United Nations

Some countries have already been successful in the fight against hunger which affects more than one billion people worldwide, the UN food agency said Nov. 17. But despite the progress, analysts said countries trying to combat the scourge still faced numerous hurdles and their efforts could bring them into conflict with global trade regulations, AFP reports. Sixteen countries have already reached the goal of reducing hunger levels by 50 percent by 2015, according to an FAO report published at a world hunger summit organized by the agency. Among those to have hit the target are China, Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand, Armenia, Georgia, Vietnam, and Peru. FAO chief Jacques Diouf hailed the news which he said was a result of "unflagging commitment on the part of governments of developing countries themselves and energetic support by the international community."

The price of a vaccine that helps babies fight off killer diseases has been forced down, thanks to a coordinated buying policy to meet the growing demand from developing countries, a UN-backed health alliance said on Nov. 18. Data from the United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) showed average prices for the shots, which protect against five infant diseases, will have fallen by 22 percent over eight years by 2012. "This price drop is no accident, but…the result of a strategy to leverage the purchasing power of hundreds of millions of people," UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry said in statement. "Clearly, industry understands and responds to a market, regardless of whether that market is in poor or rich countries."

Nearly 12 million Africans deemed at highest risk from yellow fever will be vaccinated next week against the virus, which can cause explosive epidemics in cities, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Nov. 15. The vaccination drive will span three countries - Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone - starting on Nov. 23 and take about a week, the WHO said. The vaccination drive, which is also backed by UNICEF, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), was launched in 13 West African countries at the end of 2007. Some 29 million people have been vaccinated against yellow fever so far, according to the WHO. "A single dose of the vaccine offers full protection," said WHO Epidemic Readiness and Intervention Unit Coordinator William Perea.

African leaders agreed on Nov. 14 on how much cash to demand from the rich world to compensate for the impact of climate change on the continent but kept the figure secret ahead of next month's Copenhagen talks. "We have set a minimum beyond which we will not go," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who will represent Africa at the talks, told reporters, as cited by Reuters. "But I am not in a position to tell you what that minimum figure will be." The announcement came as a panel of 10 African nations met in Addis Ababa to finalize a common stance. However, AFP reports Meles said African demands for climate change compensation and emission cuts by rich nations are unlikely to be met. "We have only a few weeks between now and Copenhagen… the indications that we get are not very encouraging."

The UN has started drawing up a code of conduct to regulate overseas investment in farmland, but the voluntary rules will not be ready for at least a year, the Financial Times (UK) reports. The code is the first attempt to control the growing trend of so-called "farmland grab" deals, which involve rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and South Korea investing in overseas farming to boost their own food security. The trend gained prominence after an attempt by South Korea's Daewoo Logistics to secure a large chunk of land in Madagascar contributed to the collapse of the African country's government. The UN and the World Bank are walking a tightrope in drawing up a code of conduct, however, as they do not want to undermine all foreign direct investment in agriculture. The difficulty was reflected in a declaration from the World Food Summit in Rome that aims to "facilitate and sustain private investment in agriculture" while seeking a study of "good practices to promote responsible international agricultural investment."

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