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Posts Tagged ‘World Food Programme

A tiring tale from the FAO that again ignores the global food industry

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Cheap processed food advertised in Chengdu, P R China.

Cheap processed food advertised in Chengdu, P R China.

Why has the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) not stated what has become painfully obvious to households the world over – that the macro-economics which determines everything from what farmers grow and what city workers pay for food is utterly out of control?

This silence is why FAO’s ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013’ – with its updated estimates of undernourishment and its diplomatic paragraphs about progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and World Food Summit (WFS) hunger targets – remains conceptually crippled.

The roles of the food industry, its financiers, its commodities satraps, the marketers and their fixers in government, the networks that link legislators and food business investors in countries with growing processed foods businesses, all these shape food security at the community and household level. Yet none of these are considered critically by an FAO report that ought to be thoroughly non-partisan on the matter.

The FAO ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013’ (condensed to SOFI 2013) has said that “further progress has been made towards the 2015 MDG target, which remains within reach for the developing regions as a whole, although marked differences across regions persist and considerable and immediate additional efforts will be needed”.

How many more food insecurity indicators are needed to tell governments what their working class households already know? The table of SOFI 2013 indicators.

How many more food insecurity indicators are needed to tell governments what their working class households already know? The table of SOFI 2013 indicators.

In the first place, let’s consider the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target concerning hunger. This is to halve the proportion of hungry people in the total population. There is also the World Food Summit (WFS) target, which is to halve the number of hungry people. Both have 2015 as the target year. However, any hunger has no place in a world that today produces more than enough food to adequately feed every elder, child, woman and man.

But there is another aspect, and this is: who does the FAO think is paying attention to ‘global’ targets and placing these targets above any local needs or ambitions? Just as the MDGs are scarcely known and recognised outside the enormous development industry which perpetuates a growing mountain of studies and reports on the MDGs, nor are ‘global’ hunger reduction targets. When alleged leaders of the world gather together in the United Nations General Assemblies and other grand international fora and ask (in a tiresome and repetitive way) how we are going to feed 9 billion people, no individual smallholder farmer listens, because growing and feeding is done locally, and therefore ‘targets’ are also local, just as food insecurity or security is local.

This is why the SOFI 2013 approach – which is to say that “the estimated number of undernourished people has continued to decrease [but] the rate of progress appears insufficient to reach international goals for hunger reduction” – is utterly out of place and does not in any way reflect the numerous variety of problems concerning the provision of food, nor does it reflect the equally numerous variety of local approaches to fulfilling food provisioning.

Next, it is way past high time that FAO and the UN system in general jettison the “developing regions” label. It has no meaning and is an unacceptable legacy of the colonial view. Besides, as I point out a little later, food inadequacy (including insecurity and outright poverty) is becoming more and not less prevalent in the so-called developed regions. And moreover, I object to “considerable and immediate additional efforts will be needed” to reverse food insecurity, as the SOFI recommends, because this is the green signal to the global industrial agri-food industry to ram through its destructive prescriptions in the name of additional efforts.

SOFI 2013 also “presents a broader suite of indicators that aim to capture the multi-dimensional nature of food insecurity, its determinants and outcomes”. Once again, it is way past high time that the FAO ceased encouraging a proliferation of indicators of every description (and then some) that do next to nothing to ensure low external input and organic agriculture supported by communities and local in scale and scope, and in which the saving of seed and the preservation of crop and plant diversity is enshrined. There is not one – not a single indicator from FAO (and not one from any of its major partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – for this need that is at the core of the myriad wonderful expressions of human civilisation.

Oxfam has made graphic the growing poverty in the European Union.

Oxfam has made graphic the growing poverty in the European Union.

SOFI 2013 also said that “recent global and national food consumer price indices suggest that changes in consumer prices were generally much more muted than those recorded by international price indices, often influenced by greatly increased speculation in spot, futures and options markets”. This unfortunately is completely untrue, for even FAO’s own database on national consumer price indexes (supplied by FAO member countries themselves) suggests that the CPI follows international price indices (this blog has pointed out the correlation a number of times in the last two years). And it is the same macro-economics that rewards speculators in “in spot, futures and options markets” which also deepens food insecurity every year.

Now, to return to the question of who is “developing” and who is not. The European Union (28 countries) has a population of 503 million (the early 2012 estimate). The USA has a population of 313 million (mid-2012 estimate). How large a group in both the European Union and the USA are hovering around the poverty lines, or who are plain poor, and who cannot afford to buy enough food for themselves?

