UN agency stepping up operations to feed millions of hungry people in

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it is boosting the delivery of aid to Niger, where up to eight million people are experiencing severe food shortages as a result of a prolonged drought that has caused crop failure and livestock deaths, leaving communities destitute.The announcement comes as aid groups in Niger launched a revised emergency humanitarian action plan requesting over $371 million to respond to the worsening situation, almost doubling the earlier requirement of $190 million.With over $142 million received or committed, more than $229 million is still required to tackle the crisis, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which said today that the immediate priority is to provide food assistance until the next harvests in October. “The drought in Niger is an unfolding catastrophe for millions of people and we are struggling against time to scale up quickly enough to reach the escalating number of hungry,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, who arrived in the West African country today on a fact-finding mission.“I want to see for myself the scale of the needs in Niger and the challenges in WFP’s huge ramp-up of hunger operations – especially those targeting vulnerable young children,” she said.The food and nutritional crisis in Niger has worsened since the last harvest in September 2009. Results of a national nutrition and child survival survey released in June showed that young children are under particular threat from malnutrition.“We are massively scaling up special nutritional help for children under two years of age, whose brains and bodies face permanent damage from acute malnutrition,” Ms. Sheeran added.WFP has been working with the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to expand its operations aiming to feed 7.9 million people until the end of this year. Rations being delivered to Niger include highly nutritious food supplements such as enhanced corn-soya blend and Plumpy’doz – a paste made of peanuts, oil, sugar and milk fortified with vitamins and minerals to help meet the nutritional needs of young children.“For young children in Niger, the food we are providing is literally a life-saver,” Ms. Sheeran said. “But we are also taking measures to provide for the wider families so that nobody goes short, and the special nutritionally enhanced products we are providing for the very young can pack the optimum nutritional punch,” she added.WFP needs $213 million for the scaled up operation in Niger, but only about half of the funds are available. While some food supplies can be purchased from neighbouring countries, the normal lead time to deliver food that is procured further afield is between two and three months, according to the agency.“To meet the needs of the people of Niger, we are looking for urgent and immediate cash contributions from our donors,” Ms. Sheeran said. “The months of August and September are critical, and I am urging our supporters to help us mobilize the resources we need to feed the millions of hungry in Niger,” she said. 20 July 2010The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it is boosting the delivery of aid to Niger, where up to eight million people are experiencing severe food shortages as a result of a prolonged drought that has caused crop failure and livestock deaths, leaving communities destitute. read more

Precision Drilling boosts capital spending amid strong customer demand

CALGARY — Precision Drilling Corp. is bumping up this year’s capital spending by nearly a third in response to strong customer demand for its drilling equipment.The Calgary-based oil and gas service firm said Monday its budget this year will be $833 million, up from its previous forecast of $634 million.The additional spending will go toward four additional new rigs to be delivered in the United States in the second half of 2014 and five more to be delivered in early 2015.In total, Precision Drilling plans to deliver 16 new rigs to customers this year.Since 2009, Precision has been turning a greater focus to providing equipment that’s geared toward tapping technically challenging reservoirs. Its so-called “Super Series” fleet consists of “highly efficient, highly mobile” rigs that are designed to drill wells horizontally.“Over the past five years, we have transformed our fleet and today we have Super Series rigs operating in virtually every unconventional basin in North America. With today’s announcement of an additional nine new-build rigs, eight of which have firm customer commitments, we expect to have 222 Super Series rigs operating by early 2015 and an increased capacity to deliver two new-build rigs per month to start 2015,” said CEO Kevin Neveu in a release.“The cornerstone to Precision’s build program remains our strict fiscal discipline insuring we achieve contracts from customers that meet our targets before a rig is completed for delivery.”Also Monday, Precision posted first-quarter net earnings of $102 million, up from $93 million a year earlier.The profits amounted to 35 cents per share, a penny shy of the average analyst estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters, but two cents higher than a year ago.The company said revenue was 13% higher at $672 million, mainly due to higher pricing and drilling activity in Canada, the United States and internationally.Precision Drilling said Canada has been experiencing an increase in drilling for natural gas and gas liquids in northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia — resources that could potentially be exported to energy-hungry Asian countries through multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas terminals on the West Coast.“In Canada, our drilling activity during the first quarter was slightly higher than last year, and was supported by growing customer demand throughout the winter drilling season,” said Neveu.“While challenges must still be overcome to fully realize the Canadian LNG development potential, we remain very encouraged by the continued support demonstrated by the key stakeholders in this very important Canadian resource. We believe additional new-build and upgrade opportunities will continue to emerge as these projects gather momentum.” Precision shares were up nearly 1.4% to $14.03 in late-morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. read more