Echoes of 2011 Somali famine cause for concern, say aid groups | 

A woman holding her young malnourished baby queues for food at the Badbado camp for Internally Displaced Persons, July 2011.
A woman holding her young malnourished baby queues for food at the Badbado camp for Internally Displaced Persons, July 2011.

Prolonged conflict, drought and rising food prices are conspiring to put people in Somalia at risk of hunger, warn a coalition of aid groups. The nearly 20 groups issued a statement yesterday to rally support before things get worse and the issue potentially becomes a more serious problem, like the 2011 famine in Somalia.

“Though the number of afflicted has declined, Somali men, women and children still need more donor commitment to funding humanitarian assistance long term. Principles of International Humanitarian law need to be upheld by all parties to the conflict, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need to avert this imminent humanitarian crisis,” said Degan Ali, executive director of Adeso, in the release.

An update from the Famine Early Warning System Network last week said that food prices are increasing in parts of southern Somalia due to trade disruptions caused by conflict in the region. Somalia has struggled with stability for more than two decades due to recurrent sectarian violence and a campaign carried out by the al-Qaeda affiliated militant Islamist group, Al Shabaab. Disruptions in food trade mean that there are places in Somalia where food supplies are increasingly becoming limited, thus leading to rising food prices. The price of red sorghum increased by 68% from March to June in Xudur. The price of other staple crops, such as maize, have increased over the same period of time.

The warning states that conflict-affected area are seeing increases more acutely than other parts of the country. This is further complicated by the 22,400 people who were fled their homes during May and June, due to fighting. Those displaced are not only away from home, but they have to pay more money to buy food than they did before. It adds up to a worrying food security situation for the region.

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News in the Humanosphere: International AIDS Conference Kicks Off in Melbourne | 


The mood was somber with news that at least 6 conference goers were killed in downed Malaysian Airlines, including a former president of the International AIDS Society. Previous reports of over 100 delegate-goers killed were incorrect. The conference will go-on. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton will give an address on Wednesday.“Other key events include, the plenary session on Monday 21 July with an address on the “Future of Science in the HIV Response” by Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will speak on investment in the HIV response; Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme, will present the future of the HIV response in the post-2015 landscape; and Sean Strub, Writer, Activist, and Director of The Sero Project will moderate a debate on how new prevention technologies affect disclosure, prevention and stigma.” (

A Deadly Day in Gaza for Both Sides; Allegation of a Massacre…More than 400 people have been killed since the conflict began, including over 100 children. “More than 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel shelled a Gaza neighborhood and battled militants on Sunday in the bloodiest fighting in a near two-week-old offensive. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a massacre in Shejaia in the eastern suburbs of the city of Gaza and declared three days of mourning. Israel’s army said it was targeting militants from Gaza’s dominant Hamas group whom it alleged had fired rockets from Shejaia and built tunnels and command centers there. The army said it had warned locals two days earlier to leave.” ( Reuters)


Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is killing dozens by the week. Medical workers have responded by expanding a field hospital, taking extraordinary measures to contain infection. (NPR)

Three years after famine in Somalia killed a quarter of a million people in six months, aid agencies warned Sunday a new catastrophe is looming unless urgent aid arrives. (Yahoo)

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Eat insects to save the world: A chat with “Bug Chef” David Gordon | 

David Gordon cooking up a tarantula
David Gordon cooking up a tarantula
Joel Rogers

Future shock: Insects are almost certainly going to be a bigger part of your diet in the future. Present shock: Insects are already a part of your diet; you eat bugs, every day, by accident. Shocking fact: Bugs are healthier, for you and for the planet, than many, if not most, things Americans eat.

For those who may have missed the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s 2013 report Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security, Humanosphere suggests instead reading David George Gordon’s newly revised The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook. With some 40 recipes for cooking up great snacks of crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms, spiders and other creepy crawlers, it’s a great way to dive into the world of Entomophagy.

Despite the Latinate term that makes bug-eating sound like some sort of disease, it is quite common around the world for people to consume insects. Only in the rich world, mostly the West actually, is this frowned upon with disgust. David (a Seattle writer Tom Paulson’s known for half his life!) likes to dig deep into issues that some might think are obscure, or even bizarre.

But this time, David is probably just ahead of the curve as an aficionado of entomophagy. As the UN report notes, we are heading toward a fundamental food crisis that can only be averted with some big changes in our dietary and food production practices.

As the world population grows to the expected 9 billion mark over the next few decades, we will be hard pressed (in terms of arable land, access to water and so on) to feed everyone if we continue to emphasize large mammals as our primary source of protein.

What’s needed, says David, is for the West and much of the developed world to learn from the of rest of the world the many benefits of eating bugs. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. David makes a great case for bug-eating on environmental, health and even moral grounds. And we talk about some of his favorite treats, like roasted wax worms! Yum.  So give a listen. It’s fun and fascinating.

And before we dive into the edible bugosphere, Tom and I discuss some of the week’s top news in the Humanosphere beginning with Tom Murphy’s post on the amount of money taken out of Africa illegitimately (through tax dodges, illegal harvesting of natural resources or just exploitative outsiders). We also note a very cool milestone, with PATH celebrating surpassing the 5 billion mark for distribution of a heat-sensitive vaccine vial label that has saved many lives.

