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Food crises will be repeated until world leaders act

The World Food Programme has scaled-up its activities in 2012 to help 3.6 million people in Yemen (© Hugh Macleod/IRIN)
The World Food Programme has scaled-up its activities in 2012 to help 3.6 million people in Yemen
© Hugh Macleod/IRIN

Millions of the world's poorest people will face devastation from today's rocketing food prices because the global food system is fatally flawed and policymakers can't find the courage to fix it, Oxfam has stated. "History is repeating itself and will keep doing so until we tackle the fundamental weaknesses that keep a billion people hungry," Oxfam states. "We must stop the obscene waste of food including burning it as biodiesel in our trucks and cars. We need to tackle climate change and land-grabs and damaging speculation. We must build up our food stocks and kick-start good investment again in small-holder farmers and in resilient, sustainable agriculture."

According to the international charity, Yemen is one of the worst hit countries because it is heavily dependent on food imports and already has 10 million people who are suffering from hunger. The UN estimates that US$7.83 billion is required to tackle food-related crises in the Sahel, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Yemen. To date, only US$3.73 billion has been pledged. "With the international response slowed by the global economic crisis, rising global food prices could pile more pressure on an overstretched humanitarian system," Oxfam has warned.

What's gone wrong in 2012? Oxfam highlight: drought or floods that have impacted harvests in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India and Australia; climate change as a steadily worsening contributing factor; 'crazy' biofuel mandates that mean 40 per cent of US corn production is used for biofuel; the US exchange rate which has made it more expensive for countries to import their food; and financial speculation on commodity markets.

Despite these challenges, Oxfam says that rational policies and a healthy global food system could cope with the effects of droughts and tackle climate change and other man-made causes of hunger and vulnerability. "A lot will depend on how fast and smartly policy-makers - especially those in the G20 - react over the coming weeks and months," Oxfam reveals. "But their track-record is poor and does not inspire confidence."

Oxfam's analysis of the 2012 food price hikes

Date published: September 2012


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