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.


South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

Updated 10 December 2018
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South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

  • The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule

NAIROBI: South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a program starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licensed but is considered safe and provided “under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC,” the WHO said.
Like neighboring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.
The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.
South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people — about a third of the population — have fled.
The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organizations remains complicated and dangerous.
Participants in the vaccination program have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travelers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.