My colleague at WFP wrote earlier :- In the world of food aid, the F-word is 'Famine'. It's at the heart of the sometimes uneasy relationship between the media and people in the food aid business. News organisations go looking for famine, because it's strong news. That's their job. Meanwhile, aid organisations like WFP are doing their utmost to get rid of it.
Real famines -- of the type seen in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s -- are fortunately quite rare. But regardless of whether it's technically a famine or not, hunger is a dramatic and life-threatening reality in scores of countries. For many in the aid community, it deserves more space in the media.
@Natasha: Apart from the difference in searching for Famine where there is a food shortage...there is the fear among journalists that they may end up as campaigners instead of reporters...When do you start reporting a hunger story and how/when do you end? Aid organisations often view things as a campaign but reporters see it as a story which starts and ends somewhere...But do the various aspects of hunger really end? In the parts of the World that I cover, malnutrition issues are almost permanent...How does the reporter keep it running in the news for 1 year without getting the editors (and even parts of your audience) worried that such coverage has turned into advocacy instead of news?
I think tackling hunger needs to go hand in hand with tackling governance and corruption. In many parts of the region I live and report - Asia Pacific - it's not just about countries not being able to produce enough food for its citizens to eat. It's also about not having access to food, mainly because of government's incompetence, indifference and corruption.
Just some figures from FAO for some food for thought:- Under the Millennium Development Goals, the UN committed to halve the proportion of people suffering from absolute hunger and poverty by 2015. At that time, in 2000, the number was 20%. Five years to the deadline and we are still at about 17%.
More FAO figures:- In developing countries, we have to increase food production by 100% by 2050. From now to 2050, more than 90% of growth will occur in developing countries where hunger and poverty problems already exist.
FAO again:- Every six seconds, one child die from hunger. Every day, 14,000 children die as a result of hunger. Every year 5 million children die from going hungry.
@george.fominyen : you make very valid points. I understand that journalists need stories that begin and end somewhere and clearly hunger does not fit into that. But within the big hunger story there are many smaller stories that do start and end, events that have an impact on the course of hunger, personal stories that reflect a wider truth. Perhaps we in the aid world need to work harder to draw journalists' attention to these and to explain them?
In response to various complaints that hunger doesn't get enough space in the media, some of the comments on this blog yesterday and on the wfp.org website said it's not the job of journalists to speak up for the hungry. This raises a key point: whose job is it?
The third panel discussion today asks: Who is responsible for speaking up for the hungry? What do people out there think? Is it one of those awkward situations where everybody is a bit responsible and so at the end of the day nobody is?
@Radhika/WFP yes...good news. We need to show people that it is possible to make a difference. But that is another issue. In my experience journalists often feel that bad news is more newsworthy?
@Alain I think you have a point, but as a WFP person whose business is talking to the world at large I do try to avoid talking about 'food security', which as you say is technical jargon. Then again, it does actually mean more than just people being hungry. It means a whole range of factors - markets, infrastructure, climate, agriculture, general level of poverty - which contribute to making communities or regions more or less vulnerable to hunger.
if you want to follow the panel discussions, you can phone in to this number: 44 207 365 8336
then insert this code 40848911
Mother feeding her severely malnourished daughter at a centre in Niger run by CONCERN and supported by WFP.
WFP is scaling up operations in the drought-hit West African country of Niger in the light of a shocking new government survey showing malnutrition rates among young children at emergency levels.
“We’re doubling the size of our operations and ramping up already significant interventions, to take even swifter action to protect these children,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran
Last week the Niger government’s annual child nutrition survey revealed that the global acute malnutrition rate for the whole country had reached 16.7 percent for children under five, compared to 12.3 percent in 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers anything over 15 percent an emergency.
starting now...people coming in and taking seats...
first panel discussion: How to report on complex humanitarian disasters