• WFP to Double Food Aid to Zimbabwe

    The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that it will double the number of Zimbabweans it feeds because of the famine in the impoverished African country.

    WFP spokesperson, Emilia Casella, points out that: "What's particularly concerning is that there is currently no food in the pipeline for Zimbabwe in January and February."

    Casella, who argues that the UN envisions feeding up to 45 percent of Zimbabweans, says that: “Each person WFP feeds in Zimbabwe will now receive a cereal ration of 10kg per month, down from 12kg. Pulses per person will be cut to a kilogram, down from 1.8kg.

    To read the article titled, “WFP to double Zim food aid,” click here.

    <br /> News24
    Article link: 
  • Food Summit Underway in Cape Town

    Malnutrition will be among main issues for discussion at the 30th Session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses currently underway in Cape Town.

    The five day conference is aimed at thrashing out ideas, discussing new studies and drafting international nutritional guidelines. Specialists hope to find a worldwide guideline for good nutrition standards for all foods, especially for famine stricken countries.One of the big problem areas remains malnutrition in poor countries around the world.

    South Africa says it is doing well in educating its citizens about what they are eating; these sentiments have been echoed by the newly-appointed Minister of Health, Barbara Hogan.

    To read the article titled, “Food summit underway in Cape Town,” click here.
    SABC News
  • Lessons From the Food Crisis

    Small farmers in developing countries have not benefited from higher food prices, thanks in part to flawed trade and agricultural policies that have made them vulnerable and weakened their positions in markets, said international agency Oxfam in a new report released on 16 October 2008, World Food Day.

    In Double Edged Prices, Oxfam says that all governments, donors and agencies must learn the lessons from the crisis. These include the importance of investing in agriculture, having trade policies that ensure food security, and designing social protection systems that protect the poorest.

    Teresa Cavero, author of the report and head of research at Oxfam in Spain, said: “The trend in agriculture, as in international finance, has been towards deregulation and a reduced role for the State. This has had devastating effects and innocent lives have been blighted by exposure to market volatility. It is time the world woke up to the need for developing country governments to support their poor farmers, and the obligation of developed countries to help them to do so.”

    “In countries where governments have invested in agriculture, and put policies in place to target vulnerable or marginalised groups, the impacts of food price inflation have been less severe. In contrast, where there has been unmanaged trade liberalisation, underinvestment in agriculture, and little support from government, the effects have been devastating,” she added.

    The sharp rise in global food prices has pushed 119 million more people into hunger, taking the global total to 967 million. Higher food prices mean people are eating less and lower quality food, children are being taken out of school and farmers are being forced to migrate to cities to live in slums (as the case studies below show). Women are especially vulnerable because they rarely own land and have limited access to credit and other services, but they bear much of the responsibility for feeding and caring for families.

    Meanwhile, some of the biggest international food companies have made windfall profits. Commodity-trader, Bunge, saw its profits in the second fiscal quarter of 2008 increase by $583 million, or quadruple, compared with the same period last year. Nestlé’s global sales grew nearly nine percent in the first half of 2008, and UK supermarket Tesco, has reported profits up 10 percent from last year. Seed company, Monsanto, reported a 26 percent increase in revenue to a record $3.6bn in the fiscal quarter that ended May 31, 2008.

    “Misguided or inadequate national agricultural policies, coupled with unfair trade rules and poor economic advice, has created a situation where big traders and supermarkets are gaining from price rises, and small farmers and consumers are losing out,” said Cavero.

    Oxfam has criticised the international community’s inadequate response – both in terms of money and coordination. At an emergency meeting in Rome earlier this year, $12.3 billion was pledged for the food crisis, but little more than $1 billion has been disbursed so far. This is in stark contrast with the response to the current financial crisis, where huge financial resources have been mobilised by the international community in a matter of days.

    Cavero says: “It is shocking that the international community has failed to organise itself to respond adequately to this. The UN taskforce produced a good plan - the Comprehensive Framework for Action - but there is still not clear leadership to implement it. Developing countries are being bombarded with different initiatives and asked to produce multiple plans for different donors. We need to see one coordinated international response, led by the UN, which channels funds urgently to those in need, and leads on implementation of the longer-term reforms.”
    Case studies
    In Haiti, existing deep poverty has been exacerbated by food price rises and hurricanes. Five million Haitians live on less than a dollar a day and in 2007 almost half the population was undernourished. Haitians have labelled the food price crisis Clorox after a brand of chlorine tablets for water purification, which cause terrible stomach pains if swallowed – like permanent hunger.