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When disaster strikes, the private sector plays a role too | 

A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.
A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.

The international organizations that are the first to act when disaster strikes were called out last week by the UK branch of Doctors Without Borders. One group spared the criticism is the private sector. That is because, until recently, they were not really thought of as an important player.

That is changing. Companies like Ikea, Coca-Cola and Google are now a contributing to relief efforts following a crisis, and making a profit while at it. They are not only working with the relief groups on the ground, but on their own and with small businesses in different countries.

The involvement of business in humanitarian assistance is not all that new. Local businesses will sell food, water and other supplies in the wake of a disaster. However, nobody really knows how much the private sector is contributing. There is no comprehensive accounting in what happens, just case studies and anecdotes.

The growing involvement and the gap information warrants some attention, say Steven Zyck and Randolph Kent of the UK-based think tank the Overseas Development Institute.

“The private sector’s technical expertise and resources offer great opportunities to innovate and improve services, while humanitarian agencies continue to have leading insight into what types of aid are needed and how to reach people in remote communities,” said Zyck, based on a research he conducted with Kent.

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News in the Humanosphere: 100 AIDS Researchers and Activists among 298 Killed in MH17 Downing | 

Simon Boddy

This is absolutely tragic news for the entire global health community, in light of the deeply tragic news of the downing of MH17. “About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told. Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange…Organisers of the International AIDS Conference, due to begin in Melbourne on Sunday, have not released numbers, but did confirm expected attendees were among the dead.” (SMH)

Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza…Meanwhile, four more children were killed in air strikes and journalists were told to evacuate a popular hotel. Earlier yesterday, Hamas ended a six hour humanitarian pause in the fighting. “Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days. The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.” (NYT )


The Health Sector estimates that about 206,000 people in Darfur are unable to access health services due to the suspension of Red Cross activities and withdrawal of support to health facilities by NGOs. (OCHA)

The UN Security Council warned it is ready to consider “appropriate measures” against warring parties in South Sudan if they do not stop the violence in the world’s youngest nation and negotiate a transitional government. (Reuters)

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As DC fights over immigration, a documentary shows reality from the front lines | 

Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Marc Silver

The debate over immigration is once again taking off in the United States. The sudden influx of more than 57,000 children having illegally entered the US sparked calls for immediate action by all sides. President Obama, for his part, went to Congress with an appeal for $3.7 billion in emergency funding that will provide support for the children and speed up the deportation process.

While all sides try to find common ground for agreement, a new documentary enters the conversation at an important time. Who is Dayani Cristal? depicts the consequences of an increased US border presence and wall building to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Rather than give up, people are turning to Arizona’s vast desert to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

The erection of walls and provision of border patrol has not deterred people from continuing to find a way to get into the US. It is estimated that 11 million people entered the US unauthorized in 2013. Nearly half of the adult immigrants are parents of young children. Some 2,000 bodies have been found in the Arizona desert over the past decade.

Roughly 700 of those have yet to be identified. Bodies are found in poor condition and often times with out any official identification. This is done for the sake of protection, but makes it hard to know who the person was.

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News in the Humanosphere: New AIDS Data Brings Some Positive News | 

Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
John Rawlinson

Ahead of next week’s big International AIDS Conference in Australia, UNAIDS released a report demonstrating that new HIV infections and deaths were decreasing, putting in prospect the an end to the epidemic in by 2030. Key data from the report:

  • New HIV infections have fallen by 38% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 2.1 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from -3.4 million in 2001
  • New HIV infections among children have declined by 58% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 240,000 children became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from 580,000 in 2001.
  • AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 35% since the peak in 2005.
  • 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV globally do not know their HIV-positive status.
  • 90% of sub-Saharan Africans who learn they are HIV positive seek treatment.

A humanitarian pause for Gaza? Israel has agreed to a UN-brokered six hour ceasefire from 10-3pm today to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza. As of press time it was unclear where or not Hamas would agree. In the meantime, Israeli officials strongly signaled that a ground invasion was likely. (NYT)

A new global index takes an outward turn by comparing how much good countries create in the world. Surprisingly, Ireland comes out on top. (Humanosphere )


West Africa: Since the Ebola outbreak began last March, more than 600 people have died. This mounting death toll is presenting families and health authorities with a grim new problem: What do you do with the bodies? (NPR)

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John Oliver explains how the US contributed to Uganda’s anti-gay law | 

As we’ve covered before, the development of the harsh anti-gay law in Uganda can be attributed to people from the United States. Most notable is Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively. His actions in Uganda have led to a court case against him for his contributions to an environment of hate in Uganda.

Unfortunately, we are not nearly as funny as John Oliver. Fortunately for everyone, The comedian of the HBO show Last Week Tonight took on the issue in his own comedic-explainer style.

“Africa isn’t just where we send our losing team’s Super Bowl Shirts, it’s also now where we send our losing political philosophies,” he says in a nod to World Vision’s much maligned program that distributes the clothing of the losing Super Bowl team, each year.

Watch below:

and see his continued conversation with Ugandan Transgender activist Pepe Julian Onziema: