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수요일, 5월 27, 2020

OPINION: To avert a COVID-triggered famine, our global food systems need to change - Ban Ki-moon

It has taken only a few weeks for this pandemic to expose the glaring weaknesses and inequalities of our global food system. The United Nations World Food Programme has raised the alarm: more than a quarter of a billion people face the threat of starvation this year as a result of the multiple impacts of COVID-19, civil wars, crop failure and climate change. We have the resources, but do we have the political will to avert this looming catastrophe?

COVID-19 is accelerating the risk of a global hunger pandemic in two ways. With government-imposed lockdowns still in place, poor and unemployed families are running out of money to buy food, even where it is still available. Compounding their plight, the closure of schools is depriving 370 million children of their principal, and sometimes only, daily meal.

The virus has also severely disrupted the global trade in food. In Africa, where many borders have been closed, freight lines have been unable to move food, leaving stocks rotting in depots. Subsequent shortages have pushed up prices of staples such as rice. And just as some countries sought to restrict exports of medical gear in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, major cereal exporters are now considering (or have already imposed) controls on food exports.

Trade restrictions threaten to make a horrendous food crisis much worse. We should not allow multilateral co-operation to break down in this way. Poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, already reeling from the collapse in employment, tax and export revenues, now face the challenge of feeding millions of hungry citizens. They need our help and our food surpluses.

But in addition to the urgent steps we should be taking today to avert the threat of famine, we should also be thinking about how to make our global food systems fairer and more resistant to future shocks.

Some steps are being taken to help the worst affected during this crisis. In Eritrea, seeds and small animals such as goats and sheep have been distributed to the most vulnerable to help maintain food production and stop people starving. Measures like these are vital, but they are not enough. They must be the starting point for a wholesale transformation of our global food system.

We must make food systems more resilient so our most vulnerable people are better placed to cope with the next drought, flood or plague. What does resilience mean for these communities? It means investing in agricultural research to improve yields, develop drought-resistant crops, early warning systems, and promote sustainable farming methods – ones, for example, that use less water in water-stressed areas.

It means guaranteeing small farmers a decent income. It means strengthening demand for locally produced food by improving transport, refrigeration and local food processing capacity. And it means improving access to information and finance, so farmers can weather disruptions and continue to produce the food the world relies on.

Many excellent projects are already helping to make a difference. Farmers in the Maradi and Zinder regions of Niger have led a reforestation drive that has improved water retention in the soil, boosted yields, and lifted communities out of poverty.

The East African Community recently produced new guidelines aimed at making it easier to transport goods between its member countries. Elsewhere, guaranteed minimum prices, where governments act as buyers of last resort, help maintain incomes. The Ivory Coast and Ghana, for example, support their cocoa farmers in this way.

Such projects deliver benefits that multiply the initial investment many times over. In Rwanda, for example, Africa Improved Foods – a public-private partnership – buys corn and other crops from 24,000 smallholders and processes these into nutritious “super cereals”. For an initial $70m investment, AIF calculates its enhanced cereals have already benefited two million children, in addition to providing a stable income to its farmers, who are mostly women. An independent study conducted by the University of Chicago estimates that from 2016 to 2031, AIF will generate $758 million for the people of Rwanda.

We need to scale up projects like these to bring affordable, nutritious food to the reach of billions.

Modern society has never been more prosperous; we have never produced so much food. But just like wealth, our food is unevenly distributed – with devastating and preventable consequences. The world is rich enough that malnutrition should now be a thing of the past. Yet it isn’t.

To create lasting food security, we need more collaboration between governments, the private sector, academic institutions and intergovernmental bodies. Working together we can help those not just left hungry today and tomorrow by COVID-19, but those who are vulnerable to hunger every day of their lives through no fault of their own. Making food insecurity a thing of the past is possible. We must do it now.

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목요일, 5월 14, 2020

In a Victory for Women in Sudan, Female Genital Mutilation Is Outlawed - The New York Times

A new law criminalizes genital cutting, a harmful practice that nine in 10 Sudanese women are said to have endured. But some warned laws alone cannot eliminate the practice.


CAIRO — Sudan’s new government has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation, a move hailed as a major victory by women’s rights campaigners in a country where the often dangerous practice is widespread.

 The United Nations estimates that nearly nine in 10 Sudanese women have been subjected to the most invasive form of the practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia and leads to health and sexual problems that can be fatal.

 Now, anyone in Sudan who performs female genital mutilation faces a possible three-year prison term and a fine under an amendment to Sudan’s criminal code approved last week by the country’s transitional government, which came to power only last year following the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

 “This is a massive step for Sudan and its new government,” said Nimco Ali of the Five Foundation, an organization that campaigns for an end to genital mutilation globally. “Africa cannot prosper unless it takes care of girls and women. They are showing this government has teeth.”

