Archive for October 9, 2011


October 9, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Tragic news comes from Somalia, as the folks affected by the drought & famine now number around 2.4 to 4 million people. This is just one side of the larger problem today in the entire Horn of Africa, where 11,000,000 people were severely affected by famine that resulted to dislocations, migrations, and hunger.

The FAO had already called for the most timely response to stem the tide of hunger or food crisis in the entire Horn of Africa. Report from the FAO has it that as much as 750,000 starving people in Somalia alone could die within the next four (4) months as of the release of the report.

Below is the reportage about the subject.

[Philippines, 10 October 2011]


Famine spreads further in Somalia/ FAO calls for stepped up response

5 September 2011, Nairobi/Rome- – FAO today called for increased efforts to stem the food crisis in the Horn of Africa as famine spread to a sixth area of Somalia, threatening 750 000 people with starving to death in the next four months.

Latest data released today by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU), which is managed by FAO in close collaboration with USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), indicated that famine has spread to Bay region, one of Somalia’s most productive areas. Five other regions had previously been declared in a state of famine.

Together with ongoing crises in the rest of the country, the number of Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 2.4 million to 4 million in the last eight months, with 3 million of them in the country’s south.

Bleak picture

“Though these figures paint a bleak picture for Somalia, there is a window of opportunity for the humanitarian community to stop and reverse this undesirable trend by supporting farmers and herders in addition to other emergency interventions,” Luca Alinovi, FAO’s Officer in Charge for Somalia, told a press conference in Nairobi.

Bay region is a breadbasket for Somalia, producing over 80 percent of the country’s sorghum. Record levels of acute malnutrition have been registered there, with 58 percent of children under five acutely malnourished, and a crude death of more than two deaths per 10 000 per day.

Bay region joins five other areas hit by famine including Bakool agropastoral communities in Lower Shabelle region, the agropastoral areas of Balcad and Cadale districts of Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye corridor IDP settlement, and the Mogadishu IDP community.

Widespread famine

Despite current interventions, projections indicate that famine will become widespread throughout southern Somalia by the end of 2011.

“In the current food security situation, famine conditions are expected to spread to agropastoral populations in Gedo Hiran Middle Shabelle and Juba regions and the riverine populations of Juba and Gedo in the coming four months,” said Grainne Moloney, FSNAU’s Chief Technical Adviser.

Post-harvest finding showed this year’s cereal crop to be the lowest in 17 years. Dwindling stocks of local cereals have sent cereal prices soaring 300 percent over the last year and nearly half a million acutely malnourished children across Somalia require urgent nutritional treatment.

FAO has appealed for $70 million for Somalia to provide agricultural emergency assistance for one million farmers and herders. With increasing access to many parts of southern Somalia, FAO is currently carrying out emergency interventions and is opening two new offices in Mogadishu and Dolo and several suboffices in each region.

Improved seeds

“We have already embarked on mass production of improved seeds and procured 5 000 tonnes of fertilizer, among other farm inputs, in preparation for the next planting season from October to December,” said Alinovi. FAO’s current interventions are benefiting of over one million people in Somalia’s most affected regions.

FAO has received confirmed donations of $20 million from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), Australia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and another $21 million in pledges from the European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), the United States of America, Belgium and the World Bank. Talks with other countries are ongoing.

Famine is classified using a tool called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). FSNAU and FEWS NET adhere to the IPC standards when declaring a famine on the basis of at least three criteria being present: severe lack of food access for 20 percent of the population, acute malnutrition exceeding 30 percent and a Crude Death Rate exceeding two deaths per 10 000 population per day.

The current crisis affects the whole Horn of Africa region including the northern part of Kenya and southern parts of Ethiopia and Djibouti where large areas are classified as being in a state of humanitarian emergency.

Related Links:
Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit-Somalia (FSNAU)
Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET)
Web portal on the crisis in the Horn of Africa
Christopher Matthews
Media Relations (Rome)
(+39) 06 570 53762



October 9, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The new nation of South Sudan is badly experiencing the birth pangs of a new nation. The majority of voters there ratified the separation from mainstream Sudan, and so they have to pay the social costs of largely unresolved conflicts and relative unpreparedness for statehood.

A sad report coming straight from the UN High Commission for Refugees concerns tribal and poor folks fleeing South Sudan as clashes in the Kordofan area have erupted anew. Fortunately, the graces of international organizations have been extended unto the Southern Sudanese even prior to statehood, so the same graces are again extended in aid of fleeing migrants.

Reportage on the subject is shown below.

