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Early impacts from the World Bank's Global Food Response Program

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Washington, D.C., October 16, 2008 - The $1.2 billion Global Food Response Program (GFRP) - the World Bank's fast-track food crisis initiative - was created in May 2008 to rapidly disburse assistance to countries hardest hit by the food crisis. "Hunger knows no boundaries," said Africa Region Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili. "All across the African continent, poor people are bearing the brunt" of soaring food prices.

As of end-September 2008, the World Bank has approved $83 million in GFRP financing to ten Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia. In addition, $100 million in IDA financing has been approved or reallocated for eight countries: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Malawi, Togo, Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Madagascar. Through these projects, farmers are receiving seeds, fertilizers, and technical expertise. School feeding programs are also being launched, and food safety nets targeting vulnerable groups are being created. The Bank expects to provide a total of more than $800 million in financing to the GFRP.

The GFRP is based on several dimensions:

- across time-thus addressing short-term and medium-term needs;

- across sectors-such as agriculture, health, social protection, energy; and

- across instruments-budget support to help mitigate short-term financial stresses; safety net programs for the most vulnerable; and investment lending to stimulate an agricultural supply response.

A basic principle of the GFRP is that a country can select from a large comprehensive menu of possible interventions, depending on its specific needs. The Bank provides detailed technical guidance appropriate to these interventions. A sample of interventions in SSA includes:

Food Distribution to School Children and Other Vulnerable Groups

In Liberia ($10 million disbursed), monthly distributions of 300-400 tons of food targeting more than 60,000 school children in five counties started at the beginning of the school year in October, 2008. Distributions of food rations for pregnant and lactating women attending clinics and hospitals have also started.

In Burundi ($10 million disbursed), the WFP has been implementing a school feeding program in six provinces (out of 17) in the country. The GFRP grant makes it possible to provide 120,000 additional students in 60 additional primary schools with hot meals since the beginning of the school year. The Grant has also helped the Government to maintain fiscal stability after the suspension of import duties on 13 basic food items undertaken by the authorities to mitigate the impact of food crisis.

In Sierra Leone ($3 million disbursed), the Bank is providing budget support to partly compensate for lost revenues resulting from reduced tariffs on food and fuel imports. The budget support is creating fiscal space for the Government to provide food to more than 21,000 people, including school children and patients (lactating mothers and children under the age of five) in district hospitals and community health centers. In addition, 78 food-for-work projects will begin shortly; and preparations are underway to distribute 300 to 400 metric tons of food in target communities.

The GFRP is also working for bountiful harvests. In Rwanda, $10 million has been allocated for filling a financing gap for bulk fertilizer purchase and supporting the development of private sector-friendly auctions and voucher distribution schemes. Vouchers for purchasing fertilizers have been distributed to farmers ahead of the fall planting season.

Reform of Food Policies

- In Madagascar ($10 million disbursed), the increase of rice prices has been slowed, due in part to the temporary elimination of VAT on rice. The Bank's budget support operation helped mitigate the fiscal impact of this policy action.

- In Guinea ($10 million allocated), budget support from the Bank is supporting the Government's policy to reduce customs duties on rice from 12.75 to 2.75 percent.

- In Burundi ($10 million allocated and disbursed), Bank financing has helped mitigate the fiscal impact of the suspension of import duties on 13 basic food items.

Other SSA countries in the pipeline to receive GFRP disbursements include Benin ($9 million for fertilizer); Central African Republic ($7 million, school feeding, inputs, extension, infrastructure); Comoros ($1 million for seeds, risk management, access to credit); Guinea-Bissau ($5 million for safety nets, inputs); Mali ($5 million for budget support); Mauritania ($9 million for inputs, safety nets, irrigation, livestock); Mozambique ($20 million for budget support); Somalia ($7 million, for inputs, irrigation, livestock); Southern Sudan ($5 million for seeds and other inputs); and Togo ($7 million for safety nets, agricultural production).