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Security Council, Adopting Resolution 2125 (2013), Tightening Anti-Piracy – considering Creation of Specialized Courts in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on November 20, 2013

A good step for enhancement of security in the African Continent

NEW YORK, November 19, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Reiterating its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, the Security Council today renewed for another year authorizations, first agreed in 2008, for international action to fight those crimes in cooperation with Government authorities.

Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2125 (2013) under the Charter’s Chapter VII, the Council renewed its call upon States and regional organizations that had the capacity to do so to fight ongoing sea crimes by deploying naval vessels, arms and military aircraft, and through seizures and disposition of boats, vessels and weapons used in the commission of those crimes.

It also decided that the arms embargo imposed on Somalia by resolution 733 (1992) did not apply to supplies of weapons and military equipment, or to the provision of assistance, destined for the sole use of States, international, regional and subregional organizations taking measures in line with the authorizations.

By other terms, the Council underlined the primary responsibility of Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery off their coast, requesting them to pass a complete set of anti-piracy laws without further delay, and urging continued efforts, with international support, to adopt an exclusive economic zone, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Somali authorities were also called on to bring to justice those who were using Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake those crimes. All States were urged to adopt legislation to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, and to assist Somalia — at its request and with notification to the Secretary-General — in strengthening its maritime capacity. They were also called on to criminalize piracy under domestic law.

The Council affirmed that the authorizations, originally outlined in resolutions 1846 and 1851 of 2008, applied only with respect to the situation in Somalia, and followed receipt of the 12 November letter conveying the country’s consent. They did not affect States’ rights or obligations under international law, particularly the United Nations Convention. In that context, the Council reiterated its decision to consider the establishment of specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other regional States, with substantial international participation, as outlined in resolution 2015 (2011).

More broadly, the Council urged all States to take measures under their domestic law to prevent the illicit financing of piracy and laundering of its proceeds, and further, to investigate international criminal networks involved in piracy off the Somali coast, including those responsible for illicit financing and facilitation. Urging States to share information with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), for use in a global piracy database, the Council also noted the importance of securing the safe delivery of World Food Programme (WFP) assistance by sea.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and 10:07 a.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2125 (2013) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling its previous resolutions concerning the situation in Somalia, especially resolutions 1814 (2008), 1816 (2008), 1838 (2008), 1844 (2008), 1846 (2008), 1851 (2008), 1897 (2009), 1918 (2010), 1950 (2010), 1976 (2011), 2015 (2011), 2020 (2011) and 2077 (2012), as well as the statement of its President (S/PRST/2010/16) of 25 August 2010 and (S/PRST/2012/24) of 19 November 2012,

“Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/623), as requested by resolution 2077 (2012), on the implementation of that resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia,

“Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia, including Somalia’s sovereign rights in accordance with international law, with respect to offshore natural resources, including fisheries,

“While welcoming the significant decrease in reported incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia, which areat the lowest level since 2006, continuing to be gravely concerned by the ongoing threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea pose to the prompt, safe, and effective delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia and the region, to the safety of seafarers and other persons, to international navigation and the safety of commercial maritime routes, and to other vulnerable ships, including fishing activities in conformity with international law, and also gravely concerned by the extended range of the piracy threat into the western Indian Ocean and adjacent sea areas and increased pirate capacities,

“Expressing concern about the reported involvement of children in piracy off the coast of Somalia,

“Recognizing that the ongoing instability in Somalia contributes to the problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and stressing the need to continue the comprehensive response by the international community to repress piracy and armed robbery at sea and tackle its underlying causes, recognizing the need to undertake long-term and sustainable efforts to repress piracy and the need to create adequate economic opportunities for the citizens of Somalia,

“Recognizing the need to investigate and prosecute not only suspects captured at sea, but also anyone who incites or intentionally facilitates piracy operations, including key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy who plan, organize, facilitate, or illicitly finance or profit from such attacks, and reiterating its concern over persons suspected of piracy having been released without facing justice, reaffirming that the failure to prosecute persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia undermines anti-piracy efforts,

“Noting the report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/623), particularly section IX on ‘Allegations of illegal fishing and illegal dumping, including of toxic substances, off the coast of Somalia’,

“Further reaffirming that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (‘The Convention’), sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the ocean, including countering piracy and armed robbery at sea,

“Underlining the primary responsibility of the Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia; noting the several requests from Somali authorities for international assistance to counter piracy off its coast, including the letter of 12 November 2013, from the Permanent Representative of Somalia to the United Nations expressing the appreciation of Somali authorities to the Security Council for its assistance, expressing their willingness to consider working with other States and regional organizations to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and requesting that the provisions of resolution 2077 (2012) be renewed for an additional 12 months,

“Encouraging implementationof the Somali Maritime Resource and Security Strategy, which was endorsed by the President of the Federal Government of Somalia and participating states at the fourteenth Plenary of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) in New York on 1 May 2013; at the International Somalia Conference in London on 7 May 2013, and at the European Union’s ‘New Deal for Somalia’ Conference in Brussels on 16 September 2013,

“Recognizing the work of the CGPCS to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates and, in accordance with international law, to establish an on-going network and mechanism for sharing information and evidence between investigators and prosecutors, welcoming the development of the Capacity Building Coordination Group under Working Group 1 of the CGPCS, and welcoming the work by Working Group 5 of the CGPCS to disrupt illicit financial flows linked to piracy,

“Welcoming the financing provided by the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Combating Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (the Trust Fund) to strengthen regional ability to prosecute suspected pirates and imprison those convicted in accordance with applicable international human rights law, noting with appreciation the assistance provided by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Counter-Piracy Programme, and being determined to continue efforts to ensure that pirates are held accountable,

“Commending the efforts of the European Union operation ATALANTA, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Operation Ocean Shield, Combined Maritime Forces’ Combined Task Force 151 commanded by Pakistan and the United Kingdom, as well as United States ships assigned to Combined Task Force 151 and NATO Task Force 508, the counter-piracy activities of the African Union onshore in Somalia and the naval activities of the Southern Africa Development Community, and other States acting in a national capacity in cooperation with Somali authorities and each other, to suppress piracy and to protect vulnerable ships transiting through the waters off the coast of Somalia, and welcoming the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction Initiative (SHADE) and the efforts of individual countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Russian Federation, which have deployed naval counter-piracy missions in the region, as stated in the Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/623),

“Noting the efforts of flag States for taking measures to permit vessels sailing under their flag transiting the High Risk Area (HRA) to embark vessel protection detachments and privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP), and encouraging States to regulate such activities in accordance with applicable international law and permit charters to favour arrangements that make use of such measures,

“Noting the request of some Member States on the need to review the boundaries of the HRA on an objective and transparent basis, taking into account actual incidents of piracy, and noting that the HRA is set and defined by the insurance and maritime industry,

“Welcoming the capacity-building efforts in the region made by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-funded Djibouti Code of Conduct, the Trust Fund and the European Union’s activities under EUCAP Nestor, which is working with the Federal Government of Somalia to strengthen its criminal justice system, and recognizing the need for all engaged international and regional organizations to coordinate and cooperate fully,

“Supporting the development of a coastal police force, noting with appreciation the efforts made by the IMO and the shipping industry to develop and update guidance, best management practices and recommendations to assist ships to prevent and suppress piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia, including in the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean area, and recognizing the work of the IMO and the CGPCS in this regard, noting the efforts of the International Organization for Standardization, which has developed industry standards of training and certification for Private Maritime Security Companies when providing privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in high-risk areas, and further welcoming the European Union’s EUCAP Nestor, which is working to develop the sea-going maritime security capacities of Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Seychelles and Tanzania,

“Noting with concern that the continuing limited capacity and domestic legislation to facilitate the custody and prosecution of suspected pirates after their capture has hindered more robust international action against the pirates off the coast of Somalia, too often has led to pirates being released without facing justice, regardless of whether there is sufficient evidence to support prosecution, and reiterating that, consistent with the provisions of ‘The Convention’ concerning the repression of piracy, the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (‘SUA Convention’) provides for parties to create criminal offences, establish jurisdiction, and accept delivery of persons responsible for or suspected of seizing or exercising control over a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation,

“Underlining the importance of continuing to enhance the collection, preservation and transmission to competent authorities of evidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and welcoming the ongoing work of the IMO, INTERPOL and industry groups to develop guidance to seafarers on preservation of crime scenes following acts of piracy, and noting the importance for the successful prosecution of acts of piracy of enabling seafarers to give evidence in criminal proceedings,

“Further recognizing that pirate networks continue to rely on kidnapping and hostage-taking, and that these activities help generate funding to purchase weapons, gain recruits and continue their operational activities, thereby jeopardizing the safety and security of civilians and restricting the flow of free commerce, and welcoming international efforts to collect and share information to disrupt the pirate enterprise, as exemplified by INTERPOL’s Global Database on Maritime Piracy, and taking note of the ongoing efforts of the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (formerly the Regional Anti Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre), hosted by Seychelles to combat piracy,

“Reaffirming international condemnation of acts of kidnapping and hostage-taking, including offences contained within the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, strongly condemning the continuing practice of hostage-taking by pirates operating off the coast of Somalia, expressing serious concern at the inhuman conditions hostages face in captivity, recognizing the adverse impact on their families, calling for the immediate release of all hostages, and noting the importance of cooperation between Member States on the issue of hostage-taking and the prosecution of suspected pirates for taking hostages,

“Commending Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania for their efforts to prosecute suspected pirates in their national courts, and noting with appreciation the assistance provided by the UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme, the Trust Fund and other international organizations and donors, in coordination with the CGPCS, to support Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Somalia and other States in the region with their efforts to prosecute, or incarcerate in a third State after prosecution elsewhere, pirates, including facilitators and financiers ashore, consistent with applicable international human rights law, and emphasizing the need for States and international organizations to further enhance international efforts in this regard,

“Welcoming the readiness of the national and regional administrations of Somalia to cooperate with each other and with States who have prosecuted suspected pirates with a view to enabling convicted pirates to be repatriated back to Somalia under suitable prisoner transfer arrangements, consistent with applicable international law, including international human rights law and acknowledging the return from Seychelles to Somalia of convicted prisoners willing and eligible to serve their sentences in Somalia,

“Recalling the reports of the Secretary-General on the modalities for the establishment of specialized Somali anti-piracy courts (S/2011/360 and S/2012/50), prepared pursuant to paragraph 26 of resolution 1976 (2011) and paragraph 16 of resolution 2015 (2011),

