FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  July 28, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in World Food Day (3)

Tuesday
Oct162012

High food prices top UN agenda on World Food Day (REPORT) 

(Video: World Food Programme)

Rome: Global governance of food security and a so-called new world food order were on the table at World Food Day talks held by the United Nations on Tuesday in the face of drought and high prices.

The United Nations focused the talks in Rome on lowering food prices which have been pushed up by droughts in Australia and the United States and a drop in harvests in Europe and the Black Sea region.

A meeting at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization chaired by French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll brought together ministers from 20 countries including major producers and import-dependent developing countries.

“The key is to ensure global governance on food issues,” Le Foll said.  “Discussions were held on transparency in agricultural markets, the coordination of international actions, response to the global demand for food and the fight against the effects of volatility,” he added.

FAO chief Jose Graziano Da Silva said: “Food prices and volatility have increased in recent years. This is expected to continue in the medium-term.”

He said new mechanisms for stronger global governance of food security that are being set up were part of “a new world order that needs to emerge.”

(PHOTO: YemenFoxNet)But there were divisions among participants at the meeting, with the United States voicing strong opposition to the proposal of setting up strategic food reserves in particularly vulnerable countries, to be tapped when prices spike.

Graziano Da Silva said establishing reserves could be “an instrument to avoid poor countries paying the price” of price rises — although FAO’s official position is only in favor of setting up “small emergency stocks”.

“If you bolster the size of the stocks, you increase difficulties in terms of costs and management,” said FAO’s David Hallam, who is in charge of markets.

Millions go hungry

Around 870 million people in the world suffer from hunger, even though gains have been made in recent years when the United Nations estimated 1 billion people on the planet were not getting enough to eat. Still, the number is troubling.

FAO said the talks were aimed at boosting “the effectiveness of measures to address food price volatility and to reduce its impact on the most vulnerable.”

Global food prices rose by 1.4 per cent last month, after holding steady for two months, as cereals, meat and dairy prices climbed, the FAO said earlier.

The food import bill for poor countries is therefore estimated to rise by 3.7 percentage points from last year to $36.5 billion.

The FAO estimates that about 870 million people in the world - or one in eight humans - suffer from hunger, saying the figure is “unacceptably high” even though it has gone down from more than a billion in the early 1990s.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, said that figure rises to 1.5 billion people if you include malnourishment which hampers the physical and psychological developments of children.

(PHOTO: Agriaim)When global food prices rise as they are doing now “it is not just that there are fewer meals but the meals are also less varied,” De Schutter said, adding: “This threat is not really seen as a priority but it should be.”

Graziano Da Silva said it was vital to help small farmers as a way of combating hunger and World Food Day events highlighted the crucial role played by farming cooperatives in the developing world.

He underlined the fact that the figure of the number of people suffering from hunger had stopped going down over the past five years.  “The numbers are increasing in Africa and the Middle East,” he said.

“We cannot tolerate this in a land of plenty where production is sufficient for everyone,” he said, adding that the funds for aid and agriculture budgets had gone down over the past three decades, stranding small farmers.  “They have had to fight to adapt,” he said.

Graziano Da Silva added that promises made by governments to eradicate hunger made when prices hit record highs in 2007 and 2008 had not been kept.

The non-governmental group Action Against Hunger said that “some 100 million more people have become under-nourished” due to the price rises of 2008.

In a message to mark World Food Day, Pope Benedict hailed cooperatives as “an expression of true subsidiarity” and urged the international community to come up with legal and financial mechanisms to strengthen them.

The pope also emphasized the “vital role” played by women in cooperatives.

- This article appeared in GulfNews.

Saturday
Oct162010

(Perspective) A World Hungry for Nourishment

Venkatesh Mannar President, Micronutrient Initiative(HN, October 16, 2010) When we read in the media about world hunger, it must be understood that the issue is not simply one of food security. Hunger is about more than empty stomachs. It includes a lack of essential minerals and vitamins that thwarts brain and physical development, stunts growth, lowers physical immunity and starves muscles.

The diets of more than two billion people are deficient in essential nutrients.

With World Food Day upon us, the issue of undernutrition is gaining momentum and attention.

Undernutrition is a contributing factor to more than half the deaths of children under five in developing countries. The statistics are staggering:

- One quarter of child deaths from measles, diarrhoeal dehydration and malaria are attributable to inadequate vitamin A or zinc.

- Every year some 18 million babies are born mentally impaired because their mothers were deficient in iodine during pregnancy.

- Iron-deficiency anaemia, the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, is undermining global productivity to the tune of billions of dollars by compromising both physical and intellectual capacity.

Thus beyond the provision of food, ensuring adequate nutrition is inexpensive and cost-effective and must play a central role in development plans and budgets if we have any hope of approaching our goals. It must have a prominent place in food security initiatives, within health sector activity and among social programmes. The private sector can also play a role.