In a report released in September 2013, the Oxfam aid agency warned that the poverty trap in Europe, which already encompasses more than 120 million people, could swell by an additional 25 million with austerity policies continuing. The report, ‘A cautionary tale: Europe’s bitter crisis of austerity and inequality’, said that one in two working families has been directly affected by the loss of jobs or reduction of working hours.

The food insecurity problem has been growing in the non-“developing” world just as fast as it has been growing in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, south-east Asia and other “developing” regions that the FAO’s flagship reports habitually places in the foreground. In early 2012 news reports in European Union countries were mentioning regularly how “ever more people are threatened with poverty”. The European Commission’s office for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said so too: “Household incomes have declined and the risk of poverty or exclusion is constantly growing.”

Across the Atlantic, a US Census Bureau report released in September 2013 titled ‘Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012’, poverty was found to be “at a near-generation high of 15 percent, close to the high point since the 1965 War on Poverty, the 15.2 percent rate reached in 1983”. This report found that 46.5 million USA ctitzens (about 9.5 million families) live in poverty and that some 20.4 million people live on an income less than half of the official poverty line of the USA.

FAO’s ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013’ will with its present methods, outlook and biases be useful neither to cultivating communities growing the food we eat, nor to administrators in districts and provinces who must plan and budget to encourage local action that brings about food security, nor to the member countries of the United Nations if it continues to ignore the very large and growing numbers of the poor in the European Union and USA – 170 million poor people, and therefore food insecure, is a population that is considerably larger than that of any country in sub-Saharan Africa which inevitably figures in these reports.

Here are the materials for FAO’s ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013’: The FAO news story. A frequently asked questions document. The FAO page on State of Food Insecurity 2013. The executive summary. The full pdf file and chapters. The e-book. The food security indicators data.

World food insecurity report 2011 – expect more of the same

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The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have released ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011’ (SOFI).

This year’s report focuses on high and volatile food prices, identified as major contributing factors in food insecurity at global level and a source of grave concern to the international community. “Demand from consumers in rapidly growing economies will increase, the population continues to grow, and further growth in biofuels will place additional demands on the food system,” the report said.

Moreover, food price volatility may increase over the next decade due to stronger linkages between agricultural and energy markets and more frequent extreme weather events.

Price volatility makes both smallholder farmers and poor consumers increasingly vulnerable to poverty while short-term price changes can have long-term impacts on development, the report found. Changes in income due to price swings that lead to decreased food consumption can reduce children’s intake of key nutrients during the first 1000 days of life from conception, leading to a permanent reduction of their future earning capacity and an increased likelihood of future poverty, with negative impacts on entire economies.

Key Messages

Small import-dependent countries, especially in Africa, were deeply affected by the food and economic crises. Some large countries were able to insulate themselves from the crisis through restrictive trade policies and functioning safety nets, but trade restrictions increased prices and volatility on international markets.

High and volatile food prices are likely to continue. Demand from consumers in rapidly growing economies will increase, population will continue to grow, and further growth in biofuels will place additional demands on the food system. On the supply side, there are challenges due to increasingly scarce natural resources in some regions, as well as declining rates of yield growth for some commodities. Food price volatility may increase due to stronger linkages between agricultural and energy markets, as well as an increased frequency of weather shocks.

Price volatility makes both smallholder farmers and poor consumers increasingly vulnerable to poverty. Because food represents a large share of farmer income and the budget of poor consumers, large price changes have large effects on real incomes. Thus, even short episodes of high prices for consumers or low prices for farmers can cause productive assets – land and livestock, for example – to be sold at low prices, leading to potential poverty traps. In addition, smallholder farmers are less likely to invest in measures to raise productivity when price changes are unpredictable.

Large short-term price changes can have long-term impacts on development. Changes in income due to price swings can reduce children’s consumption of key nutrients during the first 1,000 days of life from conception, leading to a permanent reduction of their future earning capacity, increasing the likelihood of future poverty and thus slowing the economic development process.

High food prices worsen food insecurity in the short term. The benefits go primarily to farmers with access to sufficient land and other resources, while the poorest of the poor buy more food than they produce. In addition to harming the urban poor, high food prices also hurt many of the rural poor, who are typically net food buyers. The diversity of impacts within countries also points to a need for improved data and policy analysis.

