3.7 million in South Sudan face severe hunger crisis | 

Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.
Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.

Hunger looms over South Sudan. World leaders have spent the past few weeks trying to raise the alarm to garner enough public attention and funding to prevent a hunger crisis.

Some 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The UN launched a $230 million appeal in early April to respond to the problem. Then there are the 3.7 million people, nearly one out of every three people in South Sudan, that are at severe risk of hunger.

Fighting in South Sudan since December is responsible for displacing more than 1 million people from their homes. The upcoming rainy season is a vital time for food security because it is when crops are usually planted. It is also the period when food stocks from the previous harvest season begin to run out.

The ongoing fighting and instability has disrupted the country, meaning that some will miss the planting season due to a lack of resources or other factors. A missed or poor planting season would put people already struggling at greater risk, especially young children.

UNICEF warned that as many as 50,000 children could die if the international response in South Sudan does not gain the necessary support. A total of $1.27 billion is necessary to respond to the totality of the crisis in South Sudan, says the UN. Only 36% of the funding has been raised so far. The pleas to act now to prevent hunger hope to revive funding for the response.

The US, EU and UN rushed to sign a call to action for the country in Washington over the weekend. Representatives from the three groups gathered to pledge $80 million for South Sudan. That is in addition to the $100 million that was pledged in the prior week. The money will be used to reach the nearly 5 million people who need assistance because of the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.

“We know that if we work together we can deal with this challenge,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, at the signing. “But we also know that without improved and significant resourcing now, we face a situation next year where South Sudan is in an even worse situation than it is right now.”

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$2.4 billion raised for Syria crisis does not allay concerns | 

Mideast Lebanon Syria Refugee Students
A Syrian teacher, left, teaches on the first day of classes at a private school built for Syrian refugees in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari

International donors and charities pledged a total of $2.4 billion in aid for the Syrian crisis. It is only a fraction of the $6.5 billion needed to respond to the largest UN appeal ever.

A two-day conference in Kuwait brought together charities, donors and other global actors to rally support for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. The first day saw charities and NGOs pledge $400 million in aid. Kuwait led the way on Wednesday by pledging $500 million.

Roughly 70% of the $1.5 billion pledged in a similar conference last year has materialized to date. There is little reason to be confident that all of the money promised this week will be disbursed.

The three year old crisis has displaced an estimated 9 million people. An international response to the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting in Syria has struggled to meet increasing needs. Neighboring countries who are hosting the more than 4 million refugees are struggling to support all the incoming people.

“No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbors with generosity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

The situation is getting harder.
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The 10 stories you missed while following the Philippines | 

The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines rightly has dominated the global twenty-four hour news cycle. Humanosphere has devoted more of our reporting time to the issue than anything else this week. With nearly one million people displaced and close to twelve million affected, the scope of the problem is vast and the relief effort has a long way to go.

While we were paying attention to the Philippines, there were other notable news stories that garnered less attention. Here are ten notable events and happenings (presented in no particular order) that you might have missed this week. It is by no means a comprehensive list. Do add anything else of note in the comments section.

1) Polio is worse this year in Pakistan, so the region is taking on the challenge by working together.

Gates Foundation

The number of polio cases in Pakistan have already exceeded the total from 2012. Health officials announced Wednesday that there are sixty-two cases of polio in 2013. The total for 2012 was fifty-eight. Pakistan is one of only polio-endemic countries, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Attacks on polio workers over the past year have hampered the effort to vaccinate children. An estimated 240,000 children living in the northwest were not vaccinated in August due to a ban by the Taliban.

The problem is affecting neighboring countries. An outbreak of polio in Syria was recently linked to Pakistan. To deal with the issue, the WHO is working with twenty-one Middle Eastern countries to stop polio in its tracks. However, much of what happens in Pakistan is out of the control of the UN and its neighbors.
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The World Food Programme really wants you to like its Facebook page | 

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organization in the world. It manages to feed 100 million people in 80 countries every year.

The folks at WFP need a lot of money and support to do their life-saving work. Social media like Facebook has been touted as a tool to get just that – money and support.

