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16 Oct 2007 description

By Peter Apps

LONDON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - A "perfect storm" of drought, conflict and rising costs has increased the ranks of the chronically hungry by millions of people, and forced aid workers to find and fund longer-term solutions to the food crisis.

The United Nations says the number of chronically hungry people worldwide rises by an average of 4 million each year.

At the same time global fuel prices have soared, pushing up road transport costs and global maritime shipping rates.

The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) says the cost of cereals has risen 50 percent …

16 Oct 2007 description

Oct 16 (Reuters) - Tuesday marks World Food Day, with aid workers warning that war, weather, disease and deepening poverty leave more people hungry and in need of food aid each year just as rising prices make feeding them more expensive.

Below are some global statistics on food shortages and aid and a summary of some of the world's current food crises.

-- 854 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat, more than the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union.

-- In the 1990s, global poverty dropped by 20 percent, as the number of hungry …

31 Aug 2007 description

TOKYO, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Japan's Foreign Ministry will request a hefty rise in overseas aid spending for the next fiscal year to fund projects linked to global warming, although the government has announced it will actually reduce funding.

The ministry will ask for 517.3 billion yen ($4.46 billion) for official development assistance (ODA) for the year starting next April, up 13.9 percent from this year.

Officials say they are unlikely to get that amount as the government, faced with a tight budget, has opted to cut Japan's overseas aid by 2 to 4 percent annually for the …

31 Aug 2007 description

By Peter Apps

LONDON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Aid workers might see themselves as neutral providers of relief but in heavily polarised conflicts they are almost inevitably accused of bias, putting their operations and staff at risk.

In conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Western aid workers are at risk because of perceived alignment with coalition forces, while elsewhere in the world, from Ethiopia to Sri Lanka, governments accuse them of backing insurgents.

Some professionals say Christian relief groups are suspected in many Islamic countries of proselytising under the guise of …

31 Jul 2007 description

By Peter Apps

LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - The end of brutal wars in West Africa and global efforts to halt recruitment have cut the number of child soldiers, but experts say vulnerable boys and girls are still forced into battle from Latin American to Asia.

Armed with Kalashnikovs and machetes, drunken, drugged and traumatised children were at the heart of wars in the 1990s in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo marked by atrocities committed by young killing machines.

Those wars are now largely over and the United Nations children's fund UNICEF …

31 Jul 2007 description

July 31 (Reuters) - The end of a series of West African wars has reduced the number of child soldiers but underage war veterans remain vulnerable and despite widespread international condemnation children continue to be sucked in to conflicts.

Globally, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF estimates there are some 250,000 child soldiers -- down from a previous estimate of 300,000 several years ago. But other experts say information is so hazy hard figures are impossible to determine.

Below is a fact box showing countries where children are reportedly used to fight.

15 Jul 2007 description

By Zoe Eisenstein

LUANDA, Jul 15 (Reuters) - Africa cannot stamp out the multi-billion dollar human trafficking trade alone and a global effort is needed, top legal experts from the world's poorest continent said late on Saturday.

Other countries needed to work with Africa, which was the most heavily affected by the illegal sale of people -- mainly women and children -- they said at a meeting of African prosecutors in the Angolan capital.

Many are sold into prostitution or enslaved, while children risked illegal adoption.

27 Jun 2007 description

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) - The world will reach a turning point next year when for the first time most of its population will be living in towns and cities, a U.N. agency said on Wednesday, warning the change must be managed carefully.

Unless urban planners make provision for this inevitability, particularly in the developing world, towns and cities risk being swamped, Thoraya Obaid, head of the U.N. population fund (UNFPA) said.

"Urban growth is happening.

20 Jun 2007 description

VATICAN CITY, June 20 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict appealed to government leaders on Wednesday to accept more refugees.

For Christians, helping refugees was "a concrete way of demonstrating evangelical love", he said at his weekly audience which coincided with the United Nations' World Refugee Day.

"Welcoming refugees and offering them hospitality is for everyone a rightful gesture of human solidarity, so that they do not feel isolated as a result of intolerance and indifference," Benedict told pilgrims.