 Genital mutilation is practiced in at least 27 African countries, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East. Other than Sudan and Egypt, it is most prevalent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Djibouti and Senegal, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

 “The law will help protect girls from this barbaric practice and enable them to live in dignity,” said Salma Ismail, a spokeswoman in Khartoum for the United Nations Children’s Fund. “And it will help mothers who didn’t want to cut their girls, but felt they had no choice, to say ‘no.’”

 “Now,” she added, “there are consequences.”

 Experts warn, however, that a law alone is not sufficient to end the practice, which in many countries is enmeshed with cultural and religious beliefs, considered a pillar of tradition and marriage, and supported by women as well as men.

 “This is not just about legal reforms,” Ms. Ismail said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that society will accept this.”

 In Egypt, for instance, genital cutting was banned in 2008 and the law amended in 2016 to criminalize doctors and parents who facilitate the practice, with prison sentences of up to seven years for performing the operation and up to 15 if it results in disability or death.

 Yet prosecutions are rare, and the operations continue quietly, with 70 percent of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 having been cut, mostly before they reach the age of 12, according to the United Nations.

 Earlier this year, a 12-year-old Egyptian girl died on an operating table at a private clinic as a retired doctor performed genital mutilation without an anesthetic. In February, the Egyptian authorities referred the doctor and the girl’s parents for prosecution.

 As global and local campaigns to end the practice have grown in recent years, some communities have slowly begun to turn against genital cutting, which is often seen as a rite of passage in communities of various faiths. In some places, campaigners have come up with alternative initiation ceremonies.

 One such program among the Maasai in Kenya, where cutting has been outlawed since 2011, has reportedly helped saved at least 15,000 girls from the practice.

 Most Sudanese women undergo what the World Health Organization calls Type III circumcision, an extreme form of the practice in which the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, are removed. The wound is then sewn closed in a practice known as reinfibulation that can cause cysts, lead to painful sex and prevent orgasm.

 Word of the new law has yet to reach many Sudanese, as a result of a strict lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

 “The timing has been unfortunate,” said Ms. Ismail, of the United Nations. “Everyone was preoccupied with Covid-19,” she added, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

 Still, attitudes had already been shifting. Six of Sudan’s 18 states enacted laws to restrict or ban genital mutilation, beginning in 2008, but the measures were applied with limited success and resulted in no prosecutions, according to a report by 28 Too Many, a campaign group.

 In 2016, Mr. al-Bashir, the country’s ruler of three decades, tried to introduce a national law banning the practice, but the effort was quashed by religious conservatives. The transitional government that replaced Mr. al-Bashir, a power-sharing arrangement between civilian and military leaders who have agreed to steer Sudan to elections in 2022, has overcome that hurdle.

 Under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, women ministers lead five government ministries, and the government has repealed unpopular Bashir-era laws that dictated what women could wear or study, or even where they could congregate in public.

 Tensions between military and civilian leaders have led to political turbulence, and even stoked fears of a possible military coup, inside the transitional government. Even so, significant changes have taken place.

 The minister for religious affairs, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, recently attended a ceremony marking International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. “It is a practice that time, place, history and science have shown to be outdated,” he said, adding that it had no justification in Islam.

 The minister said he supported the campaigners’ goal of eliminating the practice from Sudan by 2030.

Original article:

수요일, 4월 29, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic 'will cause famine of biblical proportions' (The Guardian, April 21, 2020)

The Guardian, April 21, 2020

Governments must act now to stop 265 million starving, warns World Food Programme boss

Homeless People amid coronavirus outbreak in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Photograph: Md Manik/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

 The world is facing widespread famine “of biblical proportions” because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief of the UN’s food relief agency has warned, with a short time to act before hundreds of millions starve.

 More than 30 countries in the developing world could experience widespread famine, and in 10 of those countries there are already more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation, said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme.

 We are not talking about people going to bed hungry,” he told the Guardian in an interview. “We are talking about extreme conditions, emergency status – people literally marching to the brink of starvation. If we don’t get food to people, people will die.

 Covid-19 is likely to be sweeping through the developing world but its spread is hard to gauge. What appears to be certain is that the fragile healthcare systems of scores of developing countries will be unable to cope, and the economic disaster following in the wake of the pandemic will lead to huge strain on resources.

 This is truly more than just a pandemic – it is creating a hunger pandemic,” said Beasley. “This is a humanitarian and food catastrophe.”