    In Malawi, government subsidies have successfully boosted production levels in many areas, resulting in consecutive surpluses at the national level (a reversal of previous shortages). However, pockets of serious food insecurity still exist and some poor households are already facing a food crisis, eating only one meal a day. In some areas, women have resorted to cooking wild beans, which are poisonous if not prepared properly. This means cooking them for hours, using scarce water and firewood.

    In Cambodia, soaring food prices are impacting hard on the poor in both urban and rural areas. Even rice farmers who are supposed to benefit from the high prices are struggling to feed their family, as many of them are net food buyers. Overall, 1.7 million people are facing food insecurity. Von Siphou, 42, sells fruit at a stall in Phnom Penh. She says: "I am working as hard as I can and it is not good enough. The only thing left to do is to not eat."
    In Honduras, which is highly dependent on imports, food consumption among the poorest families has reduced by eight percent. The most affected are urban poor, subsistence farmers, day labourers, and non-farming rural poor. Sixty percent of the rural population is affected.

    In Tajikistan, an exceptionally severe winter followed by a hot spring led to large losses of livestock and crops. Locusts in the south also destroyed crops. One third of the rural population is now food insecure (at least 1.7 million people).

    In Brazil, well-targeted government agricultural policies have shielded small farmers and consumers from the harshest impacts. The urban poor, among others, are however, still feeling the effects of higher prices.

    For more information go to

    Oxfam and its partners and allies will be launching the report in many different countries around the world, including Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Tajikistan, and Tanzania. In many cases there will be additional national activities, including campaign launches and agricultural debates and workshops. Individual countries and regions will also be producing their own analysis and reports.
    Oxfam_DoubleEdgedPrices_October2008.pdf354.68 KB
  • Rich Nations Reneging Over Aid - Annan

    Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has accused the rich countries of reneging on promises to help feed the world’s hungry.

    Speaking on World Food Day, Annan appealed to wealthy nations not to use the global financial crisis as a pretext for not meeting their commitments.  Annan warned that over 10 000 children are dying from malnutrition each day.

    His comments are echoed by aid agency Oxfam, which estimates that more than 900 million people are facing starvation because of soaring prices.


    To read the article titled, “Rich nations 'reneging' over aid,” click here.

    <br /> BBC News
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  • EU Donates €15 Million Food Aid to East Africa

    The European Commission (EU) has announced €15 million of emergency food aid for victims of drought and soaring food prices in five east African countries.

    EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Louis Michel, points out that: "In some parts of the world, a major catastrophe is brewing because growing numbers of people don’t have enough food to survive."

    "The Commission has responded to these urgent needs by dramatically increasing its food assistance to the most vulnerable", says Michel.

    To read the article titled, “EU grants €15 million food aid for East Africa,” click here.

    <br /> Business Day
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  • South Africa Faces a Human Emergency

    The state of the nation is not simply about how the economy is doing, or how strong our currency is. The state of the nation is about how well the people of South Africa are doing.  Are they able to live with dignity, feed their children, meet their basic needs and access employment, education and health care? According to the views expressed during the poverty hearings, our state of the nation is dire. Communities are crippled by poverty. It is a state of emergency.

    This is the conclusion I have come to after listening to the testimonies during the poverty hearings across South Africa. 

    Below are excerpts from some of the stories shared:

    “Since I was born poverty has been following me.” (14-year-old girl in Numbi, Limpopo)

    “My two boys are street children as we speak right now. They are smoking glue and eating from rubbish bins.” (a mother in North West)

    “Dit is sonder gevoel en dit is ongemaklik en veroorsaak die opbreek van families en gesinslewens.” (Poverty is uncomfortable, unsympathetic and unending and it leads to the breakdown of family relationships) (woman in Northern Cape)

    “Without employment young people end up doing wrong things like selling themselves for food and money, robbing people and afterwards getting illnesses like HIV and AIDS.” (elderly man, Northern Cape)

    “A hungry stomach knows no law … .” (young man in Gauteng)

    Another young woman told us that her parents had died while she was still young, leaving her with siblings to raise. Because she was not a guardian, she could not access benefits from the social security system. She says their lives were a daily struggle. It was not unusual for them to go without food for days. Their situation became so desperate that one day the small children ended up eating cow dung.