“Stressing the need for States to consider possible methods to assist the seafarers who are victims of pirates, and welcoming in this regard the Trust Fund’s establishment in November 2012 of the ‘Hostage Support Programme’ to provide support to hostages during their release and return home, as well as to their families throughout the hostage situation,

“Recognizing the progress made by the CGPCS and UNODC in the use of public information tools to raise awareness of the dangers of piracy, highlight the best practices to eradicate this criminal phenomenon, and inform the public of the dangers posed by piracy,

“Further noting with appreciation the ongoing efforts by UNODC to support efforts to enhance Somalia’s maritime security and law enforcement capacities, also noting efforts by UNODC and UNDP and the funding provided by the Trust Fund, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and other donors to develop regional judicial and law enforcement capacity to investigate, arrest and prosecute suspected pirates and to incarcerate convicted pirates consistent with applicable international human rights law,

“Bearing in mind the Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, noting the operations of information-sharing centres in Yemen, Kenya and Tanzania and the regional maritime training centre in Djibouti, and recognizing the efforts of signatory States to develop the appropriate regulatory and legislative frameworks to combat piracy, enhance their capacity to patrol the waters of the region, interdict suspect vessels, and prosecute suspected pirates,

“Emphasizing that peace and stability within Somalia, the strengthening of State institutions, economic and social development and respect for human rights and the rule of law are necessary to create the conditions for a durable eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and further emphasizing that Somalia’s long-term security rests with the effective development by Somali authorities of the Somali National Security Forces,

“Noting with appreciation recent high-level events on Somalia which have generated substantial pledges of support, and underlining the importance of delivering on any support pledged at these events,

“Taking note with appreciation the intention expressed by the Indian Ocean Rim Association at the thirteenth meeting of its Council of Ministers to bolster maritime security and safety, including through the upcoming Indian Ocean Dialogue in India, which will explore concrete options to enhance counter-piracy cooperation, including through improved maritime information-sharing arrangements and stronger national legal capacity and laws, and encouraging the Indian Ocean Rim Association to pursue efforts that are complementary to and coordinated with the ongoing work of the CGPCS,

“Noting that the joint counter-piracy efforts of the international community and private sector have resulted in a sharp decline in pirate attacks, as well as hijackings since 2011 and emphasizing that without further action, the significant progress made in reducing the number of successful pirate attacks is reversible,

“Determining that the incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia are an important factor exacerbating the situation in Somalia, which continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region,

“Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

“1. Reiterates that it condemns and deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia;

“2. Recognizes that the ongoing instability in Somalia is one of the underlying causes of the problem of piracy and contributes to the problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, while piracy, in turn, exacerbates instability by introducing large amounts of illicit cash that fuels additional crime and corruption in Somalia;

“3. Stresses the need for a comprehensive response to repress piracy and tackle its underlying causes by the international community;

“4. Underlines the primary responsibility of Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and requests the Somali authorities, with assistance from the Secretary-General and relevant UN entities, to pass a complete set of anti-piracy laws without further delay, and urges Somalia to continue efforts, with the support of the international community, to adopt an exclusive economic zone in accordance with ‘The Convention’;

“5. Recognizes the need to continue investigating and prosecuting those who plan, organize or illicitly finance or profit from pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, including key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy, urges States, working in conjunction with relevant international organizations, to adopt legislation to facilitate prosecution of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia;

“6. Calls upon the Somali authorities to interdict, and upon interdiction to investigate and prosecute pirates and to patrol the territorial waters off the coast of Somalia to suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea;

“7. Calls upon the Somali authorities to make all efforts to bring to justice those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate, or undertake criminal acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea and calls upon Member States to assist Somalia, at the request of Somali authorities and with notification to the Secretary-General, to strengthen maritime capacity in Somalia, including regional authorities and stresses that any measures undertaken pursuant to this paragraph shall be consistent with applicable international law, in particular international human rights law;

“8. Calls upon States to cooperate also, as appropriate, on the issue of hostage taking, and the prosecution of suspected pirates fortakinghostages;

“9. Recognizes the need for States, international and regional organizations, and other appropriate partners to exchange evidence and information for anti-piracy law enforcement purposes with a view to ensuring effective prosecution of suspected, and imprisonment of convicted pirates, and with a view to the arrest and prosecution of key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy who plan, organize, facilitate, or illicitly finance and profit from piracy operations, and keeps under review the possibility of applying targeted sanctions against individuals or entities that plan, organize, facilitate, or illicitly finance or profit from piracy operations if they meet the listing criteria set out in paragraph 8, resolution 1844 (2008); and calls upon all States to cooperate fully with the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group including on information-sharing regarding possible violations of the arms embargo or charcoal ban;

“10. Renews its call upon States and regional organizations that have the capacity to do so to take part in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, in particular, consistent with this resolution and international law, by deploying naval vessels, arms, military aircraft, by providing basing and logistical support for counter-piracy forces, and by seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms, and other related equipment used in the commission of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, or for which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting such use;

“11. Commends the work of the CGPCS to facilitate coordination in order to deter acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, in cooperation with the IMO, flag States and Somali authorities and urges States and international organizations to continue to support these efforts;

“12. Encourages Member States to continue to cooperate with Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea, notes the primary role of Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, and decides that for a further period of twelve months from the date of this resolution to renew the authorizations as set out in paragraph 10 of resolution 1846 (2008) and paragraph 6 of resolution 1851 (2008), as renewed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1897 (2009), paragraph 7 of resolution 1950 (2010), paragraph 9 of resolution 2020 (2011), and paragraph 12 of resolution 2077 (2012) granted to States and regional organizations cooperating with Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, for which advance notification has been provided by Somali authorities to the Secretary-General;

“13. Affirms that the authorizations renewed in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations, under ‘The Convention’, with respect to any other situation, and underscores in particular that this resolution shall not be considered as establishing customary international law; and affirms further that such authorizations have been renewed only following the receipt of the 12 November 2013 letter conveying the consent of Somali authorities;

“14. Decides that the arms embargo on Somalia imposed by paragraph 5 of resolution 733 (1992) and further elaborated upon by paragraphs 1 and 2 of resolution 1425 (2002) and modified by paragraphs 33 to 38 of resolution 2093 (2013)does not apply to supplies of weapons and military equipment or the provision of assistance destined for the sole use of Member States, international, regional and subregional organizations undertaking measures in accordance with paragraph 12 above;

“15. Requests that cooperating States take appropriate steps to ensure that the activities they undertake pursuant to the authorizations in paragraph 12 do not have the practical effect of denying or impairing the right of innocent passage to the ships of any third State;

“16. Calls upon all States, and in particular flag, port and coastal States, States of the nationality of victims and perpetrators of piracy and armed robbery, and other States with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to cooperate in determining jurisdiction, and in the investigation and prosecution of all persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, including anyone who incites or facilitates an act of piracy, consistent with applicable international law including international human rights law to ensure that all pirates handed over to judicial authorities are subject to a judicial process, and to render assistance by, among other actions, providing disposition and logistics assistance with respect to persons under their jurisdiction and control, such as victims and witnesses and persons detained as a result of operations conducted under this resolution;

“17. Calls upon all States to criminalize piracy under their domestic law and to favourably consider the prosecution of suspected, and imprisonment of those convicted, pirates apprehended off the coast of Somalia, and their facilitators and financiers ashore, consistent with applicable international law, including international human rights law;

“18. Reiterates its decision to continue its consideration of the establishment of specialized anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other States in the region with substantial international participation and/or support, as set forth in resolution 2015 (2011), and the importance of such courts having jurisdiction over not only suspects captured at sea, but also anyone who incites or intentionally facilitates piracy operations, including key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy who plan, organize, facilitate, or illicitly finance or profit from such attack, and encourages the CGPCS to continue its discussions in this regard;

“19. Welcomes, in this context, the UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme’s continued work with authorities in Somalia and in neighbouring States to ensure that individuals suspected of piracy are prosecuted and those convicted are imprisoned in a manner consistent with international law, including international human rights law;

“20. Urges all States to take appropriate actions under their existing domestic law to prevent the illicit financing of acts of piracy and the laundering of its proceeds;

“21. Urges States, in cooperation with INTERPOL and Europol, to further investigate international criminal networks involved in piracy off the coast of Somalia, including those responsible for illicit financing and facilitation;

“22. Commends INTERPOL for operationalizing a global piracy database that consolidates information about piracy off the coast of Somalia and facilitates the development of actionable analysis for law enforcement, and urges all States to share such information with INTERPOL for use in the database, through appropriate channels;

“23. Commends the contributions of the Trust Fund and the IMO-funded Djibouti Code of Conduct and urges both state and non-state actors affected by piracy, most notably the international shipping community, to contribute to them;

“24. Urges States parties to ‘The Convention’ and the SUA Convention to implement fully their relevant obligations under these conventions and customary international law and to cooperate with the UNODC, IMO and other States and other international organizations to build judicial capacity for the successful prosecution of persons suspected of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia;

“25. Acknowledges the recommendations and guidance provided by the IMO on preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery at sea; and urges States, in collaboration with the shipping and insurance industries, and the IMO, to continue to develop and implement avoidance, evasion, and defensive best practices and advisories to take when under attack or when sailing in the waters off the coast of Somalia, and further urges States to make their citizens and vessels available for forensic investigation as appropriate at the first suitable port of call immediately following an act or attempted act of piracy or armed robbery at sea or release from captivity;

“26. Encourages flag States and port States to further consider the development of safety and security measures on board vessels, including, where applicable, developing regulations for the use of PCASP on board ships, aimed at preventing and suppressing piracy off the coast of Somalia, through a consultative process, including through the IMO and ISO;

“27. Invites the IMO to continue its contributions to the prevention and suppression of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in coordination, in particular, with the UNODC, the World Food Program (WFP), the shipping industry, and all other parties concerned, and recognizes the IMO’s role concerning privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in high-risk areas;

“28. Notes the importance of securing the safe delivery of WFP assistance by sea, welcomes the on-going work by the WFP, EU operation ATALANTA and flag States with regard to Vessel Protection Detachments on WFP vessels;

“29. Requests States and regional organizations cooperating with Somali authorities to inform the Security Council and the Secretary-General in nine months of the progress of actions undertaken in the exercise of the authorizations provided in paragraph 12 above and further requests all States contributing through the CGPCS to the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia, including Somalia and other States in the region, to report by the same deadline on their efforts to establish jurisdiction and cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of piracy;

“30. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council within 11 months of the adoption of this resolution on the implementation of this resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia;

“31. Expresses its intention to review the situation and consider, as appropriate, renewing the authorizations provided in paragraph 12 above for additional periods upon the request of Somali authority;

“32. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

 

SOURCE

UNITED NATIONS

 

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Zimbabwe: Hunger looms

Posted by African Press International on September 7, 2013

MASVINGO,  – Revesai Moyo, 80, a smallholder farmer in Zimbabwe’s Zimuto District, is one of the 2.2 million people – a quarter of the rural population – expected t o lack sufficient food between October and the next harvest in March 2014, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Year after year, Moyo plants maize, groundnuts and beans, and does “not harvest much even when the rains are good”.