 Beasley took his message to the UN security council on Tuesday, warning world leaders that they must act quickly in a fast-deteriorating situation. He urged them to bring forward about $2bn (£1.6bn) of aid that has been pledged, so it can get to the frontline as quickly as possible.

 Another $350m (£285m) is also needed to set up the logistics network to get food and medical supplies – including personal protective equipment – to where it is needed, including air bridges where ground transport is impossible.

 Even before the Covid-19 crisis, Beasley was appealing to donor countries to up food relief funding to the poorest, because conflict and natural disaster were putting severe strain on food systems.

 I was already saying that 2020 would be the worst year since the second world war, on the basis of what we forecast at the end of last year,” he said. Added to that, earlier this year East Africa was hit by the worst locust swarms for decades, putting as many as 70 million people at risk.

 But the Covid-19 pandemic, which no one could have foreseen, has “taken us to uncharted territory”, he said. “Now, my goodness, this is a perfect storm. We are looking at widespread famines of biblical proportions.”

 According to a report produced by the UN and other organisations on Thursday, at least 265 million people are being pushed to the brink of starvation by the Covid-19 crisis, double the number under threat before the pandemic.

 None of those looming deaths from starvation are inevitable, said Beasley. “If we get money, and we keep the supply chains open, we can avoid famine,” he said. “We can stop this if we act now.”

 He said the situation even four weeks from now was impossible to forecast, stressing that donors must act with urgency. He urged countries not to put in place export bans or other restrictions on the supply of food across borders, which would lead to shortages.

 But Beasley also warned that staving off the threat of famine would take months, so assistance would be needed well beyond the initial response. “Our grave concern is that we could begin to put Covid-19 behind us [in developed countries] in three or four months, and then the money runs out,” he said. “And if the money runs out people will die.”

 Last year, the World Food Programme assisted about 100 million people in desperation, with a budget of about $7.5bn (£6bn). “I could easily see that need [for budget] doubling,” said Beasley.

 Money alone will not be enough, he added. It is difficult for relief workers to get through lockdowns around the world and set up air bridges when transport is paralysed. “We need money and access – not one or the other, both.”

 Also crucial is ensuring that supply chains stay open in the face of lockdowns and the difficulty of getting workers into the fields to tend crops if they are sick or unable to travel easily. “If the supply chain breaks down, people can’t get food – and if they can’t get food for long enough, they will die,” said Beasley.

 We are in this together. We can stop this becoming a widespread famine. But we need to act quickly and smartly.”

화요일, 4월 21, 2020

I Was the Secretary-General of the U.N. Here's How the Coronavirus Crisis Can Bring the World Together - Ban Ki-moon

There is no precedent in living memory for the challenge that COVID-19 now poses to world leaders.

The disease stands poised to cause a far-reaching economic depression and a tragically high number of deaths. Its impact will be felt in every corner of the world. To combat this historic threat, leaders must urgently put aside narrow nationalism and short-term, selfish considerations to work together in the common interest of all humanity.

As a former Secretary-General of the U.N., I support the call from my successor António Guterres for an additional $2 billion in humanitarian aid to tackle the pandemic. This aid—which will contribute to key efforts such as developing and distributing tests, treatments and vaccines—is essential to reducing the virus’s spread.

I also urge global leaders, led by the U.N., to consider how to develop a global governance system that can cope more effectively with any pandemics that may occur in the future. They should recommit to the values of the U.N. Charter, and use other multi-lateral bodies—including the G-20, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—to proactively support the world’s most vulnerable populations.

It is encouraging that G-20 leaders last month committed to implementing any necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus and to injecting $5 trillion into the global economy. But these commitments need to be translated into immediate, proactive assistance to vulnerable countries in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Further, to ensure an effective recovery, this cooperation will need to be strengthened and sustained for some time. It is also crucial that border restrictions and closures, as well as pre-existing sanctions for countries like Iran, which have been severely affected by the pandemic, do not prevent critical medical equipment and supplies from being transported to where they are most urgently needed.

COVID-19 shines a harsh light on the many profound inequalities that scar our planet. Disparities of wealth between and within countries now risk being exacerbated even further by the pandemic.

Similarly, the constraints many countries have imposed on movement and assembly are understandable and necessary under the current circumstances, but legislators and judiciaries must bear in mind that, if not carefully instituted, these restrictions risk accentuating the marginalization of vulnerable groups such as refugees, migrants and racial minorities.

Respect for human rights, solidarity and justice need to be at the heart of our response to COVID-19. We all have a responsibility as global citizens to stay vigilant and not allow authoritarian regimes to exploit the crisis to roll back rights and democratic safeguards. Otherwise, we risk the prospect of a future where rich countries have recovered and reinstate “normal” patterns of social and economic interaction, but poorer states remain ravaged, with their citizens excluded and subject to new forms of discrimination.

