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Bono Agrees: Famine is the Real Obscenity
A Somali woman hands her severely malnourished child to a medical officer of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Photo credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price
The anti-poverty campaign group ONE has released a new short film, “The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity,” about the hunger emergency in the Horn of Africa. In my post on August 1, “The F-Word is Famine,” I emphasize what might seem obvious, but is not always acted on: preventing such disasters is better and cheaper than waiting until tens of thousands of young children have died. This is true even though prevention efforts take time, and Bread for the World and many other groups have been making the point that development programs need to produce -- and measure -- results.
The harsh reality is that disasters are bound to happen, especially as climate change continues to put additional pressure on natural resources. We must recognize that reducing the risk they pose to human life is not optional.
Families in poor countries, as in rich ones, need social safety nets against hunger and poverty and a viable “plan B” if their primary means of earning a living fails them. Instability and famine in Somalia continue to disrupt the mobility of pastoralists and their livestock -- which is key to food security in the region. The result is a mass exodus of refugees into neighboring countries, particularly Kenya and Ethiopia. These countries, already themselves affected by the region’s severe drought, must deal with additional strain on their economies’ limited resources.
Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, will speak at the launch of the 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, this coming Monday, November 21. The report emphasizes that short-term relief must be linked to building long-term sustainability. This means ensuring that development assistance and food aid programs work together effectively. For example, U.S. food aid programs should dovetail with the Feed the Future model -- which aims to address the root causes of hunger while also establishing long-term solutions through country-owned investment processes.
We cannot achieve food security without investing in agriculture. The report highlights that— in the Horn of Africa as in the rest of the world -- we must invest in an agricultural transformation that builds the resilience of rural livelihoods and minimizes the damage done by future crises. This means support for climate-smart crop production, livestock rearing, fish farming, and forest maintenance practices that enable all people to have year-round access to the nutrition they need, with a special focus on the 1,000 Days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. The right nutrition during this 1,000-day window can profoundly improve children’s ability to grow, learn, and work their way out of poverty.
This is not all new, but agricultural development efforts are just beginning to recover from decades of neglect by both national governments and the global community. Keeping the new commitments to agricultural development is what will sustain the momentum that already exists and prevent future famines. It is because of the importance of agriculture on the African continent that the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development established the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) back in July 2003. Under CAADP, member states are moving towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goal One, to cut hunger and poverty by half by 2015.
+The 2012 Hunger Report will be released Monday, November 21, at www.hungerreport.org.
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