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 April 26, 2009 7:54 PM


New York, Apr 15 2009 2:10PM
Poor farmers in four African countries are set to receive $6.6 million in emergency assistance funding from Belgium, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The new Belgian Development Cooperation financing for the UN agency’s programmes will directly support tens of thousands of struggling farmers in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and Niger.

This latest contribution brings the European nation’s total support to <"">FAO projects in Africa to $80 million over the past six years.

“Belgium is one of the most consistently supportive donors to FAO’s emergency work, something which is very much appreciated and its latest show of generous support will help improve the livelihood and food security of thousands of vulnerable people,” said Laurent Thomas, Director of FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.

Nearly $3 million of the grant will go directly to supporting farming households whose livelihoods have suffered from the conflict in the DRC. Cassava and sweet potatoes cuttings as well as hand tools, vegetable and other crop seeds will be distributed to around 25,000 farmers.

Another 4,000 farmers in the country will receive basic training in machinery and how to repair warehouses and roads for better storage and transportation of harvested produce, as well as backing to boost maize production to meet market demand.

In a joint initiative with the World Food Programme (<"">WFP) known as Purchase for Progress (P4P), the agencies buy produce from local farmers and distribute the food to hungry people in the region.

Some $2 million of the Belgium donation will go to neighbouring Burundi to assist ex-soldiers return to farming and help farming households hit by floods and high food prices. The rest of the contribution will go to support farmers in drought-stricken Niger and Ethiopia.

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 February 15, 2009 12:05 AM


New York, Nov 7 2008 12:10PM
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a standby arrangement for Hungary worth nearly $16 billion to help the Central European country stave off a deepening of its economic troubles amid the global financial crisis.

The IMF Executive Board approved the request yesterday under its fast-track Emergency Financing Mechanism, and about $6.3 billion will be immediately given out as part of the agreement, which covers the next 17 months.

The Hungarian economy has come under particular stress in recent weeks as a result of the global financial crisis, with the country’s high debt levels, falling stock market and depreciating currency combining to add pressure to its financial system.

The standby arrangement is designed to support the economic programme devised by Hungarian authorities, which includes a substantial fiscal adjustment to ensure the Government’s debt financing needs decline, strong levels of capitals in the local banking system, and the maintenance of adequate liquidity in those banks.

John Lipsky, First Deputy Managing Director at the IMF, said he was confident that Hungary can weather its current difficulties by consistently implementing its programme and receiving continued support from the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union.

The measures proposed in the Hungarian programme tackle the country’s “most important vulnerabilities and should therefore underpin an improvement in investor confidence,” Mr. Lipsky <"">said.

“Most important, the combination of accelerated fiscal adjustment and the introduction of a rules-based fiscal framework will help persuade investors that the Government’s short- and medium-term financing needs are being addressed.”

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 October 12, 2008 10:17 PM


New York, Oct 2 2008 12:10PM
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to show the same generosity in helping the world’s 31 landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) overcome their trade-hobbling isolation as it did last week when it pledged significant new funding to help poor States in general achieve development goals.

“Today we are sounding alarm bells for the Almaty Programme of Action,” he <"">told a High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly devoted to a mid-term review of the Programme, a 2003 plan setting out specific measures to compensate LLDCs for their geographical handicaps with improved market access and trade facilitation.

Although LLDCs represent about 15 per cent of States, their share of world exports has remained well below 1 per cent, according to United Nations figures.

Mr. Ban noted that the “alarm bells” he sounded last week at the Assembly’s High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ambitious targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 to slash poverty, hunger, preventable illness and a host of other socio-economic ills, all by 2015, sparked an “unprecedented commitment” of as much as $16 billion.

“I hope for a similarly hope-inspiring response,” he said. “Let us use the success of the High-Level Event on the MDGs as inspiration for this review.”

It is vital that landlocked developing countries increase their volume of exports in order to meet the MDGs, yet the biggest obstacle to this is the very high cost of transport, in some cases exceeding 70 per cent of the export value, Mr. Ban told the opening session of the two-day meeting, calling for more vigorous international cooperation.

Despite some encouraging progress since 2003 in improving transit transport policies, much more needs to be done in infrastructure development as roads and railways remain inadequate, and many ports use obsolete cargo handling equipment, he said. Integrated transport networks must be developed and customs operations modernized.

Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto also said much more needed to be done to help the LLDCs. “Geographical realities coupled with critical infrastructure deficiencies, as well as cumbersome border crossing procedures, continue to pose daunting impediments to the external trade of landlocked developing countries,” he told the plenary.

“Today, high trade transaction costs remain the single most important obstacle to the equitable and competitive access by landlocked countries to global markets.”

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 July 31, 2008 9:19 PM


New York, Jul 25 2008 5:00PM
Nearly 180,000 children in Somalia are acutely malnourished, with 25,000 severely malnourished, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which has scaled up its nutrition operation to reach more than 50,000 children under the age of five.

A new survey carried out by the Food Security Analysis Unit in Somalia has found that there has been an 11 per cent increase in malnutrition in the last six months.

“So far we have been lucky to be strongly backed by our donors. However, with the recent increase in malnutrition rates and the need for accelerated humanitarian assistance, more funds are required for us to continue and expand our programmes effectively,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Representative to Somalia.

UNICEF and its partners have just completed a second round of its blanket feeding programme, which involves the distribution of UNIMIX-food supplement, rich with vitamins and minerals, to 54,000 under-five children in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia’s Afgoye Corridor and the capital, Mogadishu.

The IDP concentration areas are among the most at risk of malnutrition, according to UNICEF. The prolonged conflict and civil insecurity in Mogadishu and its surrounding areas have led to an influx of displaced people into temporary settlements across the country.

Afgoye hosts one of the biggest IDP settlements with a displaced population exceeding 300,000 people. Analyses indicate that the nutrition situation in Afgoye is critical, further complicated by the limited access because of the security situation.

Northern parts of Somalia are also hit hard by the deteriorating nutrition conditions, worsened by skyrocketing food prices and the devaluation of the Somali shilling. The urban poor and displaced are the most vulnerable populations, with thousands of families from the conflict-affected south forced to seek temporary refuge in the northern parts of the country.