We have models to successfully address hidden hunger, but the political will and financing do not yet match the potential.  The latest Copenhagen Consensus – a panel of eight of the world’s most distinguished economists – determined that investments in micronutrient nutrition provided the very best return on investment in global development. An annual investment of US$1.2 billion over five years would result in annual benefits of US$15.3 billion, representing better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings.

One of the greatest success stories in nutrition has been that of salt iodization, demonstrating how well government commitment, market opportunity and social responsibility can be combined to deliver essential nutrients to billions of people on a regular and consistent basis.

Iodine is so critical for human intelligence that improving daily dietary intake through the iodization of salt not only prevents millions of cases of preventable intellectual disability annually but increases population-wide IQ levels by as many as 13 points. Such nutritional power can fuel not only personal growth but also educational outcomes and, ultimately, economic success.

In 1990, less than 20 per cent of households in the developing world were consuming iodized salt. A worldwide push by UNICEF, Kiwanis International, the Micronutrient Initiative, salt producers and governments changed all of that.  Canada was one of the leaders in funding this push and remains one of the largest contributors to the effort for Universal Salt Iodization.

Today, in 70 per cent of households, the daily pinch of salt is iodized. As a result, the number of countries in which iodine deficiency disorders are a public health concern has been reduced by more than half.

This success was due to the mobilization of many players from a broad range of backgrounds. We need to build on this to address the broader issue of nutrition security – a call to action to provide adequate nutrition to those who are most vulnerable. Together with more than 100 agencies, Canada’s Micronutrient Initiative has helped deliver the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) Road Map. The Road Map encourages a better focus on nutrition within development programs, good research and monitoring into what works in nutrition and what needs to be improved, and long-term commitments from governments, both those that provide funding to programs and those that implement them.

As world leaders set their sights on the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals, let’s remember that we must do more than fill hungry stomachs.

We have an opportunity and an obligation to nourish progress. We need a concentrated effort to ensure that the world's most vulnerable have access to nutritious food and to the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and have access to increased opportunities and a better future. The time to invest is now.

Venkatesh Mannar is President of the Micronutrient Initiative

    

Friday
Oct152010

(PERSPECTIVE) “Billions Undernourished: Are You Mad as Hell or Fat and Happy? Maybe It’s Time for a Food Revolution”

--- Commentary by Cynthia Thomet

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 925 million (nearly 1 billion) people in the world are undernourished. Following last year’s hunger summit in November, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf was quoted as saying, “with a child dying every six seconds because of undernourishment related problems, hunger remains the world's largest tragedy and scandal” in a press release that called upon people, organizations and states at all levels to do their part in ending world hunger.

 Given that today is World Food Day, you can start by signing this petition http://www.1billionhungry.org/ and joining the ranks of the outraged that are helping create a social media storm to address these tragic statistics. (Webcast to take place here: http://www.fao.org/webcast/.)

I am mad as hell, but I’m also a bit confused. In contrast, the World Health Organization reports that there are more than 1 billion overweight people in the world, of whom at least 300 million are overweight.

Overweight and undernourished.

While world hunger is on the decline and currently hovering at 925 million, it is still “unacceptably high”. In 2009, the number of undernourished people—with little access to food—exceeded 1 billion. Economists and other analysts at a handful of prominent nongovernmental organizations attribute the small decline to lower global food costs and improved economic conditions, but a walk or a drive around Washington D.C. and its Beltway neighborhoods might show a pudgier, less nutritious, reality.

Despite the souring economy in the United States, Americans aren’t getting smaller. And fatter does not necessarily mean happier—unless seriously ill means happy. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite a “dramatic increase in obesity in the United States” and show boldly colored maps highlighting the prevalence of obesity in 33 states, a whopping 72 million Americans. Also frightening are the overlapping reports of diabetes and other health consequences of obesity, including stroke, certain cancers, and heart disease to name a few.

So it’s a little ironic that while about 1 billion people in the world are hungry and undernourished, there’s another billion people who are stuffed and undernourished.

In other words, worldwide undernourishment is a huge and unfed problem. It’s like being at Marie Antoinette’s buffet where there’s only cake to feed the aristocrats and not a thing for the famished. There appears to be an ever-widening “food gap” between the developed nations who appear to be over-exposed to fodder, and those developing countries that do not have enough to go around.

One response is a revolution. A report out of Norway called “Viable Food Future” addresses undernourishment, obesity, poverty, climate change with a sort of food revolution that targets the food production process.

It says, “If the goal is not to follow the path of vanishing empires of the past, then we need to revisit our relation to the earth, our sense of solidarity, and the way we fulfill our basic needs”.  With a view to small-scale food systems coupled with sustainable agricultural processes, the report presents opportunities to eradicate hunger, reduce obesity, cool the planet, and even improve employment for billions of people, and local economies.

A food revolution, indeed.

--- The author is Cynthia Thomet, a humanitarian, and co owner and doyenne of the award winning downtown Atlanta, Georgia; US restaurant, Lunacy Black Market. http://www.lunacyblackmarket.com/.