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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Near Record Food Prices Threaten to Cause More Hunger in Africa
The Horn of Africa has seen better days. Recently, we have been hearing reports of the prolonged droughts, particularly in struggling areas like Somalia, but also contributing to the dire situation are the near record high food prices. According to the World Bank Group’s Food Price Watch released earlier this week, the prices of food are near the record high levels seen in 2008.
“Nowhere are high food prices, poverty and instability combining to produce tragic suffering more than in the Horn of Africa,” said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. “The World Bank is stepping up with short-term help through safety nets to the poor and the vulnerable in places like Kenya and Ethiopia, along with medium term support for economic recovery. Long term support is also critical to build drought resilience and implement climate-smart farming.”
During this Summer alone, it’s been reported that 29,000 children under five have died in Somalia and 600,000 children in the region remain at risk in the ongoing crisis that is threatening the lives and livelihoods of more than 12 million people.
The Food Price Watch says global food prices in July 2011 remain significantly higher than a year ago. Specifically, In Somalia, prices of locally produced cereals have continued to increase since October 2010. Prices of the two major commodities that are domestically produced, red sorghum and white maize, have increased up to 240 percent and 154 percent respectively.
“Persistently high food prices and low food stocks indicate that we’re still in the danger zone, with the most vulnerable people the least able to cope,” Zoellick said. “Vigilance is vital given the uncertainties and volatility that exists today. There is no cushion.”
Uncertainties about the global economy combined with the political situation in the Middle East and North Africa region will likely to keep oil prices volatile in the short-term, it added.
To provide some sense of security, the World Bank Group is providing $686 million to save lives, improve social protection, and foster economic recovery and drought resilience for people in the Horn of Africa.
Economic recovery will be the focus over the next two years and to start, the Bank will target the most vulnerable by improving safety nets. In the longer term, they will focus on building resilience to droughts, including investments in drought risk reduction and risk financing, as well as climate-smart agricultural practices.
“We are stepping up to address this crisis with a sense of urgency,” said Zoellick, who has been advocating for the G20 to put food first since the beginning of this year.
The G20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in June agreed to exempt humanitarian food aid from export bans and to pilot small regional emergency food reserves that could be used to replenish national safety nets. There is another meeting set for November at which, issues of increased coordination and risk management will be discussed.