Fact sheet on hunger and the global food crisis
More than 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and World Vision is committed to raising increased resources — public and private — to overcome this tragedy. Food aid and development assistance are key tools to fight hunger and the food insecurity that causes chronic or emergency shortages of nutrition around the world.
Factors contributing to rising food prices
The factors contributing to rising food prices are many. They include:
- Rising fuel and transportation costs
- Political turmoil and conflict
- Growing populations and greater consumption of meat
- Climactic variations, including droughts, floods and storms that have destroyed harvests
- Poor environmental care
- An increase in demand for food crops being used for biofuels
Scale of the problem
- Since 2005, the world has experienced a dramatic surge in the price of many staple food commodities. The price of maize increased by 80 percent between 2005 and 2007, and has since risen further. Many other commodity prices also rose sharply over this period: milk powder by 90 percent, wheat by 70 percent and rice by about 25 percent. (World Bank)
- These grains are a staple of diets in much of the developing world. In low-income Asian countries, grains account for 63 percent of the average diet. In North Africa and 11 former Soviet republics, grains account for about 60 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most vulnerable to food insecurity, grains compose nearly half of the calories consumed. The share of grains in the diet is lowest — about 43 percent — in lower-income Latin America. (USDA)
- The poorest people spend roughly three quarters of their incomes on staple foods. (World Bank)
- Food riots have broken out in Haiti, Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. (The Guardian)
- Food crop prices are expected to remain high in 2008 and 2009 and then begin to decline as supply and demand respond to high prices; however, they are likely to remain well above the 2004 levels through 2015 for most food crops. (World Bank)
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Impact on children
- Rising prices make millions of children more vulnerable to malnutrition, impaired growth and lack of education.
- Malnutrition is an underlying cause of half of the nearly 10 million deaths of children under 5 each year worldwide. It makes them more prone to, and likely to die from, diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and measles.
- Severe malnutrition in early childhood can also impair brain development and lead to stunted growth, which affects some 178 million pre-schoolers in developing countries.
- Rising food prices also risk derailing recent gains in reducing malnutrition. Between 1990 and 2005, the share of children under 5 with moderate and severe stunting fell from 33.5 percent worldwide to 24.1 percent. Food prices are not the main driver of malnutrition. However, to compensate for rising food prices, vulnerable households may purchase less food, or cheaper, but less nutritious, food. (World Bank)
- Malnourished women are more likely to be sick, have smaller babies and die earlier, resulting in high levels of infant mortality in areas where chronic hunger is a problem.
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Impact on World Vision programs
- World Vision staff have seen access to food — and poor families’ ability to afford basic staples — deteriorate more rapidly in recent months as prices escalated in many communities where we work, for example in Haiti and Senegal.
- Food aid programs will continue to be affected by the new food prices.
- Humanitarian groups may have to substitute more expensive nutrient-fortified foods with cheaper, less nutritional bulk foods.
- Aid groups may have to reduce the geographical areas they serve with food and cut back on beneficiaries.
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World Vision’s programming priorities
- Support small scale producers to increase production through sustainable agriculture.
- Vigorously monitor child and maternal nutrition, and intervene with community-based therapeutic care and micronutrient supplements.
- Help communities locally produce as much of their food as possible.
- Make peace-building and conflict resolution part of the solution.
- Encourage crop diversification.
- Take steps that increase farmer access to production resources, such as improved and locally adopted seeds, and training in improved agricultural cultivation methods.
- Improve local food processing and storage, reduce post-harvest losses and improve access to markets.
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Policy calls: responding to the challenge of rising food prices
World Vision calls on the international community to prioritize the prevention of child hunger and undernutrition in its response to the current crisis. The current crisis exposes the reality that, while the world produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants, nearly 150 million children under 5 are underweight. Children, especially those younger than age 2, are especially vulnerable. The solutions to the problem of child hunger are known and affordable. Millennium Development Goal one commits the international community to cut this number in half by 2015. At the current rate of progress we will fail to meet this goal.
World Vision calls on donors to urgently provide funding to meet the World Food Programme’s shortfall ($755 million) and ensure funding support for longer-term development programs to ensure food security going forward. Also use international meetings to address the structural causes of food insecurity.
World Vision calls on G8 leaders to make the food crisis a priority at their summit in July 2008 and establish time-bound commitments to meet their goals. The international community has an opportunity to convert rhetoric to action. In 2005, global leaders promised that they would act to reduce poverty. They have failed to live up to this promise. The World Bank estimates that food price increases risk pushing 100 million people further into poverty. This challenge requires an immediate response.
Who Is World Vision?
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.