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Report: Drought and conflict leave millions more hungry in 2017

MD Staff

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Driven largely by climate disasters and conflict, levels of acute hunger surged in 2017, leaving some 124 million people across 51 countries facing hunger crises –11 million more than the previous year, according to a new United Nations report.

“Reports such as this give us the vital data and analysis to better understand the challenge. It is now up to us to take action to meet the needs of those facing the daily scourge of hunger and to tackle its root causes,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message on the report.

Presented by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union at a briefing Thursday, the Global Report on Food Crises finds that food emergencies are increasingly determined by complex causes such as conflict, extreme climatic shocks and high prices of staple food – often acting at the same time.

“We must acknowledge and address the link between hunger and conflict if we are to achieve zero hunger,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

The report points out that conflict continued to be the main driver of acute food insecurity in 18 countries – 15 in Africa or the Middle East – accounting for 60 per cent of the global total.

The increase is largely attributable to new or intensified conflict and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen.

“The fighting must stop now and the world must come together to avert these crises often happening right in front of our eyes,” underscored David Beasley, WFP Executive Director.

Mr. da Silva stated: “Investing in food security and livelihood in conflict situations saves lives, strengthens resilience and can also contribute to sustaining peace.”

The report finds that food crises are increasingly determined by other complex causes as well, such as extreme climatic shocks and high prices of staple food – often acting at the same time.

For instance, prolonged drought conditions resulted in consecutive poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in eastern and southern Africa.

“The consequences of conflict and climate change are stark: millions of more people severely, even desperately, hungry,” maintained Mr. Beasley.

The report also flags that entire communities and more children and women are in need of nutritional support compared to last year, indicating the need for long-lasting solutions to revert the trend.

Moreover, it highlights the urgent need for simultaneous action to save lives, livelihoods and to address the root causes of food crises.

The report, which brings together regional and national data and analysis from multiple sources, demonstrates that in addition to critically needed humanitarian aid, development action needs to engage much earlier so as to tackle the root causes of extreme vulnerability, therefore, building resilience.

“This Global Report on Food Crises shows the magnitude of today’s crises but also shows us that if we bring together political will and today’s technology, we can have a world that’s more peaceful, more stable and where hunger becomes a thing of the past,” Mr. Beasley concluded.

Maps with interactive data from the report can be found here.

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Conflicts and extreme climate change threatens access to food in 39 countries

MD Staff

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Unrelenting conflict and rapid climate change is continuing to reshape agriculture across the world, and contributing to major food shortages across 39 countries, which continue to rely on help from the United Nations to meet their food needs, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday.

FAO’s  Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, spelled out that 31 countries in Africa, seven in Asia, and Haiti in the Caribbean, remain in need of external food assistance.

According to the report, civil conflicts and population displacement are the key drivers of food insecurity in East Africa and the Near East, whereas dry-weather conditions have led to reduced cereal outputs in Southern Africa.

Civil conflicts, often coupled with extreme climate events, continue to hamper food access to vulnerable populations in Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, among others.

Ongoing conflict has left 17.8 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance, and around two million in the Central African Republic, which is also fueled by reduced food production and poorly functioning markets.

Cereals remain key

The global importance of cereal crops to the human diet “cannot be over stated,” according to FAO. Cereals are hugely adaptable, especially in regions that rely mainly on plant sources for protein and calories.

Against this backdrop, unfavourable weather conditions curbed Southern African cereal outputs so far this year, heightening food insecurity, while abundant rains in East Africa boosted production but resulted in localized flooding.

In the continent’s North, favourable spring weather prompted a production upturn, while in the West, harvests are expected to revert back to average levels.

In the Near East and Central Asia’s Commonwealth of Independent States, rainfall deficits have prompted predictions that 2018 cereal harvests will be “below-average levels,” while ongoing conflicts in parts of the Near East continue to impede agricultural activities.

The Far East is forecast to rise slightly, driven by a larger paddy output.

At the same time, weather conditions have impacted cereal production in the Latin America and the Caribbean area.

“Dry weather in South America has lowered 2018 cereal outputs relative to last year’s record,” the report stated, noting maize in particular. In Central America and the Caribbean, it says: “unfavourable rains affected 2018 maize production, except in Mexico.”

The report notes that cereal production in the 52 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) is projected at around 490 million metric tonnes; about 19 million above the past five-year average.

The full list of the 39 countries currently in need

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Eswatini (former Swaziland), Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

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Building Sri Lanka’s Resilience To Climate Change

MD Staff

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38-year-old Sivasidambaram Vasugi is the General Manager of one of the first cooperative-owned seed paddy processing centers in Killinochchi, Si Lanka. The Integrated Farmers Thrift and Credit Cooperative Society (IFTCCS) provides local farmers with high-quality seeds, but these days, there are no buyers walking in the door.

