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04.06.2008 Business & Finance

Urgent Action Needed On Food Crisis — World Bank

By Daily Graphic
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World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick, has called on the UN summit on food in Rome to commit itself to helping the 20 most vulnerable countries in the coming weeks before soaring food prices push millions more into poverty or malnutrition.

Outlining three priority actions for the Rome meeting on the food crisis, Mr Zoellick said the agencies and governments at the meeting should also provide seeds and fertiliser to smallholder farmers in the coming planting months and shoulds agree on an international call to scrap food export bans and restrictions.

“Globally, we have estimated that this crisis could push 100 million people into poverty – 30 million in Africa alone,” Mr Zoellick told the summit.
 
“This is not a natural catastrophe. It is man-made and can be fixed by us. It does not take complex research. We know what has to be done. We just need action and resources in real-time.”

Mr Zoellick said the World Bank had worked with the UN's World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation to assess the needs of 28 countries with another 15 of such exercises still ongoing.
 
This work had identified 20 countries which required immediate assistance by the time of the Group of Eight meeting in July.

“This means safety net support, school feeding, food for work, maternal and child programmes, conditional cash transfers and budget support,” said Mr Zoellick.
 
“This can be done through the WFP, UNICEF, the FAO and Development Banks. After the direct food assistance of the WFP, this is where funding should go.”

Another priority in the coming months was getting seeds and fertilisers to those developing countries where smallholder farmers could expand production this season. Fifteen priority countries had been identified by Africans for fast-track distribution.

As a third priority Mr Zoellick said 28 countries had imposed food export bans. These and other restrictions encouraged hoarding and drove up prices, thereby hurting the poorest people.
 
He urged countries to immediately lift restrictions and taxes for humanitarian food purchases and transportation, and for food shipments to less developed and fragile countries.

— World Bank

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