I recently returned from a UNICEF field visit that took me to northwest Somalia. What I saw there was both amazing and heartbreaking. In many ways, the children I was able to meet are doing better than their counterparts in the rest of Somalia. But in other respects, the situation there is still quite serious.
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As we work to get a sense of the full extent of damage from the cyclone in Myanmar, we’re also continuing to stay on top of news connected to the food crisis. And the news in that department is not good.
Food prices have increased so much, so quickly that in countries like Haiti, Bangladesh, Egypt, Somalia, among others, people have been protesting and even rioting to convey the full extent of their hunger. A recent article in the New York Times quoted a Haitian man, Saint Louis Meriska, describe what it means to have no food to give his children. “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”
The anger Saint Louis Meriska feels over not being able to feed his kids is being experienced by millions of others like him all around the globe. Even the U.S. military is concerned over the worldwide unrest stemming from the food crisis and has begun conducting its own investigation into the crisis, which, it worries, could become a potential “defense issue.” In Afghanistan, the 75 percent increase in the cost of wheat flour has fueled widespread anger against the U.S.-backed government there, raising fears that the food crisis may actually be boosting recruitment for the Taliban insurgency.
If you’ve followed the news at all in the last few weeks, you’re probably aware of the developing worldwide food crisis. This has been THE story of late, and it’s news we are watching very closely.
So what, exactly, is going on? Well, a whole lot, actually. First off, destructive weather events (which, some argue, are due to climate change) have caused whole seasons of crops to fail in certain parts of the world. In Bangladesh, for instance, Cyclone Sidr tore through the costal districts of the country last November and now, six months later, there’s no rice harvest. In Somalia, the worst drought in decades is scorching plant life and killing livestock.
Somalia’s worsening conflict, and UNICEF’s efforts to help its youngest victims, drew several headlines over the past month. The BBC, Voice of America and NPR covered UNICEF’s emergency appeal to help thousands of under-nourished Somali children. UNICEF’s efforts in the conflict-ridden country have been hampered by serious funding shortfalls.
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