The other threats of conflict – starvation and disease

The paradox: Nigeria is Africa’s 2nd richest nation. However, the Northeastern corner of the country has been marred by conflict and clashes with militants, causing it to be isolated from aid. Information about the crisis is also limited due to the lack of action by the government and  the lack of journalists and aid groups on the ground.

As the conflict continues, the people’s living conditions continue to worsen as food and basic medical supplies remain out of reach.

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Across the northeastern corner of this country, more than 3 million people displaced and isolated by the militants are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned.

About a million and a half of the victims have fled the Islamist extremists and are living in makeshift camps, bombed-out buildings and host communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations. An additional 2 million people, according to the United Nations, are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas.

“We will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere,” unless immediate assistance is provided, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. official focused on humanitarian aid for the region.

The staggering hunger crisis created by the insurgents has been largely hidden from view, partly because it has been extremely dangerous for aid groups and journalists to visit the area. But institutional failures have exacerbated the situation: For over a year, the United Nations and humanitarian groups dramatically underestimated the size of the disaster, and the Nigerian government refused to acknowledge the huge number of people going hungry in Africa’s second-richest nation. Thousands of people have already died because of the inaction, aid experts say.

 Source: Washington Post

Hurricane Matthew’s Aftermath

A week after Hurricane Matthew (Oct 2016) hit Haiti, the death toll had climbed to 1,000 people, and United Nations agencies struggled to bring aid to devastated communities. The scope of the destruction on the Caribbean island nation is so dramatic it can be seen from space.

nanfort_oli_2016286.gif

One of the most obvious changes is vegetation loss – this includes the loss of farmland that Haitian’s require for food (many farmers are subsistence farmers)

Another obvious change: the amount of sediment coursing out of the rivers and streams. This is seen from the visible change of the waters in the bay seen above, as exposed soil is washed to rivers and eventually the sea without the protection of roots of vegetation.

Source: http://landsat.visibleearth.nasa.gov/

 

Threats to Singapore Coast – oil Spills

Oil spills cause not only enviromental damages to coastlines but also economic impacts and potentially threats to food security especially in coast countries like Singapore, where fish farms are found out at sea.

A day after two ships collided in Johor waters, oil patches were found along coastlines in the north-eastern part of Singapore, while an 800m stretch of Changi Beach was closed on Thursday (Jan 5) to clean up the oil spill.

A second fish farm in the affected area also reported fish deaths from the spill, although the authorities said most farms were spared and impact on supply was “minimal”. Nonetheless, some farms have been told to suspend sales, until food safety tests are completed.

When TODAY visited Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays Pte Ltd at his farm off the north-western coast of Pulau Ubin, cleaning personnel could be seen working to remove swathes of black oil.

This was “the largest such incident” to hit his 12-year-old farm, which is among those hit with a suspension. A visibly-disappointed Mr Ng said he could not do much with his fish stock now, except to put aerators into the fish cages to pump in fresh air.

“We cannot feed any fish now, since the food will be contaminated, so for now, we will just have to wait and see,” said Mr Ng, adding that “no more than 10kg” of fish had already died due to the oil spill.

His farm has around 10 tonnes of fish and seafood, and four employees.

Source: Todayonline

 

Land grabs in Myanmar

In rural northern Myanmar, land is everything.

From the villagers who ply the fields, to the nation’s vast military, every inch of soil has its purpose for someone – a means to feed a family, make a fortune or weaken an enemy.

Yet in Kachin, there is little balance between the meagre and the mighty.

Over decades of civil conflict and military rule, the rights of farmers have withered away. Land grabbing was, and remains, rife and the state government’s Ministry of Agriculture has admitted it is nearly powerless to solve many of the resulting disputes.

Chinese-backed plantations for rubber and bananas are well established across the landscape near Naung Chain. That has not resulted in any influx of local jobs, however.

Most of the workers have migrated here from other states; locals say the hours are long, the pay is low and they prefer not to be tied to labouring for Chinese bosses.

In fact, Chinese land acquisition and control is a point of concern for not just farmers, but the state government as well. There are no exact figures for how much farmland is currently being used by Chinese businesses, but it is estimated by observer groups to be thousands of acres, where mainland workers are hired and produce is sent across the border to be sold.

Land grabs aren’t new, see the post on land grabs in Zimbabwe in an earlier post. Similar in both cases, local farmers suffer:

“At that time, we just did hillside cultivation. We grew plants like rice, yams and sesame,” the 64-year-old said in her home in the dusty village.

