Thursday, July 19, 2012

It could be worse

 The number of children suffering from hunger and malnutrition has risen.

" Our global child development report shows that hunger has become the most urgent threat to children worldwide..." said Save the Children's chief executive Justin Forsyth. Malnutrition in babies and small children leads to stunting and developmental delays that cannot be remedied. There is a critical period of 1,000 days during which good nutrition sets a child up for a healthy life.

Three huge agribusinesses dominate $1bn US food aid policy, Guardian study reveals, with lobby groups ensuring agricultural surpluses are exported despite cost to developing countries. Two-thirds of food for the billion-dollar US food aid programme last year was bought from just three US-based multinationals. The main beneficiaries of the programme, billed as aid to the world's poorest countries, were the highly profitable and politically powerful companies that dominate the global grain trade: ADM, Cargill and Bunge.

ADM, incorporated in the tax haven state of Delaware, won nearly half by volume of all the contracts to supply food for aid and was paid nearly $300m (£190m) by the US government for it. Cargill, in most years the world largest private company and still majority owned by the Cargill family, was paid $96m for food aid and was the second-largest supplier, with 16% of the contracted volume. Bunge, the US-headquartered global grain trader incorporated in the tax haven of Bermuda, comes third in the list by volume, and was paid $75m to supply food aid. Together, these three agribusinesses sold the US government 1.2m tonnes of food, or almost 70% of the total bought.

Eric Munoz, agriculture policy analyst for Oxfam America, said: "This new information makes it abundantly clear that it is massive multinational firms – not rural America and not farmers – that are the direct beneficiaries of the rigged rules governing the US food aid programme."

40 cents of every taxpayer dollar goes on food itself, the rest goes into the pockets of agribusiness and the cost of freighting according to Rob Bailey, fellow of the UK thinktank Chatham House

Some good news is that the global Aids epidemic is steadily being turned around, with the number of deaths and new infections coming down, but progress is worryingly slow, according to a major report from the UN. Deaths dropped from 1.8 million in 2010 to 1.7 million last year, while new infections came down from 2.6 million to 2.5 million. Some 8 million people are on drugs that suppress the virus, keeping them not only healthy but less likely to infect anyone else. We are still looking at a significant epidemic for the next 40 to 50 years. "It is something of a depressing message, but it could be worse. It could be that the numbers are going up." the UN stated.

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