In Bossaso IDP camps, where about 28,000 people are located, global acute malnutrition rates have been recorded at 23.3 per cent, well above the rate of 15 per cent which is considered to constitute an emergency. Glakayo and Garowe IDP camps have also recorded very critical global acute malnutrition rates.

Starting in August and throughout the remainder of the year, UNICEF and partners will provide rations of 10 kilos of UNIMIX a month per child to approximately 7,500 under-five children in Bossaso IDP camps, as well as to children in Garowe and Galkayo camps, combined with a therapeutic feeding programme for severely malnourished children.

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 July 31, 2008 8:57 PM


New York, Jul 23 2008 7:00PM
The importance of African development and finding ways to reach the globally approved anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were under the spotlight during talks today between General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and Guinea’s Planning and Cooperation Minister Djigui Camara.

Mr. Camara stressed the need to advance on the commitments made by United Nations Member States to achieving the MDGs, such as by exploring innovative ways of mobilizing resources, according to a statement released by Mr. Kerim’s spokesperson after the meeting in New York.

Mr. Kerim noted that the Assembly’s current session has a strong focus on development, with the MDGs and financing for development being among the main priority issues. The current global food and energy crisis is also being closely examined.

Mr. Kerim also drew attention to the Assembly high-level meeting on African development, scheduled for 22 September, and a separate leaders’ summit later that week on the MDGs, jointly organized by the Assembly President and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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 July 23, 2008 5:58 PM


New York, Jul 18 2008 10:00AM
Attacks on aid workers and threats to ships delivering food aid to Somalia, coupled with the effects of drought and poor harvest, have left millions in the strife-torn nation in need of urgent aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.

Some 2.6 million people – representing 35 per cent of the population – are believed to be in need of food aid in the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. That number is expected to rise to 3.5 million by December.

WFP says that insecurity, drought and successive poor harvests are only worsening the suffering of millions, and pushing thousands more into poverty. Price rises in basic commodities and the weakness of the Somali shilling have only added to the misery.

“Somalia is at a dire crossroads,” Peter Goossens, WFP’s Country Director for Somalia <"">told a news conference today in London. “If sufficient food and other humanitarian assistance cannot be scaled up in the coming months, parts of the country could well be in the grips of disaster similar to the 1992-1993 famine, when hundreds of thousands of people perished.”

Mr. Goossens warned that deteriorating security was hindering land and sea deliveries of food. Some 90 per cent of the food aid distributed to Somalis arrives by sea.

WFP has appealed to countries to provide naval escorts to protect WFP food ships against piracy. France, Denmark and the Netherlands had done so over the last eight months but the agency has received no commitments for further escorts beyond June.

The humanitarian aid operation is also being hindered by a spate of killings or kidnappings of staff from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

WFP has to double the amount of people it feeds from more than one million per month, to 2.4 million by December. CARE International and the International Committee of the Red Cross are to assist the remaining 1.1 million.

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 June 30, 2008 9:51 PM


New York, Jun 26 2008 2:00PM
The world’s major industrialized nations must take the lead in efforts to tackle the three interrelated crises of global food insecurity, climate change and development in poor countries, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on the eve of an official trip that will include his participation in next month’s G-8 summit in Japan.

“If ever there were a time to act, together as one, it is now,” Mr. Ban <"">told journalists at United Nations Headquarters in New York, a day before he departs for the two-week visit to Japan, the Republic of Korea and China.

“Seldom has the global community been under such stress. The ties that bind us, as humankind, are fraying. We must work especially hard to preserve them, at this critical juncture, in the interests of our common future.”

Mr. Ban said it was “no exaggeration to say that we face three crises, all interrelated and demanding our immediate action,” with the problems caused by soaring food prices the most pressing.

At the G-8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, the Secretary-General said he would appeal to world leaders to deliver on the measures they agreed to under a road map drawn up at a major international meeting in Rome earlier this month.

“It calls on nations to remove export restrictions and levies on food commodities and reduce agricultural subsidies, particularly in developed countries,” he said, adding that the proportion of official development assistance (ODA) for agricultural production and rural development should be trebled.

Climate change is no less immediate a concern, Mr. Ban said, urging world leaders to press forward from the achievements of last year’s conference in Bali to devise a lasting agreement on greenhouse gas emissions by next year.

“In Hokkaido, I will ask for short- and medium-term targets for reducing greenhouse gases. It is not enough to talk of change by 2050. If we want real change, we must begin now – with targets for real progress by 2020.”

A fully funded and operational adaptation fund, to help the world’s most vulnerable nations cope with climate change, must be in place by the end of this year, according to Mr. Ban, who also called for concrete steps to transfer the latest low-carbon technologies to poor States.

The Secretary-General said that climate change and the global food crisis are slowing and in some cases reversing the progress made towards the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which world leaders have agreed to strive to achieve by 2015.

“In Hokkaido we must deliver on our commitments. I will also seek increased funding for specific programmes relating to infant and maternal health, community health projects and disease control – HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.”