“This last season was a total write-off as the rains stopped just before the maize was to mature,” she told IRIN. She lives in a region considered “unsuitable for crop production” due to poor soils and “highly erratic” rainfall.

In a 3 September statement, WFP Country Director Sory Ouane said, “Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), the aggregate cereal harvest in 2013 was about 27 percent below the average of the previous five years.

The WFP statement attributed the current high levels of food insecurity “to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.”

The reasons widespread hunger continues to be an almost annual problem in Zimbabwe are more complex.

Poverty, growing conditions

Zimbabwe has five natural regions, each with varying suitability for growing crops. The drought-prone provinces of the south and west, such as Masvingo and the South and North Matabeleland provinces, are ranked as the most unsuitable areas for crop production.

Matebeleland South and parts of Masvingo provinces experience food deficits on an almost annual basis and are among the poorest in the country.

But a May report by the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Environmental Studies – Understanding Poverty, Promoting Wellbeing and Sustainable Development – found that across the country 95 percent of the rural population was poor and, of that number, more than two-thirds were “very poor”.

Zimbabwe’s rural impoverishment was not helped by cuts in support to black farmers starting in the 1990s after the government agreed to rein in spending and introduced market-oriented reforms in line with the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes. According to the University of Zimbabwe report, poverty was further exacerbated by drought, food shortages, hyperinflation and the HIV epidemic, and then by a loss of donor support in the wake of the country’s 2000 fast-track land redistribution programme.

The land reform programme saw 11 million hectares of white-owned farmland – in prime agricultural regions – acquired for redistribution to the landless. A recent book, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, argues this redistribution improved the lives of thousands of smallholder farmers and their families, but those working redistributed land still lack title deeds and face a variety of challenges.

In areas such as Beit Bridge in Matabeleland South, which is prone to dry spells and drought, conditions remain grim. District Administrator Simon Muleya told IRIN rain-fed agriculture in the area “just won’t work.” He said the water table was high, which meant irrigation could potentially help farmers, but this required investment and the “money is just not there”.

On a national level, the amount of irrigated lands has fallen since the fast-track land reform programme, Conrade Zawe, of the Department of Irrigation, told The Herald, a state-owned daily. “Around 2000, we had 250,000 hectares of land under irrigation, and hectarage fell down drastically over the years, but through the rehabilitation processes that the government has introduced, about 135,000 hectares is [currently] being irrigated.”

Tastes dictate crops

Crops continue to fail in areas like Beit Bridge partly because of local people’s attachment to maize, despite its unsuitability to the climate. The government and donors have tried to change diets in marginal areas such as Beit Bridge, but have not made much headway.

Muleya said, “The Ministry of Agriculture has tried to encourage people to grow small grains [such as sorghum and millet] because we do not get enough rain, but there is resistance. People prefer maize meal over the traditional sorghum and millet and other small grains.”

FAO assistant representative David Mfote told IRIN that people had acquired a taste for maize – introduced to by Europeans in the 16th century – which is fashioned into ‘sadza’, a thick porridge. “They say it tastes better,” he said.

During the 2010/2011 season, the government and FAO launched a small grains pilot project in marginal areas, including Matabeleland South, that helped farmers grow the grains and linked them to the markets, but it was brought to an end in 2012 because of lack of donor support.

Grains such as sorghum were also favourites of quelea birds, which, according to Mfote, forced farmers to guard their fields the whole day.

A senior agricultural department official, who declined to be named, told IRIN that, in the absence of irrigation, the solution in the Beit Bridge region would be livestock farming. “Even if they [the local communities] change to sorghum or millet, rainfall is so erratic in places like Beit Bridge that even those small grains may not survive the heat, so they should focus on their cattle and goats which they can sell to buy food,” he said.

im/go/rz source http://www.irinnews,org

 

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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Flooding in Chad. Use of technology to warn of disasters is increasing

Posted by African Press International on August 19, 2013

Flooding in Chad. Use of technology to warn of disasters is increasing

DAKAR,  – Mobile phone, geographic information systems (GIS), Twitter and other technologies are increasingly being used to warn communities of potential crises and inform them how to prepare, and to help governments and aid agencies predict how emergencies may unfold.

IRIN looks at some of the ways these innovations are transforming early warning and preparedness.

Market monitoring

Aid agencies are increasingly using mobile phones to monitor and analyse market data in remote areas. Buyers, traders or other informants communicate information about food availability, the functioning of local markets, and food prices to agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) using SMS.

These programmes are used all over the world, including in Kenya, northern Mali, Niger, Somalia and Tanzania. Agencies then use this data to inform programming – cash vouchers may be provided in markets with high availability and high prices, for instance, and food assistance may be provided in areas of low availability.

Health early warning messages

Many organizations now use mobile phones to help prevent health emergencies. For instance, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in West Africa, Oxfam and other agencies say they send out periodic health information related to HIV/AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, hygiene and other issues to raise awareness among phone users.

A recent survey of the impact of these health messages by IFRC in Sierra Leone found that 90 percent of people who received such messages changed their behaviours in a positive way.

“When it comes to mitigating crises, we obviously need to be more proactive, not reactive, and this technology really helps us with that,” said Moustapha Diallo, IFRC spokesperson in Dakar, Senegal.

In April 2013, to pre-empt a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone during this year’s rainy season (in 2012 the country suffered its worst cholera outbreakin 15 years), IFRC set up an SMS system called the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA), which can send vital information to more than 36,000 people in a single area in less than one hour.

“We’ve been able to reach more than a million people this way, which is more than we could have reached using other methods,” Diallo said. “I think that all humanitarian organizations are now aware of the value of using such technology, and that it will really change the direction that we go in the future.”

Community early warning

Advanced notice of an impending natural disaster can give people a valuable, and often life-saving, head start when it comes to reaching safety.

In Malawi, communities living along the banks of the Katchisa-Linthipe River, a high-risk flood zone, worked with Italian NGO COOPI (‘Cooperazione Internazionale’), with funding from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO), to monitor water levels. The measurements were sent to communities downstream via mobile phone. If water levels start to rise, people have time to prepare for possible flooding.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Save the Children and IFRC have also sent out “blast messages” to warn people of impending threats, such as high flood risk, imminent storms or disease outbreaks in Haiti, Kenya Madagascar, Niger, and other countries.

Speeding up delivery

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a pilot programme of Action Aid and infoasaid in Kenya last year showed that sending advance text messages to aid recipients about pending deliveries cut down distribution time from three hours to 30 minutes.

Similarly, IFRC says they were able to reach more people in a shorter amount of time in Nigeria when distributing mosquito nets just by sending out text messages beforehand.

Geo-hazard mapping

WFP has partnered with NGOs, UN agencies and governments around the world to map vegetation, crop coverage, market locations and water sources in areas that are prone to natural disasters, using technologies such as satellite imagery, spatial analysis and GIS.

Many governments have also begun creating geo-hazard maps, which identify areas that are prone to natural disasters, such as flash floods, soil erosion or landslides. When a natural disaster occurs, these same technologies can be used to map out where roads have been destroyed or washed away, and to pinpoint the location of victims.

CRS first started using this system during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to map out destroyed homes, track the construction of 10,500 transitional structures and calculate piles of rubble. It has since expanded the program to Madagascar, the Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and plans to reach 30 other emergency-prone countries over the next 18 months.

In West Africa, IFRC, along with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Change Centre, has been using weather forecasts from the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development to create easy-to-read maps, which allow field offices in risk zones to preposition supplies and quickly deploy teams in the event of a disaster.

Monitoring payments to indicate vulnerability

Mobile cash transfers to vulnerable people are now routinely used by WFP and its partners, both in and before crises. By collecting data on recipients, these cash programmes can also be used to signal impending crises.

For instance, if many recipients are suddenly in need of more cash immediately after a transfer, or if many begin defaulting on micro-loans, aid organizations know to look for underlying causes.

jl/aj/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Irrigation boost from ancient reservoirs? Prospects in Sri Lanka

Posted by African Press International on August 3, 2013

Inland fishermen working in the Kala Weva, an 18sqkm tank built in 400 BC in North Central Province

COLOMBO, – One way Sri Lanka can better manage its water resources in the face of changing monsoon patterns is through centuries-old water reservoirs, experts say.

Experts at the Colombo-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) say one way to ease fluctuating rice harvests (due to increasingly erratic monsoon seasons) is to use thousands of ancient small irrigation reservoirs spread out in the Northern, North Central, Eastern, North Western and Southern provinces.

“Tanks [reservoirs] can store water and so are buffers against irregular rainfall supplies,” said Herath Manthrithilake, the head of the institute’s Sri Lanka Development Initiative.

The reservoirs were built between 300 and 400 BC to provide nearby villages with water for agriculture and other needs. They became less important with the introduction of rain-fed cash crops by European colonizers in the 1500s and have been largely untouched since the 1970s with the development of large irrigation and hydropower schemes.

The tanks were constructed by excavating earth and building a large wall around the hole. Most tanks have filled up with sediment, others are hidden by overgrown shrubs or belong to dilapidated networks connecting them to the fields. There is no current estimate, but in 2004 the then government estimated that it would cost some US$20 million at the 2004 exchange rate ($15 million now) to make the tanks functional.

For Werrakoddi Archchilage Premadasa, a 33-year-old farmer from Tanamalvila town in southeastern Uva Province, the tank near his farm is the main source of water for cultivation. “Now the problem is half of the tank is overgrown and it’s also filled with sand… If we can get it to store to its maximum capacity, I don’t think we will have issues with water for cultivation.”

IWMI research has shown that reservoirs can also divert flood waters to the old tanks built on low-lying land, helping to minimize flood damage.

Manthrithilake said a major renovation of thousands of such reservoirs (estimated by researchers to number some 12,000) should be launched if they are to be used effectively. Some 1,000 tanks were repaired in 2004, with no additional repairs planned since then.

