Tuesday November 12, 2019

Experts Call Next UN Food Chief Must Tackle Rising Hunger and Climate Change Threats

Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns

UN, hunger, climate change
Nepalese children wait for the food to be distributed as they sit next to their houses damaged in a rainstorm in Bara district, 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Kathmandu, Nepal, April 1, 2019. VOA

As candidates jostle to head the United Nations’ multibillion dollar food agency, experts called on Thursday for a strong leader to tackling rising hunger and climate change threats.

Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns, U.N. figures show.

“We don’t see improvement in terms of poverty and hunger. What we see is degradation and resources that would be lost for future generations. So there’s an emergency,” said Frederic Mousseau, a food policy expert at U.S.-based Oakland Institute.

“Agriculture and the way we produce our food and the way we consume our food has to have a major solution. That’s the key challenge for the new director.”

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a budget of $2.6 billion for 2018 and 2019, employs nearly 6,000 people and works in more than 130 countries with governments to reduce rural poverty and hunger.

UN, hunger, climate change
A World Food Program plane takes off from Beira International Airport after dropping off supplies for survivors of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March, 31, 2019. VOA

The four contenders include a European Union-backed French agronomist, who could become the FAO’s first female head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and an agriculture vice-minister from China, whose global influence is on the rise.

Georgia and India have also fielded candidates for the June vote by delegates from the FAO’s 194 member states.

“There is very much at stake in an election like this,” said Mousseau, adding that governments are under constant pressure “to expand the corporate-driven model of agriculture that is polluting and unsustainable”.

“We need someone strong enough at the FAO to stand against that and to be able to propose a different path which is about farmers and sustainability,” he added.

Rising populism and nationalism

The elections come at a time of rising populism and nationalism with major powers cutting aid budgets, including the United States — FAO’s largest funder.

UN, hunger, climate change
A man waits to receive food aid outside a camp for displaced survivors of Cyclone Idai in Dombe, Mozambique, April 4, 2019. VOA

The current director-general Jose Graziano da Silva, architect of Brazil’s landmark Zero Hunger program, has overseen a drive to push through ambitious internal reforms. His predecessor, Jacques Diouf, served an 18-year term amid donor criticism about inefficiencies.

Times have changed since FAO was founded in 1945, when hunger was the main concern, said Patrick Caron, chairman of the U.N. High-level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition.

“Food security is no longer only a question of food supply but also of nutrition,” he said, as limited progress is being made to tackle malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity.

“Now is time for a new deal … We absolutely need a huge transformation of our food systems.”

France’s Catherine Geslain-Laneelle said her priorities would include boosting sustainable agricultural output to keep pace with population growth, building farmers’ resilience to climate change and creating jobs for young rural Africans.


hunger, climate change, UN
Levels of hunger have grown for the past three years, with one in nine people — or 821 million — worldwide without enough to eat, due to drought, floods, conflict and economic slowdowns, U.N. figures show. Pixabay

The former head of the European Food Safety Authority also said she was keen to support women farmers.

“Although they are present everywhere in the food system, sometimes women have difficulties to access land, to water, to the forums where decisions are made,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Davit Kirvalidze, former agricultural minister in Georgia said his experience growing potatoes during the difficult period when Georgia emerged from Soviet rule gave him an insight into the needs of farmers, “especially in times of trouble.”

ALSO READ: Women Live on Average 4.4 Years Longer than Men. Why?

“Not only did I manage to feed my family but also eventually my community,” said Kirvalidze, who also sits on the board of Washington-based non-profit Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture and advises Georgia’s prime minister.

Representatives from the embassies of India and China did not respond to requests to interview their candidates. (VOA)

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Toxicity in Air Affects Children’s Brain Development: UNICEF

UNICEF has warned that air pollution affects a child's brain development

Brain Development
According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, air pollution toxicity can affect children's brain development. Pixabay

Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore has warned that air pollution toxicity can affect children’s brain development and called for urgent action to deal with the crisis gripping India and South Asia.

“I saw first-hand how children continue to suffer from the dire consequences of air pollution,” Fore, who recently visited India, said on Wednesday.

“The air quality was at a crisis level. You could smell the toxic fog even from behind an air filtration mask,” she added.

Air pollution affects children most severely and its effects continue all their lives because they have smaller lungs, breathe twice as fast as adults and lack immunities, Fore said.

Brain Development
Air pollution damages brain tissue and undermines brain development in babies and young children. Pixabay

She added that it “damages brain tissue and undermines cognitive development in babies and young children, leading to lifelong consequences that can affect their learning outcomes and future potential. There is evidence to suggest that adolescents exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more likely to experience mental health problems”.

“Unicef is calling for urgent action to address this air quality crisis,” affecting 620 million children in South Asia.

Also Read- Snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir to Help Bring Pollution Down in Neighbouring States

Schools were closed in Delhi till Tuesday because of the severe environmental situation caused by post-harvest burning of stubble in neighbouring states.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Sunday touched 625, considered “severe plus” level. (IANS)