High food prices present incentives for increased long-term investment in the agriculture sector, which can contribute to improved food security in the longer term. Domestic food prices increased substantially in most countries during the 2006–08 world food crisis at both retail and farmgate levels. Despite higher fertilizer prices, this led to a strong supply response in many countries. It is essential to build upon this short-term supply response with increased investment in agriculture, including initiatives that target smallholder farmers and help them to access markets, such as Purchase for Progress (P4P).

Safety nets are crucial for alleviating food insecurity in the short term, as well as for providing a foundation for long-term development. In order to be effective at reducing the negative consequences of price volatility, targeted safety-net mechanisms must be designed in advance and in consultation with the most vulnerable people.

A food-security strategy that relies on a combination of increased productivity in agriculture, greater policy predictability and general openness to trade will be more effective than other strategies. Restrictive trade policies can protect domestic prices from world market volatility, but these policies can also result in increased domestic price volatility as a result of domestic supply shocks, especially if government policies are unpredictable and erratic. Government policies that are more predictable and that promote participation by the private sector in trade will generally decrease price volatility.

Investment in agriculture remains critical to sustainable long-term food security. For example, cost-effective irrigation and improved practices and seeds developed through agricultural research can reduce the production risks facing farmers, especially smallholders, and reduce price volatility. Private investment will form the bulk of the needed investment, but public investment has a catalytic role to play in supplying public goods that the private sector will not provide. These investments should consider the rights of existing users of land and related natural resources.

The United Nations sushi-sundae food aid dodge

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The United Nations has shown no spine at all in endorsing the rather childish and distracting new tactic adopted by its own agency, the World Food Programme.

Pointless, ill-advised, juvenile, misleading and an insult to the intelligence of those who want to help solve the hunger problem.

The WFP has launched a website called WeFeedBack which is based on appealing to internet users to “share” their favourite meals by making equivalent donations of what these meals cost to WFP, so that children can be fed by the food aid agency.

The UN News Service, which reflects the outlook of those in the UN who dream up and carry out programmes, makes a great deal out of the “social media platform” aspect of the gimmicky effort.

“In the developed world, life puts tasty food on our plates all the time. French sausage, avocado or chocolate cake – we all have our favorites,” explains the WeFeedBack website.

“If we take just one of these things and give it back, or feed it back, we can help change the lives of hungry school children around the world. WeFeedback brings together individuals like you to do just that. It’s fun, it’s social and it makes a lasting difference.”

This is the sort of thinking that only the fossilised and increasingly insolvent global food aid industry can now resort to. Late last year, in 2010, the World Food Programme had complained about donors not giving it enough money to buy wheat and rice for distribution in regions it regularly supplies.

Instead of agreement at the UN General Assembly that this is state of affairs that cannot be tolerated, the WFP has obviously been left to fend for itself and find innovative ways to raise the money to buy foodgrain. This approach is no more useful than the money spent on the so-called high-profile “ambassadors” (pop singers, footballers, etc) UN agencies seem all to want, which are no more than tawdry public relations manipulation to advertise to the world that its agencies exist.

By turning individual food consumption into a social media sport, the World Food Programme has trivialised its own work.

The UN lost no time in getting the Security Council to come up with an invalid, unrepresentative, illegal and morally reprehensible resolution on setting up a “no fly zone” in Libyan air space, but the UN cannot convene even its committee assigned for the job to meet in between the 65th and 66th sessions of the General Assembly to tackle the question of chronic hunger and the need for continued food aid.

The 65th session of the General Assembly took place last September. There is however a Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee which ought to have paid more attention to this problem. The UN itself says: “Year after year, the General Assembly allocates to its Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee, commonly referred to as the “Third Committee”, agenda items relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues that affect people all over the world.” It seems to have missed this issue – the feeding of those blighted by globalisation.

The WeFeedBack website and its juvenile appeal to those in the world who have both plentiful food to eat and an internet connection is ludicrous. “So far, one of the most popular ‘Feedback’ items is birthday cake, but participants have also fed back glasses of wine, cappuccinos and Mexican burritos,” says the UN News Service report, as if this is no more than a weekend festival.

In its misjudged attempt to appeal to the socially connected online population, which by default is the youth, primarily of the Northern countries, the UN and the WFP have said not a word about the reason for the conditions they are hoping these servings of sushi, sundaes and pizza will address. The UN agencies must practice honesty and openness with its member states as the only way towards genuine social justice, and waste neither scarce money nor the goodwill of well-meaning folk willing to help a greater cause.

