UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a 50 percent increase in food production by 2030, saying that failure to feed the world’s growing population will spark civil unrest and starvation. ?The world needs to produce more food,? he said June 3 in the opening speech at the World Food Security conference in Rome. ?While we must respond immediately to high food prices, it is important that our longer-term focus is on improving world security – and remains so for some years.? Bloomberg reported leaders of developing nations, such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, criticized the role subsidies that rich countries pay their farmers have played in stymieing food production, while Western leaders called for more aid to help increase output.

The World Food Program (WFP) might need to import rice for its aid programs in cyclone-hit Myanmar (Burma) where farmers in the Irrawaddy delta rice bowl are struggling to plant a new crop, a spokesman said on June 4. The UN food agency, which provided food aid in northern and central parts of Myanmar before the May 2 cyclone, could also have a presence in the delta for up to a year, WFP spokesman Paul Risley told reporters. The WFP is still supplying extra rations of rice and other food in coastal areas of Bangladesh seven months after Cyclone Sidr killed nearly 3,500 people. (Reuters)

More than 1 million people still don’t have adequate food, water or shelter a month after a devastating cyclone swept through Myanmar, and the military junta’s policies are hindering relief efforts and driving up the cost of aid operations, the United Nations said June 3. Humanitarian groups say they continue to face hurdles from Myanmar’s military government in sending disaster experts and vital equipment into the country. As a result, only a trickle of aid is reaching the storm’s estimated 2.4 million survivors, leaving many without even basic relief, AP reported.

The African Union and UN are working to appoint a joint chief mediator to jumpstart efforts to bring peace to Sudan’s Darfur region, said UN Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson, who is also working on a new diplomatic initiative for Darfur. “Our job was to re-energize the political process,” he told journalists in Khartoum, where he was on a visit for talks with Sudanese officials. Experts estimate some 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes in five years of ethnic and political conflict in the Darfur region. Khartoum says only 10,000 people have been killed. Reuters reports efforts by Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim to end the conflict have been complicated by a surprise strike across the desert last month by Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Children as young as six are being sexually abused by peacekeepers and aid workers, says a leading UK charity. Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the very people drafted into such zones to help look after them, says Save the Children. After research in Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, the charity proposed an international watchdog be set up. Save the Children said it had sacked three workers for breaching its codes, and called on others to do the same, the BBC reports. The UN has said it welcomes the charity’s report, which it will study closely.

Nearly 3 million people in the developing world now get AIDS drugs – 1 million more than a year ago – but two-thirds of those in need still lack access to treatment, the WHO said June 2. The increase in use reflects deep cuts in the price of branded medicines and widespread availability of cheap generics. The total represents 31 percent of the 9.7 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries who need the treatment, Reuters reported officials said. Most live in sub-Saharan Africa. “The answer to the HIV epidemic is preventing new infections,” said WHO HIV/AIDS Director Kevin De Cock. “An additional 1 million people came on to therapy but another 2.5 million became newly infected with HIV, so we have to do better with prevention.”

The UN has granted authority for foreign ships to enter Somalian waters in order to fight piracy and armed robbery. All 15 members of the UN Security Council on June 2 voted in favor of the resolution, aimed at fighting nautical attacks and hijackings along the East African country’s 3,000-kilometre coastline. Somalia’s transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf, told the council “the issue of piracy is beyond our present means and capabilities, AP reported. “Hence, we would like to request the Security Council to urgently adopt the draft resolution on piracy off the coast of Somalia,” he said.

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