Wondering why you should care about a conference on nutrition? We’ll explain…
On November 19, ministers from 193 countries will meet in Rome for the first time in 22 years to look at ways to tackle malnutrition.
At the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), they’ll be asked to adopt two documents: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action on Nutrition.
Progress in tackling malnutrition since the first ICN in 1992 has been weak and patchy because of inadequate commitment and leadership, financial constraints, weak human and institutional capacities, the depletion of natural resources exacerbated by climate change, and a lack of appropriate accountability mechanisms.
The good news is that today the world is much wealthier than it was 22 years ago, and the knowledge of what works and what action is needed is far more advanced. As momentum on nutrition builds internationally, this conference presents an historic once-in-a-generation opportunity for strong political commitments that could help end child hunger.
Read more: link
If you haven’t read Murong Xuecun’s piece about China’s Great Famine revisionists — those who doubt even the textbook figure that around 15 million people died prematurely from 1959-62 due to hunger — start here.
Two other stories on this subject are also worth your attention. Foreign Policy, which ran Murong’s declamation, has a slideshow of propaganda posters and slogans that were published in China during the Great Famine. Sample a few images link
The fingers of malnourished Alassa Galisou (1) are pressed against the lips of his mother Fatou Ousseini at an emergency feeding center. One of the worst droughts in recent times, together with a particularly heavy plague of locusts that had destroyed the previous year’s harvest, left millions of people severely short of food. (Finbarr O’Reilly)
The body of a one-year-old boy who died of dehydration is prepared for burial at Jalozai refugee camp. The child’s family, originally from North Afghanistan, had sought refuge in Pakistan from political instability and the consequences of drought. The family gave the photographer permission to attend as they washed and wrapped his body in a white funeral shroud, according to Muslim tradition. In the overcrowded Jalozai camp, 80,000 refugees from Afghanistan endured squalid conditions. (Erik Refner)
A mother carries her dead child to the grave, after wrapping it in a shroud according to local custom. A bad drought coupled with the effects of civil war caused a terrible famine in Somalia which claimed the lives of between one and two million people over a period of two years, more than 200 a day in the worst affected areas. The international airlift of relief supplies which started in July was hampered by heavily armed gangs of clansmen who looted food storage centers and slowed down the distribution of the supplies by aid organizations. (James Nachtwey)
A starving boy and a missionary in Uganda. (Mike Wells)
A Cambodian woman cradles her child while waiting for food to be distributed at a refugee camp. (David Burnett)
The Faces of Hunger. A mother comforts her child, both victims of drought. (Ovie Carter)
It is one of the world’s toughest jobs, but one man is determined to make a difference in the war-torn Somali capital.
Filmmaker: Robert Elliott
Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth. Its two million inhabitants have endured more than two decades of conflict and today a battle rages between the armed al-Shabab group and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Amidst the chaos of this war-torn city, Mahamoud Nur, the mayor of Mogadishu, is trying to make a difference, in part by “altering the mindset of the people”.
He left his wife and six children behind in London, where he had lived for more than 12 years, to return home to Mogadishu at the request of Sharif Ahmed, the country’s president.
This film explores Mahamoud’s extraordinary story and follows him in the days leading up to one of his most ambitious initiatives to date: a street festival celebrating Somali culture – the first event of its kind in many years and an obvious target for an attack.
The world had an opportunity to save thousands of lives that are being lost in parts of Somalia due to the famine, if only the donor community had paid attention to the early warning systems that predicted it eight months ago.
“The situation would not have been this bad if there was emergency response for prevention, despite the conflicts in the country,” said Anna Ridout, Oxfam’s spokesperson.
The United Nations declared a famine in south Somalia on July 20, following the two year drought in the country, and the high child mortality rate due to the lack of food in the region.
According to the UN, the southern part of the country hosts 310,000 acutely malnourished children at the moment. At the same time, nearly half of the population in Somalia is threatened with the famine. In some regions, at least six out of 10,000 children under the age of five die daily.
- Stereotypes that Move: in a forthcoming essay on the iconography of famine (which prompted my earlier post on famine photographs and the need for careful critique, and is attached to this post on stereotypes) I have examined the portraits of atrocity that represented the 2002 Malawi famine and which later circulated in charity appeals and the 2005 Live 8 campaign, especially the photographs of a young boy called Luke Piri taken by The Daily Mirror‘s staff photographer Mike Moore. The easy conclusion of this analysis is that famine iconography should be roundly condemned as simplistic, reductionist, colonial and even racist. But before we are satisfied with this comprehensive rebuke we have to ask three difficult questions. First, would we be better off without these photographs altogether? Second, if we want to dispense with the negative, what is the alternative that should take its place if, as I’ve argued earlier, we don’t want to fall into the trap of prompting an equally simplistic ‘positive’ image? And third, what happens if the iconography of famine is politically necessary in certain contexts?
- The Photography of Suffering as ‘Pornography’? What does it mean to use this term so frequently in relation to so many different situations? What are the conditions supposedly signified by ‘pornography’? Might this singular term obscure more than it reveals?
- The Starving Child as a Symbolic Marker: Contemporary news photographs are chosen less for their descriptive function and more for their capacity to provide symbolic markers to familiar interpretations and conventional narratives, as one image of a malnourished child shows.
- Famine Iconography as a Sign of Failure: Prompted by the East African crisis, this post argues we can easily lament the limitations of famine iconography, especially the way it homogenises, anthropomorphises, infantilises and impoverishes. But above all else we have to understand it is a visual sign of failure. The recourse to the stereotypes of famine is driven by the complex political circumstances photography has historically been unable to capture. This means that when we see the images of distressed people, feeding clinics and starving babies, we are seeing the end result of a collective inability to picture causes and context. This argument prompted a considerable debate, which I discussed here and here.
In contrast to the reiteration of stereotypes – even though they can be politically necessary in certain contexts – its important to consider what the new visuals of ‘Africa’ might be, something I broached in a post of that name last June.