Rebuilding, replanting in Pakistan

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Women in a camp for flood victims in the Balochistan province of southwestern Pakistan cook bread using the fortified wheat flour rations they have been provided by WFP. Picture: World Food Programme/Copyright: Amjad Jamal

Women in a camp for flood victims in the Balochistan province of southwestern Pakistan cook bread using the fortified wheat flour rations they have been provided by WFP. Picture: World Food Programme/Copyright: Amjad Jamal

A news bulletin from the World Food Programme (WFP) describes in first person the steady rebuilding of lives taking place in Pakistan. More than two months after the devastating August floods, Amjad Jamal, a WFP spokesman in Pakistan, describes how millions of people are at work reclaiming their lives with the help of a massive food assistance effort.

If we were to drive across Pakistan today, from the Swat Valley in the north to Sindh or Balochistan in the south, what would we see? In the Swat Valley where the floodwaters have all dried up or receded, you would see people rebuilding their homes and replanting the many fruit orchards for which it’s famous. In Punjab, the “bread basket” of Pakistan, you’d see whole villages under construction, with a frenzy of activity in the fields as people rush to get their wheat crop planted in time. In Sindh and the sparsely populated Balochistan, there’s still a lot of standing water, with people unable to return to their homes and living in flood camps.

What signs are there that conditions for the flood victims are beginning to improve? Recovery efforts are well underway in the northern parts of the country where people are working hard to get back on their feet. We’re expecting a poor harvest this season, but have high hopes for the one afterwards next summer as the flood waters have left behind a lot of fertile soil.

A family in a flood camp in the Balochistan province of southwestern Pakistan. Picture: World Food Programme/Copyright: Amjad Jamal

A family in a flood camp in the Balochistan province of southwestern Pakistan. Picture: World Food Programme/Copyright: Amjad Jamal

What is the biggest remaining challenge to helping people impacted by the floods get back on their feet? Our single biggest challenge is still the sheer number of people affected. Getting help to six million people per month in a country as vast as Pakistan isn’t just costly, it’s complicated. Whereas in Swat Valley it means helping people in isolated mountain valleys store up food for the winter, in the plains of Punjab it means helping them rebuild their irrigation canals and in the southern region of Sindh, reclaiming entire farms from the floodwaters.

In what part of the country is that challenge greatest? The situation in Sindh is particularly worrisome as much of the province is still under water and the farmers there have by and large missed the September planting season. In Balochistan too, the huge distances and widely scattered population are making it difficult to get to everyone. The logistical challenges there are compounded by the near constant threat of insecurity along the border with Afghanistan.

Of all the things you’ve seen or heard over the past few weeks, what has made the biggest impression on you? I was recently in Balochistan where it’s extremely difficult to work because you need a security detail to do practically anything, and met a man of about my age at camp for flood victims who was there with his children. When I asked about his wife, he told me that she had died of a heart attack at the sight of their house crumbling under the floodwaters. He’d promised his children that as soon as the waters receded, they’d go back and rebuild it just like it was before the floods.

Written by makanaka

October 22, 2010 at 23:35

What use is the Committee on World Food Security?

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The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) opened its 36th session yesterday (11 October 2010). It’s described as “a five-day high-level intergovernmental meeting” which “takes place against a background of recent increases in international food prices which pose additional  challenges to food security”.

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) said the Committee aims to be “the most inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all relevant stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all. In its role as the cornerstone of the global governance of agriculture and food security, the CFS will be more effective in facing challenges to food security”.

I expected that now at least, when the price of food staples is rising the way it did in 2007, the FAO and its constellation of agencies and committees and task forces would quit moralising and get down to naming names and naming reasons for the rise in prices. After all, the FAO food price index is relied on by national governments, traders and commodity markets – all for different reasons of course. It’s absurd to imagine that FAO analysts cannot see the reason why those indices move.

But if you read FAO statements and press releases, it sounds as though the problems they are struggling to describe in real terms have nothing whatsoever to do with things like trade, speculative trading, hoarding, price gounging, dumping, trade rules, tariffs, embargoes and other instruments designed to beggar national neighbours and reinforce trading blocs.

The FAO still refuses to say that market forces – call it what you will, free market forces or speculative trade or consumerist economics – is very largely responsible for food shortages and food price spikes all over the world. If this 36th session of the Committee on World Food Security cannot, will not or dare not speak the truth, it may as well pack up and go home and save some money by disbanding.

As for the statements, sorry but we’ve heard it all before in varying shades of myopic optimism:

1) FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said “Global problems demand global as well as local solutions. The renewed CFS constitutes the required platform for debating global complex problems and reaching consensus on solutions.”

