VOL. NO: 21    DATE:
 
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AFRICAN ECHO NEWS

HUNGER IN AFRICA ECHOED ALARMING CONCERN
-By Ndeloa Columbus 

Nor sooner has Africa being lifted from the crisis of conflict,and good governance as well the challenges of technologicaldevelopment and economic reforms than many parts of the continent is being engulf by widespread hunger of an unprecedented proportion that is afflicting millions. Shocking pictures of malnourished children and families in Niger has been dominating international media headlines to give another ugly face of the continent already plaque by several problems. People would have imagine or mistook the photos as those in refugee camps in Darfur,or eastern Congo etc waiting for food aid ,But this is not the case! Apparently they depict the sufferings of a nation once enjoying food sufficiency. Aids organisations and UNICEF estimates that about 4million people are afflicted by hunger alone in Niger and thousands of
children are at the verge of death from malnutrition and misery.

Niger is not alone, in recent years economic and social developments in Africa have been greatly hampered by poverty leading to thousands of death each year. Humanitarian agencies has expressed concerns regarding
the state of hunger in Ethiopia,Zimbabwe,Malawi,Somalia,congo, sudan, Sierra Leone , Mali etc reiterating that the extend of these crisis
could greatly jeopardise developments in these states. Not only have these organisations appeal for concerted efforts to timely address the situation but also reminded donor nations and organisations of the economic consequences to these states especially their inability to meet the millennium development goals.

In general, the state of hunger is improving worldwide. But Sub- Saharan Africa is the only region where hunger is both widespread and increasing, and the number of hungry people in the continent continues to grow steadily. One in three Africans is undernourished. One child out of every seven dies before his or her fifth birthday, and half of these deaths are due to malnutrition.

Hunger in Africa stems from deep poverty, which has recently been dramatically affected by the AIDS pandemic. The entire combined income of the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa is not much more than that of Belgium. Average income per capita is lower than it was at the end of the 1960s and more than half of the people live on less than one dollar a day.The effect of globalisation has been disappointing to most Africa
economies with the continent controlling just about 6% of world trade. 70% of the population rely on agriculture, which of course depends heavily on natural weather. Conversely crops production or harvest especially at subsistence level has remained low and highly vulnerable. Cash crop production has partly improved in some states but faced rapidly unfair terms of trade in the international market. Trade protectionism and subsidies practised by the west have equally contributed in African bankruptcy and their inability to save let alone afford food to sustain their poor citizens especially those afflicted by bad harvest. All this is compounded by technological deficiency especially in the food industry thereby limiting the ability to ncrease food processing and storage (buffa stock) in times of hunger.

How we can response to these crisis..... Despite these grim statistics, and the magnitude of the effect of hunger in Africa, one of the urgent initiative is to tackle the problems from the local level that is to greatly involve Women ,the majority of whom are breadwinner to ncreasingly have a stronger say in their communities and empower to manage their resources. In some countries, the process of qualifying for debt relief has facilitated dialogue between the government and community groups about how best to reduce poverty. These kinds of evelopments make Africa more able than ever to effectively use aid to fight poverty. Poverty alleviation projects could focus on developments that fights hunger by strengthening agriculture, microenterprise (small business growth), education and health.

Development in these areas promotes both improved wellbeing and income generation. Community development and good nutrition also build on each other. Improved agricultural practices, increased education, the capacity for management and income generation, and better health enable a community to produce and buy better food. Well-nourished, healthy people are, in turn, able to invest more energy and income into better farming techniques, education and business ventures. Agricultural assistance can fund research on African crops and improved agricultural techniques and provide reliable access to the information farmers need. This kind of aid promotes local knowledge and farmer-to-farmer information sharing. It also promotes the increased diversification of crops, which enables agriculture to support a community even when one crop fails. Poverty-focused agricultural development has great impact on the production of food for both consumption and income. A study of 22 African countries showed that in the first year agriculture training was offered, crop yields increased by 40 percent. Women especially benefit from training, as they account for 80 percent of food producers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Small microcredit loans, encouraging "microenterprise" or small business start-ups, can give Africans opportunity to generate income as well. Microenterprise ventures can vary from the manufacturing of natural textile dyes to the production of cassava flour to the cultivation of shade-grown cocoa. Small-scale farmers who receive these loans can purchase better seed, fertilizer and tools that allow them to grow more crops for the same amount of effort. They are able to diversify crops, manage their business risks and compete more successfully in the market. African women, who often take responsibility for food and household expenses, especially benefit from microenterprise.

Basic education also has a profound effect on hunger. Literacy and math skills help farmers manage their incomes and take advantage of better farming techniques and technologies. Low-income farmers equipped with at least four years of primary education are able to increase their agricultural productivity by an average of nine percent. Research shows that basic education for girls is particularly effective in fighting hunger since women usually take responsibility for feeding children and managing the household. Educated women generally give birth to fewer children and are better able to provide nourishment for their families. On average,
one in every 16 women without secondary education gives birth each year, compared to one in every 100 women with secondary education.

Poverty-focused development efforts that address hunger inherently also address health. Good nutrition gives the body energy and the nutrients to help the body fight infection and repair itself after injury. Research even suggests that wellnourished people are less likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS, and that women with adequate vitamin A are fourand- a-half times less likely to pass the HIV infection on to their children. Without good health, productivity declines and it is difficult to generate income or food. The sick and their caregivers lose crop output as they cultivate less land or delay time-sensitive farming operations like planting and weeding. A Zimbabwe study estimates that agricultural output may be 50 percent less than five years ago because of HIV/AIDS.

Development assistance must also focus directly on improving health care systems and infrastructure and on responding to communities affected by disease. Estimates show that sub-Saharan Africa's gross national product would be up to a third greater now if malaria had been eliminated 35 years ago. Treating HIV/AIDS patients on a broad scale in Africa is not yet a real possibility because of the high cost of drugs. But by directly promoting health care systems that educate about the transmission of AIDS and facilitate HIV testing, development assistance also helps prevent the spread of AIDS and its devastating effects on the whole community. Poverty actually reduces the purchasing power of the people and makes them vulnerable to hunger. Effective and sustainable war against hunger lies on addressing the root causes of poverty and care about the environment. This involves strengthening the necessary economic institutions and the political will to undertake major reforms to boost agricultural production. This progress will greatly reduce poverty in Africa
than depending on food aid.

 

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