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 June 22, 2008 8:44 PM


New York, Jun 20 2008 9:00AM
From recreations of refugee camp life in national capitals to film festivals, food bazaars and fashion shows, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is observing World Refugee Day today with a series of activities around the globe to draw attention to the plight faced by the displaced.
The events, which are supported by UNHCR’s partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the agency’s Goodwill Ambassadors and refugees themselves, also include light shows, photography exhibitions, lectures, concerts, sports competitions, quizzes, essay-writing competitions, tree-planting projects, seminars, workshops and public awareness campaigns.
Using “rotection” as the theme of the Day this year, UNHCR is recreating refugee camp life in around 20 capitals. Earlier this week it set up family tents with exhibits of relief items and a burned-out hut in London’s Trafalgar Square to raise awareness of conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Darfur.
Rome's fabled Colosseum is being illuminated with the UNHCR logo and the legend: “Protecting refugees is a duty. Being protected is a right.” In keeping with annual tradition, the soaring Jet d'Eau in Geneva is being bathed in blue light to mark the day.
A photographic exhibition, "Do You See What I See?" is taking place at Geneva's Palais des Nations, the UN's European headquarters, as well as in Yemen and Namibia. Refugee children in Yemen's Kharaz camp and Osire camp in Namibia have documented their lives, hopes and dreams through text and images.
In Syria, a charity concert at the Opera House in Damascus by acclaimed Iraqi oud (lute) player, Naseer Shamma, will raise money for UNHCR's Iraqi refugee programme, which faces a funding crisis.
UNHCR offices in Uganda and Ethiopia have full programmes planned in refugee camps and settlements, while refugee-themed film festivals are being held in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland and Venezuela.
In India, the highlights include a clothes drive and a cultural extravaganza run by UNHCR as well as a free health camp for refugees, organized by the refugee agency's partner, New Delhi YMCA.
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Osvaldo Laport is attending a tent exhibition in Buenos Aires, where the bookshop El Ateneo will be handing out UNHCR bookmarks based on a local awareness campaign.
In neighbouring Chile, President Michelle Bachelet – a former refugee – will meet UNHCR Regional Representative Cristian Koch and refugees living in the country, including some of the more than 100 Palestinians recently resettled in Chile after fleeing the violence in Iraq.
UNHCR's Deputy High Commissioner L. Craig Johnstone will lead World Refugee Day celebrations in the United States, attending a public ceremony and a film screening at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C.
A special message from UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has been released on the video-sharing website YouTube around the world, while Sudan-born basketball star Luol Deng is inviting YouTube users and Facebook users to join an online campaign to “Give Refugees a Hand.”

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 June 22, 2008 7:19 PM


New York, Jun 17 2008 1:00PM
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided assistance to 25.1 million people in 2007 – an all-time high – according to its latest annual global snapshot, released today.
“After a five-year decline in the number of refugees between 2001 and 2005, we have now seen two years of increases, and that’s a concern,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres <"">said in London today after the report was released.
Using figures collected from 150 countries the report says there were a total of 11.4 million refugees outside their countries, as well as 26 million others displaced internally by conflict or persecution at the end of 2007.
“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” Mr. Guterres said. “They range from multiple new conflict-related emergencies in world hotspots to bad governance, climate-induced environmental degradation that increases competition for scarce resources, and extreme price hikes that have hit the poor the hardest and are generating instability in many places.”
The number of refugees under UNHCR's responsibility rose from 9.9 to 11.4 million by the end of 2007. UNHCR also currently provides protection or assistance directly or indirectly to 13.7 internally displaced persons (<"">IDPs) – up from 12.8 million in 2006.
In addition, the report lists other categories of concern to UNHCR, including stateless people, asylum-seekers, returned refugees, returned internally displaced, and “others.”
In all, it lists 31.7 million people entitled to UNHCR support, excluding 4.6 million Palestinian refugees helped by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (<"">UNRWA).
Among refugees, the report notes that Afghans (around 3 million, mainly in Pakistan and Iran) and Iraqis (around 2 million, mainly in Syria and Jordan) accounted for nearly half of all refugees under UNHCR's care worldwide in 2007, followed by Colombians (552,000) in a refugee-like situation, Sudanese (523,000) and Somalis (457,000).
It says much of the increase in refugees in 2007 was a result of the volatile situation in Iraq. The top refugee-hosting countries in 2007 included Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordan.
Among the internally displaced, the report cites up to 3 million people in Colombia; 2.4 million in Iraq; 1.3 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); 1.2 million in Uganda; and 1 million in Somalia.
Some 647,200 individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted to governments and UNHCR offices in 154 countries last year – a 5 percent increase and the first rise in four years.
The report says the increase can primarily be attributed to the large number of Iraqis seeking asylum in Europe. By nationality, the individual claims included Iraqis (52,000), Somalis (46,100), Eritreans (36,000), Colombians (23,200); Russian Federation (21,800); Ethiopians (21,600) and Zimbabweans (20,700).
Top destination countries for individual asylum-seekers were the United States, South Africa, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Greece.
Some 731,000 refugees were able to go home under voluntary repatriation programs in 2007, including to Afghanistan (374,000), Southern Sudan (130,700), the DRC (60,000), Iraq (45,400) and Liberia (44,400). In addition, an estimated 2.1 million internally displaced people went home during the year.
Refugee resettlement referrals to third countries increased substantially in 2007, with UNHCR submitting 99,000 individuals for consideration by governments – the highest number in 15 years and an 83 per cent increase over the previous year.
But overall, less than one per cent of the world's refugees are resettled by third countries. By the end of the year, 75,300 refugees were admitted by 14 resettlement countries, including the United States (48,300), Canada (11,200), Australia (9,600), Sweden (1,800), Norway (1,100) and New Zealand (740).
The year also saw a decline of some 3 million people who had been considered stateless, primarily as a result of new legislation in Nepal providing citizenship to approximately 2.6 million people, as well as changes in Bangladesh. It is estimated that there are some 12 million stateless people worldwide.

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 June 13, 2008 9:11 PM


New York, Jun 13 2008 5:00PM
The health of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean children is in jeopardy because of last week’s decision by the country’s authorities to ban non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from distributing aid, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

“The situation in the last week has certainly got a lot worse for Zimbabwe’s children because so many hundreds of thousands of them are dependent on aid,” <"">UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said.

UNICEF had been providing support to more than 185,000 orphans in the impoverished Southern African country but it has suspended its programmes in the wake of the Government decision on 5 June to ban aid distribution.

Many Zimbabweans were already suffering from food shortages and rampant inflation and the situation has been exacerbated by the violence plaguing the country ahead of the presidential run-off election between incumbent Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, which is scheduled for 27 June.

“Many of those children are now seeing horrendous levels of violence that are sweeping through rural areas,” Mr. Elder said. “This is something that UNICEF has repeatedly made its objection to.

“We’ve got several weeks now of great uncertainty. It’s winter – it’s a time that children can ill-afford to be held hostage to any type of politicking.”

UNICEF’s warning echoes that of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who briefed the Security Council yesterday “on what is a very worrying and very serious and deteriorating humanitarian in Zimbabwe.”

Estimating that up to 4 million people – or about a third of the national population – are now in need of aid, Mr. Holmes urged Zimbabwe to rescind its decision to suspend the NGO aid distribution.