    Throughout the poverty hearings, community members shared testimonies of their struggle for food, to access social services, take their children to school and guarantee their future.  Their struggles are of basic survival – to put food on the table and have clean water to drink. 

    While talking to one of the researchers during the poverty hearings, a young woman asked: “Do you know what it is like for a mother to hear her children cry and beg for food and not be able to feed them?”

    Across the country, the lack of sufficient food has been raised as a critical issue. It has caused the loss of human dignity and the erosion of family and societal values. Ordinary citizens are resorting to desperate measures in order to feed themselves and their children - such as eating from dustbins and begging on the streets. A number of young people spoke about how not having enough food had driven them into prostitution or engaging in criminal activities.

    I am surprised that in the 21st century - when there is so much wealth, technology and knowledge - there are still people in the world who have to suffer the injustice and indignity that comes from hunger.  

    The greatest instigator of this desperation is a lack of employment. Young people, whether school drop outs, matriculants, or those with tertiary education, are all saying they cannot find jobs. Our economy is not producing jobs. What kind of an economy is able to produce wealth for the rich, but no employment for young people who are the future?

    Unemployment among young people is driving them into disillusionment, hopelessness and bitterness. For them, the future remains bleak. A number of them expressed frustration and anger at their inability to access youth funds like Umsobomvu. 

    An angry young man in Cape Town said: “Hunger creates hatred. I see people with money and I want to rob them.”  Another from Kwa-Zulu Natal commented, “When there is no food from home, I end up stealing and eating in dustbins”.

    People infected and affected by HIV/AIDS made specific reference to food insecurity. While their testimonies indicate that access to treatment has improved significantly, they are often unable to take their ARV treatment because they have no food to eat. ARV treatment demands a good balanced diet. Most of them depend largely on the disability grant for survival. However, they can only receive a grant when their CD4 count drops to less than 200. A number of them confessed that they would rather not take medication so that they could continue to receive the grant. 

    There is no doubt that the social grants in South Africa are providing an invaluable safety net against poverty. However, communities are clearly saying that they also want opportunities to fend for themselves, sustain their livelihoods and realise their dreams. Without the creation of employment opportunities, increased support for agricultural production and institutional support to the poor, none of this seems possible. 

    Poverty is a deadly cocktail that is causing a state of emergency.  The words of an elderly woman in Kwa-Zulu Natal are indicative of this: “I am saying to the power brokers – death has come knocking – please come help us.”

    The anger, frustration and the feeling of hopelessness especially among young people is a recipe for possible disaster. Our recent experience of an outbreak of anger and violence resulted in xenophobic attacks. I believe the stage has been set for another eruption. 
    Enough is enough.  South Africa must act now. Most of the policy provisions to cater for the poor are enshrined in the constitution, and reflected in various policies including ASGISA and Vision 2014. 

    But words will not feed the hungry. It is time for action. It is no time for semantics, or debates about who is right and who is wrong. It is time for action that will address the needs of the people of South Africa. 

    Archsbishop Njongo Ndungane is the President and Founder of African Monitor. He was the Chief Commissioner during the 2008 Poverty Hearings. For more information and for further interviews with Archbishop Njongo Ndungane please contact Ms. Buhle Makamanzi on +27 82 898 8488 or +27 21 713 2802.
  • Grass houses, Malawi

    Grass Houses, outside Blantyre, Malawi
  • The European Social Model: Which Benefits for South Africa and Africa

    The French Institute of South Africa, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) are hosting a one-day conference entitled "The European Social Model: Which Benefits for South Africa and Africa".

    Initiated through a French-German partnership the conference is aimed at fostering open debates on future perspectives of the European socio-economic development and its benefits for South Africa and Africa.

    The three panels of the conference are
    • The preventive welfare state: A model for South Africa
    • Does policy convergence strengthen or weaken regional integration; the cases of migration and health policies in the European Union
    • New partnerships – How business can contribute to development in difficult local environments

    Date: 15 October 2008

    Venue: SAIIA, Jan Smuts House, East Campus, University of the Witwatersrand

    RSVP:  Mathy / Tel: 011 836 0561 / Email:

    For more information, click here.

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    Event venue: 
    SAIIA, Jan Smuts House, East Campus, University of the Witwatersrand
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