Her community is facing a crippling water shortage following many months of drought. Nearly 18,000kg of processed paddy seed stock sits unclaimed on Vasugi’s factory floor, while weeds sprout in the paddy fields all around.

“Only when the rains come again, they will buy the seeds,” she says. “In the meantime, we have no sales, and we are not making any profits.” Farming households are coming undone thanks to this drought. Vasugi sees local men migrate to work as day laborers, while their families stay behind and fight to make ends meet. Many merely struggle to put food on the table.

Vasugi lives in a climate hotspot.

Areas like this are the focus of the World Bank’s new regional flagship report South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards.

The report examines how 800 million people, or half the population of South Asia, could see their living standards worsen by 2050.

While floods and other extreme weather events can have an immediate and terrible impact, rising temperatures and unpredictable precipitation – what we might consider ‘average weather’ – can prove as devastating.

“These weather events have one thing in common: They affect the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable the most,” said Andrew Goodland, World Bank program leader for Sustainable Development covering Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Speaking at the launch of South Asia’s Hotspots he added: “We need to both scale up actions and strategies to build a more resilient world, and target interventions to help the most vulnerable.”

Climate change could undermine living standards for the poorest

Changes in average weather unfold over months and years. As Vasugi can testify, in such hotspots, rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can dampen agricultural productivity, leave farming households floundering and drive migration.

Simultaneously, a warmer climate can also increase the propagation of vector-borne and other infectious diseases. For those working outside air-conditioned cubicles, extreme heat takes a toll on productivity and subsequently, income. It doesn’t help that many hotspots are already in socially and economically vulnerable areas

At the frontlines in Sri Lanka are those living in the island’s North, North Eastern and North Central districts, including Jaffna, Puttalam, Mannar, Kurunegalla, Trincomalee and Killinochchi, where the paddy seed processing center is located.

Vasugi’s home has something in common with other hotspots across the region, such as Hyderabad in Pakistan, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Chandrapur in India. Households in these areas tend to report low household consumption, poor road connectivity, limited access to markets, and other development challenges. Combined, these conditions make them deeply vulnerable to climate change.

These experiences on the ground inevitably impact the national economy. “In Sri Lanka, living standards could go down by around 5 percent, and in the worst-case scenario may decline by around 7 percent,” said Muthukumara Mani, a lead economist in the World Bank South Asia Region and author of the report. “Under the worst-case scenario, GDP will decline by 7.7 percent, an estimated loss of 50 billion dollars.”

19 million Sri Lankans could live in moderate or severe hotspots by 2050

While policymakers are worried by this information, Mani knows it doesn’t necessarily help them prepare. So this report seeks to unpack where exactly changes will occur most, who will be impacted and what can be done to build resilience.

He and his team analyzed two future climate scenarios — one that is “climate-sensitive,” in which some collective action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The other is “carbon-intensive,” in which no action is taken. Both scenarios show rising temperatures throughout the region in the coming decades but it’s no surprise that the carbon-intensive scenario is more worrying.

While policymakers are worried by this information, Mani knows it doesn’t necessarily help them prepare. So this report seeks to unpack where exactly changes will occur most, who will be impacted and what can be done to build resilience.

He and his team analyzed two future climate scenarios — one that is “climate-sensitive,” in which some collective action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The other is “carbon-intensive,” in which no action is taken. Both scenarios show rising temperatures throughout the region in the coming decades but it’s no surprise that the carbon-intensive scenario is more worrying.

According to the report, approximately 19 million people in Sri Lanka today live in locations that could become moderate or severe hotspots by 2050 under the carbon-intensive scenario. This is equivalent to more than 90 percent of the country’s population.

Granular details include how effects will differ from country to country and from district to district throughout South Asia. In Sri Lanka, the Northern and North Western provinces emerge as the top two hotspots, followed by the much less densely populated North Central Province.

The highly urbanized and densely populated Western Province, which includes Colombo, is also predicted to experience a living standards decline of 7.5 percent by 2050, compared with a situation without changes in average weather. This is a substantial drop, with potentially large implications for the country, given that the province contributes more than 40 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP.

Overall, the analysis concludes that Sri Lanka’s average annual temperatures could rise by 1.0°C to 1.5°C by 2050 – even if carbon emission reduction measures are taken as recommended by the Paris Agreement of 2015. If no measures are taken average temperatures in Sri Lanka could increase by up to 2.0°C.