Even before COVID-19 took hold, we were confronted by the existential threats of climate change and nuclear weapons. In January, I attended the unveiling of the “Doomsday Clock” in Washington, D.C., when the clock’s minute hand was moved closer to midnight than ever before.

The clock is still ticking, and these threats have been further aggravated since the outbreak of COVID-19. But if the world can show the necessary courage and leadership today, we will be better placed to tackle equally grave challenges tomorrow.

Original article:

화요일, 4월 14, 2020

Africa, the world and COVID-19: The perspective of Macky Sall, President of Senegal

<Macky Sall> 

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With an estimated population of 1.3 billion, Africa is affected by COVID-19 at a time when several of its countries, despite the challenges of underdevelopment, are on a path to emergence, while others continue to grapple with terrorism.

COVID-19 is thus eroding the momentum of some, aggravating the situation of others and undermining the efforts of each and every one. In addition, it will put a strain on already vulnerable national public health systems.

At the national level, many countries have already adopted contingency plans to contain the spread of the virus.

However, the level of unpreparedness due to the sudden onset of the pandemic, its rapid evolution, and the enormous needs to be addressed, is a clear indication that national measures remain inadequate.

Added to this are challenges of importing the equipment, medical products and pharmaceuticals needed to combat COVID-19, in a context of high demand and disruption of air traffic.

If we are to win the fight against COVID-19, however, it will be necessary to maintain response capacities, including:

- Having adequate supplies of medical and protective equipment and materials:  test kits, masks, personal protective equipment;

- Setting up and equipping quarantine and treatment centres for patients;

- Ensuring early detection of COVID-19 cases at referral sites;

- Ensuring rapid quarantine and management of suspected and confirmed of COVID-19 cases;

- Strengthening infection prevention and control measures;

- And ensuring proper coordination of interventions.

Despite the efforts so far, African countries are yet to reach the standards recommended by the World Health Organisation in terms of health facilities and qualified personnel, which are still very unevenly distributed, to the disadvantage of rural areas.

In general terms, Africa's needs in the health sector are as follows:

- Construction, rehabilitation and equipment of basic and referral health facilities;

- Acquisition of heavy equipment and rolling stock: oxygen generators, scanners, angiography devices, medical ambulances among others;

- Training of human resources in sufficient quality and quantity;

- Optimal use of ICTs in the medical field (telemedicine and other applications);

- Pooling national expertise within and between countries;

- Establishment of regional platforms to facilitate the deployment of emergency operations, as in the case of the Dakar platform which served as an air and logistics base during the Ebola crisis that hit some West African countries;

- And support for universal health coverage initiatives.

Returning to COVID-19, it should be remembered that we are confronted with a pandemic, i.e. a worldwide epidemic. Efforts made so far in the four corners of the world have not yet revealed all the secrets of this great unknown, which has exposed the limits of all national systems, even the most sophisticated ones. All countries, taken by surprise and overwhelmed, found themselves in a kind of rescue situation, revealing the each other’s shortcomings on a daily basis.

The first lesson to be learned from this major crisis – where the infinitely small shakes the whole world – is that in the face of cross-border threats, big or small, rich or poor, we are all vulnerable.

The second lesson is that COVID-19 reminds the world of its own contradictions. We are indeed living in an era of paradoxes. The earth is certainly round, but something, somewhere, is not right.

Humankind is constantly making progress in all directions, pushing back the limits of science and technology every day, including the conquest of space. Meanwhile, on earth, there is a shortage of masks, test kits, personal protective equipment, beds, ventilators; so many products, materials and equipment that are crucial for the treatment of patients and protection of health workers, true heroes engaged in a risky and potentially fatal struggle against an enemy invisible to the naked eye. It is therefore time to come back down to earth!

And thirdly, without being exhaustive, the COVID-19 pandemic, just like the threats to the environment and the scourge of terrorism, confirms the objective limits of the nation-state in responding to cross-border threats.

Let us come down to earth and return to the wisdom of the elders, as invited by our compatriot Cheikh Hamidou Kane, who, in his best-selling novel L’Aventure Ambiguë, published 59 years ago, delivered this premonitory message: “We did not have the same past … but we will have the same future, strictly speaking … the time of singular destinies is over … no one can live on self-preservation alone.”  (L’Aventure Ambiguë, page 92).

This means that any nation-state, whatever its power and means, can no longer be self-sufficient. In the face of global challenges, we all need one another, especially when our common vulnerabilities are added to our individual frailties.