"I invite the leaders of nations to offer …

20 Jun 2007 description

By Jeremy Clarke

NAIROBI, June 20 (Reuters) - Last year was one of the worst on record for refugees and the crisis is deepening in 2007 thanks to conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan's Darfur region, the United Nation's refugee chief said.

But the accelerating return of refugees to their homes in south Sudan in 2007 -- some after more than two decades -- is one bright spot in the otherwise bad year, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

"It is a very bad year for refugees worldwide.

19 Jun 2007 description

By Peter Apps

LONDON, June 19 (Reuters) - Caught in the crossfire, executed in cold blood or simply hounded out of violent regions, aid workers seem more under fire than ever before and their killers are rarely, if ever, brought to justice.

By any standards, June has been a bloody month for the aid community. In Sri Lanka, two Red Cross local staff were kidnapped at the capital's high security railway station before being shot dead in the highlands.

Two Lebanese Red Cross workers were killed as troops and militants battled inside a refugee camp, while two Palestinian U.N.

31 May 2007 description

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI, May 31 (Reuters) - The Colorado State University hurricane research team renewed its forecast for an "above average" 2007 Atlantic storm season on Thursday and predicted 17 tropical storms, with nine growing to hurricane strength.

Of those, five would grow into major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher with winds over 110 mph (177 kph), the team founded by forecast pioneer William Gray said in its revised forecast.

The updated forecast issued on Thursday was unchanged from the team's April 3 forecast for the six-month storm season that starts on …

16 May 2007 description

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, May 16 (Reuters) - Some 400 million people around the world live and work in what are effectively minefields, at daily risk of death or maiming by cluster bombs, according to a report issued on Wednesday.

The report, from the campaign group Handicap International, said over 13,000 civilians are known to have been killed or injured in recent years by the bombs, but that the real figure was probably many times higher.

In the wake of armed conflicts "unexploded cluster submunitions turn homes, livelihoods and social areas of 400 million people living in …

18 Apr 2007 description

By Robin Pomeroy

BRINDISI, Italy, April 18 (Reuters) - The world could wipe out hunger in coming decades and make images of "children with swollen bellies a thing of history", the new head of the United Nations food aid agency said on Wednesday.

Josette Sheeran, former undersecretary for economic affairs at the U.S.

10 Apr 2007 description

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, April 10 (Reuters) - Food shortages, water scarcity, heatwaves, floods and migration of millions of people will occur across Asia as a result of climate change, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. climate panel, said on Tuesday.

Pachauri was speaking after Friday's release of a report on the impacts of global warming by the U.N.

25 Feb 2007 description

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - As scientists warn that climate change will lead to stronger storms, the World Bank is launching on Monday the first disaster insurance plan to offer emergency money to 18 Caribbean countries immediately after they are hit by hurricanes or earthquakes.

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) will allow stricken nations to begin disaster response right away with the guarantee of access to enough money to fund emergency measures.

14 Feb 2007 description

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must renew and strengthen a genocide-prevention envoy's post when it expires at the end of next month, top rights groups said on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Institute for Global Policy told Ban in a letter they fear the position of the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide would lose clout if it were merged with another U.N. role.

"This has been a very important post," said Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's U.N.

12 Feb 2007 description

By Missy Ryan

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The United States, the world's largest donor of food aid, needs to budget more than a proposed $1.2 billion a year to fight hunger effectively around the world, an anti-hunger coalition recommended on Monday.

"International food aid has, without a doubt, both reduced the chronic food gap in sub-Saharan Africa and mitigated the impact of crises," the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, a Washington advocacy group, said in a new report.

But more funds are needed to intervene in acute food emergencies, as well as …

29 Jan 2007 description

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Asia was the world's most dangerous region for natural disasters in 2006, accounting for three-quarters of more than 21,000 deaths, a U.N.-backed report said on Monday.

The report, compiled by the Belgian-based research centre CRED and the U.N.'s disaster reduction agency ISDR, covered disasters such as floods, tidal waves, landslides, storms and earthquakes.

In Europe, it said, deaths caused by extreme weather rose 5 percent to 15 percent of the …