Mani points out that this might not seem like a lot until you consider how just a two-week delay in monsoons can derail a farmer’s harvest, or how a scorching day can drain a construction worker laboring on a scaffolding.

Investing in sustainable development could build resilience

“We need to follow an inclusive green growth path here,” says Mohan Munasinghe, who was the keynote speaker at the launch. He drew on his experiences as Vice Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR4) and the Chairman of the Presidential Expert Commission on Sustainable Sri Lanka 2030 Vision, saying: “We have to make development more sustainable in a way that is climate-proof and which integrates mitigation and adaptation.”

It is hoped that this information can help build a development blueprint by focusing resilience-building efforts on the most vulnerable locations and population groups. “The report provides the right data and climate simulations to help us put in place incentives, policies and smart solutions to protect communities across the country and boost their future development,” said Anura Dissanayake Secretary of Mahaweli Development and Environment Authority.

In particular, the report explores how three strategies, already essential components of Sri Lanka’s sustainable development programs, could help buffer vulnerable communities.

By increasing non-agricultural jobs by 30 percent relative to current levels, Sri Lanka could reduce the living standards burden from −7.0 to 0.1 percent. Other initiatives like reducing the time to reach a market and increasing average education attainment could also reduce the overall severity of climate-related living standards impacts. The report emphasizes that if these interventions were implemented together, they would likely yield greater benefits than if implemented individually.

In the end, the focus has to be on ensuring that climate change does not undo the considerable progress that South Asian countries have made in alleviating extreme poverty and raising living standards.

The key takeaway may be that governments don’t have to choose between investing in development or climate-resilience – the two go hand in hand. As Mani concluded: “Sustainable development is the best adaptation strategy since it is associated with improved infrastructure, market-oriented reforms, enhanced human capabilities, and stronger institutional capacity to respond to the increasing threat of climate change and natural disasters.”

World Bank

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Global Waste to Grow by 70 Percent by 2050 Unless Urgent Action is Taken

MD Staff

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Without urgent action, global waste will increase by 70 percent on current levels by 2050, according to the World Bank’s new What a Waste 2.0:  A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050 report.

Driven by rapid urbanization and growing populations, global annual waste generation is expected to jump to 3.4 billion tonnes over the next 30 years, up from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016, the report finds.

Although they only account for 16 percent of the world’s population, high-income countries combined are generating more than one-third (34 percent) of the world’s waste. The East Asia and Pacific region is responsible for generating close to a quarter (23 percent) of all waste.  And by 2050, waste generation in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to more than triple from current levels, while South Asia will more than double its waste stream.

Plastics are especially problematic. If not collected and managed properly, they will contaminate and affect waterways and ecosystems for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In 2016, the world generated 242 million tonnes of plastic waste, or 12 percent of all solid waste, according to the report.

What a Waste 2.0 stresses that solid waste management is critical for sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities, yet it is often overlooked, particularly in low-income countries.  While more than one-third of waste in high-income countries is recovered through recycling and composting, only 4 percent of waste in low-income countries is recycled.

Based on the volume of waste generated, its composition, and how the waste is being managed, it is estimated that 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent were generated from the treatment and disposal of waste in 2016 – representing about 5 percent of global emissions.

“Mismanagement of waste is harming human health and local environments while adding to the climate challenge,” said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “Unfortunately, it is often the poorest in society who are adversely impacted by inadequate waste management.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Our resources need to be used and then reused continuously so that they don’t end up in landfills.”

The report notes that good waste management systems are essential to building a circular economy, where products are designed and optimized for reuse and recycling. As national and local governments embrace the circular economy, smart and sustainable ways to manage waste will help promote efficient economic growth while minimizing environmental impact.

“It makes economic sense to properly manage waste,” said Silpa Kaza, World Bank Urban Development Specialist and lead author of the report. “Uncollected waste and poorly disposed waste have significant health and environmental impacts.  The cost of addressing these impacts is many times higher than the cost of developing and operating simple, adequate waste management systems. Solutions exist and we can help countries get there.”

Supporting countries to make critical solid waste management financing, policy, and planning decisions is key.  Solutions include:

  • Providing financing to countries most in need, especially the fastest growing countries, to develop state-of-the-art waste management systems.
  • Supporting major waste producing countries to reduce consumption of plastics and marine litter through comprehensive waste reduction and recycling programs.
  • Reducing food waste through consumer education, organics management, and coordinated food waste management programs.

Since 2000, the World Bank has committed over $4.7 billion to more than 340 solid waste management programs in countries across the globe.

What a Waste 2.0 was funded by the government of Japan through the World Bank’s Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC).

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