Tackling the High Food Price Challenge: Five recommendations from the UK Hunger Alliance to G20 members

G20 countries attending a key development meeting in South Africa today (Wed) must call for the urgent release of promised funds to stop more people from going hungry as food prices skyrocket once again, says the UK Hunger Alliance.

The coalition of international aid agencies says that money should be made available to countries most vulnerable to food insecurity in a new report entitled: Tackling the High Food Price Challenge.

Prices reached record levels in February 2011, and while there has been a slight decline in the UN’s food price index since that peak, it is still a staggering 37 per cent higher than in May 2010, leaving families struggling to feed their families.

But billions of dollars pledged in 2009 to help eliminate hunger in the poorest countries are yet to be released by governments. In addition, last week G20 Agriculture Ministers failed to put in place concrete measures needed to support particularly vulnerable groups, such as smallholder and women farmers and children.

The cost of everyday goods has spiked 16% higher than the last major price hike in 2007/8.
- The price of wheat is 85% higher than May 2010
- The cost of maize is 90% higher than May 2010 and reached a new record price in April 2011
- In late 2010, local food prices in 58 countries remained an average of 55% higher than they were in May 2007, even before the current spike.[i]

To cope, the poorest households have to take drastic measures to cope, such as eating fewer meals, buying cheaper and less healthy food, and selling their few assets (land and livestock) to survive. Families are also cutting back on healthcare, such as paying for essential medicines. Some children are being pulled out of school, both to save on fees and to increase the family income with extra labour. Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Vietnam are particularly badly affected.

“We are seeing families taking desperate measures at the risk of their own health. In 2008, rising food prices pushed 105 million people into extreme poverty,” said Natalie Duck, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Concern Worldwide (UK), Chair of the UK Hunger Alliance. “It would only take a 10 percent rise in domestic food prices within Asian countries to push an extra 64 million people into poverty this year.”

“Food prices are expected to stay high and volatile for the foreseeable future and it’s the poorest that are being hit hardest,” said Brendan Cox Director of Policy and Advocacy of Save the Children, which is part of the UK Hunger Alliance. “Unless the G20 takes urgent action, more children will go hungry, be forced into work or prostitution, and see their parents struggle to earn a living.”

The UK Hunger Alliance has five urgent recommendations for the G20 Development Working Group:

  1. Release and allocate pre-existing G8 pledges and focus investments on the most vulnerable countries
  2. Implement immediate measures to help children and families at risk of malnutrition, such as giving cash transfers, food supplements and promoting breastfeeding
  3. Give long term support to build the resilience of smallholder farmers and marginalised people by helping them sustainably improve their productivity and access to markets
  4. Invest in agriculture programmes that are tailored to combat malnutrition
  5. Work through the United Nations system so that aid can be targeted most effectively.

ENDS

For the report please go to www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/54_tackling-the-high-food-price-challenge.htm

For more information or interviews please contact:
- Irene Babille in Save the Children’s media unit on +44 207 012 6841 / 07831 650 409 (24-hour)
- Siobhan Sheerin, Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide (UK): +44 207 8011856

Notes to editors:

UK Hunger Alliance Members contributing to the report include:
Action Against Hunger UK, CARE International UK, Concern Worldwide UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund, World Vision UK

In 2009, the G8 and other partners committed US$22 billion over three years towards the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, established to encourage sustainable agriculture development and better nutrition. Yet a G8 assessment this year shows that only 22 percent of this has been disbursed so far. The G20’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which aims to channel these pledges, has been similarly underfunded. To date, the fund has received only $405 million of $925 million pledged by donors.[ii]

Estimates indicate that the 2008 price spike may have increased undernourishment by nearly 7 percent worldwide.[iii]
In 2009, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimated that the food price rises of 2007-8 pushed the number of hungry people in the world to over 1 billion for the first time.[iv]
The Asian Development Bank states that with a ten percent rise in domestic prices, 64 million people will be pushed into poverty in the region this year. [v]
Studies show that children appeared to be amongst those hardest hit by the previous food price crisis in 2008. Surveys from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Mauritania reported increases of 50 percent in acute malnutrition for poor children under the age of five.[vi]
The UK Hunger Alliance is a coalition of international NGOs concerned with tackling hunger and working towards the achievement of the first Millennium Development Goal. The report titled ‘Tackling the High Food Price Challenge: Tackling the High Food Price Challenge: Five Recommendations from the UK Hunger Alliance to G20 Members’ is available here: [link]

References:
[i] Ortiz, I., Chai J., and Cummins M. (2011), Escalating Food Prices: The Threat to Poor Households and Policies to Safeguard a Recovery for All, New York: UNICEF,
[ii] Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (2011), Financial Reporting, World Bank: Washington DC
[iii] Tiwari, S. and Zaman, H. (2010), The Impact of Economic Shocks on Global Undernourishment, World Bank: Washington DC, 2010
[iv] Food and Agriculture Organisation (2009), State of Food Insecurity 2009, FAO: Rome, 2009
[v] Asian Development Bank (2011), Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia, Mandaluyong City: ADB [vi] Compton, J., Wiggins, S., and Keats S. (2010), Impact of the Global Food Crisis on the Poor: What is the Evidence?, London: ODI

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