“I hope it will prove to be temporary,” he told reporters after the briefing. “There are some indications from the Government of Zimbabwe that it will be temporary and that they might even relax it in some ways, but we need to see that translated into practice. If it went on longer than the immediate pre-electoral run-off period, the consequences could be very serious indeed.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, <"">speaking to journalists in London after a meeting there with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stressed the need to end the violence engulfing Zimbabwe.

“When I had a meeting with President [Robert] Mugabe last week in Rome, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that there would be no further violence, and that this forthcoming presidential run-off election should be held in a most transparent and fair and convincing and credible way, and I urged him to take all necessary measures to ensure that,” Mr. Ban said.

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 June 07, 2008 11:13 PM


New York, Jun 6 2008 11:00AM
Two United Nations agencies dealing with labour and agriculture today launched a new website designed to highlight the many areas in which they work together, including youth employment, safety and health and crisis management.

The website: “Food, Agriculture and Decent Work” (<""> describes the cooperation and activities of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 10 major fields and provides links to related information sources.

The site showcases work related to decent employment, child labour, youth employment, cooperatives, small and medium enterprises, rural workers, safety and health, crisis management, crops, fisheries and forestry, and labour statistics.

The ILO seeks to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. The goal of FAO is to help reduce hunger and rural poverty through the sustainable development of agriculture, rural areas and their natural resources.

“Both organizations share a commitment to support people-centred, sustainable development and fair and inclusive globalization,” according to a news release issued by ILO.

“A coordinated strategy is a critical option in order to complement and enhance the work currently being carried out by each organisation, respectively, on labour and agriculture and rural development and promote rural work,” the agency added.

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 June 01, 2008 5:11 PM


New York, May 27 2008 12:00PM
Relief efforts by aid agencies have reached around one million people in Myanmar, just over 40 per cent of those affected by Cyclone Nargis, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Speaking to reporters today in Geneva, OCHA spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs <"">said that the 40 per cent figure does not include aid distributed by the Government. Some 153 international flights had arrived in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, she said, and between 10 and 15 flights are coming in every day, with air-bridge flights from the logistics hub at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport to Yangon now fully operational.
Ms. Brys said that <"">OCHA hoped that the UN World Food Programme (<"">WFP) would be able to start operating 10 helicopters in Myanmar as soon as possible, after the Government gave the go-ahead to their deployment. So far, WFP and its partners have delivered over 3,000 tons of food aid reaching some 460,000 people.
Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (<"">WHO) said that the highest priority now for affected populations is access to water, sanitation and basic healthcare. The agency has mobilized a specialized team to focus on malaria prevention and control.
WHO and other health agencies have called for greater financial support to meet victims’ health needs, following on from an international pledging conference held in Yangon on Sunday, which was chaired by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN. As of yesterday, WHO said that over 50 countries have pledged around $50 million to the UN to support relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.
The UN Children’s Fund (<"">UNICEF) is completing an assessment of the needs of children within the country and has been providing health, education and water and sanitation supplies as well as technical assistance.

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 May 24, 2008 11:47 PM


New York, May 23 2008 12:00PM
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced that Myanmar’s Senior General Than Shwe has agreed to allow international aid workers, regardless of their nationality, into the areas worst affected by Cyclone Nargis after the two men held talks today.

Speaking to the press after the discussions, held in the country’s new capital Naypyidaw, Mr. Ban reported that he had held a “good meeting” with the Senior General.

“He has taken quite a flexible position on an issue that, until now, has been an obstacle to organizing coordinated and fully effective international aid and assistance operations,” Mr. Ban said. “He has also agreed that [the] visa issue will be speeded up.”

The Secretary-General said the Senior General had agreed that the main airport at Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city, can be used as a logistics hub for international aid so that relief can be distributed more quickly to those in need. Aid can also be delivered to the country via civilian ships and small boats.

“I hope all these agreements can produce results quickly. Implementation will be the key. Finally, we have agreed on the kind of effective coordination and consulting mechanisms we need.”

The Secretary-General arrived yesterday in Myanmar, where Cyclone Nargis has left up to 2.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people may have been killed since the storm struck on 2 May.

Yesterday Mr. Ban toured some of the worst affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta and spoke with families who had been forced to leave their homes.

“I am humbled – humbled by the scale of this natural disaster, the worst your country has ever experienced, and humbled by the courage and the resilience of the Myanmar people.”

Mr. Ban added that he had heard many tragic stories. “At a refugee camp, villagers told me of the loss of their families, their loved ones, everything they owned. But I also saw homes – and lives – being rebuilt.”

Saying he was encouraged by his meeting with Myanmar’s leadership, the Secretary-General said: “From all I have seen, the Government, with help from the international community, have put in place a functioning relief programme. But I told them that more needs to be done. Their efforts need to be reinforced, quickly, by international experts with tested experience in handling emergencies.”

Tomorrow Mr. Ban is due to attend an inaugural relief flight from the new UN staging areas in Don Mueang, Thailand. On Sunday he will return to Myanmar’s largest city Yangon for a pledging conference to raise funds for the disaster. “Our goal will be to focus on the immediate relief efforts, and also to look at the recovery phase which will have to start in parallel,” he said.

UN agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have been mounting a major relief effort for victims of the severe storms, bringing in shelter, tents, food and medical supplies, though they say many people have still not been reached with aid.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today issued a warning that monsoon rains in Myanmar were increasing the risks of an outbreak of disease. WHO says it is working with the Government to set up a surveillance system to monitor possible outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that hundreds of thousands of people in the remote areas of the Irrawaddy delta still do not have sufficient food to eat.

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 April 27, 2008 12:54 AM


New York, Apr 25 2008 3:00PM
Addressing drought is essential in resolving the food crisis the world faces, the United Nations agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters said today.

Both drought and unsustainable water management have played a key role in the current problem, and managing drought risk is essential to finding a long-term solution to the crisis, according to a press release issued by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

Reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate – have shown unequivocally that the world is warming, almost certainly due to human activity, with potentially disastrous effects including worsening drought in some regions and heavier rainfall in others.

“Drought creeps, so we can outrun it,” said Sálvano Briceño, Director of the ISDR Secretariat. “But this will take a genuine mindset and policy shift towards the ethos that prevention is better than cure, and serious political and economic commitment to saving harvests and lives on a global economic level.”

