January 2011's Edition of
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FAO Reports that Food Prices Reached a Record High in December 2010
The U.N.s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in January that its index of food commodity prices rose to a record high in December of 2010, equaling the high water mark of the 2007-8 food crisis that led to food riots in more than 30 countries. In December 2010, the FAO Food Price Index averaged 215 points, up 4 percent from November and 1 point above its peak in early summer 2008. The highest increases were recorded for the Sugar and Oils and Fats price indices. The December 2010 index was up 25 percent from December 2009. The Cereal Price Index rose to 238 points, up 39 percent from December 2009. The report was issues in early January prior to the food riots that broke out later in the month in Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, and Egypt. The FAO's report has set off an intense global debate as to the causes of the food crisis.
One Year after the Earthquake, Haiti’s Recovery Proceeds Slowly
A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, recovery is occurring in fits and starts as the country continues to struggle against adversity. A million people are still living in temporary facilities for the displaced or in makeshift communities without basic services. Conditions have exacerbated many sexual and reproductive health care challenges, from the delivery of care and supplies, to managing sexually transmitted infections, and addressing complex issues such as delivery complications for cholera-infected women and care for their newborns, who may be premature. In response, UNFPA and its partners, including the Ministry of Health, are working on strategies to meet the needs of particularly vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, people living with HIV, and youth.
Lester Brown's New Book on the Global Food Crisis
Just in time for the food crisis that now grips the world, Lester Brown’s has a new book: World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, that discusses in detail the various factors leading to our current predicament. Brown, who heads up the Earth Policy Institute, warns that a looming food crisis—driven by climate change, population growth, rising meat consumption, water shortages and other factors– could boost global hunger and, ultimately, prove the undoing of human civilization. He sets forth a detailed program for averting global catastrophe, including reforestation, water conservation, reducing our consumption of fossil fuels through higher taxes, keeping girls in school longer, and providing family planning and reproductive health services to the women who want them.
New UN Women's head lays out 100-day action plan
On January 23, the head of the new United Nations agency promoting women's rights and full participation in global affairs laid out a 100-day action plan, embracing a full spectrum of issues from supporting national partners to promoting coherence within the UN system. Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, told the first regular session of the agency's executive board "Women's strength, women's industry, women's wisdom are humankind's greatest untapped resource." Bachelet, who is the former president of Chile, added that, "The challenge then for UN Women is to show our diverse constituencies how this resource can be effectively tapped in ways that benefit us all."
Proposed Budget Cuts Could Imperil International Family Planning Assistance
The House Republican leadership has proposed freezing non-security discretionary spending this year at the 2008 level. If applied to international family planning assistance, the proposed cut would dramatically reduce U.S. support for international family planning assistance. Under the terms of the "continuing resolution" now in effect, the U.S. is currently spending $648 million, a 40 percent increase above the 2008 level. The House Republican Study Group, supported by 185 House members, has proposed rolling back appropriations to the 2006 level, an even steeper cut. As the current budget resolution only extends until March 4, 2011, the new Congress will be forced to take action soon on the budget.
UNFPA's New Leader Focuses on the Largest Generation of Young People
In outlining his vision for the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the new Executive Director of UNFPA, focused on meeting the challenges of a world population of 7 billion, including the sexual and reproductive health needs of the largest generation of young people. In his first address to the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, Dr. Osotimehin re-affirmed UNFPA's commitment to the core principles of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, and a world where "every person has the right to sexual and reproductive health, every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person has the education and services to grow up healthy, every girl is treated with dignity and respect, and violence against women should and can end."