Higher Food Prices Push Many Into Hunger: World Vision Calls on Leaders to Address Crisis

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With rising global food prices pushing millions of households further toward hunger and extreme poverty, Christian humanitarian agency World Vision is calling on Congress to spare life-saving international assistance from drastic U.S. budget cuts, and for world leaders to bolster the impact of existing commitments at this month’s upcoming G8 summit.

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America’s humanitarian leadership abroad will be measured in part by whether we address the realities that send one in six people across the world to bed hungry every night.

With rising global food prices pushing millions of households further toward hunger and extreme poverty, Christian humanitarian agency World Vision is calling on Congress to spare life-saving international assistance from drastic U.S. budget cuts, and for world leaders to bolster the impact of existing commitments at this month’s upcoming G8 summit.

U.S. and world leaders must act swiftly to avoid a repeat of the global food crisis of 2008, which thrust an additional 100 million people worldwide into extreme poverty. Large proposed cuts to the U.S. international affairs budget would severely hamper America’s ability to adequately prepare for and respond to major disasters and a global food crisis, humanitarian experts warn. The current international affairs budget totals only 1 percent of national spending.

“This shift toward food crises has become a chronic situation and is not just a temporary situation caused by bad harvests,” said Robert Zachritz, government relations director for World Vision in the U.S. “America’s humanitarian leadership abroad will be measured in part by whether we address the realities that send one in six people across the world to bed hungry every night.”

At a summit of G8 leaders later this month, the world’s wealthiest governments must also follow through on the $22 billion in food security pledges made at the 2009 L’Aquila summit, promises that have fallen behind, World Vision says. The U.S. government, under President Barack Obama, led this initiative with a $3.5 billion commitment to this total that has yet to be fully funded. That pledge is at risk unless the U.S. Congress appropriates those resources.

One in six people in the world today do not get enough food to be healthy, and most of these are women and children. Poor nutrition is the single biggest underlying cause of ill health and death among pregnant women and for children in their first two years of life, contributing to the 8 million deaths each year of children under age five to preventable causes.

For many poor households forced to spend more than half of their incomes to eat, the recent jumps in staple food prices are crippling ability to access enough nutritious food while coping with other needs. This, combined with the high level of global hunger shows a need for comprehensive strategies addressing agricultural development, especially prioritizing small scale farmers, nutrition, food price volatility and resilience to climate extremes – as well as for emergency needs. Nutrition programs currently receive only 3 percent of bilateral donor funding, according to accountability reports.

“For donor nations’ pledges to translate into tangible results for the nearly 1 billion hungry people worldwide, leaders must rebalance those funds to improve nutrition and reach small-scale producers,” said Paul Macek, World Vision’s senior director for food and nutrition programs. “Also, most small-holder farmers are women, and they must be integrated as full partners in increasing agricultural productivity to improve incomes and nutrition for vulnerable families in a sustainable way.”

World Vision, which works in nearly 100 countries and responded to nearly 80 emergencies last year including the Pakistan floods and prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa, witnesses the positive impact that effective international assistance programs have on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people. The organization is responding to hunger needs and working to promote sustainable agricultural practices and improve food storage in thousands of hard-hit communities, and is monitoring the impact of high food prices on vulnerable households.

As a global Christian relief and development organization with one million American donors, representing every state and congressional district, World Vision has seen that a broad base of U.S. voters and taxpayers support prioritizing development, feeding the hungry and protecting vulnerable lives.

More on Food Security and the 2008 crisis:

  • In mid-2008, the world food supply came under pressure from a variety of sources, including poor harvests, prolonged drought, high oil prices, increasing demand for food and subsidized ethanol programs
  • Many of the factors that caused the 2008 crisis are still relevant. For example:

o    The World Bank’s Food Price Index is close to its 2008 peak.
o    Since June 2010, another 44 million people were pushed below the poverty line of $1.25 a day as a result of higher food prices
o    Between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011, maize prices jumped 74 percent, while wheat rose 69 percent, highlighting how quickly the affordability of the world’s food supply can change. In some developing countries, such as Uganda, the increases are far steeper. (World Bank)
o    In its April 2011 Food Price Watch, the World Bank noted that higher fuel and energy prices, civil and military conflicts, poor rainfall and earthquakes spur food price volatility

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Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz
World Vision
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