News in Brief 21 June 2017 (AM)

21 Jun 2017

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a press conference on the occasion of World Refugee Day. In addition to his remarks on the situation of refugees and migration around the world, the Secretary-General fielded questions on a variety of issues, including the Syrian conflict. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Urgent appeal for civilian protection in Syria: UN chief

An urgent appeal has been made by the UN Secretary-General for combatants in Syria’s six-year civil war to do “everything in their power to protect civilians.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, UN chief António Guterres said he was “deeply alarmed” at the sheer depths of human suffering being endured across the country, particularly by civilians in Raqqa, which has been occupied since 2014 by the ISIL, or Daesh, extremist group.

A coalition of mainly Arab and Kurdish fighters supported by US-led airstrikes began an offensive to retake the city two weeks ago.

Mr Guterres said the thousands of trapped civilians faced “threats from every direction” and the situation was also grim for others stuck in besieged and hard-to-reach areas which have been without basic medical help, often for years on end.

The UN and partners were doing all they can to “stem the suffering,” he noted, “often at great personal risk.”

The UN chief said it was critical for warring parties to let humanitarian aid reach those in need of life-saving assistance.

Nigeria “dangerously unprepared” to receive returning refugees: UNHCR chief

The north-east region of Nigeria is “dangerously unprepared” to receive thousands of refugees returning across the border from Cameroon.

That’s the firm view of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who said on Wednesday that returns were simply “not sustainable at this time.”

The UNHCR chief said the agency had warned three weeks ago about the lack of shelter, water supplies and sanitation facilities in the border town of Banki, where there was also severe overcrowding.

A violent insurgency by the Boko Haram extremist group, based originally in north-east Nigeria, forced hundreds of thousands from their homes over the past few years.

Mr Grandi said that a Tripartite Commission, established with UNHCR and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, needed to hold its first meeting “as soon as possible to outline the minimum conditions needed for returns.”

Seed distribution begins, to fight hunger in north-east Nigeria

And staying in north-east Nigeria: Seeds and fertilizer for more than a million people are being distributed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as part of government-led efforts to fight hunger in the wake of Boko Haram violence.

The crop planting season has begun this month and the government, assisted by the UN, hopes to help restore livelihoods in areas devastated by conflict.

The emergency seed distribution comes at the same time as a German government contribution to FAO, of around US$4.5 million, to alleviate food insecurity in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

The funds will help FAO improve agricultural production and safeguard livestock belonging to those including the displaced, refugees and host communities.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’21”

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FAO-WFP report is an invaluable tool for the UN Security Council, says its President

Photo: ©FAO/Karel Prinsloo

Pastoralists in Somalia. Actions to promote food security can help crisis-prevention, mitigate its impacts and promote post-crisis recovery and healing.

9 June 2017, New York – In a meeting with the United Nations Security Council President, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia, FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva has introduced an updated version of a joint FAO and World Food Programme (WFP) report on the monitoring of food insecurity in conflict-affected crisis.

Ambassador Llorentty Solíz described the report as “an invaluable tool” which will keep the UN Security Council updated on the food security situation of countries in conflict. “The information is very reliable and we look forward to receiving future editions,” he added.

During Thursday’s meeting, Graziano da Silva stressed that countries with ongoing conflicts have a disproportionately high number of food insecure people.

He noted that improving food security can help build sustainable peace and even ward off looming conflict. Actions to promote food security can help prevent a crisis, mitigate its impacts and promote post-crisis recovery and healing, the FAO Director-General added.

An estimated 108 million people across 48 countries are experiencing unacceptably high levels of acute food insecurity. This figure is 35 percent higher than in last year’s report when 80 million people were in the same situation.

Major food crises are the result of conflict, record-high food prices at local level and abnormal weather patterns caused by El Niño, according to FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) report Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations submitted to the United Nations Security Council.

“Civil conflict is the driving factor in 10 of the 13 worst crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security,” Graziano da Silva and WFP Executive Director David Beasley wrote in a foreword to the report. They noted how conflicts have left large numbers of people food insecure and in need of urgent assistance.  

“The demand for humanitarian life- and livelihood-saving activities as well as resilience assistance is therefore escalating,” they added.

The report underscores how some of the areas most affected by hunger crises are also in the grips of conflict and violence. In particular, South Sudan – where famine has been declared – northeastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen which are threatened by famine.

The report also noted how the spillover effects from conflict have had a significant impact on neighbouring countries, such as the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and that of the Lake Chad Basin affecting parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

“Investing in agriculture and rural development while providing life-saving food assistance is key to limiting the negative impact and addressing the root causes of conflicts,” Graziano da Silva and Beasley, wrote, noting how in most of the countries covered by the report, eight out of ten people affected live in rural areas.

Pointing to the need for adequate investments in crisis prevention and recovery, the FAO and WFP leaders called for a robust understanding of the situation and for joint efforts to respond to the crises.