Major food exporters such as Australia and Ukraine are experiencing the effects of drought, serving as examples of how climate change can trigger future food crises.

Water scarcity contributes to food scarcity, and, as the IPCC has pointed out, billions of people are at the risk of water stress by the end of the century unless carbon emissions are slashed and urgent adaptation actions are taken.

ISDR said that a greater emphasis must be placed on disaster risk, urging communities and nations to enhance their defences against global warming, drought and desertification through such measures as improved water management.

Yesterday, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that soaring food prices across the globe are threatening the agency’s efforts to feed the world’s hungry.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran warned of the “new face of hunger” – the millions being pushed into the urgent hunger category.

“We're also concerned because this isn't just an issue of hunger, but also an issue of instability,” she said, with protests against soaring food prices having been held in dozens of countries.

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 April 26, 2008 11:04 PM


New York, Apr 24 2008 4:00PM
The accelerating rise in food prices worldwide is threatening the work of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to feed the millions of hungry people around the globe, the head of the agency said today.

“We can buy 40 per cent less food than we could last June with the same contribution,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a video conference from Rome, voicing concern that as many as 100 million people face being pushed deeper into poverty.

The aggressive price increases – caused by such factors as income growth, rising oil prices, increasingly severe weather and trade policy, among others – began last June, she noted. In the past month alone, the price of rice in Asia has nearly doubled.

“If people don’t have resiliency it makes it very difficult to adjust,” she said, adding that those in the developing world spend more than 70 per cent of their household income on food already.

In countries where people subsist on less than $1 per day, many have cut back on meals, only eating several times per week.

“We’re also concerned because this isn’t just an issue of hunger, but also an issue of instability,” Ms. Sheeran pointed out, with protests against soaring food prices having been held in dozens of countries.

Furthermore, there is the additional challenge of adequate supply, with up to 40 countries now imposing export bans on food, impacting importing countries, which are most impacted by the food crisis.

Those most at risk are children and mothers; refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs); pastoralists; and the urban poor.

The Executive Director also cautioned that farmers are joining the ranks of the “new face of hunger,” the millions being pushed into the urgent hunger category. Despite the higher prices farmers can get for their products, many do not have access to credit or any form of support and are therefore unable to afford the inputs required and must plant less.

In Kenya’s Rift Valley, non-IDP farmers are planting only one-third of what they did last year due to soaring prices of supplies such as fertilizer.

Along with governments, other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), <"">WFP is pursuing a three-track global strategy for the current crisis. As part of an immediate response, it seeks to assess needs and identify the newly vulnerable and target its distribution of food in extreme situations.

In the medium term, WFP hopes to provide seeds, fertilizer and other key inputs, as well as expand its cash and voucher initiatives, while in the longer term, it seeks policy reform, bolstered agricultural production and investment in sustainable safety nets.

Last week, the agency announced it faced a $755 million shortfall – in addition to its budget of over $3 billion for 2008 – to feed the hungry worldwide due to food and fuel price increases.

UN Children’s Fund (<"">UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman also expressed concern over the “negative social and economic impacts” of climbing food prices, particularly in low-income and least developed nations.

In a statement, she observed that the rising prices will most affect the most vulnerable, including people depending on humanitarian assistance, orphans, those affected by HIV and AIDS, refugees and poor urban families.

“The increase in food prices may not only slow down progress towards achieving health and nutrition related Millennium Development Goals [<"">MDGs], but can also reverse or negatively impact child-related social indicators,” Ms. Veneman remarked.

Calling for evidence-based interventions, she said that the most pressing priority is to assist already malnourished children and prevent the deterioration of the nutrition situation of affected populations.

 [ send green star]
 April 26, 2008 9:55 PM


New York, Apr 22 2008 10:00AM
The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today <"
called" target="_blank">">called for urgent action to tackle the “silent tsunami” of rising food prices which threatens to push more than 100 million people worldwide into hunger.

“This is the new face of hunger – the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, after addressing a British parliamentary hearing in London.

She said that like the 2004 tsunami, which hit the Indian Ocean leaving quarter of a million dead and about 10 million more destitute, the food price crisis – the biggest challenge WFP has faced in its 45-year history – requires a global response.

“The response calls for large-scale, high-level action by the global community, focused on emergency and longer-term solutions,” she added.

Recalling the record $12 billion provided by the donor community for the tsunami recovery effort, Ms. Sheeran said “we need that same kind of action and generosity.”

Stressing the role of partnerships in fighting the food “emergency,” she said WFP has been working with donor governments, other UN agencies, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and other humanitarian actors, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to ensure a coordinated response.

The impact of the crisis is already being felt in different parts of the world. Unless new funding can be found on time, WFP will have to suspend school feeding to 450,000 children beginning in May in Cambodia.

In addition, protests and riots have broken out in some countries over the rising cost of many basic foods, such as rice, wheat and corn.

Addressing a gathering of trade and development officials in Ghana over the weekend, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon <"
urged" target="_blank">">urged immediate steps to guarantee the world’s food security, starting with ensuring that WFP has the additional $755 million it needs to cover the rising costs of its existing emergency operations.

 [ send green star]
 April 20, 2008 4:42 PM


New York, Apr 18 2008 5:00PM
The recent drastic rise in food prices means the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) now needs more than $750 million to meet its commitment to feed the world’s 73 million hungry people this year.

In late February, WFP announced that it required an additional $500 million, on top of its original appeal for this year of $2.9 billion, to carry out its efforts, but surging food prices have led <"">WFP to revise that figure upwards to $756 million.

The cost of rice in Thailand, for example, swelled from $460 per ton on 3 March to $780 five weeks later.

WFP warned that prices could rice even higher. “We are not looking at a picture anymore, we are watching a movie,” the agency’s Christiane Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva today. To date, $900 million has been received towards WFP’s original appeal.

In a related development, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has accepted an invitation from Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (<"">FAO), to attend a summit on the topic of food security in Rome.

He confirmed his attendance today at the start of the 30th FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that the UN agency has a crucial role to play in tackling the issue.

The three-day event, which will start on 3 June at FAO Headquarters, “must take place in a rational manner, without being clouded by emotions or left or right-wing ideologies,” the President said. “We need scientific foundations so that people can discuss solutions to the crisis to offer to the world in years ahead.”