[Philippines, 10 October 2011]
Thousands flee to South Sudan to escape clashes in Southern Kordofan
News Stories, 16 September 2011
© UN Photo/P.Banks
A family displaced by the conflict in Southern Kordofan.
JUAB, South Sudan, September 16 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency said Friday that more than 8,000 civilians have fled into the newly independent South Sudan to escape fighting in a volatile border state of Sudan.
The new arrivals from Southern Kordofan state are mostly refugees from the Nuba Mountains region of central Sudan, who began trickling into South Sudan in July following heavy fighting and air strikes. Since last week however, there has been a surge in arrivals, with up to 500 people a day from 100 people a day in August.
“These are the first refugees to reach post-independence South Sudan and we expect more arrivals amid persistent reports of aerial bombing in Southern Kordofan. New arrivals also include some South Sudanese who had been living in Southern Kordofan State before being compelled to return because of the violence,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.
Most of the displaced walked for days to reach safety in South Sudan’s Unity state, which shares a border with the troubled Abyei, Southern Kordofan states.
These people are scattered in remote northern areas of Unity, where a lack of airstrips and roads is limiting humanitarian access. To reach them, aid agencies are using a small number of quad bikes – one of the few means of travelling in this area. These bikes, although well-suited for the terrain, can bring in only limited numbers of staff and goods at a time. Food supplied by the World Food Programme had to be airdropped recently to the region.
UNHCR has conducted basic registration at the border and identified the most vulnerable among the new arrivals for individual follow-up.
“We are supporting a mobile clinic to address the health needs, and our partners have been working on improving water and sanitation facilities and providing treatment for the severely malnourished. Meanwhile, we are currently developing a site to relocate the refugees away from the border. The work includes building health, school, and clean water and sanitation facilities,” Edwards said.
Transporting the thousands of displaced to the site will be difficult because of the state of the roads, or their absence. The authorities of Unity state have started doing urgent repairs to open up roads to cars and trucks again. In the interim, most of the displaced will have to trek to the new site on foot. Specific transport arrangements will be made for the most vulnerable to spare them the harsh journey.


October 9, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The saga of Cambodians fleeing their own country is among the epical dramas of modern-day international migration. They are tales that befit narratives worth presenting in the global theatrical scene, such as Ms Saigon was for Vietnam’s war epic.
Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians fled their country at the peak of the war with America. The migration problem was compounded further by the Khmer Rouge genocide campaign against urban habitués, of which possibly 2 million lives were terminated in the pogrom. Hundreds of thousands again fled Cambodia, with so many of them moving to Vietnam.
As to those Cambodians who decided never to return, on account of the traumas that seemed to refuse healing, the human interest stories can come straight from those who settled in Hanoi or Saigon. Below is a fitting narrative of such resettled Cambodians who are elated over their gaining citizenship in their host countries.
[Philippines, 09 October 2011]
Statelessness: Former refugees win citizenship, and now dream of home ownership
News Stories, 15 September 2011

© UNHCR/K. McKinsey
Nguyen The Tai (right) and his sister Le Ngoc Hai outside their mother’s house near Viet Nam’s Ho Chi Minh City. The ex-refugees from Cambodia were stateless until they received Vietnamese citizenship last year.
HO CHI MINH CITY, Viet Nam, September 15 (UNHCR) – When the coconut groves of this city’s Thu Duc district became a refugee camp nearly 30 years ago, the area was so remote it was a five-hour commute from the centre – by rowboat.
Now called District Nine, today it’s one of the most fashionable areas of the booming southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), where wealthy business people build villas and fanciful walled castles, which they reach in less than an hour over bridges and wide highways.
Luxury property has always been out of the reach of Nguyen The Tai, who fled Cambodia and came here as a refugee when he was just 11, and has been stateless all his life. In fact, he never even dreamed of buying the small cinder-block row house built by UNHCR where he lives with his 75-year-old mother.
But his dreams expanded exponentially after he finally got Vietnamese citizenship last year, along with some 2,300 other former stateless Cambodians. Thanks to UNHCR’s efforts, he now has a chance to buy his rented house from the local authorities at just two per cent of the market price.
“I would be very happy to be the owner of this house,” the cheerful 46-year-old says, romping with his dog in his small garden. “In Vietnamese there is a proverb, ‘settlement before career’.”
Not that he’s had much of a career either. Because he was stateless, Tai – he took the Vietnamese name when he got his citizenship – could only work as an unskilled labourer at perhaps half the going rate, despite being a skilled electrician. He could not get bonded, obtain an identity card, or legally marry his common-law wife of nine years.
His older sister, now called Le Ngoc Hai, has also paid a life-long price for their statelessness, lingering fall-out from the Pol Pot years in Cambodia. The family fled in 1975 after their father, a former Cambodian military officer, was attacked with an axe by Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge. He died of his injuries after reaching Viet Nam.
Despite speaking fluent French, the closest Hai has come to using it professionally was while working as an underpaid cook for a Frenchman in Ho Chi Minh City for the last 15 years.
In the 1980s, as they saw thousands of other refugees resettled abroad, the family originally hoped they would get to join relatives in France. A change in policies shattered that dream, and by the mid-1990s, their focus shifted to trying to get citizenship in their adopted home, where they had learned the language and customs. But they were caught in a legal limbo, because Viet Nam required them to relinquish their Cambodian citizenship, and Cambodia had renounced them.
The aspirations of all the stateless refugees in this settlement plummeted. “I just had one simple hope: that when I died I could get a death certificate, to prove that I ever existed,” said one of the family’s neighbours in the row of modest townhouses built by UNHCR and later handed over to municipal authorities.
Hai, the mother of two teenagers, feels a tinge of sadness she had to wait 35 years to become a citizen, but she and her brother are still optimistic about the future.
“I am not very young, but I am not very old,” the 51-year-old says, “so I can still hope my life can change because of my new nationality.”
Her brother adds with a smile: “Physically I am strong, stronger than young people, so now I hope I can work in my real profession.” And buy that house, of course.
By Kitty McKinsey
In District Nine, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam


