Ending famines and chronic hunger requires good governance

03Jul 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Ending famines and chronic hunger requires good governance

Washington The United Nations’ urgent call in February for hunger relief for 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria has drawn the world’s attention to the connection between conflict and hunger.

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir.

Washington The United Nations’ urgent call in February for hunger relief for 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria has drawn the world’s attention to the connection between conflict and hunger.

While there is no doubt that armed conflicts are a main driver of these hunger crises, more mundane problems such as bad governance and poor public policies also leave many with insufficient access to food and demand attention.

Food shortages in peaceful places such as Malawi and Zimbabwe illustrate that good governance, like peace, is a precondition for
preventing famine.

The historical examples of Bangladesh and Ethiopia provide valuable insight into how to combat chronic hunger through principled
governance and sound policies.

Both countries previously experienced recurrent famines, but in more recent years have made tremendous progress in reducing
the threat of hunger for their populations.

While many in both countries still face serious hunger and malnutrition challenges, their success in reducing the worst hunger
problems demonstrates that government investments in the right areas and programs — and policies that allow for growth — can
increase food security and prevent famine.

In the early 1970s both Bangladesh and Ethiopia were internationally infamous for crippling famines and widespread malnutrition.
Like today’s worst hunger crises, violence and civil unrest contributed, but so too did underinvestment in the economy in general — and in agriculture, roads, and public services in particular.

Beginning in the 1980s in Bangladesh and the early 2000s in Ethiopia, however, large-scale public and private investments in agricultural research and extension and the promotion of fertilizer use led to substantial gains in cereal production and the availability of food.

Infrastructure investments such as expanding road networks helped effectively move crops from farms to markets. All together these investments helped smallholder farm households share in the gains from higher yields and production, raising their incomes and access to food.

Rural nonfarm and urban incomes also rose due in part to multiplier effects of increased farm household spending, further extending
the gains and reducing risks of hunger and malnutrition.

But not everyone in Bangladesh and Ethiopia could benefit from increased farm productivity. So to improve food security for their most vulnerable populations, each country has established successful social protection programs.

In Bangladesh, the government utilized both domestic resources and food aid (from the United States, as well as other countries)
to provide food to needy households through the well-targeted programs of Food For Work and Food For Education.

Ending famines and chronic hunger requires good governance lowing substantial market liberalization in the 1990s,
private sector grain flows of maize from western Ethiopia helped stabilize prices in the drought-affected highlands of
eastern Ethiopia.

Government commercial imports of wheat combined with increased food aid (distributed through additional
PSNP wheat transfers, as well as market sales) also contributed to increased availability of grain.

Ultimately, as a result of these earlier medium-term investments and current short-run policy measures, Ethiopia to a large extent
escaped the severe food shortages that have affected nearby Eastern African countries (although recent droughts in the far eastern
portion of the country has devastated livestock populations there).

Of course, none of these policies and investments will be effective in substantially improving food security without
an end to armed conflict.

Food security is possible for the people of South Sudan, Somalia and other drought affected regions, but only
once peace and security are restored. In the short term, food aid and targeted relief programs are also badly needed.

Food and other development aid provided by the United States, other western countries, the World Bank and other organizations played an important role in the achievements of both Bangladesh and Ethiopia — and they are now crucial to improve food security
and economic growth in countries currently facing food security crises.

But the historical examples also provide strong evidence that long-term commitments of national governments to rural development and food security are just as, or even more, important.

Enhancing food security in Eastern Africa and elsewhere in the world will require a multi-faceted set of public and private investments, sound policies and targeted interventions for especially vulnerable households.

The examples of Bangladesh and Ethiopia show it can be done.

And in recent years, programs on Maternal and Child Health Education have led to substantial improvements in nutrition for
undernourished children.

In Bangladesh, stunting for children under 5 years old fell from 72 percent in the early 1990s to 36 percent by 2015; in Ethiopia,
stunting rates fell from 57 percent in the early 2000s to 40 percent by 2015.

Similar programs in Ethiopia have likewise reduced the worst risks of hunger.

Since the early 2000s, the country’s Productive GENEVA US naval groups in the Black and Baltic seas are capable of hitting targets in Russia West of the Ural mountains with Tomahawk cruise missiles having a range of 2,500 kilometers, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate, Lieutenant-General Viktor Poznikhir, told a joint Russian-Chinese news briefing on missile defense issues at the disarmament conference in Geneva.

“Missile defense ships in the Black and Baltic seas pose a threat to facilities in the European part of Russia, because it is unclear what missiles the Mk-41 launchers carry at a given moment,” Poznikhir said.

He said the US cruisers and destroyers armed with interceptor missiles are also suitable for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles having a range of 2,500 kilometers.

“Each Ticonderoga class cruiser has 128 Mk-41 launchers that can be loaded with interceptor missiles or Tomahawk
cruise missiles.

The Arleigh Burke destroyer has 96 launchers. Potentially the US missile defense ships can be armed with more than 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles,” Poznikhir said.

The missile defense bases in Romania and Poland, he said, are equipped with similar universal launchers Mk-41.
“All speculations to the effect the ground-based Mk-41 launchers are allegedly unable to launch cruise missiles do
not hold water.

The interceptors at the missile bases in Europe can be stealthily and promptly armed with Tomahawks that can
attack targets in the whole of Russia’s European part,” Poznikhir said.

“It should be remembered that the possibility of using the naval missile launchers on the ground for accommodating the Tomahawk cruise missiles is a crude violation of the 1987 INF treaty.

Russia has more than once notified its US partners of its concerns about such violations of international commitments.
There has been no response to this day, though,” he stated.

Top military brass warns US missile defense ships in Black and Baltic seas can hit Russia Safety Net Program has largely
replaced annual appeals for emergency food aid with welltargeted system of transfers of food and/or cash to needy
households, linked to a work requirement for able-bodied individuals.

PNSP projects include terrace building to reduce erosion and maintenance of roads.

More recently, the PSNP has also been expanded to address nutritional needs of mothers and children through maternal
education and other nutrition programs.

Not all improvements to food security require large government investments, however.

Changes to policies that impact foods can either exacerbate or relieve food shortages. Ethiopia’s 1984 famine was substantially
worsened by government restrictions on transport of grain across regional boundaries by private sector traders.

Similarly today, the government of Malawi’s attempt to stabilize maize prices by placing an export ban on the
staple crop denied potential income for local farmers and raised costs of imported maize in neighboring countries.
Ethiopia in 2016 provides an instructive contrast. Fol-

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