WFP Struggles Under Financial Weight of Food Crises | 

Displaced families in CAR carry 25 kg bags of maize, distributed by WFP.
Displaced families in CAR carry 25 kg bags of maize, distributed by WFP.

Funding shortages have led the World Food Programme to announce cuts to food rations in countries including Haiti, Kenya, Mali and Niger. The UN organization says it needs an extra $1 billion to meet the food needs of people around the world.

The need for food aid has increased in Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR) and across the Sahel have increased over the past few months. However, the agency has struggled to gain access to and meet the demand for some of the most desperate people in Syria and the CAR.

A new appeal to assist an estimated 20 million people across the Sahel region of West Africa requires $2 billion. The arid belt is particularly vulnerable to drought, leading to higher rates of food insecurity and malnutrition.

More than half of the money, $1.115 billion, is intended to address food security and nutrition. The appeal estimated that 5 million children are affected by acute malnutrition, with 1.5 million of that number suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) will work alongside other UN agencies to address the problems faced by people living in the Sahel. More money is needed to ensure that the UN can undertake an appropriate response. Only 60% of the $1.72 billion UN appeal for the Sahel was fulfilled last year.

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Fending off malnutrition in Chad, in Photos | 

Malnutrition takes a serious toll on children living in Chad. The vast West African nation features a fertile south and a cut off desert north. When rains do not fall or they fall too much crops are destroyed. Poor road systems make it very hard to get food into the North. In fact, the World Food Programme has to travel through Sudan and the troubled Darfur region to get food to people at risk in the north. That is an easier option that simply driving food from southern Chad or Nigeria to the south-west.

An estimated 4.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Chad, says the UN. Only 36% of the $510 million need to respond to the crisis has been funded as of the middle of this year. Much of the problems stem from insecurity in neighboring countries, such as Sudan and the Central African Republic, that forces people to seek refuge in Chad.


new photo series (Disclaimer: photographs may be emotionally distressing to some viewers) from photographer Pep Bonet (seen right) shows attempts by one hospital in Chad to treat children with malnutrition. Saint Joseph’s hospital in Bebedjia must treat children who many times arrive at their most vulnerable. He opens by describing the problems faced by Chad that range from food insecurity, poor health services and the increasing refugee population.

Despite the good economic results achieved during the last decade, two-thirds of the population still live in absolute poverty. In addition, limited health coverage and the poor quality of health care services foster child mortality levels.

The Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) lists Chad as a country suffering from a severe humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition levels are on the rise in parts of Chad and increasing at worring rates among girls under five years old, warns the International Medical Corps.

“These severe acute malnutrition figures are extremely worrying, even for a region that regularly experiences food insecurity,” said Esther Busquet, International Medical Corps Roving Nutrition Advisor for the Sahel. “We are particularly concerned for the health of young girls, who appear to be especially badly affected.”

HT Sean Langberg

On Libya, the Arab revolt and the national interest | 

Flickr, Messay Shoakena

Anti-Gaddafi protests in Libya

The popular revolt in Libya began in Tunisia, gained force in Egypt, and is continuing its spread across much of the Arab world.

Libya is different mostly in that we are supporting the rebellion militarily, which has raised other questions.

The Arab revolt appears to be re-writing the political power grid in the Middle East and yet some continue to argue that none of this is in our national interest. Why then has Egypt been one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid?

Those who contend the Arab revolt has nothing to do with our national interests appear to have their heads in the desert sand. Geopolitically speaking.

But as a humanitarian issue, if this popular revolt continues to spread and grow, as some think it will, one question we need to ask is if we would intervene again.

Would we take action in another Arab country if there is a similar risk of large-scale, violent government retaliation? Is there a moral obligation, a precedent being set here, that will shift the discussion beyond the ever-debated political calculus focused simply on whether or not it is in our interest?

That’s what I wondered after hearing the question being asked by NPR’s Jackie Northam in a report today, Will U.S. policy in Libya spread to other nations? Continue reading