Dr. Diouf said the upcoming summit will be a “golden opportunity to adopt policies, strategies and programmes that will enable us to face the major challenges currently confronting us which, aside from the price surges, include the question of agricultural production, especially in poor countries.”

 [ send green star]
 April 19, 2008 11:27 PM


New York, Apr 15 2008 4:00PM
A United Nations-backed group of over 400 scientists are calling for a radical change to the way the world grows food to better serve the poor and hungry and to protect the planet’s resources.

Modern agriculture has brought significant increases in food production, but its benefits have been uneven and have come at a high cost to small-scale farmers, workers, rural communities and the environment, according to a new report by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.

The group, which is sponsored by several UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (<"">FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (<"">UNEP), as well as the World Bank, proposes putting measures in place that will boost production while also protecting and conserving precious resources such as water, forests and biodiversity.

“To argue, as we do, that continuing to focus on production alone will undermine our agricultural capital and leave us with an increasingly degraded and divided planet is to reiterate an old message,” said Professor Bob Watson, Director of IAASTD.

“But it is a message that has not always had resonance in some parts of the world. If those with power are now willing to hear it, then we may hope for more equitable policies that do take the interests of the poor into account,” he added.

The group also calls for addressing trade regimes and subsidy systems, since, as Professor Watson noted, “the poorest developing countries are net losers under most trade liberalization scenarios.”

The report comes just one day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for a “significant increase in long-term productivity in food grain production,” in addition to short-term measures to address critical needs and avert starvation in many parts of the world amid the global surge in food prices.

The crisis has already sparked unrest and tensions in many countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and, most recently, in Haiti, where several people have died in riots.

Today the UN Children’s Fund (<"">UNICEF) expressed concern that the increasing food prices could force families to spend more on less food, and families might remove their children from school so that they can work and earn money.

Stopping school meals due to lack of funds is another concern, since the only semi-balanced meal many children eat are provided at schools, the agency noted.

 [ send green star]
 April 13, 2008 1:01 AM


New York, Apr 10 2008 12:00PM
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today <"">bestowed its highest award, the Agricola Medal, on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his efforts to spur agricultural development and reduce hunger and poverty in India.

Mr. Singh had shown “exemplary vision and resolve” in promoting the growth of Indian agriculture, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said, as he presented the award in New Delhi during the first-ever Global Agro-Industries Forum.

“With your deep understanding of India’s economy you have made modernizing and revitalizing your country’s agriculture one of your highest priorities,” he added.

The South Asian nation is the world’s second largest agricultural producer after China.
Over 60 per cent of the population is employed in agriculture and the sector accounts for 18.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Mr. Diouf noted that the flow of credit to Indian farmers had almost doubled in the last four years. In addition, horticultural production is set to double by 2012 while plans are underway to increase national rice, wheat and pulses production by 20 million tons, thus significantly improving domestic food security.

“Thanks to your efforts, agricultural growth in your country is on the path to contributing more to the fast growth of a global economy that includes the needs of vulnerable citizens,” he told the Prime Minister.

Previous recipients of the Agricola Medal include King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, French President Jacques Chirac, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Pope John Paul II, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Johannes Rau of Germany.

 [ send green star]
 April 13, 2008 12:05 AM


New York, Apr 7 2008 12:00PM
Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, squelched diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices, even though they are also highly productive, <"">according to a report announced by the United Nations scientific agency today.

“Business as usual is no longer an option,” states the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which will be formally launched on 15 April by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The report’s authors recommend that agricultural science place greater emphasis on safeguarding natural resources and on ‘agro-ecological’ practices, including the use of natural fertilizers, traditional seeds and intensified natural practices, and reducing the distance between production and the consumer.

The need for action is urgent, the report says, because many poor people are now reliant on the global food market, where soybean and wheat prices have increased by 87 per cent and 130 per cent respectively in the last year.

Global grain stores are today at their lowest level on record and prices of staple foods such as rice, maize and wheat are expected to continue to rise because of increased demand, especially in China and India, and because of the alternative use of maize and soybeans for bio-fuels.

In addition, the report states that 35 per cent of the Earth’s severely degraded land has been damaged by agricultural activities.

UNESCO says that the IAASTD report is the result of three years of cooperation between nearly 400 scientists, the governments of developed and developing countries, and representatives of civil society and the private sector.

Its conclusions will be presented for approval to the plenary session of the IAASTD intergovernmental panel that will gather from 7 to 12 April in Johannesburg, South Africa. It will then be launched simultaneously in several cities, including Washington D.C., London and Nairobi.

 [ send green star]
 March 15, 2008 11:04 PM


New York, Mar 14 2008  2:00PM
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for $6 million so that it can continue to feed up to 90,000 Burundian refugees returning to their home country from neighbouring Tanzania.  

The agency warned that without an influx of funds, it may have to halt its food assistance by May or June when the returns are expected to peak.

“WFP needs donors to provide for the vital needs of the returnees – most of whom are women and children – at this critical moment,” <"">said the agency’s Burundi country director, Jean-Charles Dei. “”It would be a tragedy if we are unable to provide the full support refugees will need when returning to Burundi.”

Hundreds of thousands of Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries over the years to escape deadly ethnic tensions or outright civil war.

Last year, a tripartite commission – comprising the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (<"">UNHCR) and the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania – agreed that those who fled Burundi in 1993 should repatriate, with as many as 60,000 of these refugees expected to return to Burundi.

The commission also decided that the so-called “1972 Burundians” – some 218,000 people who fled to Tanzania that year – be given the choice to either remain and apply for Tanzanian citizenship or return to their home country. Tens of thousands of refugees have expressed their desire to return to Burundi.

WFP and its partners are supplying six-month food rations for each repatriating family, and UNHCR is providing a 50,000 Burundian franc cash grant – equivalent to $45 – to each returning refugee. Each family leaving Tanzania also receives WFP prepared meals in transit camps.

However, to meet the urgent needs of these refugees, WFP has already been forced to scale back rations to other recipients of its aid in Burundi, including schoolchildren and mothers. To keep its Burundian operations – which provide food for 600,000 people monthly – running the agency requires an additional $20 million.

