Billions are Going Hungry but there are Ways to Improve Access to Food
According to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), food prices have more than halved from their historic peaks a few months ago, but the cost of basic staples measured by an FAO index is still high: 28 percent higher on average than two years ago.
There is now estimated to be 963 million people, 14 percent of the world's population, going hungry in 2008, up by 40 million from last year.
The story is bleak and sad. And if hunger is allowed to continue, a whole generation of children will be physically scarred by this experience, with weaker bodies and damage to their brains.
But people are doing something about the food crisis across the developing world. In some countries, using waste water to irrigate crops means more food can be grown in urban areas. Others are cutting costs by using organic fertilizers. Still others are turning to overlooked food sources like insects. Africans are ingenously using mobile phones and web technology to help their relatives get the money to buy food. As people have learned from the past, waiting for politicians is not good enough: action has to happen now.
Billion go hungry as rich countries fail to pay up, Oxfam says
- The Guardian,
- Thursday October 16 2008
Five months after countries pledged to give more than $12bn (£6.9bn) to address the global food emergency, less than $1bn has been given, according to Oxfam.
In a report to coincide with World Food Day today, the international aid charity berates rich countries for failing to respond speedily or adequately to soaring food and fuel prices.
"Rich countries are directing their attention to high fuel prices and turmoil in the financial sector, but the number of malnourished people in the world rose by 44 million in 2008," Oxfam said. "Nearly one billion people are now going hungry. When you consider the speed of the world's response to the credit crisis, the delay in acting is shocking."
In a separate report, Care International said that at least 6.4 million people in Ethiopia need emergency food aid and that Somalia is facing a food crisis "unseen since the famine of the early 1990s".
"Drought, conflict, and rising food prices have left more than 17 million people in the Horn of Africa sliding into a full-blown humanitarian crisis," said Jonathan Mitchell, Care's emergency director. "These countries are heading into the peak hunger season when cereal prices are at their highest, and families have no stocks left from the previous harvest."
The Oxfam report says that while staple food prices have come down since their peak in July, they remain stuck at levels far higher than the long term average.
Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam GB, said: "It is shocking that the international community has failed to organise itself to respond adequately to this. The UN task force produced a good plan - the Comprehensive Framework for Action - but there is still not clear leadership to implement it."
She added: "Developing countries are being bombarded with different initiatives and asked to produce multiple plans for different donors. We need to see one coordinated international response, led by the UN, which channels funds urgently to those in need."
The Oxfam report contrasts the global food crisis with the record profits being made by the world's largest agribusiness and seed companies.
"[US food company] Bunge saw its profits increase by $583m between April and July; Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Foods is forecasting a 237% increase in sales; Nestlé's global sales rose 8.9% from January to June, and Tesco has reported profits up 10% on last year," the report says.
However, poor countries have also failed to come up with adequate answers to food price rises, says the report. Many countries responded by banning rice exports.
But this, says the report, resulted in only limited curbs on inflation and has contributed to a shortage of supplies on the world market.