“Managing the water resources will be crucial. The monsoon, our main source of water, is changing, forcing us to change the way we use our water resources,” Waduwatte Lekamlage Sumapthipala, formerly the head of the Climate Change Unit at the Ministry of Environment and currently a government adviser, told IRIN.

Weather predictions

A recent World Bank report warned the island’s dry regions are likely to experience less rain while wet zones are at risk of even more deluges.

“The seasonal distribution of precipitation is expected to become amplified, with a decrease of up to 30 percent during the dry season and a 30 percent increase during the wet season,” the report predicted.

Late 2012 and early 2013 floods affected more than one million people nationwide, while a 2012 drought hit an estimated 1.3 million residents.

A survey of flood-affected communities conducted by the Sri Lanka government and the World Food Programme in January this year found 75 percent of the 557,000 people surveyed were either severely food insecure or borderline food insecure.

Of those surveyed, some 33 percent said their main income was through agriculture.

Fluctuating rice production

Rice production has been at the mercy of increasingly unpredictable monsoons in the past three years. In 2011, large harvest losses, around 20 percent of the main harvest, were recorded due to floods.

But the harvest recovered to an extent in mid-2011 when rain-fed irrigation helped to produce a higher-than-average secondary harvest (the country has two harvests annually).

During 2012’s drought the second annual rice harvest fell by up to 10 percent.

However according to the latest country assessments by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the rice harvest is expected to recover this year, and is likely to be above four million tons for the first time since 2009.

“The problem is the prices keep going up and down when the harvest falls and picks up. When we don’t have means to keep prices steady, we should look at keeping the harvest steady,” said Liyana Pathirana Rupasena, the deputy director of research at the governmental Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training and Research Institute (HARTI).

His concern is that poorer communities will cut back on calories or go for rice varieties that are cheaper but less nutritious during price hikes.

Rupasena said despite predicted harvest increases, rice prices are still higherthan in 2011 and 2012.

Hydropower problems

In addition to destabilizing rice production, water management problems have hit the country’s energy supply. Sri Lanka typically generates around 40 percent of its electricity using hydro generation.

During August 2012 when the drought was at its worst, hydro-generation barely reached 15 percent; the remaining power was generated through costly thermal sources, which forced the country to spend heavily on oil imports, according to the state.

The 2012 oil import bill for thermal power was around US$2 billion, around a tenth of what Colombo spent on imports for the entire year.

Heavy rains in 2013 have once again boosted hydro-generation to nearly 80 percent.

According to Tilak Siyambalapitiya, an energy expert based in Colombo, energy authorities should keep a close watch on the monsoon and emerging climate trends. He said pre-ordering oil stocks to face a potential loss in hydro capacity could save millions in foreign exchange fees.

“Right now the capacity of the reservoirs is totally dependent on the rainfall. There is hardly anything done to manage the water effectively once it’s in the reservoirs,” he said, referring to the reservoirs’ lack of maintenance.

The hope is that the pre-historic tanks can help ease demand for water from the nine main power-generating reservoirs, which farmers currently draw from for cultivation.

ap/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Is the future of food aid threatened?

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2013

International funding for non-emergency food aid programmes likely to fall

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Declining food aid to Africa
  • Trend towards cash, vouchers instead of food aid
  • Food aid too slow in natural disasters
  • Easier to get funding for food aid than food security

JOHANNESBURG,  – By the end of the next decade food security could deteriorate in some of the world’s poorest countries, according to a recent global forecast by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

By 2023 the number of food-insecure people is likely to increase by nearly 23 percent to 868 million (at a slightly faster rate than projected population growth of 16 percent), said USDA’s Economic Research Service which focused on 76 low- and middle-income countries classified by the World Bank as being on food aid, experiencing food insecurity, or as having experienced it.

In countries most likely to see a significant rise in the number of food-insecure people, such as Malawi and Uganda, the production and import of food will not be able to keep pace with population growth.

Despite improvements over the years, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain the most food-insecure region in the world.

In the past decade global food aid, including the amount making its way to sub-Saharan Africa, has been on a downward trend. Only 2.5 million tons reached sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, whereas during the decade as a whole it ranged from just under three million tons to just over 5 million tons, according to USDA, citing World Food Programme (WFP) data.

The face of food aid has also begun to change. In the past decade, “food aid” has begun to evolve into “food assistance”, which includes help provided in the form of cash and vouchers for people in need. This can save millions of dollars in transportation and storage costs.

By 2015, WFP, the world’s largest food aid agency, expects almost a third of its assistance programmes to be delivered in the form of cash, vouchers and new kinds of “digital food” through smartcards and e-vouchers delivered by SMS. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of WFP cash and voucher projects increased from five in 2008 to 51 in 2011. In that year WFP set aside US$208 million for distributions using cash or vouchers, but still spent over one billion dollars on food.

IRIN asked some of the world’s leading experts to speculate on the future of food aid.

Crises that drive the need for food aid are either man-made (conflicts, economies in crisis) or natural events (droughts, floods, earthquakes) or a complex mix of both, which might test people’s resilience and make them chronically dependent on assistance. People need different kinds of aid in different situations. If food is not available in a flooded area, actual food supplies are the answer. In the case of chronic shortages, experts suggest cash or vouchers, integrated into a broader social protection system, might be the answer.

Threats over the coming decade

By 2023, food security will worsen in
Malawi
Chad
Uganda
Source: ERS-USDA

Christopher Barrett, a food aid expert who teaches at Cornell University in the USA, said: “The big threats over the coming decade are the ones we already face: conflict first and foremost, a variety of natural disasters, and major macroeconomic disruptions. The climate scientists don’t talk seriously of change over the course of a decade.”

Food aid expert Daniel Maxwell, a professor at Tufts University’s Feinstein International Center, agrees the drivers of crisis will not change substantially. “I suspect that we will continue to see the kinds of protracted crises that we have come to see over the past decade that are a combination of both `natural’ and man-made causes… but with a strong element of weak or failed governance, and these may be in countries with perfectly capable governments, but just in marginalized parts of those countries.”

Eric Munoz, senior policy adviser with Oxfam America, said he would add food price volatility to the mix: A changing climate, causing disruptions in “production in major exporting countries and damaging crops in fragile agriculture markets will add to this volatility”.

More cash transfers

Escalating costs of transporting food, lower quantities of surplus production to dispense as food aid, and the complex nature of crises have forced more donors to widen their choice of response from exclusive food aid to cash transfers and vouchers.

Countries that will remain food insecure by 2023
Central Africa Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
Eritrea
Burundi
Somalia
Zambia
Afghanistan
North Korea
Yemen
Source: ERS-USDA

“Non-emergency food aid as we have known it will disappear but the core functions will continue, both because growing demands for emergency response will gobble up the modest international food assistance budgets available, and because school feeding, maternal and child health and nutrition programs, smallholder development, and other programs will get absorbed within the broader development programs that donors fund,” said Barrett in an email.

He also believes more countries which used to rely on food assistance will “develop their own effective safety-net programs (whether through employment guarantee schemes, conditional or unconditional cash transfers, unemployment or agricultural insurance, etc.)”.

In countries with weak governance, international food assistance could end up playing the role of a social safety-net, said Maxwell, but not very well “unless integrated into national programs – and there will continue to be political tensions about whether to do that or not. In these places, future genuine humanitarian emergencies are likely to be driven by combinations of factors: The Somalia famine was blamed on a bad drought, and indeed there was a bad drought, but there was also a concomitant food price spike, ongoing conflict, and a highly politicized crisis of access. In other places, rapid onset natural disasters will probably not be major arenas for food aid (it is just too slow) and will be replaced by cash or other interventions.”

WTO rules hamper food security?

Food insecure countries’ reliance on “markets, and thus on local and regional suppliers, will continue to grow,” said Barrett. This could happen especially if a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement is reached in the next 10 years, he said.

The WTO Doha Development Round of negotiations (begun in 2001) on a new agreement that could help reduce the number of poor people in developing countries, has been in stop-start mode for some years.

The talks are aimed at reducing global barriers to market access, including for agricultural produce. Olivier de Schutter, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the right to food, believes current WTO rules are hampering poor countries’ efforts to become food secure.

Timely food aid interventions save lives, “but protracted relief interventions (such as those widely implemented by WFP in many countries) are a distorted way of maintaining food assistance in circumstances where it is no longer necessary or adequate,” said José Luis Vivero Pol, an anti-hunger activist with Université Catholique de Louvain in an email. “But food aid is a good business for many companies and international institutions,” and he expects that to continue. Funds, he wrote, flow “easier and faster [for] food aid than for food security for resilience”.

New donors?

Will the traditional donors remain? Will the US, the world’s largest food aid donor, be able to finally reform its food aid system which is designed to benefit its farmers and transport sector? President Barack Obama’s efforts to end the link between supporting US farmers and international food aid by removing food aid programmes from the US Farm Bill and placing them under “foreign assistance”, among other radical reforms, were rejected in June.

Barrett is optimistic. “Food aid reform in the US is inevitable. The only question is timing. Within a decade I think it a virtual certainty that we will see the US programs moved out from under the Farm Bill and agricultural authorization/appropriations process in the Congress. US international food assistance will get bundled within broader foreign assistance budgeting and programming, and the `buy American’ provisions will be substantially relaxed.”

Maxwell agrees: “We’ve already seen a major rise in the procurement of food for aid in affected countries or neighbouring countries (local and regional purchase). This will no doubt continue.”

Oxfam’s Munoz reckons there will be “greater interest” from emerging economies in providing assistance. “The recent renegotiation of the Food Aid Convention seemed to recognize this with some creative thinking about twinning arrangements – food from one country paired with funding from other countries to cover expenses like shipping and handling.” Recently a new Food Assistance Convention replaced the Food Aid Convention of 1999, which expired in 2002 but was repeatedly extended.

Activist Pol feels “food assistance is another means to exert foreign influence.” Emerging powers like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa “will soon become food aid suppliers… The main problem is that some of them do not trust the UN institutions to do it, but they do not yet have the national infrastructure to do it by themselves…

“Pure altruism is far from being the main motivation for many countries, although it is true that there is a huge difference between the US and Europe. Europe is more altruistic, and they have influenced others regarding local purchases (a European invention) and social protection (permanent and temporary).”

He also sees more private companies and philanthropic foundations joining the “[food assistance] club, but they will use others’ logistical capabilities (such as USAID).”

jk/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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South Sudan: Food fears in Jonglei

Posted by African Press International on July 26, 2013

JUBA/BOR,  – Tens of thousands of people face severe food insecurity as they hide in the bush in South Sudan‘s Jonglei State following another wave of violence that ha s cut off aid to them.