“It’s crucial for the consolidation of peace in Burundi that not only the returnees, but also the communities that are receiving them, receive the assistance they need at this seminal time in the country’s history,” Mr. Dei noted.

Last weekend, UNHCR kicked off a landmark two-year programme to repatriate those “1972 Burundians” wishing to return to their home country. The new programme – which the agency deems as one of its most important in Africa this year – is heavily dependent on contributions, and so far, $9 million of the $34 million UNHCR has appealed for has been received.

 [ send green star]
 March 15, 2008 8:39 PM


New York, Mar 11 2008  1:00PM
In the wake of world food prices leaping almost 40 per cent last year, the United Nations agricultural agency is calling on governments and businesses to boost production through investment.
“A supportive institutional and regulatory environment is mandatory to attract private investment at all levels of the food chain,” according to a paper presented by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (<"">FAO) at a conference in London yesterday.
“Improving policy dialogue between private stakeholders and policymakers will be instrumental,” it concluded.
At the conference, co-sponsored by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (<"">EBRD), agribusiness leaders met with government officials from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CI, which is believed to have great untapped agricultural potential, especially Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
In these countries around 23 million hectares of arable land were withdrawn from production in recent years, and at least 13 million hectares could be returned to production, with no major environmental cost, FAO said.
In a speech delivered by Charles Riemenschneider, Director of FAO’s Investment Centre, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf noted that current predictions for CIS grain production point to a rise of seven per cent to 159 million tons between 2007 and 2016.
“But let us be bolder and imagine the removal of the institutional and financial constraints that limit production in the region. The region’s cereal output and its contribution to world exports would then be well above those projections,” Mr. Diouf said.
An EBRD paper submitted to the conference shows that governments have responded to rising food prices by introducing price controls, increased subsidies, reduced import barriers and restrictions on exports designed to benefit consumers.
The Bank maintains that many of these measures could prove to be counterproductive on a long-term basis, and encourages governments to limit interventions that would distort domestic markets or disadvantage producers and traders.  
Protection of the poorest consumers, the paper suggests, could be achieved through targeted income support to the most vulnerable segments of the population.
The Bank said it would target its own investments to the development of local supply chains and to the development of new rural financing methods.

 [ send green star]
 March 08, 2008 8:45 PM


New York, Mar  7 2008  2:00PM
With between 300,000 and 500,000 people playing it daily, an Internet game that to date has generated 21 billion grains of rice for the United Nations World Food Programme (<"">WFP) is proving to be an online sensation.  

Launched six months ago, <""> is an interactive vocabulary game in which players donate 20 grains of rice to WFP every time they answer a question correctly, allowing children to simultaneous bolster their vocabularies and help feed the world’s hungry.

The money raised from advertising is used to underwrite FreeRice’s donation to WFP, and so far, enough rice has been generated to feed 1.1 million hungry people for one day.

The first recipients of the website’s aid went to refugees from Myanmar taking shelter in Bangladesh.

“This rice I receive from WFP allows me to feed my family adequately,” said Gool Bahar, 39, a widow supporting her family in the Nayapara refugee camp by growing vegetables.

Additional rice has also gone to Ugandan schoolchildren and pregnant and nursing women in Cambodia. The next batch will be distributed to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

“I never imagined that things would move this fast or that it would be such a success,” said the game’s creator John Breen, an online fundraising pioneer from the United States. “Quite apart from the actual amount of rice generated, FreeRice is a fantastic way of spreading the message about world hunger.”

A new audio function lets players hear how words are pronounced, and Mr. Breen said a team of lexographers is working to expand the database of 10,000 words. To scale up the game’s appeal to younger and non-native English speakers, visitors can now select the level of difficulty to start out at.

Teachers have voiced their appreciation for a vocabulary game that has the power to draw their students in.

“You cannot imagine the joy in my heart when I look out and see 25 kids doing vocabulary homework and enjoying it,” one teacher from California told the School Library Journal.

The appeal of the online game to children is such that ‘communities’ have blossomed on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

“Wow this is so great! You prepare for English tests AND help out others. My total count so far is 6,100 grains,” a New York high school student said in a comment on Facebook.

 [ send green star]
 March 01, 2008 10:35 PM


New York, Feb 29 2008  2:00PM
The harshest winter weather conditions in nearly three decades has devastated Afghanistan’s livestock – with over 300,000 animals dying since last December – and the United Nations is providing support by sending some 80 tons of feed to the hardest-hit farmers.

Nearly 800 people have lost their lives in the extreme cold, and many others, particularly shepherds and their families, have been severely frostbitten and have required emergency amputation, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (<"">FAO).

“The situation is very worrying,” said Samuel Kugvei, the agency’s acting Representative in Afghanistan. “Livestock are a lifeline for many of the affected households, whose food situation is already precarious.”

Livestock devastation is compounded by high fuel, vegetable oil and cereal prices, further increasing food insecurity, FAO warned.

Together with the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, the agency has distributed 20 tons of feed in Herat, one of the provinces most affected, and 60 tons of feed concentrate to farmers in Bamiyan.

The agency is also appealing for mover than $2 million to provide 1,500 tons of feed, as well as vaccines, multi-vitamins and anti-parasitic treatment for the livestock of 50,000 vulnerable families. To date, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid division, known as ECHO, has pledged $500,000 for 500 tons of feed concentrate.

FAO also warned that high global prices of wheat, the main staple, combined with the low purchasing power of a large portion of the population mean that Afghanistan’s commercial import requirement this year of 550,000 tons of wheat may be met.

But according to early forecasts, prospects for this year’s wheat crop are favourable, with heavy snowfall last month making up for below-normal precipitation earlier this season.

 [ send green star]
 February 16, 2008 10:55 PM


New York, Feb 15 2008  7:00PM
The annual meeting of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has wrapped up with participants issuing a call for stepped-up investment to help poor rural farmers.

At the two-day <"">IFAD Governing Council meeting in Rome, delegates from the agency’s 164 Member States recognized the impact of climate change and soaring food prices on poverty-stricken smallholders in developing countries.

Attendees suggested measures to ease the burden on the rural poor, including reducing transportation costs, establishing safety nets for those who purchase more food than they grow and increasing productivity through research and micro-credit programmes.