So the time has come to learn from our mistakes and our limitations, to redefine the order of priorities, to give full meaning to the real economy, by investing more in agriculture, sustainable energy, infrastructure, health, education and training, in order to achieve a development that cares for the well-being of all of humanity.

The time has come to work together so as to bring about a world order that puts human beings and humanity at the centre of international relations.

The time has come to consider public health issues on equal footing with peace, security, the environment and the fight against terrorism, and other cross-border crimes.

The new world order that I am calling for requires mutual trust and a sincere willingness to cooperate on issues of common interest and shared values, while respecting our differences and diversities.

Above all, it demands a new mindset that recognises that all cultures, all civilisations, are of equal dignity; and that there can be no superior civilisational centre that dictates to others how to behave and how to act.

As a wise old African saying has it: “The rainbow owes its beauty to the varied shades of its colours.”

With respect to global public health issues, this new world order will have to exclude all forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and prejudice, especially towards our continent.

Africa, as the cradle of humanity and a land of old civilisation, is not a no-man’s land. Nor can it offer itself as a land of guinea pigs. Gone are also the doom scenarios that try to draw an apocalyptic future for the continent. This continent has undergone far more perilous and crueller trials.  It has remained resilient and is standing stronger than ever!

What is important today is to learn the lessons from the crisis and to pool our resources and our intelligence in order to confront, in the same spirit of human solidarity, our common enemy: a silent killer which scoffs at borders, ideologies and differences between developed and developing countries.

Though lagging in development, Africa abounds in quality human resources, including eminent experts, practitioners and competent researchers, who contribute daily to the progress of medicine.

With the establishment of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which works in conjunction with relevant national agencies and qualified laboratories such as Institut Pasteur in Dakar, whose origins date back to 1896, the continent has a qualified scientific network connected to the global alert and management mechanisms for international health crises.

The leadership of the World Health Organisation is also to be commended. It would be more effective in fulfilling its mission with an increased mobilisation of resources in its favour, better support for its Global Alert and Response System, and greater support for national public health systems.

At the economic level, the crippling effects of COVID-19 are already having a significant impact on the global economy. Africa, a major exporter of raw materials and importer of finished and semi-finished products, has not been not spared.

The developed countries most affected to date by the pandemic purchase 51% of the continent’s exports. European Union member countries alone absorb nearly 40% of Africa’s exports.

The drop in African exports to these countries affect mainly hydrocarbons (oil and gas), copper and agricultural products.

Regarding imports, in addition to finished and semi-finished manufactured goods, Africa also imports products such as wheat, sugar, rice, cooking oil, milk, etc.

Any shortage or price increase in such products would therefore affect the continent.

Lockdown measures adopted due to COVID-19 with the closing of air, land and sea borders, will greatly impact the transport and tourism sectors. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated these losses at $56bn.

Similarly, migrant remittances are declining sharply.

This means that while the impact of the crisis is global, the weakest economies are the hardest hit. In addition to the enormous investment needs for development, we will have to bear the shock of COVID-19, while some African countries will continue to face an added relentless fight against terrorism.

Ultimately, according to UNECA’s initial estimates, the continent could lose no less than 1.4% of its GDP growth, i.e. $29bn, declining from 3.2% to about 1.8%. According to our own estimates, Senegal’s GDP will fall from 6.8% to less than 3%.

Throughout the world, every country, depending to its capacities, is taking measures aimed at supporting its economy. Various instruments and mechanisms have been used in this regard. For example, the European Union has suspended the rule of budgetary discipline according to which the annual deficit should not exceed 3% of GDP.

African countries have also been active in the face of the crisis. Thus, Senegal has adopted an Economic and Social Resilience Programme (ESRP), with a total cost of 1trn CFA francs, or about $2bn, with a view to combating the pandemic, as well as supporting households, businesses and the diaspora.

We have set up a Response Fund against the Effects of COVID-19, FORCE-COVID-19, financed by the state and voluntary donations, to cover expenses related to the implementation of the ESRP.

Exceptional situations call for exceptional measures. The primary responsibility for dealing with the crisis lies with us. We assume it fully.

It is equally fair and legitimate that our domestic efforts be supported in the global context of responding to the crisis. Africa must not be left behind in a global fight against a global peril. That is the whole thrust of my call for the cancellation of Africa’s public debt and the restructuring of its private debt based on mechanisms to be agreed upon.

Finally, I welcome the common African position adopted at the end of the teleconference meeting of the African Union  Bureau of Heads of State and Government extended to Ethiopia, Senegal and Rwanda, on 3 April 2020.

Together, let’s stay united and mobilised, upright and combative in the face of COVID-19!


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