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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.
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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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

Disaster in Japan … and Haiti, Pakistan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Niger, Mali | 

Flickr, doegox

We are all focused on the disaster in Japan right now, as we should be.

But what about the other, bigger disasters?

The massive earthquake, tsunami and current concern about damage to a Japanese nuclear power plant are the top news stories today. The quake was huge, the fifth largest in the last century. President Obama said today the U.S. is “marshaling forces” to help Japan deal with the catastrophe.

Local relief organizations like World Vision and Mercy Corps have put the Japanese quake-tsunami on the “front page” of their websites even though it is unlikely either organization will be doing much in response. I talked to both organizations and they are standing by ready to help, but both said it is possible they will not be needed.

Japan can largely take care of itself. World Vision and Mercy Corps take care of those who can’t. Continue reading