“The major donor countries have not yet fully realized that the root cause of many social ills – youth unemployment, migration, urban slums and immigration, stem from the lack of investment in rural space,” IFAD President Lennart Båge told reporters.

He appealed for more fund to support agriculture, since the vast majority of the world’s poorest reside in rural areas. Currently, only 3 per cent of all international aid is directed towards farming.

 [ send green star] Blood Donations February 05, 2008 9:39 PM

For those of you who have money to lend, I suggest checking out  You can lend money to specific business's in developing countries through Kiva.  These business's have been reviewed for their financials and risk of defualt too.  I suggest checking out to see what you think.  I also think that donating blood at a local blood drive would also benefit people here in the United States.  If you live outside the United States try to find a local blood drive or local blood bank where you can donate.  In the United States, you can go to to find blood drives by the American Red Cross to go too.  I hope some of you can come up with other websites where we can make an impact on issues such has poverty, hunger, medical care, etc. for people who need it.


 [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Relief Agencies February 05, 2008 7:31 PM

Some international agencies that I have donated to before that help with poverty, hunger, medical care, etc. are The Mercy Corps, World Vision, and The Salvation Army.  I know that these are Christian based organizations but I think that they do wonderful work for people in need around the world.  The links are,,  I know that in order to help with these agencies, you would have to make a financial donation.  But at least you can look at the websites and see if you can volunteer too.  Other ways of helping out is by clicking at,,,,,,, and
You can also check out America's Second Harvest at  They help out with local food banks in the U.S.  Hopefully these websites will help you to contribute to alleviating poverty throughout the world.


 [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 February 04, 2008 8:38 PM

26,500 children died today
> Updated figures reported by UNICEF showed that approximately 9.7
> million children under the age of 5 died around the world. That
> is the equivalent to some 26,500 children dying a day, or 1 child
> dying approximately every 3 seconds. The causes are often poverty,
> hunger and preventable diseases. While the number of under 5 children
> dying each year is declining, the pace of decline seems slow year
> after year. Since 1960, such deaths have fallen from 20 million to
> 9.7 million in 2006 and given the population has doubled in that
> time, the achievements could also be considered positively. However,
> UNICEF is concerned that progress has not been evenly distributed,
> with many countries not making much progress.

 [ send green star]
 February 02, 2008 11:05 PM


New York, Jan 31 2008  8:00AM
The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed a draft law in Ireland that would speed up the asylum process for people seeking protection in the country. The new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill offered "a unique opportunity to strengthen Ireland's existing asylum system by introducing a single asylum procedure," said Manuel Jordão, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ireland. The draft legislation, which must be tabled in parliament, would bring Irish law in line with the European Union's asylum directives while simplifying the asylum process. The current multi-stage system, criticized by Ireland's Department of Justice as far too lengthy, would enable decision-makers to examine grounds for protection with wider scope to make a ruling at the initial and appeals stages of the asylum process. Mr. Jordão said the bill would enhance the quality of asylum decisions, greatly reduce the risk of gaps occurring in the assessment of asylum claims, speed up decision-making and reduce the time asylum seekers live in accommodation centres.

 [ send green star]
 January 19, 2008 7:10 PM

Developing countries need both trade and aid, says new UN study (18 January 2008)

With the erosion of trade preferences, which save least developed countries (LDCs) hundreds of millions of dollars a year in duties that would otherwise be levied on their exports, both trade and aid are crucial to their development, according to a new United Nations study.

Before the 6th UN World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in 2005, the prevailing rationale for the preferences was that “trade is better than aid.” The new paradigm has become “aid for trade.”

This recognizes that trade preferences per se are not sufficient to generate supply capacity and economic growth in the LDCs, but that aid is first needed to make the preferences, and trade itself work for development, says the study – Erosion of trade preferences in the post-Hong Kong framework: From “trade is better than aid” to “aid for trade.”

The study, produced by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), underscores the significant value of trade preferences granted by the so-called Triad - the European Union, the United States and Japan, which are the LDCs’ largest trading partners. In 2004, such preferences represented about $800 million in savings.

It examines which products and countries have benefited the most from existing preferences and what the likely effects will be of preference erosion. It tackles the relationship between preference erosion and recent proposals for aid for trade and finds that while there has been some progress in widening the scope of preferences, the issue of erosion remains to be addressed to the satisfaction of many developing countries.

Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. It has progressively evolved into an authoritative knowledge-based institution whose work aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development.

It provides technical assistance tailored to the specific requirements of developing countries, with special attention to the needs of the LDCs and of economies in transition. When appropriate, UNCTAD cooperates with other organizations and donor countries in the delivery of technical assistance.

 [ send green star]

Over 1 million Afghans face food shortage due to rising prices – UN agency (14 January 2008)

More than 1 million people in rural Afghanistan are at risk of food shortages due to an increase in prices for staples such as wheat flour and vegetable oil, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.

“There are as many as 1.3 million Afghans who before were considered at borderline risk of food insecurity, but now, because of large price increases may have been pushed into a situation of high-risk of food insecurity,” WFP Country Director Rick Corsino said at a press briefing in Kabul today.

“We have concluded that assistance for this group of people is justified and necessary for the period before the next harvest,” he added, noting that an additional 40,000 tons of food – at a cost of some $30 million – would be needed, in addition to the agency’s ongoing programmes.

WFP has been working with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture to assess the scope of the increase in prices and identify those most affected by it. The price of wheat flour, for example, has increased by nearly 60 per cent throughout the country over the past year, with some locations having seen price increases of close to 80 per cent.

“These increases are not necessarily unique to Afghanistan,” Mr. Corsino stated, noting that over the past 12 months the price of wheat globally has increased by nearly 100 per cent. The increase is attributed to several factors, including higher demand for cereals in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia, the conversion and use of some grains for bio-fuels, and a poor harvest in one or two parts of the world that have traditionally had very strong wheat production.

In addition, there have been price increases in Pakistan, where much of Afghanistan’s wheat flour comes from. And within Afghanistan itself, insecurity in certain parts of the country has contributed to higher transport costs, leading to higher prices for basic commodities.

WFP is working with the Government on an appeal for food aid which will likely be launched next week. The assistance will most likely be distributed mainly through “food-for-work” projects in rural areas, Mr. Corsino said

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