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Stephanie Nebehay: Not to enjoy but to survive
June 09, 2014
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Up to 200,000 children under the age of five could die from severe malnutrition in Somalia by the end of the year unless the United Nations receives emergency funds to stave off mass hunger, UN officials said.

Only $15 million has been received in the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) $150 million appeal to donor states to provide vital health services to more than 3 million women and children in the Horn of Africa nation this year, the agency said.

“If funding is not received immediately, Unicef will have to suspend essential life-saving health services within one month,” said spokesman Christophe Boulierac.

“Somalia has 200,000 children under the age of five at risk of death (by) the end of the year 2014 from severe malnutrition if they do not receive life saving therapeutic assistance,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some 50,000 Somali children under five currently suffer from acute severe malnutrition, according to Unicef.

Somalia’s government is struggling to impose any sense of order, more than two decades after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre tipped the country into chaos.

Unicef has been providing 70 per cent of health services including medicines, vaccinations, staff salaries and fuel to run hospital generators, especially in central and southern Somalia, Boulierac said.

Western nations fear the country could sink back into chaos and provide a launch pad for militancy.

The capital Mogadishu has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks in the past few months, claimed by Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab militants, who have waged a sustained guerrilla campaign even after being pushed out of the city in mid-2011.


War against hunger

By Stephanie Nebehay

Three northeastern provinces of Syria face an “alarming” food crisis, although access to relieve the impact of civil war has improved somewhat elsewhere, a UN aid agency said.

Western powers and UN human rights investigators have accused the Syrian government of a policy of “starvation until submission” to punish tens of thousands of civilians in rebel-held areas. Opposition forces are besieging two Shiite villages with a total of 45,000 people in Aleppo province.

Days before the Syrian conflict enters its fourth year, the World Food Programme (WFP) said the hardest areas to reach were the northeastern provinces of Raqqa, Deir Al Zor and Hassaka.

“We don’t have total absolute numbers on deaths due to starvation. There are no massive indications of that. But there are certainly widespread (and) what I would call alarming nutritional indicators,” Amir Abdulla, the UN agency’s deputy executive director, told a news briefing in Geneva.

“The high levels of acute malnutrition are in the besieged areas or areas that we have been unable to access,” he said.

Fighting and restrictions still hinder aid deliveries in parts of 12 of Syria’s 14 provinces, WFP said in a statement.

“There has been a certain degree of increased access. But I stress that sporadic or one-off convoys, whilst providing temporary relief, don’t provide the sort of sustained access and assistance that the people in those areas need,” Abdulla said.

Access has eased since a unanimous UN Security Council resolution on Feb.22 told all sides to boost aid and threatened “further steps” in case of non-compliance, Abdulla said. But he said much remained to do, citing Homs and Aleppo as two areas where the United Nations was pushing for more access.

In February, WFP food rations failed to reach half a million of the 4.2 million Syrians who need them. But the agency said it had delivered rations for the first time in months to 71,500 people living in four limited-access areas in Idlib, Deraa, Deir Al Zor and the Damascus countryside.

Locally-negotiated truces enabled convoys to reach parts of Deraa and the Damascus countryside, the statement said.

In recent days, the WFP delivered food to 20,000 people in Houla in rural Homs for the first time since May. Trucks with rations for 20,000 people arrived in Raqqa province for the first time in six months. Food aid also reached 17,500 displaced people living in camps in Harem, north of Idlib. But Raqqa, the only province completely under rebel control and where nearly 285,000 people need aid, remained largely inaccessible for the fourth straight month, WFP said.

The WFP programme, which also feeds some 2 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, costs $40 million a week.



By Mirwais Harooni and Jeremy Laurence

For all the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have poured into Afghanistan over the past 12 years, Sajeda, her head-to-toe burqa covered in dust, sobs that the world has forgotten the poorest of the poor in the largely untroubled north of the country.

A recent deadly landslide exposed the extreme poverty in the remote mountainous area and also highlighted one of the paradoxes of Western aid: the northern region which supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has got significantly less help than the south and east, home of the Taliban militants.

Over the past decade, much of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been spent in the strongholds of the insurgents as part of Washington’s strategy to win the “hearts and minds” of the local population.

“We are the poorest and most unfortunate people of this country and no one pays attention to us. We are forgotten,” said Sajeda, who lost 12 members of her family in the landslide that killed hundreds in northern Badakhshan province.

Over the past decade, a disproportionate share of US aid, which makes about two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, has ended up in the southern provinces where it has been used to achieve political and military objectives.

A US official said that between 2009-14 more than 70 per cent of USAID spending, amounting to about $4.7 billion, went to the south and east.

Despite the most expensive reconstruction effort ever undertaken in a single country, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest states.

The poverty headcount varies significantly between the provinces, from as low as 10 per cent to more than 70 per cent. It is most severe in the northeast, central highlands and parts of the southeast.

Badakhshan stands as one of the poorest: more than 60 per cent of the population there lives below the poverty line, according UN’s Office Coordination for Humanitarians Affairs, using an index showing it costs $25 a month to buy enough food to survive.

“Nobody has given money to spend on developmental projects. We do not have resources to spend in our district, our province is a remote one and attracts less attention,” says Haji Abdul Wadod, governor of the Argo district that includes Aab Bareek.

“The government has done a lot, but the international community has paid less attention.”


summer vacation
means hunger

By Janet Jacobs

For some kids, school is their most reliable source for food. Summer vacation for them means hunger. Of the seven local school districts, the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced price meal programmes ranges from 40 per cent in Mildred, to nearly 80 per cent in Kerens.

Statewide, the per cent of children considered economically disadvantaged is about 60 per cent. That’s why the Texas Legislature passed a law in 2011 to require public school districts to feed kids for at least 30 days during the summer.

Currently those summer programmes reach about 12 per cent of the kids who normally get subsidised lunches during the school year. That figure is based on a report by the Texas Food Bank network, which states the summer meal sites expanded the number of kids fed by 8 per cent last summer.

The report, authored by the Washington, DC based Food Research and Action Centre (FRAC) tracked the addition of 297 summer meals sites across Texas that year, increasing the daily number of children served to 280,018. Much of the increase was attributed to school districts serving more children during summer school.

“We applaud schools and nonprofit sponsors for serving more hungry kids,” said Celia Cole, CEO of TFBN. “But we still only reach a small portion of those who need food during the summer months. We know that sites can and want to do more.”

Corsicana schools are serving food June 10 through July 3. The high school is serving breakast 7:15 to 8:15am, as well as lunch 11am to 1pm Monday through Thursday.

Fannin Elemnentary serves breakfast and lunch at the same times, but they also add Fridays.

Carroll Elementary is serving lunch only from 11am to 1pm Monday through Friday.

Several of the smaller school districts in the county have gotten waivers from the state, but Dawson and Kerens do offer free lunches daily, and will do so for about six weeks this summer. The lunches are served to kids in the summer school or ACE programmes, but also serve any child in the district who wants to come for a free meal.

For 10 years, VOICE has offered a Freedom School, a five-week programme that helps between 80 and 90 kids academically and socially. It’s led by college students who work with the younger children. The Freedom School takes place at Drane Intermediate, and they’ll offer breakfast and lunch to the children in that programme.


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