October 9, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A great news about soil partnership—on a global scale—was recently churned out of the news mills of the Food and Agricultural Organization or FAO. Addressing soil problems at this juncture isn’t only timely, it is in fact a bit late already.

The problem with soil deterioration due to over-farming and over-grazing was already experienced across many nations as early as the 1980s yet. I still recall, as a young development expert and academic, how we stakeholders expressed chagrin over the abusive use of land by the tillers and biz herders. Even the lakes in my country PH were already being threatened by over-fishing through unregulated fishpens.

Today the ecological problem posed by agri-related concerns had already reached a near-catastrophic proportion globally. Global partnership to address soil problems is a very urgent strategy, more so that climate change had entered the arena with gargantuan challenges and threats.

The report on the subject is shown below.

[Philippines, 09 October 2011]


Global Soil Partnership for Food Security launched at FAO / New effort to assure soils future generations

7 September 2011, Rome – FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf warned today that pressure on the world’s soil resources and land degradation are threatening global food security. He called for a renewed international effort to assure sufficient fertile and healthy soils today and for future generations.

Diouf was speaking here at the start of a three-day meeting to launch a new Global Soil Partnership for Food security and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

“Soil is an essential component of the world’s production systems and ecosystems,” Diouf said. “But it is also a fragile and non-renewable resource. It is very easily degraded and it is slow, difficult and expensive to regenerate,” he added.

Increased pressure

Soil resources across the globe are subject to increased pressure from competing land uses and are affected by extensive degradation processes that rapidly deplete the limited amounts of soils and water available for food production, Diouf noted.

According to FAO, in Africa alone 6.3 million hectares of degraded farmland have lost their fertility and water-holding capacity and need to be regenerated to meet the demand for food of a population set to more than double in the next 40 years.

In 1982 FAO adopted a World Soil Charter spelling out the basic principles and guidelines for sustainable soil management and soil protection to be followed by governments and international organizations.

Implementation lacking

“However, there have been long delays in applying the Charter in many countries and regions of the world. New efforts to implement it must be made as soon as possible,” Diouf said.

Besides helping implement the provisions of the World Soil Charter, the Global Soil Partnership is intended to raise awareness and motivate action by decision-makers on the importance of soils for food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The partnership is also aimed at providing favourable policy environment and technical solutions for soil protection and management and at helping mobilize resources and expertise for joint activities and programmes.

The Global Soil Partnership will complement the 15-year-old Global Water Partnership initiated by the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank in 1996 to coordinate the development and management of water, land, and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital environmental systems.

Greater resilience

Short-term interventions to provide food, water and basic needs such as seeds and fertilizer to kick-start agriculture is the usual response to food crises and extreme weather events such as in the Horn of Africa. However, longer-term and large-scale measures are needed in order to build greater resilience to degradation, drought and climate change and reduce human vulnerability to disasters.

The Horn of Africa crisis, with the ongoing famine in Somalia, is the most severe food security emergency in the world today. Besides issues of insecurity and governance, the crisis is caused to a large extent by inadequate soil and water management policies and practices.

The Rome meeting is expected to start work on an Action Plan on sustainable soil management that will develop synergies between partners and bring together work currently being done separately on soil survey, assessment and monitoring, soil productivity, soil carbon, soil biodiversity and ecology and soil and water conservation.