“We believe these people need food now and cannot wait for much longer after hiding in the bush for weeks,” said Chris Nikoi, the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) South Sudan country director, in a statement on 23 July. “We need more food supplies in the country and more helicopters to take this food to those who most need it.”

More than 100,000 people are out of reach of humanitarian support following violence that broke out in July between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities and following clashes between the government and a rebel movement led by David Yau Yau. Over the past six months, around 120,000 people have fled to the bush as insecurity gathered pace.

Insecurity, rains and a lack of roads or useable airstrips make it very difficult to reach the neediest, especially with heavy foodstuffs.

“The delivery of food aid poses extra logistical challenges as trucks are unable to move along water-logged roads, and we do not have enough helicopters to fly sufficient food to the swamp-like areas,” Toby Lanzer, the humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, said in an 18 July statement.

WFP said it was providing food assistance to the displaced in areas it could access, but required US$20 million to purchase food and hire helicopters for an operation to feed 60,000 people until December. Humanitarian agencies in South Sudan are facing an overall funding shortfall of $472 million.

Extreme coping strategies

Murle communities have already resorted to extreme coping strategies, with some eating wild fruits and leaves; following cattle raids, thought to be in the tens of thousands, the population is slaughtering female cattle for meat, even if this means they cannot replenish stocks.

Women who have been hiding in the bush with children for days or weeks have walked into towns to collect food, but those IRIN spoke to said they would return to the swamps, where they have no shelter, healthcare or clean water, as they feared security forces more than disease or hunger.

“Even prior to the start of armed conflict, the UN and the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) reported [Jonglei’s] Pibor County was experiencing chronic levels of food insecurity and predicted that 39,000 people would be severely food insecure in early 2013, with food insecurity potentially reaching emergency thresholds by July-August,” said a statement by InterAction, an alliance of US-based NGOs.

“These people need food now and cannot wait for much longer after hiding in the bush for weeks”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2012, “pre-harvest malnutrition rates between January and July were already approaching emergency thresholds”, while as of March 2013, 12 percent of Jonglei’s population was severely food insecure and 24 percent moderately food insecure.

Access to populations in need

On 14 July, after protracted negotiations with state and non-state armed groups, charities were allowed access to around 25,000 people in parts of the state.

Vincent Lelei, head of OCHA in South Sudan, said aid agencies had only accessed “a very, very small part [of Pibor county] both for logistical and security reasons,” although thousands had been suffering for six months.

“Going forward into the lean season, it is very likely that they will get into difficulty,” he said, adding that flying in food would be more difficult than flying in other commodities such as plastic sheeting, water purification tablets and medicines, as limited air assets meant the UN had “very limited weight to carry”.

Lelei said some of the populations they had accessed showed signs of serious illness, while Lanzer noted that “some children show signs of measles, a fatal disease in such conditions”.

Some of those affected do not want to come in to towns to seek help. “They are afraid to seek medical care in towns, so it is essential for us to intervene where they are so that all those in need can access treatment,” said John Tzanos, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team in Pibor.

MSF is running the only healthcare facility in the village of Gumuruk after its hospital in Pibor was destroyed during clashes in May.

hm/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Cashew price dips

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2013

Around 40 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s cashews remain unsold due to poor prices this year

DAKAR,  – A slump in cashew nut prices in Guinea-Bissau has left nearly half of the population eking out food, with families skipping meals or selling livestock to survive until the next harvest in September, aid groups say.

The average price per kg of cashews is 112 CFA francs (two US cents) – the lowest yet – down from an average of 300 CFA in 2012. The 63 percent drop is due to plummeting international prices, reduced demand from Guinea-Bissau’s main cashew importer (India), the April 2012 coup, disagreements between the government and traders on benchmark price as well as banks’ decision to reduce loans to traders.

“The result is a significant decrease of [people’s] food security which obliges them to revert to coping mechanisms such as skipping meals, reducing food intake, selling animals and so on,” Ussama Osman, the World Food Programme (WFP) country director in Guinea-Bissau, told IRIN.

This year marks a second consecutive year of falling cashew nut prices. InJuly 2012 the country exported 60,000 tons of cashew nuts compared to more than 100,000 tons by the same time in 2011.

Eighty percent of Guinea-Bissau’s 1.6 million people are involved in cashew nut production. Farmers sell their produce basically to buy food, or they barter cashew nuts for food. The terms of exchange have also worsened. One kilo of rice now “costs” 3kg of cashew nuts, up from an exchange rate of 1:1, Osman explained.

“People’s diet is becoming very poor. They stick to the basic food [rice] but the terms of exchange affect the quality and quantity of their food intake,” he said. “Forty-eight percent of the entire population faces a huge food gap during this lean period that requires an emergency intervention.”

A June rapid food security assessment conducted by WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Guinea-Bissau’s Ministry of Agriculture, the National Cashew Nut Agency and the National Institute of Statistics in seven of the country’s nine regions found that only 8 percent of those interviewed had cereal stocks to last one and a half months.

Some 38 percent of this year’s harvest has not been sold due to the poor prices. Rice imports, which depend on cashew revenue, are expected to be low, “thus combining lack of access and availability of the main source of food during the lean season,” said Patrick David, FAO’s regional food security analyst based in Dakar.

Over-reliance on cashews

Cashews account for 90 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s exports and 45 percent of its GDP. With the withdrawal of budgetary support by key lenders following the 2012 coup, the government will face difficulty in paying public service salaries after the cashew harvesting season ends in September, theInternational Monetary Fund foresees.

Over the years, farmers have converted swathes of forest into cashew orchards and increasingly rely on the land-extensive and low-labour- intensive crop, thus drastically reducing cereal production. Cashew revenue funds tin roofing for houses, marriages, feasts, funerals, bicycles and buying rice among other things, explained Marina Temudo, an agronomist at the Portugal-based Tropical Research Institute (IICT).

“The country has been transformed into a huge cashew tree plantation. This has both economic and environmental hazards. While farmers are now aware of the economic perils of being exclusively dependent upon one cash crop whose market is highly unstable, they have still no idea of the risks of mono-cropping in terms of pests and diseases,” Temudo told IRIN.

“The change from a relatively broad-based food provisioning to almost full dependence on one cash crop is not without shortcomings for farmers’ livelihoods. Food insecurity and indebtedness are growing as a result of the combined effects of a reorientation of the farming systems towards cashew production and dependence upon the market for food supply, as well as the consequences of climate change and the increased use of credit to solve pre-harvest food shortages.”

Farmers should diversify, said Temudo, noting that some farmers have begun switching to food production. “This process should be supported by external agents and donors with incentives for food production and processing facilities,” she said.

The current crisis is forcing some farmers to sell their yet-to-be-harvested food crops at half price in order to buy staples, WFP’s Osman explained. The organization has seen funding for basic nutrition and food security programmes frozen since the coup.

“There is need for immediate financial support from the donors. They have to realize that political pressure, sanctions and boycott are punishing the most vulnerable. A gesture to these people is needed immediately,” he said.

ob/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Reasoning as to why roads matter in Nepal

Posted by African Press International on July 10, 2013

Getting out is the problem

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 23,000km of roads – still not enough
  • Lack of roads boosts food prices
  • Roads key to development, not a “panacea”

KATHMANDU,  – In Nepal, where rugged mountainous terrain isolates millions of people from life-saving health care, markets and education, experts say the country’s roads are in sore need of more focus and investment.

Nepal has built about 7,000km of roads nationwide over the past decade, according to the World Bank, but this still leaves more than half the population without access to all-weather roads in a country where millions struggle to reach safe, nutritious food, and which ranks as one of the world’s worst places for a child to fall ill (out of 161 countries evaluated by NGO Save the Children) due to women’s and children’s poor access to health care.

Nearly half of Nepal’s 27 million people live in rugged hill and mountain areas. People living in the mountains (roughly 7 percent of the population) report some of the weakest development indicators nationwide. The national average for children under the age of five who are chronically malnourished is 41 percent; this figure exceeds 60 percent in the mountains.

Mountains and markets

According to a 2010 report by the World Food Programme (WFP), transportation costs are the most significant factor for food prices in the mountains, and road access the primary determinant of those costs. Furthermore, food wasted in transit due to lack of roads, or poor quality ones, can impact the market value of agriculture products.

According to recent market indicators, a kilogram of coarse rice that costs the equivalent of 39 US cents in Kathmandu, can cost three times that amount in mountain markets of Dolpa District (in western Nepal’s Karnali Zone) that lack road access.

Though Nepal has 23,029km of roads and construction is steadily increasing, experts are calling for not only more roads, but also quality ones.

According to the government’s most recent Nepal Living Standards Survey in 2011, Nepalis living in rural areas – especially in hills and mountains – report roads in their areas are unsatisfactory.

Only 12 percent of Nepalis, including those living in urban areas, consider the roads where they live “good”.

Just 42 percent of Nepal’s roads are blacktopped, with the rest a combination of gravel, which can survive some harsh weather, and earthen, which can wash away during seasonal rains, government figures show.

Health fallout

Travelling across difficult terrain has been cited by HIV service providers as one reason patients fail to adhere to treatment regimens. Due to the lack, or poor quality, of roads in rural Nepal, maternal healthcare facilities may be more than a day’s walk away which, practitioners say, can be deadly.

“If women can’t get to a healthcare facility in time, they either die or have a fistula,” Shirley Heywood, a gynaecologist who has been working in rural Nepal for a decade with the International Nepal Foundation, told IRIN.

Obstetric fistula is a condition caused by prolonged and obstructed labour resulting in a hole in the birth canal which leads to continuous leakage of urine. According to the UN Population Fund an estimated 4,602 women in Nepal are living with fistula; there are up to 400 new cases annually.

“I have had patients who are carried for more than two days to us for fistula treatment. I hear all the time how we need to increase capacity for fistula surgery in Nepal, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture – access is a huge issue, and roads are a vital part of that,” Heywood said.

Analysts have also pointed to the lack of reliable road access as a factor inweak education achievements, including the 35 percent of Nepalis who remain illiterate.

The boons of access

“Roads connect people to markets, which has shown improvement in local economies,” Marco Cavalcante, head of programmes for WFP in Nepal, told IRIN.

Research has shown that roads benefit farmers by slashing transportation and farm-to-market time periods, meaning that with less food wasted during transit, more can be sold at market.

Clearing a mountain path in the country’s Far West

The World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organization have identified well-constructed and well-maintained roads as a crucial aspect of creating an “enabling public environment” for development and a safeguard against food wasting.

