Climate change, depleted resources leave world hungry — UN

In this Oct. 1, 2018, file, photo, a severely malnourished boy rests on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
Updated 29 November 2018
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Climate change, depleted resources leave world hungry — UN

  • About 820 million people are malnourished
  • In Yemen aid groups say 85,000 children may have died of hunger or disease

BANGKOK: Feeding a hungry planet is growing increasingly difficult as climate change and depletion of land and other resources undermine food systems, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization said Wednesday as it renewed appeals for better policies and technologies to reach “zero hunger.”
Population growth requires supplies of more nutritious food at affordable prices, but increasing farm output is hard given the “fragility of the natural resource base” since humans have outstripped Earth’s carrying capacity in terms of land, water and climate change, the report said.
About 820 million people are malnourished. The FAO and International Food Policy Research Institute released the report at the outset of a global conference aimed at speeding up efforts to achieve zero hunger around the world.
“The call for action is very clear. It is possible in our lifetime and it is also realistic to end hunger and malnutrition,” Inonge Wina, vice president of Zambia, told the gathering.
Food security remains tenuous for many millions of people who lack access to affordable, adequately nourishing diets for a variety of reasons, the most common being poverty.
But it’s also endangered by civil strife and other conflicts. In Yemen, where thousands of civilians have died, the aid group Save the Children says 85,000 children younger than 5 may have died of hunger or disease in the war.
In Afghanistan, severe drought and conflict have displaced more than 250,000 people, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva noted that the number of hungry and malnourished people in the world has risen to levels last seen a decade ago.
“After decades of gains in fighting hunger, this is a serious setback and FAO and the UN sister agencies, together with member governments and other partners, are all very concerned,” Graziano da Silva said in a videotaped address to the conference.
Hunger is still most severe in Africa, but the largest number of undernourished people live in the Asia-Pacific region, the report said. It said good public policies and technology are the keys to improving the situation.
The FAO estimates that global demand for food will jump by half from 2013 to 2050. Farmers can expand land use to help make up some of the difference, but that option is constrained in places like Asia and the Pacific and urbanization is eating up still more land that once may have been used for agriculture.
Increasing farm output beyond sustainable levels can cause permanent damage to ecosystems, the report said, noting that it often causes soil erosion, pollution with plastic mulching, pesticides and fertilizers, and a loss of biodiversity.
China destroys 12 million tons of tainted grain each year, at a loss of nearly $2.6 billion, according to the report.


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 22 min 21 sec ago
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Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.