In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the report noted that given conflicts can inhibit sustainable development, Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to significantly reduce all forms of violence and to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Similarly, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving food security and making agriculture sustainable are recognized as critical elements for meeting the goal of ensuring peaceful and inclusive societies.

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In Chad and Cameroon, Security Council hears of Boko Haram terror and survivors' needs

4 March 2017 &#150 The United Nations Security Council is today in Chad, as part of a four-country visit &#8220to shine a spotlight&#8221 on the ongoing humanitarian challenges in the Lake Chad Basin region and draw international attention to the plight of about 11 million people.

In the Chadian capital of N&#39Djamena, the Council met with Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacké and visited the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which includes troops from the four affected regional countries &#8211 Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, plus Benin &#8211 in the fight against Boko Haram.

&#8220The Security Council welcomed the efforts to fight Boko Haram and encouraged more regional coopWe came here in order to shine a spotlight on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin.eration,&#8221 according to a Tweet by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the UN which has the Security Council’s rotating presidency for the month of March and is leading the visit.

Discussions with the Prime Minister also focused on the economic situation in Chad and the importance of women participating in the economy and politics.

Also today, the Council members met with representatives of the UN agencies, funds and programmes and non-governmental organizations working in the country.

They are working to aid the millions of people who, in addition to the security threat from Boko Haram and the fight against the terror group, also face a major food and nutrition crises. Some 2.4 million people are currently displaced in the area, according to UN figures, and more than 7.1 million are severely hungry.

In his conversations with the Council, Stephen Tool, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator in Chad, detailed the severe challenges in the countries, which include malnutrition, disease and health, sanitation. He noted, however, that &#8220you cannot deal with humanitarian issues without looking at the root causes&#8221 which include insecurity, development gaps, lack of education, poor agriculture, and so on.

&#39That’s who we&#39re fighting for&#39

The Security Council delegation, led by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the United Kingdom, had yesterday visited Cameroon, where members met with President Paul Biya and other senior Government officials.

The Council also met with refugees and people displaced by Boko Haram and the forces tracking them.

In a blog post, Mr. Rycroft detailed meeting two young survivors of Boko Haram’s violence. The first, a boy who was 13 years old when the terrorist group stormed his village and killed his friends and family. The other boy was about 10 years when he was kidnapped, escaped, and has since 2014 lived in a camp for internally displaced persons.

&#8220They are heroic beyond measures,&#8221 Mr. Rycroft said. &#8220That’s who we&#39re fighting for.&#8221

Speaking earlier in the day, Mr. Rycroft outlined his vision for the visit.

&#8220First of all, we came here in order to shine a spotlight on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin.

&#8220We came to hear the individual stories of people involved, whether they are refugees or displaced people or other victims of Boko Haram.

&#8220We stand with the government and the people of Cameroon, and the wider region, in tackling the scourge of terrorism, and in encouraging them to look broadly and deeply at the root causes of the set of crises going on here.&#8221

The delegation heads to Niger later today, and is scheduled to continue on to Nigeria tomorrow.

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Nigeria hunger crisis deepens, spills over into Lake Chad Basin

Photo: © REUTERS/ Akintunde Akinleye

Men work on a farm in a village on the outskirt of Zaria in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna. The country’s worst hit states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa have seen virtually no harvests for three to four years, making agriculture assistance more important than ever.

24 February 2017, Rome – As conflict and instability continue, the food security situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin is drastically deteriorating, FAO warned today, as it called for swift and decisive action from the international community to protect the livelihoods of millions of families dependent on farming, livestock and fishing for their food and livelihoods. 

With the next planting season starting in May, and with scarcity of animal fodder and water points during the lean season, it is crucial that crop seeds, tools and livestock support reach families urgently to limit the scope of the deepening crisis that now involves four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.  

Some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across the four countries. Among them are 515 000 children who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a condition which, if untreated, can lead to permanent damage to a child’s development and even death. 

FAO is among the UN agencies and governments attending the Oslo Humanitarian Conference today, organized to mobilize international funding for the crisis-struck region, where 80 to 90 percent of people rely on farming, fishing and herding for their livelihoods.

“In the worst-affected areas, famine continues to loom — and millions will remain trapped in cycles of severe hunger if we don’t enable farmers to start cropping now,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, who is representing FAO at the conference. “Our collective efforts cannot be limited to merely avoiding massive famine – they need to allow people to return to a dignified life. And supporting agriculture is the key to both,” he said.

Besides reducing hunger and boosting nutrition, investing in farmers also provides much needed job opportunities that reduce migration and limit the potential for radicalization of unemployed youth, according to Burgeon.

Crisis spilling across borders

Violence related to the armed group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has spilled over to parts of neighboring countries in the Lake Chad Basin – specifically, Cameroon’s Far North, western Chad and southeastern Niger – with devastating effects on food security and livelihoods. 

With the Lake Chad Basin approaching a critical period in the agricultural calendar, FAO is urgently calling for $30 million in immediate emergency support to help farming families in the four countries get ready to plant in the upcoming May planting season and prevent them from slipping into long-term dependency on food aid. 