But, Cavalcante pointed out, there are other benefits that come with roads reaching people.
“There is also a social protection component. People connected by roads can access a better life – hospitals, ideas, technologies. It’s not always quantifiable,” he said.

A two-way street

“Road building opens a two-way process,” said Cavalcante. “Once the road is complete, people have access to markets, and modern commodities and technologies and ideas have access to the people,” which may have unexpected negative impacts, warn experts.

“Outside influences change major aspects of peoples’ lives, and they can be a shock to the system,” said Jagannath Adhikari, an agricultural scientist and author of several books on development in Nepal, adding that villagers in Nepal’s Far West region had told him they noticed their children became more popular as marriage prospects once their village was connected by a road.

A debate in 2012 over the introduction of Monsanto-manufactured hybrid maize seeds in Nepal spotlighted issues of local ownership and the influence of subsidized foreign products on rural farmers.

According to Ramesh Adhikari, paediatrician and author of a US Agency for International Development literature review on nutrition in Nepal and expert on the Karnali region, one of the most food insecure areas of the country, “isolated villages can show better nutrition indicators than those connected to the road network because not having access to a market means people eat the nutritious food they grow rather than sell it for cash.”

He added it is crucial that road development is coupled with education to prepare communities for access long denied.

“Just because isolated villages might have better nutrition indicators doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build roads to them – it means the government should have strong education programmes and policies to regulate corporations that want to sell products all over the country to newcomer consumers,” he concluded.

WFP Nepal runs small agriculture and business development projects in communities, simultaneous with road construction, to prepare them for their new levels of access.

For WFP “roads are not a panacea,” but rather one component in developing markets, livelihoods and food security – as well as options.

“In the past, a sick person’s family would need to appeal to local political leaders for a loan to pay for a plane ticket to Kathmandu or even just to schedule the flight, now they have a road – there’s competition, there are options,” said Adhikari, the agriculture scientist.

Recent reports from Jumla, a remote district in Karnali region, chronicled the decline in demand for donor-delivered rice. Officials attributed the change to the district now being connected to a road, which has created competition by boosting consumer access to other products.

kk/ds/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Why roads matter in Nepal – Getting out is the problem

Posted by African Press International on July 1, 2013

By Phuong Tran 

Getting out is the problem

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 23,000km of roads – still not enough
  • Lack of roads boosts food prices
  • Roads key to development, not a “panacea”

KATHMANDU, – In Nepal, where rugged mountainous terrain isolates millions of people from life-saving health care, markets and education, experts say the country’s roads are in sore need of more focus and investment.

Nepal has built about 7,000km of roads nationwide over the past decade, according to the World Bank, but this still leaves more than half the population without access to all-weather roads in a country where millions struggle to reach safe, nutritious food, and which ranks as one of the world’s worst places for a child to fall ill (out of 161 countries evaluated by NGO Save the Children) due to women’s and children’s poor access to health care.

Nearly half of Nepal’s 27 million people live in rugged hill and mountain areas. People living in the mountains (roughly 7 percent of the population) report some of the weakest development indicators nationwide. The national average for children under the age of five who are chronically malnourished is 41 percent; this figure exceeds 60 percent in the mountains.

Mountains and markets

According to a 2010 report by the World Food Programme (WFP), transportation costs are the most significant factor for food prices in the mountains, and road access the primary determinant of those costs. Furthermore, food wasted in transit due to lack of roads, or poor quality ones, can impact the market value of agriculture products.

According to recent market indicators, a kilogram of coarse rice that costs the equivalent of 39 US cents in Kathmandu, can cost three times that amount in mountain markets of Dolpa District (in western Nepal’s Karnali Zone) that lack road access.

Though Nepal has 23,029km of roads and construction is steadily increasing, experts are calling for not only more roads, but also quality ones.

According to the government’s most recent Nepal Living Standards Survey in 2011, Nepalis living in rural areas – especially in hills and mountains – report roads in their areas are unsatisfactory.

Only 12 percent of Nepalis, including those living in urban areas, consider the roads where they live “good”.

Just 42 percent of Nepal’s roads are blacktopped, with the rest a combination of gravel, which can survive some harsh weather, and earthen, which can wash away during seasonal rains, government figures show.

Health fallout

Travelling across difficult terrain has been cited by HIV service providers as one reason patients fail to adhere to treatment regimens. Due to the lack, or poor quality, of roads in rural Nepal, maternal healthcare facilities may be more than a day’s walk away which, practitioners say, can be deadly.

“If women can’t get to a healthcare facility in time, they either die or have a fistula,” Shirley Heywood, a gynaecologist who has been working in rural Nepal for a decade with the International Nepal Foundation, told IRIN.

Obstetric fistula is a condition caused by prolonged and obstructed labour resulting in a hole in the birth canal which leads to continuous leakage of urine. According to the UN Population Fund an estimated 4,602 women in Nepal are living with fistula; there are up to 400 new cases annually.

“I have had patients who are carried for more than two days to us for fistula treatment. I hear all the time how we need to increase capacity for fistula surgery in Nepal, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture – access is a huge issue, and roads are a vital part of that,” Heywood said.

Analysts have also pointed to the lack of reliable road access as a factor inweak education achievements, including the 35 percent of Nepalis who remain illiterate.

The boons of access

“Roads connect people to markets, which has shown improvement in local economies,” Marco Cavalcante, head of programmes for WFP in Nepal, told IRIN.

Research has shown that roads benefit farmers by slashing transportation and farm-to-market time periods, meaning that with less food wasted during transit, more can be sold at market.

Clearing a mountain path in the country’s Far West

The World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organization have identified well-constructed and well-maintained roads as a crucial aspect of creating an “enabling public environment” for development and a safeguard against food wasting

But, Cavalcante pointed out, there are other benefits that come with roads reaching people.
“There is also a social protection component. People connected by roads can access a better life – hospitals, ideas, technologies. It’s not always quantifiable,” he said.

A two-way street

“Road building opens a two-way process,” said Cavalcante. “Once the road is complete, people have access to markets, and modern commodities and technologies and ideas have access to the people,” which may have unexpected negative impacts, warn experts.

“Outside influences change major aspects of peoples’ lives, and they can be a shock to the system,” said Jagannath Adhikari, an agricultural scientist and author of several books on development in Nepal, adding that villagers in Nepal’s Far West region had told him they noticed their children became more popular as marriage prospects once their village was connected by a road.

A debate in 2012 over the introduction of Monsanto-manufactured hybrid maize seeds in Nepal spotlighted issues of local ownership and the influence of subsidized foreign products on rural farmers.

According to Ramesh Adhikari, paediatrician and author of a US Agency for International Development literature review on nutrition in Nepal and expert on the Karnali region, one of the most food insecure areas of the country, “isolated villages can show better nutrition indicators than those connected to the road network because not having access to a market means people eat the nutritious food they grow rather than sell it for cash.”

He added it is crucial that road development is coupled with education to prepare communities for access long denied.

“Just because isolated villages might have better nutrition indicators doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build roads to them – it means the government should have strong education programmes and policies to regulate corporations that want to sell products all over the country to newcomer consumers,” he concluded.

WFP Nepal runs small agriculture and business development projects in communities, simultaneous with road construction, to prepare them for their new levels of access.

For WFP “roads are not a panacea,” but rather one component in developing markets, livelihoods and food security – as well as options.

“In the past, a sick person’s family would need to appeal to local political leaders for a loan to pay for a plane ticket to Kathmandu or even just to schedule the flight, now they have a road – there’s competition, there are options,” said Adhikari, the agriculture scientist.

Recent reports from Jumla, a remote district in Karnali region, chronicled the decline in demand for donor-delivered rice. Officials attributed the change to the district now being connected to a road, which has created competition by boosting consumer access to other products.

kk/ds/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Hunger in Uganda: Getting more nutritious food on the table

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2013

Malnutrition costs millions (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – Malnutrition costs Uganda an estimated US$899 million annually – as much as 5.6 percent of its GDP – according to findings of a new report.

The report, part of a wider paper dubbed The Cost of Hunger in Africa, launched on 18 June in the capital, Kampala, was conducted by the Ugandan government with the support of the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Similar reports are planned for Egypt, Ethiopia and Swaziland.

“Hunger and under-nutrition are both a cause and effect of poverty,” Sory Ouane, WFP’s country director, said at the report’s launch. “Cutting hunger and achieving food and nutrition security in Africa is not only one of the most effective means of reducing vulnerability and enhancing the resilience of national economies, it also produces high returns for social and economic development.”

Using data from 2009, the report estimated that child mortality associated with under-nutrition reduced Uganda’s labour force by 3.8 percent. This represents over 943 million working hours lost due to an absent workforce, costing the country nearly $317 million. In the educational sector, the study estimated that 7 percent of repeated school years in Uganda are associated with stunting, representing 134,000 repetitions and an estimated cost of $9.5 million to the government and families.

The study found that treating diarrhoea, anaemia, respiratory infections and other clinical conditions related to malnutrition cost Uganda $254 million, while losses in productivity reached $201 million in manual sectors like agriculture and $116 million in non-manual activities.

People affected by stunting – which results from poor nutrition in the first five years of life – are more likely to be sickly, to perform poorly at school or drop out, to be less productive at work, and to die early.

“When the child is undernourished, that child’s brain is less likely to develop at healthy rates, and that child is more likely to have cognitive delays,” the authors noted.

One out of every three children in Uganda are stunted, according to the report, while as many as 82 percent of all cases of child under-nutrition and related conditions go untreated. Some 15 percent of all child mortality cases in Uganda are associated with under-nutrition, and 54 percent of the adult population in Uganda suffered from stunting as children.

An estimated 110,220 cases of child mortality associated with child under-nutrition were reported in Uganda from 2004 to 2009.

Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi called for urgent intervention. “The findings provide us with the evidence base for building a case for food security, communication, advocacy and policy discourse on nutrition,” he said at the report’s launch. “We can no longer afford to have high prevalence rates of under-nutrition… [The report] has given the justification for increasing investment in scaling-up nutrition interventions and ensuring the availability of food and good nutrition.”

Urgent action needed

Mbabazi said the findings would be a guide for Uganda’s future nutrition policies to “prevent unnecessary losses of human and economic potential”.

“The study calls for urgent moves from governments in Africa. It encourages countries to set aggressive targets in Africa for the reduction of stunting,” said Carlos Costa, one of the authors of the report. “To have a decisive impact, a comprehensive multi-sectoral policy must be put in place, with strong political commitment and allocation of adequate resources.”

