Hunger Casts Shadow Over Zimbabwe Starving Africa
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has announced that Zimbabwe faces a “looming food crisis,”  just days after the UN endorsed the country as the tourism leader for Africa. 2.2 million people, or one in four of the rural population, are expected to need emergency aid in the coming months, the highest number since early 2009. The UN World Food Program (WFP) will provide additional food handouts until the next harvest in March.

Rising hunger, particularly in southern districts, was caused by extreme and inconsistent weather, the high cost and shortages of fertilizer and seeds in the struggling economy, and a 15 percent rise in prices for the corn staple after this year’s poor harvests. Historically in years of economic and political turmoil, Zimbabwe has needed regular food handouts. Approximately 1.4 million of the total 13 million people received food aid in 2012.

“Zimbabwe is chronically food deficient and the long term solution is a holistic intervention. In the short terms with regards to immediate intervention, we are scaling up our targeted assistance, meaning we will be distributing food and cash for cereals and other foods. We will probably reach up to 1.8 million people by January,” Abdurrahim Siddiqui, the UN Deputy Country Director for Zimbabwe, said.

Commercial Farmers Union President Charles Taffs stated that the figures might underestimate the actual number of people that need food. He further added that Zimbabwe was in the midst of a man-made agricultural crisis after more than a decade of destructive policies, such as the land grab campaign.

“We have been avoiding dealing with this issue for too long now. Zimbabwe has the resources, it has the land, and it has the ability to produce food. Now we need investor confidence to be restored and farming to resume,” Taffs said.

Ali Warlich

Sources: ABC, All Africa

Funding Crisis in Aiding Syrian Refugees
The Syrian Civil War has led to hundreds of Syrians fleeing out of the country. While this has helped them escape from the dangerous fighting and uncertain living that is prevalent in Syria today (to a large extent), it has also led to an array of problems as outside countries try to feed, house, school, and protect Syrian refugees. For many surrounding countries, there is no question as to whether help and support should be provided to refugees. Rather, the question comes in the form of from where. Where will the money come from to provide the necessities of food, education, and housing?

This is where the UN has stepped in, overcompensating for promised funding from Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates that has failed to appear. Yet, with its current spending, the UN fund is running low and borrowing heavily. The results of this type of spending will not only have heavy consequences for future aid for Syrian refugees but for other areas in which the UN provides funding as well.

On its current track, the UN Food Programme is projected to spend $1 billion a year, at a rate of $18 million a week. Yet, only half of this amount is actually being raised from donor countries according to Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP. The UN Food Programme, Cousin says, is “borrowing money from other areas of the organisation.” The UN is calling for Gulf countries to step up and provide the funding they promised to ensure that Syrian refugees continue to receive support and aid. In January, when the UN was appealing to many countries to pledge aid support, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates each promised $300 million. Yet, in the months since the pledge, none of this money has surfaced leaving the UN, and the UN Food Programme specifically, in a very tough spot.

The WFP funding crisis comes at a very difficult time in the Syrian War as it is approaching its third year and Syrian refugee numbers continue to rise. There is much tension among host countries as they try to compensate for increases in population and provide humane and sanitary living quarters. Protests have broken out in countries such as Turkey resulting in military police intervention. The funding crisis only makes this more difficult as there is less money to ensure safe and humane practices.

The push for collecting aid from Gulf countries has become a top priority of the UN. Without more money, humanitarians are worried that more and more outbreaks and protests could occur in host countries leading to more stress in an already stressful situation.

-Angela Hooks
Source: Financial Times
Photo:NBC News