2) “This week marks the launch of a strategically coordinated global effort to draw on the combined strengths of all stakeholders engaged in the fight against global hunger,” said World Food Programme  (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

3) International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) vice-resident Yukiko Omura said: “Investing in small farmers — improving their access to land, to appropriate technology, to financial services and markets, and responding to their other requirements — is the most effective way to generate a broad-based movement out of poverty and hunger.”

Messers Diouf, Sheeran and Omura, set aside your prepared statements and summon up the courage to tell the countries which support the FAO the truth about global food prices. Tell them about the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and free trade agreements and the conditions attached to development aid. Help your agencies do their work by being honest about the problem.

Economic impacts of Pakistan floods

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A flooded Thatta suburb, Pakistan. Photo © Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN

A flooded Thatta suburb, Pakistan. Photo © Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN

For hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis forced by the floods to abandon their homes, food is a primary concern. IRIN news reports that some families have gone days without a meal. Frances Kennedy, a World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson, told IRIN: “We are very concerned about the nutritional situation. About 2.8 million people have been reached, but there are others in need. Camps are crowded and people are sleeping on sides of the roads.” WFP has been supplying “dry rations” (family rations for a month), made up of wheat flour fortified with vitamins and minerals, cooking oil and high-energy biscuits.

“This allows us to reach more people, more quickly… These distributions are at different points across the flood zone – both in camps and other locations identified through our assessments and where partners have been able to set up distribution sites,” Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman, told IRIN. Currently about 4.8 million people are without shelter, “although we believe this may have gone up considerably with the latest developments in Sindh,” said Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The immediate impact on the population is truly staggering — 20 million people affected with 8 million in need of water, food, and shelter; 1,500 to 2,000 killed; 4 million left homeless; and 15 million displaced. The devastation has hit virtually all sectors of the economy. The Pakistan government estimates total economic damage to be near $15 billion, or about 10 percent of GDP. Damage to infrastructure alone (roads, power plants, telecommunications, dams and irrigation systems, and schools and health clinics) amounts to around $10 billion.

Mohsin S. Khan, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States, have written about the economic impact of the Pakistan floods. They say that agriculture, which represents 25 percent of the Pakistan economy and provides employment to 50 percent of the workforce, was extremely hard hit. At least 30 percent of the cotton crop has washed away, which is bound to devastate the textile industry, the mainstay of Pakistani manufacturing and exports. Adding to this is the loss of wheat, rice, and maize crops, and about 10 million head of livestock. Altogether agricultural production this year could fall by as much as 15 percent. Even next year’s production is likely to show a further decline because the spring wheat crop that needs to be planted in October–December this year will not be possible.

While Khyber-Pakhtunkwa is inundated with water, there is very little that is safe to drink. Photo © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

While Khyber-Pakhtunkwa is inundated with water, there is very little that is safe to drink. Photo © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

“The overall growth of real GDP, which prior to the floods was projected to be in the 3 to 4 percent range for 2010, will now turn negative,” say Khan and Nawaz. “Estimates of the fall in real GDP are in the 2 to 5 percent range, although it is conceivable that the decline could be far greater as more information on the losses of both physical assets and production becomes available.”

“Reconstruction activity could provide some boost to the growth rate, but it is likely that any positive effects will only show up in 2011 and beyond, and even then it may not be sufficient to bring the growth rate back to the 2009 level of 4 percent for several years. Inflation, which is already in double digits, will rise with the increase in food prices and the destruction of the food supply distribution networks. Furthermore, the government will need to finance the reconstruction effort, and absent sufficient foreign assistance and the inability to divert domestic revenues toward reconstruction, the increased expenditures will necessarily widen the fiscal deficit.”

“The floods have dealt Pakistan a severe body blow while it was still reeling from the economic crisis, political infighting, and the war against terror. The diversion of resources and attention to the flood relief and reconstruction work will undoubtedly affect social spending and the drive against the Pakistani Taliban, whose fighters have been dislocated from their tribal bases in the Northwest Frontier region and have taken the war back into the Pakistani hinterland.”

Deadly floods, torrential rain hammer Pakistan

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Children sit among the rubble of their house in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Children sit among the rubble of their house in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

Torrential rain and floods in usually dry regions of South Asia are continuing to kill hundreds, maroon thousands and destroy the homes and livelihoods of many hundreds of thousands. The situation in northern Pakistan and adjoining Afghanistan is very serious.

