating since 1988, said the department, when 23 percent of crops were given a good to excellent rating. The USDA cut its projections for maize production to a level that is still the third largest on record, but the lowest since 2003. The projections for soybeans have also been reduced by eight percent – the lowest level since 2003.

Is it climate change?

As levels of man-made greenhouse gas emissions rise in the atmosphere, temperatures are expected to rise and affect rainfall patterns. The first six months of 2012 were the warmest in the US since recordkeeping began in 1895, the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported. Temperatures in maize-growing states like South Carolina and Georgia went as high as 45 degrees Celsius in June, setting a possible new record. 

jk/he
source www.irinnews.org

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