But the land her family tended sat adjacent to an emerging rubber plantation and six years ago, she said, it was confiscated and sold to a tycoon businessman by a corrupt local administrator. She received no compensation and it is now being rented to a Chinese company.

“We only do farming so we didn’t have any income. We had a lack of food supplies. We had to rent cows and buffaloes because we didn’t own any. We struggled a lot,” she said.

Source: Channelnewsasia

Nile farmers adapt to Climate Change

There are 2 ways to face the threat of climate change:
1. Climate change mitigation – reduce the effect of climate change by reducing ghg emissions,
2. Climate change adaptation – accept that things are changing, consider ways to survive in the new conditions

It doesn’t mean that the 2 are mutually exclusive (an either-or choice) – one can adapt but still work to mitigate climate change’s impacts.

The Nat Geo article discusses how international organisations like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works with Egyptian farmers, who have for centuries been relied on the Nile River and consistent weather conditions for farming, to adapt to climate change and find new ways of growing crops.

Fortunately for Regaa and his peers, there is some help at hand. The FAO has launched 15 schools across five regions. Here, in informal settings such as the field shack, groups of 15 to 25 farmers meet once a week for four months to talk through their struggles and receive instruction in more efficient agricultural techniques. “We teach them to pick better seeds, to disinfect them before planting, and to level the soil—this is crucial. It saves water and improves germination,” says Zahra Ahmed, FAO’s lead project manager in Egypt.

And despite some early opposition from older agricultural laborers, who’ve regarded the reforming outsiders with suspicion, most indications so far suggest Ahmed and her counterparts might be onto something. The Beni Suef farmers who’ve adhered to their coach’s advice have seen their yields grow so much—often at least 50-60 percent, that the governor has pledged to roll the teaching scheme out across his entire portion of the Nile Valley.

Source: NatGeo

Multinational corporations vs local farmers

When we think of MNCs, we think of richer, developed countries exploiting the poorer, less developed countries.

This may no longer be the case as MNCs from developed countries are under the scrutiny of the media and their respective governments while MNCs from emerging economies like China, South Africa and Russia may not face the same pressure from their government and the public to ensure human rights are protected in the countries they invest projects in. Sometimes, the governments themselves work with the MNCs at the expense of the needs of their own people.

When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries — land grabs, sweatshops, cash-filled envelopes passed to politicians — you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India.

These are the cases you’re most likely to hear about, but they are no longer representative of how these abuses actually take place — or who commits them.These days, the worst multinational corporations have names you’ve never heard. They come from places like China and South Africa and Russia. The countries where they are headquartered are unable to regulate them, and the countries where they operate are unwilling to.

Read the Foreign Policy article to find out more about how land grabs from a Zimbabwean MNC, Green Fuel, has affected the lives of local farmers. This is just one case of many.

Source: foreignpolicy.com

Solar Ovens – ensuring food is cooked

“Because of the expenses of gas, it’s cheaper to use the solar ovens and using natural energy from the sun,” Esthel said in Spanish through a translator.

A small number of communities in the Dominican Republic are buying solar ovens to cook their meals, avoiding cooking with gas stoves or wood that present financial and health problems.

Sometimes we forget that ensuring food security is not just about having sufficient food supply, but the people also need the means to be able to cook the food for consumption. This also contributes to a country’s food consumption.

Source: http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/cooking-revolution-dominican-republic-communities-change-lifestyles-solar-ovens

In richer countries where food security/food safety is not usually as much a problem, solar ovens or sun cooking is also used as an environmental-friendly/off-grid option:

SUN OVENS INTERNATIONAL is committed to providing an alternative to cooking with wood and charcoal in deforested developing countries that have been blessed with an abundance of sunshine.

SUN OVENS® can have an enormous impact on the everyday life of millions of people by:

1. Reducing the demand on forests.

2. Reducing health hazards.

3. Improving women’s conditions

Source: https://www.sunoven.com/sun-cooking-usa/benefits/

 

Haiti Quake: NGOs may not always be helpful on the ground

Failures of aid.

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

Why the failure despite the massive outpouring of donations to the American Red Cross? 
1. an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak local languages (French or Creole)

The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.

Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.

2. the lack of expertise to mount its own projects

…the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

3. Prioritised publicity over aid?
Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.
4. Difficult local conditions (including governance)
“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.