A total of $232 million will be needed to secure food production and access to food for three million people in the worst-hit areas over the next three years. The vast majority of the requested funds – some $191 million – is designated for Nigeria, which is bearing the brunt of the crisis. 

Violence and displacement drive severe hunger

Violence has driven millions across the four countries from their homes and hampered access to agricultural lands and assets, creating massive humanitarian needs in an area already struggling with food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation. Host communities, in particular, have been struggling for several years now to feed the displaced as well as their own.

As humanitarian access improves, revealing the magnitude of impact of the conflict, time has come to support both people who remained on their land and those who decide to return to their original livelihoods.

In Borno State alone, the population in crisisemergency and catastrophe phases of food insecurity (Phases 3 to 5 on the five-tiered scale used by humanitarian agencies) increased from 2 million in August 2016 to 3.3 million in October-December 2016. The worst-affected in this group are not able to feed themselves and have exhausted all resources by selling off their belongings, including seeds, tools and animals. Without intervention, that number is expected to climb to 3.6 million at the height of the lean season in August 2017.

The UN foresees around 120 000 people facing famine conditions in Nigeria. Of this number, the vast majority – some 96 percent — are expected to be in Borno.

Targeting the most vulnerable 

Emergency farming assistance must go hand in hand with food assistance for it to be successful throughout the upcoming lean season. To this end, FAO is collaborating with the World Food Programme to ensure vulnerable families — mainly IDPs and host communities — receive food assistance, and at the same time  agriculture-based livelihood support in the form of provision of seeds, tools and fertilizer. This way, they will able to restore and protect their livelihoods and farming assets for ongoing food production. 

FAO’s long-term strategy for the Lake Chad region puts a special emphasis on supporting refugees, internally displaced families and host communities, as these are the most vulnerable groups in this crisis. Interventions are geared to improving their food security and nutrition and building their resilience so they are better equipped to handle future shocks. In addition, restoring agriculture-based livelihoods will offer a unique opportunity to pave the way to recovery and peace in the affected areas.

The strategy incorporates not only provision of farming and livestock inputs but also technical training, cash transfers, instruction in natural resource management, and support in setting up community-managed funds that can reduce vulnerability to shocks.

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Nuclear-Derived Techniques Improve Cattle Productivity and Milk Quality in Cameroon

Laboratory technician assessing data at the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, Bambui, Cameroon

Focus on productivity

In collaboration with the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), LAVANET and the country’s Institute of Agricultural Research for Development are engaged in training technicians on disease control and artificial insemination to improve cattle productivity and breeding management. Veterinarians, veterinary extension services and breeders in the region have access to tested bull semen and are receiving training in artificial insemination, breeding management and animal health control. “Artificial insemination allows scientists to improve the genetic make-up of the offspring, leading to up to five times more milk produced per cow,” said Mario García Podesta of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

The methodology assists technical staff in improving the reproductive management of cattle farms and in obtaining more calves, meat and milk than with traditional farm management. The application of progesterone RIA in artificial insemination helps identifying 20-40% more cows for breeding than conventional methods that involved watching behavioural signs. It can subsequently increase the conception rate by between 5% and 50%, depending on the effectiveness of the traditional method and management previously used, said García Podesta.

Improving livestock also involves tracking and preventing diseases. LANAVET is performing surveillance to detect infectious diseases in northern Cameroon, where the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between summer and winter pastures poses disease risks to livestock Wade explained. Some of the most serious disease risks to cattle, sheep, goat and pigs are foot-and-mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia, brucellosis, tuberculosis, peste des petits ruminants and African swine fever, which can become endemic if not swiftly addressed. Mobile labs using isotopic, nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques help to identify these risks early and rapidly, which results in effective response, he highlighted.

Reaching out

To extend awareness of the benefits of artificial insemination among rural farmers, who depend on traditional methods of cattle rearing, the Institute’s regional centre in Bambui works with them directly in getting across the message and providing access to the tools required for artificial insemination. “It is our duty to meet the demands of the farmers, and make them aware of the advantages of this procedure in strengthening livestock,” said Victorine Nsongka, Head of the Animal Production and Health Section of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development in Bambui. “The proactive efforts by the Institute to successfully convince our farmers will assist in meeting the rising demand for meat and milk production.”

A related project, currently in its preparatory phase, will lead to the artificial insemination of 70 000 cows over the next six years in northwestern Cameroon, Nsongka said. Sponsored by the Islamic Development Bank, this initiative will also use the IAEA-supported techniques and will lead to the development of an artificial insemination and reproduction network in the region, she added.

The application of nuclear techniques developed by the IAEA to monitor reproductive hormones, using nuclear and nuclear-derived  techniques such as RIA and ELISA, has resulted in a better understanding of the reproductive physiology of livestock species, in identifying and ameliorating limiting factors affecting reproductive efficiency.

Cameroon’s government is reaching out to extend support to breeding centres in Burkina-Faso, Benin, Central African Republic and Chad to increase the proportion of dairy animals through the use of semen from genetically superior animals through artificial insemination.

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