John Kakitahi, a public health and nutritionist specialist at Uganda’s Makerere University, told IRIN that some practical measures to reduce stunting included scaling-up the provision of fortified foods to schoolchildren and introducing fortified products – such as micronutrient powders – to improve food quality at home.

Getting more nutritious food on the table (file photo)

“There is need for increased awareness campaigns on good food nutrition. The government needs to support sectors like agriculture for improving food production and promoting food diversification so that people eat a variety of food,” said Elizabeth Madraa, fortification advisor with the US government’s Strengthening Partnerships, Results in Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project.

She also urged the government to boost funding and human resources to support the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP), which aims to reduce child malnutrition and stunting and boost exclusive breastfeeding by 2016.

Food shortages bite

Yet parts of the country are currently grappling with food shortages that caused deaths and malnutrition.

Uganda’s first rainy season – traditionally between March and July – has been very heavy in parts of the country, causing crop-destroying floods, while other parts of the country saw little rain. A recently concluded disaster risk and food insecurity assessment undertaken by the government showed that crops, including staples like maize, beans and millet, had failed during the first rains.

In Karuma Village, in the northwestern district of Masindi, farmer Cordildo Maya told IRIN that he had lost his entire crop. “I planted them in early April, but the sun didn’t spare my crops this time,” he said.

“It’s a worrying situation, and we have notified [the] agricultural ministry to advise farmers accordingly. Farmers need to plant quick-maturing plants and make full potential of the second rains,” Musa Ecweru, State Minister of Relief and Disaster Preparedness, told IRIN.

Ecweru urged people to limit the amount of food they sold and to use it to cope with the shortages instead.

In the chronically food insecure northeast, food shortages are affecting school attendance and deaths from hunger have been reported. WFP is distributing relief food in the region.

“We expect to reach an estimated 155,000 people, targeting children, [the] elderly, disable[d] and chronically ill,” said country director Ouane in a recentcommuniqué. “However we have a funding gap of $2 million.”

“Karamoja has only one planting season, so when we miss it, it means hunger,” said Adome Lokwii Kotido, chairman of Karamoja’s Kaabong District.

“The children and parents in the region are starving due to lack of food. The parents are struggling to provide food, but can’t,” Peter Aleper, member of parliament for Karamoja’s Moroto Municipality, told IRIN.

so/ca/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Beating wild weather

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

 COLOMBO,  – Planners in Sri Lanka should do more to mitigate the effects of extreme weather in order to help those most likely to be affected, experts say.

According to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), in 2012, 1.2 million people were affected by drought and over half a million by floods, while in early 2011, floods affected over a million and displaced more than 200,000 – a trend expected to increase in the future.

“There is nothing to indicate that this trend will slow down. All the signs are that it will increase,” Bob McKerrow, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sri Lanka, told IRIN.

In 2012, the island nation experienced two dramatic back-to-back weather events. Between January and October, the island’s Northern, Eastern, Southern and North Western regions suffered a severe drought. A mid-year forecast by the Socioeconomic and Planning Centre of the Department of Agriculture released in August 2012, when the drought was at its worst, warned of a loss of around 23 percent of the seasonal paddy harvest due by September.

The drought was only broken by the onset of heavy rains in the first week of November, made worse by Cyclone Nilam which struck Sri Lanka and southern India on 1 November, killing 45 people, temporarily displacing 80,000 and resulting in damage to over 10,000 houses, DMC reported.

According to an assessment by the ministries of economic development and disaster management, and the World Food Programme (WFP) in January, around 20 percent of the island’s main paddy harvest of around 2.6 million tons was lost to the floods. Of the 550,000 people affected by the floods, some 172,000 – 31 percent of surveyed flood-affected households – were severely food insecure, while 44 percent were borderline food insecure, the report said.

Tens of thousands were affected by flooding in 2012

Sixty-seven percent of the surveyed flood-affected people had also been affected by the drought, the report noted.

Migration up

At the same time, Sri Lankan officials report that with extreme weather events increasing in frequency, people are increasingly migrating to cities in the hope of securing a stable income.

“We have seen that when the harvests fail, the migration to nearby cities increases with people looking for temporary income,” Sarath Lal Kumara, DMC deputy director explained.

Regional experts say the situation in Sri Lanka is not dissimilar to what is happening elsewhere in the region.

“If one asks, ‘is displacement by weather-related events a serious issue in South Asia?’, then the answer is `yes’,” Bart W. Édes, director of the poverty reduction, gender and social development division at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told IRIN, noting the risk of increased migration.

“Combined with large and growing populations living in vulnerable areas – and a forecasted increase in extreme weather events – South Asia is likely to confront continued environmentally driven displacement and migration,” he said.

Need to build resilience

IFRC’s McKerrow said humanitarian agencies should look at increasing community resilience against natural disasters as a core requirement when carrying out projects in vulnerable areas.

The SLRC is currently building around 20,000 new houses in Sri Lanka’s former northern conflict zone, the same region hit by severe drought and multiple floods in 2012.

“Wherever we build houses, we now look at two main things – either to control flood water or to provide water where there is not enough,” McKerrow said. He said the requests for such work had come from beneficiary surveys.

Kumara, the DMC deputy director, also noted that preventing victims of natural disasters from abandoning their homes was increasingly featuring in policy discussions among government and humanitarian agencies.

ADB’s Édes said policy planners should look to increase income generation opportunities, as well as build safety and early warning capacities in vulnerable regions.

“The aim should not be to stop human mobility, but rather to reduce the number of situations where people move because environmental factors force them to.”

ap/ds/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Some Donors stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

BISSAU/DAKAR,  – The World Food Programme (WFP) has not received the money it needs to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau, leaving projects in jeopardy or at a standstill. 

The organization needs US$7 million immediately to cover its food security and nutrition programme targeting 278,000 people for 2013; and a further $8 million to extend the project through 2014. The project involves school-feeding, preventing moderate and acute malnutrition, and boosting rice production, and was supposed to start in February this year.

WFP head of programmes Fatimata Sow-Sidibé told IRIN the money is lacking because traditional donors suspended all development cooperation following the April 2012 coup.

“We have some promises [from donors],” said Sow-Sidibé, “but the programme was supposed to start in February and we have no resources to buy the food we need.”

Traditional donors more or less stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état, leaving infrastructure projects and basic services at a standstill across the country, but humanitarian funding was supposedly untouched. LINK The problem for WFP is that their project spans development and emergency activities and thus is not just eligible for humanitarian funding.

The African Development Bank also suspended its funding for rural agricultural development projects, following the coup. The cuts “are having a direct impact on food security in Guinea-Bissau, where we already have severe cereal deficits due to inadequate local production,” said a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture who preferred anonymity.

Food insecurity in Guinea-Bissau is driven mainly by an inability of people to access food because prices are beyond their reach. Most Bissau Guineans rely on imported rice as they grow mainly cash crops (cashews) and not grains.

Food prices have risen year on year since 2008 (imported rice is currently U$1.20 per kg), and the most recent countryside hunger assessment (2011) cited high prices as the biggest barrier for vulnerable households to access food.

The coup put off a planned countrywide food security assessment in 2012 but a rapid assessment in the regions of Biombo, Oio and Quinara in June 2012 revealed one in five people were food insecure (regions in the east were not included in the survey). Some 65 percent of households at the time had under one month’s supply of food stocks and more people were resigned to further indebtedness, selling animals and producing wine from the cashew fruit, to get by.

Cashew crisis

People’s ability to buy food has been severely hampered by a crisis in the cashew industry: 80-95 percent of Bissau-Guineans depend on cashew sales to purchase food as well as meet other household expenses. Terms of trade for cashews have been deteriorating since 2011: In a good year 1kg of rice can be roughly exchanged for 1kg of cashews; this shifted to 1.5kg of cashews to buy 1kg of rice in 2012, and to 2kgs of cashews for 1kg of rice in 2013, according to Ministry of Agriculture and WFP research. “Everything here is linked to cashews,” said Sow-Sidibé.

The poor terms of trade are linked to a poor 2012 cashew crop, and plummeting cashew prices following the coup (from 80 US cents per kg in May 2012 to 50 US cents one month later), and also linked to low fixed prices on international markets.

Cashew farmers are further stymied by exorbitant petrol prices (US$1.50 per litre) which makes it increasingly expensive for them to get their crop to market.

Ongoing projects

WFP continues to run food assistance programmes where it can. In two districts in Gabu, eastern Guinea-Bissau (Mancadndje Dara, Madina Madinga), and in two districts of Bafata (Djabicunda and Sare Biro), the organization helps villagers improve their farming techniques to boost rice production, including giving them improved seeds and helping them rent animals to get their crops to market. It also helps villagers grow market gardens to improve their food diversity and boost household income.

Mutaro Indjai, head of the village committee of rice producers in Saucunda village in Gabu, told IRIN: “This project helped us improve our production to last through four months, whereas before we only produced enough for one month.”

If the project comes to an end, they will continue to use improved techniques of production, but they would lack the seeds needed to plant next year. “We won’t have access to improved seeds, nor to the animals we need to speed up planting and to help us transport our harvest to nearby villages,” he told IRIN.

Nutrition

Nutrition programmes have also been affected. WFP pushes food diversity, given that feeding practices are a key component of high chronic malnutrition levels in Guinea-Bissau.

The organization tries to push a more varied diet (than the starch-dominated fare given to most infants) including fish soup, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and millet-based cereal. They also support local NGOs to make regular visits to health centres and villages on vaccination days to talk about how to prepare nutrient-rich meals for infants made out of corn flour, peanut powder, bean powder, oil and sugar, among others. Programmes target children in their first 1,000 days of life.

Some 17 percent of children under-five are underweight, and 27 percent are stunted due to inadequate nutrition, according to a December 2012 UNICEF-Ministry of Health nutrition survey.

Hunger specialists fear chronic malnutrition levels will rise if prevention is not stepped up.

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to set up nutrition treatment centres; provides therapeutic food for severely malnourished children; and helped update the government’s strategy to manage acute malnutrition, in February 2013. “Lack of funding, very few partners in nutrition, and limited human resources trained in nutrition” are the major challenges facing UNICEF, said Victor Suhfube Ngongalah, head of child survival there. UNICEF needs US$750,000 to implement its projects in 2013 and 2014.

Guinea Bissau is ranked 176 out of 187 countries assessed in the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Political instability has also marred development. Since 1994 no elected president in Guinea-Bissau has finished his mandate.

aj/dab/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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WFP needs money to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2013

Farmers in Bafata preparing the land to plant rice seedlings (file photo)

BISSAU/DAKAR,  – The World Food Programme (WFP) has not received the money it needs to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau, leaving projects in jeopardy or at a standstill.