As we noted a while ago, UNICEF Sweden crafted a clever campaign on Facebook that urged supporters to skip the ‘like’ button and just make a donation. The WFP is also using Facebook to raise awareness and money – but with a twist to UNICEF Sweden’s approach:

“You will NOT feed this hungry child by liking the World Food Programme on Facebook,” reads the latest campaign.

“…but our partner Royan DSM will.”

Social media has its limits, explained WFP Social Media Editor Justin Smith to Humanosphere. The problem is that many campaigns were designed without taking the limitations of social media into account.

“The euphoria about social media’s potential to solve the world’s problems has faded,” said Smith. “That’s probably a good thing, because it wasn’t realistic. But it’s given way to a scepticism about whether online activism can achieve anything meaningful at all.” Continue reading

Exposing the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies | 

Measuring for malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh
Measuring for malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh, India

There is a hidden form of hunger that receives less attention that it deserves, say some advocates. While the world malnutrition will evoke thoughts of hunger and lack of food, meeting the caloric needs of a person is not enough to ensure adequate health.

Micronutrients are the minerals and vitamins that are in food.  Zinc, iron and vitamin A are among the crucial micronutrients that ensure the health and proper development of children. A lack of micronutrients can cause slowed physical growth (stunting) and weaken immune systems to the point of endangering a child’s life.

Hidden hunger accounts for 7% of the global disease burden and comes with a global cost of $180 billion each year. The issue of micronutrient deficiency captures less attention than hunger. That is due in part to a lack of adequate data to display the problem to political leaders. Enter the Hidden Hunger Index.

Researchers collected data on micronutrient deficiencies in young children to map areas where the problem is concentrated.  ’Hidden hunger hot spots’ were found in India, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa. Continue reading

Global leaders try to get serious about hunger | 

BigIF G8 rally and Hunger Summit
Young people participating at the BigIf rally in Hyde Park.

As the leaders of the world’s economic powers gather to discuss the state of the global economy and find common ground on pressing international issues, nutrition is featuring as a main topic.

New research from the Lancet says that malnutrition is responsible the death of 3.1 million children a year. A number that represents just less than half of all deaths for children under five years old.

Advocates pressed on the UK, host of the G8 summit, to commit to end hunger. Continue reading

Malnutrition has a Global Cost: $3.5 Trillion a Year | 

DRC: Serge Laba, the senior paediatric nurse in Masi Manimba hospital, checks the weight of a malnourished child.

Russell Watkins/DfID

DRC: Serge Laba, the senior paediatric nurse in Masi Manimba hospital, checks the weight of a malnourished child.

As if there was any doubt that malnutrition was a bad thing, it now comes with a hefty price tag of $3.5 trillion lost globally every year.

That’s roughly the same size as the annual GDP of Germany. Put another way, it averages out to a loss of about $500 for every one of us on the planet every year. And it’s completely avoidable.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its annual report on the state of food and agriculture around the world. Malnutrition, ranging from obesity to a lack of vitamins, is a global problem with real costs. The report estimates that 2 billion people are micronutrient deficient and 1.4 billion are obese. However, the solutions are not just at the point where food is consumed.

Most countries see both extremes of malnutrition. Malnutrition is a cause for increasing healthcare costs and also for a loss of work. Sick people can’t work or don’t work at their best. That too bears an economic cost.

“The social and economic costs of malnutrition are unconscionably high,” says FAO Director-General Jose Graziano de Silva in the the report’s introduction. “The challenge for the global community, therefore, is to continue fighting hunger and undernutrition while preventing or reversing the emergence of obesity.” Continue reading

Roger Thurow on why Hunger should not exist | 

Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast – a look at recent news in global health, aid and development as well as a guest interview. This week we interview Roger Thurow, for many years a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and now an expert on food policy at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs. Thurow explains witnessing the ‘obscenity’ of hunger in Ethiopia, how it changed him and what he hopes to achieve by focusing on this issue in his most recent book The Last Hunger Season.

News highlights include a look at why the Nature Conservancy is doing reproductive health in Tanzania after first going in to save chimps, the broader implications of India’s legal rejection of a drug patent application by Novartis and where we are at one year after the massive social media campaign was launched aimed at stopping African warlord Joseph Kony.

Produced by Ansel Herz.