UN funds deficit stalls urgent food aid to Guinea Bissau

Updated 27 March 2013

UN funds deficit stalls urgent food aid to Guinea Bissau

GENEVA: The United Nations said yesterday that it had been forced to delay desperately-needed food aid to nearly 300,000 people in Guinea Bissau since it so far had received no donations to support the operation.
“The assistance was due to start on March 1, 2013, but operations are stalled because, so far, (we have) not received any donor support for the operation,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Program, told reporters in Geneva.
The WFP was urgently seeking $ 7.1 million to provide food and nutrition aid to 278,000 people across the troubled west African nation this year, “including young mothers and children at increased risk of malnutrition,” she said.
“But we can’t buy food without paying for it,” she said.
The country is considered one of the world’s poorest, with a full 69 percent of the 1.6 million inhabitants living on less than two dollars a day, and 33 percent living on less than one dollar, Byrs said.
A coup last April caused further turmoil in the country, which has suffered chronic instability since independence from Portugal in 1974 due to conflict between the army and state.
No president has ever completed a full term in office.
“Over the past few years, Guinea Bissau... has suffered a series of shocks resulting in a worsened food and nutrition situation for many vulnerable people,” she said, pointing out that the situation had gone downhill after a recent poor harvest of cashew nuts, the country’s main export good.
“Many households have no choice but to sell their livestock and other essential assets to put food on the family table,” she said.
Byrs said a full six percent of the country’s population was suffering from acute malnutrition, with the rate rising to eight percent in some regions.
The WFP aims to provide meals to 85,000 children through school feeding programs, including take-home rations to girls to help boost their access to schooling, she said.
It also wants to provide food supplements to some 5,000 malnourished children under the age of five and for 1,960 malnourished pregnant women and new mothers, she said
In 2012, the UN agency reached 211,300 people through school feeding, health and nutrition and community projects using food assistance in exchange for labor, she said.


Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

Updated 31 min 35 sec ago

Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

  • Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry
  • The MFS partnership with Malaysia is expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Olympics host Japan is going for gold in a race against time to train 1,000 chefs in halal food preparation for the summer 2020 Games.
With 5 million Muslim visitors from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia expected to descend on Tokyo for the sporting spectacular, which takes place between July and September, Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry.
“Most Muslim tourists would want to try Japanese food,” said Keith Wong, CEO of Acrosx Malaysia, which has been appointed to the halal expert training committee of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to help develop halal versions of Japanese dishes.
Demand for halal Japanese food was booming and Wong told Arab News: “Tempura is popular among Middle Easterners and in South Asia, while ramen and unagi (eels) are popular among Muslims from Southeast Asia. Sashimi and sushi are very popular among all Muslims.”
He pointed out that MFS were needed because the number of halal restaurants in Japan was currently insufficient to cater for all visitor preferences during the Olympics.
The Japanese government has partnered with Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation to have more than 1,000 chefs trained in preparing halal food and become MFS-certified.
“We are aiming to train 500 restaurants for ‘Muslim-friendly’ certification for the Olympics,” Wong said, adding that MFS were even stricter than general halal standards.
Restaurants adopting MFS would be required to have a separate halal kitchen and provide different utensils for Muslim customers.
The Japanese chefs and restaurant operators taking part in the training will learn about the history of Islam, halal food storage and cooking methods.
The global halal industry is estimated to be worth around $2 trillion, and the Japanese see Muslim travelers as being more valuable than Chinese tourists, Wong said. “Chinese travelers to Japan would usually spend money on high-end, luxury goods. While Muslim travelers, with their friends and family, would spend money on food, lodgings and tourism.”
He noted that the MFS partnership with Malaysia was expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games.
“We will be aiming for the World Expo 2025 in Osaka,” he said, adding that Japan may become a global and high-quality player in the halal industry.