The organization needs US$7 million immediately to cover its food security and nutrition programme targeting 278,000 people for 2013; and a further $8 million to extend the project through 2014. The project involves school-feeding, preventing moderate and acute malnutrition, and boosting rice production, and was supposed to start in February this year.

WFP head of programmes Fatimata Sow-Sidibé told IRIN the money is lacking because traditional donors suspended all development cooperation following the April 2012 coup.

“We have some promises [from donors],” said Sow-Sidibé, “but the programme was supposed to start in February and we have no resources to buy the food we need.”

Traditional donors more or less stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état, leaving infrastructure projects and basic services at a standstill across the country, but humanitarian funding was supposedly untouched. LINK The problem for WFP is that their project spans development and emergency activities and thus is not just eligible for humanitarian funding.

The African Development Bank also suspended its funding for rural agricultural development projects, following the coup. The cuts “are having a direct impact on food security in Guinea-Bissau, where we already have severe cereal deficits due to inadequate local production,” said a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture who preferred anonymity.

Food insecurity in Guinea-Bissau is driven mainly by an inability of people to access food because prices are beyond their reach. Most Bissau Guineans rely on imported rice as they grow mainly cash crops (cashews) and not grains.

Food prices have risen year on year since 2008 (imported rice is currently U$1.20 per kg), and the most recent countryside hunger assessment (2011) cited high prices as the biggest barrier for vulnerable households to access food.

The coup put off a planned countrywide food security assessment in 2012 but a rapid assessment in the regions of Biombo, Oio and Quinara in June 2012 revealed one in five people were food insecure (regions in the east were not included in the survey). Some 65 percent of households at the time had under one month’s supply of food stocks and more people were resigned to further indebtedness, selling animals and producing wine from the cashew fruit, to get by.

Cashew crisis

People’s ability to buy food has been severely hampered by a crisis in the cashew industry: 80-95 percent of Bissau-Guineans depend on cashew sales to purchase food as well as meet other household expenses. Terms of trade for cashews have been deteriorating since 2011: In a good year 1kg of rice can be roughly exchanged for 1kg of cashews; this shifted to 1.5kg of cashews to buy 1kg of rice in 2012, and to 2kgs of cashews for 1kg of rice in 2013, according to Ministry of Agriculture and WFP research. “Everything here is linked to cashews,” said Sow-Sidibé.

The poor terms of trade are linked to a poor 2012 cashew crop, and plummeting cashew prices following the coup (from 80 US cents per kg in May 2012 to 50 US cents one month later), and also linked to low fixed prices on international markets.

Cashew farmers are further stymied by exorbitant petrol prices (US$1.50 per litre) which makes it increasingly expensive for them to get their crop to market.

Ongoing projects

WFP continues to run food assistance programmes where it can. In two districts in Gabu, eastern Guinea-Bissau (Mancadndje Dara, Madina Madinga), and in two districts of Bafata (Djabicunda and Sare Biro), the organization helps villagers improve their farming techniques to boost rice production, including giving them improved seeds and helping them rent animals to get their crops to market. It also helps villagers grow market gardens to improve their food diversity and boost household income.

Mutaro Indjai, head of the village committee of rice producers in Saucunda village in Gabu, told IRIN: “This project helped us improve our production to last through four months, whereas before we only produced enough for one month.”

If the project comes to an end, they will continue to use improved techniques of production, but they would lack the seeds needed to plant next year. “We won’t have access to improved seeds, nor to the animals we need to speed up planting and to help us transport our harvest to nearby villages,” he told IRIN.

Nutrition

Nutrition programmes have also been affected. WFP pushes food diversity, given that feeding practices are a key component of high chronic malnutrition levels in Guinea-Bissau.

The organization tries to push a more varied diet (than the starch-dominated fare given to most infants) including fish soup, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and millet-based cereal. They also support local NGOs to make regular visits to health centres and villages on vaccination days to talk about how to prepare nutrient-rich meals for infants made out of corn flour, peanut powder, bean powder, oil and sugar, among others. Programmes target children in their first 1,000 days of life.

Some 17 percent of children under-five are underweight, and 27 percent are stunted due to inadequate nutrition, according to a December 2012 UNICEF-Ministry of Health nutrition survey.

Hunger specialists fear chronic malnutrition levels will rise if prevention is not stepped up.

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to set up nutrition treatment centres; provides therapeutic food for severely malnourished children; and helped update the government’s strategy to manage acute malnutrition, in February 2013. “Lack of funding, very few partners in nutrition, and limited human resources trained in nutrition” are the major challenges facing UNICEF, said Victor Suhfube Ngongalah, head of child survival there. UNICEF needs US$750,000 to implement its projects in 2013 and 2014.

Guinea Bissau is ranked 176 out of 187 countries assessed in the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Political instability has also marred development. Since 1994 no elected president in Guinea-Bissau has finished his mandate.

aj/dab/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Food security in Iraq has improved in the last decade – Less dependent on rations

Posted by African Press International on May 13, 2013

BAGHDAD/DUBAI,  – Food security in Iraq has improved in the last decade, as the American-led invasion brought an end to sanctions and a resumption of open relations between Iraq and t he rest of the world. 

Historically, Iraq’s vulnerability to food insecurity has been largely due to barriers to international trade – caused by two decades of wars and sanctions – which hindered the export of oil and import of food commodities. These barriers also affected Iraq’s ability to modernize the agricultural sector and employ new technologies; local production could not meet the country’s growing food needs.As such, even during the worst years of sectarian violence in the last decade, access to food improved on average, compared to the years under sanctions.

Recent history

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 1980, just four percent of Iraqis were undernourished or “food deprived”, meaning they consumed less than the minimum energy requirement, which in Iraq is currently estimated at 1,726 kilocalories per person per day. Despite years of war with Iran in the 1980s, agricultural subsidies and food imports from the US and Europe helped keep the level of food deprivation low.

But when the UN leveled sanctions against Iraq in August 1990, and US government credits for agricultural exports to Iraq ceased, Iraq – almost completely dependent on imports for its food needs – saw food deprivation rise to 15 percent by 1996, according to FAO. Throughout the 1990s, food deprivation continued to climb, reaching a peak of close to one-third of the population in the late 90s, by some counts.

Humanitarian food supplies delivered through the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme, initiated in 1995, helped ease the strain, but during the early to mid-2000s, the Public Distribution System (PDS) – the government’s subsidy scheme created in 1991 – remained “by far the single most important food source in the diet” for the poor and food insecure population, according to a 2006 report by the government and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Post-2003

Food deprivation levels began to fall just before the turn of the century, and the decline increased with the toppling of former president Saddam Hussein, which saw Iraq regain the ability to import freely. In the last decade, the country has experienced a “huge transformation”, as one observer put it.

In 2003, months after the invasion, a WFP survey found that 11 percent of the population lacked secure access to food, a large drop from the high of the 1990s.

While food insecurity was found to have risen slightly, to 15.4 percent, in a 2005 WFP-government survey, it fell right back down shortly afterwards.

Joint government-UN analysis of 2007 survey data found that 7.1 percent of the population was food deprived; this dropped to 5.7 percent in 2011, according to the Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey.

The government credits an improvement in security, economic growth and increased humanitarian aid.

PDS

Whereas aid workers estimated 60 percent of the population was food aid-reliant during Hussein’s reign, the PDS is now essential only to the poor.

Sa’ad al-Shimary, a government employee from Baghdad, said his family used to be dependent on the PDS. “I don’t even need the food supplies we get from the ration card now,” he said. “I can buy good quality food from the markets, as everything is available now.”

But while the value of the PDS basket has diminished for most Iraqis (it now represents only 8 percent of the total cash value of food expenditures), it remains a major source of wheat and rice for 72 percent and 64 percent of households respectively, according to the 2011 IKN survey. (Iraq’s PDS is the largest in the world, according to the US Agency for International Development, providing virtually free basic food rations to any Iraqi; as such, it is not only utilized by the poor.)

The PDS is the source of more than one-third of Iraqis’ calorie consumption, and more than half of the poor’s consumption.

And at 35 percent, food continues to comprise the highest proportion of Iraqi household expenditures. Nearly one-quarter of IKN respondents said they used coping strategies to eat enough in 2011. In addition to the 5.7 percent of Iraqis now considered to be undernourished, an additional 14 percent would become undernourished if the PDS did not exist, according to the IKN.

Malnutrition

While the percentage of children under five who are underweight nearly halved from 15.9 percent in 2000 to 8.5 percent in 2011, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), conducted by the government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), chronic and acute malnutrition indicators look less positive.

The percentage of children under five who are moderately or severely stunted (too short for their age) or wasted (underweight for their height) both increased – if only slightly – over the same period, a “worrying” trend, aid workers said, given the long-term impacts of malnutrition on mental development.

According to UNICEF, one out of every four Iraqi children suffers from stunted growth. High levels of chronic and acute malnutrition are a sign that mothers and children do not have access to quality food. While access to food has improved, stunting and wasting are difficult trends to reverse in a short period of time. As such, it may take years before improved access to food reflects in malnutrition rates across the board.

Impact of violence

Although the last decade has seen overall gains in food security, the sectarian violence of 2006-2007 did have a negative impact. For example, a WFP report based on 2007 data found that levels of food deprivation differed by area: in Diyala Governorate, one of the most volatile during the conflict, 51 percent of the population was deprived of food, while in the northern autonomous Kurdistan region, largely spared the consequences of the invasion, just one percent of the population suffered from food deprivation.

Here, too, there has been change. While in 2007, insecurity had a huge bearing on food security, the food insecure today are traditionally vulnerable groups – the illiterate, the unemployed, the displaced and female-headed households.

Iraq also faces new challenges to its food security, according to Edward Kallon, WFP’s director in Iraq, including rising global food prices, poverty, climate change, desertification and drought.

For more, check out this UN fact-sheet on food security and this presentation by UNICEF comparing the child indicators in Iraq over the last three to five decades. The bulk of statistics come from WFP/government surveys in 2003, 2005 and 2007; and UNICEF/government surveys in 2000, 2006 and 2011. This 2010 report on food deprivation analyzes 2007 data collected in a survey by the government and the World Bank, just as this 2012 report analyzes food security data from the 2011 IKN survey. The FAO has its own figures on food deprivation. The government has also tracked statistics on underweight children fr om 1991 through 2009.

 

af/da/ha/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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