The UN News wire has reported that with monsoon rains expected to continue pummeling Pakistan for several more weeks, the United Nations warned today that the country’s south could also be affected by deadly flooding, which has already affected millions of people. Martin Mogwanja, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan, told reporters that the devastation wrought by the current flooding is on par with that caused by the earthquake that struck the country in 2005.

Damage Overview of Flood-Affected Towns In Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. This map presents the preliminary findings of a damage assessment over sixteen flood-affected towns and cities along the Kabul and Kalpani Rivers including the main city of Nowshera, Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. UNOSAT

Damage Overview of Flood-Affected Towns In Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. This map presents the preliminary findings of a damage assessment over sixteen flood-affected towns and cities along the Kabul and Kalpani Rivers including the main city of Nowshera, Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. UNOSAT

He said that the floods – the worst in Pakistan in living memory – have affected 4 million people so far, with at least 1.5 million people having lost their homes. Mr. Mogwanja said that 1,400 people have been killed so far, “but this number may rise as new bodies may be found.” The monsoon season, he pointed out, could last up to four more weeks, with the possibility that the flooding – currently concentrated in northern Pakistan – could move south towards the Indian Ocean, affecting millions more people. Already, the central areas of Sindh province in the south have felt the effects of flooding.

The search-and-rescue and evacuation phase has come to an end, with many people having been moved to safer areas by helicopters and boats. UN agencies have been rushing relief to the area since the early days of the disaster. The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided 500 metric tons of food, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has distributed enough clean drinking water for 700,000 people. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has supplied 11,000 tents and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has distributed dozens of cholera kits for health centres.

The Hindu of India has reported that the death toll in the Leh cloudburst has climbed to 130, with 600 more people feared washed away in the calamity that was followed by torrential rains and flash floods devastating this Himalayan town in the Ladakh region. Sources in Ladakh, of which Leh is the district headquarters, fear that the death toll could cross over 500 as several far flung villages were yet to be accessed by rescue teams in this high-altitude terrain. Ladakh is a high mountainous region in northern India, in the western Himalaya. A small village before Choglumsur, which bore the brunt of the incessant rains, was completely wiped out as rescue workers were looking for survivors in the mud slush and debris. Over 200 people were still reported to be missing from the village.

Updated Overview of Flood Waters in Punjab Province, Pakistan. This map presents the standing flood waters over the affected Provinces of Punjab, Pakistan following recent heavy monsoon rains. UNOSAT

Updated Overview of Flood Waters in Punjab Province, Pakistan. This map presents the standing flood waters over the affected Provinces of Punjab, Pakistan following recent heavy monsoon rains. UNOSAT

The United Nations health agency said today that it has begun sending medical supplies to aid thousands of people affected by recent flooding across Afghanistan, where the major health concerns right now are water contamination and the spread of waterborne diseases. The Afghan government estimates that the floods have left several thousand individuals homeless in northeast Kapisa, central Ghazni, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kunar, Logar, Khost and northern Parwan provinces, where at least 2,500 houses have been destroyed. An estimated 80 people have reportedly died in the floods, and much of the arable land, where crops were planted, has been inundated.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that news coming in from many parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially Swat because of its mountainous terrain, describes people displaced by the floods being desperately short of food, medicines, drinking water and other supplies essential to their survival. There is talk of starvation with no food available and international relief agencies are also warning of outbreak of diseases in the relief camps-mainly because clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are in short supply. In other parts of the flood-stricken region there are accounts of disease breaking out. Things could become worse in the coming days if the relief effort is not quickly streamlined. In Swat, many of those hit have already withstood many months of conflict. This Reuters AlertNet news feature describes the situation.

Russia wildfiresThe unfolding tragedy in Pakistan and Afghanistan comes alongside extreme weather events in Moldova, China and Russia. In Moldova, authorities have been evacuating people and goods from the flood-hit zones and to carry out prevention works. Xinhua News reported that in China, more than 4 million people have been affected since the flood season began in June and some 700,000 people have been evacuated. Additionally, about 62,000 houses have collapsed and 193,000 others have been damaged, along with 1.2 million hectares of cropland having been inundated. In the hardest-hit areas, flash floods have cut roads, isolated villages, and disrupted communications and water supplies. In the industrial city of Tonghua, torrential rains have damaged water pipelines, leaving 300,000 people without tap water for two days. The Voice of Russia has reported that wildfires are still burning in a number of Russian regions, including Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh and Ryazan. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and the air is thick for smog. Dozens of people have been killed by fires.

[The maps from which these images have been posted are from UNOSAT, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme, implemented in co-operation with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).]