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The World’s Hungry Exceed One Billion for the First Time

The global economic crisis has hit those who can least afford it:
The global economic crisis has contributed to pushing the number of hungry people in the world above 1 billion for the first time, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper. The credit crunch is exacerbating the impact of soaring food price inflation in 2007 and 2008, which had already boosted the ranks of the chronically hungry from less than 850 million before the food crisis to 963 million by the end of last year. FAO director Jacques Diouf told the FT on Thursday that number had increased, and "unfortunately, we are already quoting a number of 1 billion people on average for this year".
These are staggering figures. One can debate the merits of ethicist Peter Singer's approach to the problem, but it's hard to disagree with Sen. John Kerry, who rightly states that hunger is one of the greatest diplomatic and moral challenges the world faces.
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Delivering Aid Requires Planes

Without sufficient funding, the UN is grounding the entire West African fleet of its vital Humanitarian Aid Service (UNHAS), the aerial service that flies aid workers to areas that cannot be reached by ground. The impact of this shutdown, in numbers:
In 2008, UNHAS carried more than 360,000 humanitarian passengers and 15,000 metric tons of humanitarian cargo in 16 countries, on 58 chartered aircrafts.
Peacekeepers in Darfur are not the only ones who (still) urgently need helicopters. UNHAS needs about $5 million -- money that would be well-spent to deliver so much lifesaving humanitarian aid. (image from flickr user John & Mel Kots under a Creative Commons license)
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Nuclear Food Security?

When you think of the IAEA, "crop yields" do not typically come to mind. Nevertheless, the International Atomic Energy Agency is touting its efforts to introduce nuclear science to food production in the developing world. The example of rice exports from the Mekong Delta is particularly interesting.
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Farmers and FAO partner to improve yields

by Letha Tawney
Farmers throughout the Bobo-Dioulasso region of Burkina Faso met last week to discuss the advantages of an innovative FAO project to sustainably intensify production in the moist savannah region. Pictured is the Kankota Baré Farmer Field School, meeting to report on the progress of their work. In a shared test plot, they have been growing a diversified range of crops using improved pest and soil management practices, under the guidance of an FAO trained farmer facilitator. They're seeing improved yields with reduced inputs. Resolving the lagging crop yields in West Africa is a complex issue, but FAO has been testing an integrated production system, based on conservation (no-till) agriculture with farmers in Burkina Faso since 2001. In their fifth season, the farmers are growing a broader range of cash and fodder crops, which stabilizes their livelihoods. The soil's improved nutrient cycling is reducing the need for chemical fertilizer while improving yields and the soil's improved water retention is lengthening the growing season. The long-term goal is to turn the moist savanna band across Africa into the breadbasket it has the potential to be, improving food security throughout the continent.
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Cooking with Potatoes

The International Year of the Potato rolls on. All year, the UN has been promoting the potato's potential to alleviate hunger and poverty worldwide, and now, the UN Economic Commission for Europe has unveiled a new cookbook, titled "The Potato: Around the Globe in 200 Recipes."
From "Boranie Katschalu" in Afghanistan (fried potatoes, cheese, garlic and mint) to a chicken, veal, potato and banana stew from Venezuela ("Sancocho"), the book shows the versatility of the vegetable and what can be done with a bit of imagination. It's the world's fourth most important food after maize, wheat and rice, and it's also good for you, rich in carbohydrates, potassium and Vitamin C.
I think I know what I'm having for dinner tonight. For more on the history and global impact of the noble spud, check out this great video.
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Humanitarian Emergency in Ethiopia

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"HORN OF AFRICA AT A CRITICAL STAGE," proclaims the very prominent headline on the homepage of United Nations World Food Program. The urgency is not without reason, as a statement released by Oxfam today underscores. Facing a "perfect storm" of drought and rising food prices, the number of people in Ethiopia in need of emergency assistance has jumped from 4.6 million to 6.4 million in less than four months. This would be bad enough, but there are 7.2 million additional Ethiopians who receive only some small support from their government. From Oxfam's statement: "Today's figures, terrible as they are, show only half the picture. Over 13.5 million Ethiopians are in need of aid in order to survive. The number of those suffering severe hunger and destitution has spiraled. More can and must be done now to save lives and avert disaster," said Oxfam's country director, Waleed Rauf. Namely, donor countries can step in and provide the $260 million needed for aid efforts in the country. WFP has only received a third of the funds it needs to deliver food, and, without further support, it will likely have to scale back operations to even more dangerous levels. Watch this video for more. UPDATE: Aid agencies say that the number of people in need is even worse.
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WFP gets some much needed help

Drew Barrymore is on stage right now with President Clinton. She and others were representing WFP and the "Fill the Cup" campaign, launched earlier this year to raise funds and awareness about the 59 million children who go to school hungry. The symbol of the campaign is a red cup, "based on the millions of plastic cups that WFP uses to handout [sic] porridge or other food rations." Today WFP's efforts were bolstered by commitments made by a five-year, $80 million pledge by YUM! Brands. The lion's share, $50 million will go to WFP to provide 200 million meals to school children. WFP made some commitments itself, including to increase by a million the number of meals provided to school children each day. Clearly, given the fact that the current economic crisis can only exacerbate the rising price of commodities, this is welcome news.