Emergency and Long Term Steps Needed To Address World Food Crisis

Sun, 06/01/2008

 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breath of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?… Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.” Isa. 40:12, 26.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “The rapidly escalating crisis of food availability around the world has reached emergency proportions. The World Bank has indicated that the doubling of food crisis over the last three years could push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty. We need not only short-term emergency measures to meet urgent critical needs and avert starvation in many regions across the world, but also significant increase in long-term productivity in food grain production.”

First, we must feed hungry people. The recent steep rise in prices has already raised the cost the World Food Program (WFP) needs to maintain its current operations from $500 million to $755 million. It is urgent that the international communities fully fund the emergency requirements of WFP that currently stand at $755 million.

Second, we must ensure food for tomorrow. In Kenya’s Rift Valley, the breadbasket of East Africa, farmers are planting only a third of what they did last year. Why? Because they cannot afford fertilizer, which is also skyrocketing in price. The international community must give small farmers the support they need to assure their next harvest. To this end, the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) Emergency Initiative has called for $1.7 billion in funding to provide low-income countries with seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural imputs required to boost production.

The international community will need to take urgent and concerted action in order to avert the larger political and security implications of this growing crisis.

To address this crisis, the United Nations Economic and Social Council suggests the following measures.
First, the post-Monterrey period has resulted in a number of new proposals on development financing which command varying degrees of consensus. If implemented, many of these measures could lead to more stable and predictable long-term resource flows to developing countries. (Check the Millennium Challenge Account at www.bread.org)

Second, middle-income countries need better market access to foster their comparative advantages. They require technical assistance and knowledge sharing to help address critical gaps in their development processes.

Third, the international financial, trading and monetary system has given rise to new challenges and opportunities for least developed countries. We must look for ways to bolster support to these countries.

Fourth, financial markets in both developed and developing countries have need for innovation and regulation to protect financial systems and sustain continued growth and expansion.

Finally, long-term global economic growth and sustainable development is imperiled by climate change. Developing countries need external assistance, especially better technology and increased financing to meet the challenges.

Climate change is not a discrete problem that can be dealt with through isolated technological reforms: impacting economic growth and stability, human health outcomes, environmental assets, and societies’ social fabric; it is a full frontal challenge to development. If decisive action is not taken, climate change could reverse countries’ hard-earned development gains and stymie progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” Lev. 25:23

Poor countries and communities are likely to bear the brunt of climate change, which could promote poverty traps and growing inequalities between and within countries. Poor households rely heavily on income from rain fed agriculture and natural resources, which will be increasingly at risk. In coastal and island countries prone to flooding, poor households are most likely to reside in low-lying areas and experience greater loss of housing, higher risks of disease and growing incentives to migrate from vulnerable areas.

Climate change also has the potential to exacerbate pre-existing tensions over scarce resources, particularly where institutions and governance is weak. A growing frequency of extreme events particularly for households already living on the economic fringe may trap households in low-risk, low-return activities.

You can respond to the food crisis by urging your members of Congress to support Bread for the World’s Poverty-Focused Development Assistance for 2009. This bill funds nearly all U.S. poverty-focused development assistance programs that most directly address the root causes of hunger and poverty, such as agriculture, clean water, nutrition, basic education and health care.