Kenya VP leads team to Madrid food talks

January 26, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is leading a government delegation to a United Nations conference on food security in Spain.

The Vice President who left Nairobi on Sunday night, was expected to be accompanied by Water Minister Charity Ngilu and Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shabaan.

Mr Musyoka said the Kenyan panel would lobby the international community to focus their attention on the food situation in the country. “We will also be seeking to have the World Food Program reinstate the school feeding program in the areas worst hit (by drought),” he said on departure.

Representatives from 95 countries gather in Madrid for the two-day follow-up meeting to the UN-sponsored summit held last year in Rome, to tackle the global food crisis.

Kenya has launched a Sh32 billion international emergency relief appeal to feed a population of about 10 million citizens facing starvation.

Hours to the UN-sponsored summit, the World Bank said that millions around the world continued to suffer from volatility in food prices.

“The international community needs to increase efforts to help the poor,” World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement.

She added: "Food prices are now volatile and that factor, combined with the impact of the financial crisis, only serves to heighten the challenges confronting the developing world.

Bank economists "expect high price volatility to continue and it will hit the poorest the most, as they spend half their income on food.  More needs to be done as we must ensure those who are vulnerable get the assistance they need," she said.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is leading the World Bank’s delegation to the meeting in Madrid.

Member states of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization agreed at the Rome summit to reduce the number of people who live in hunger by 2015, but this goal is accompanied by limited financial donations.

Over the past seven months, the Bank, "through its Global Food Crisis Response Program, reached over 13 million people directly through food distribution systems, cash for work initiatives, and seed and fertilizer distribution to small holder farmers," the statement read.

The Bank said that it was ‘disturbing’ that poor countries, ‘especially in Africa, did not have matching drops in their food prices’. They gave as an example maize prices dropping by 32 percent over the past quarter, but dropping only by one percent in Mombasa, Kenya.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will preside over the closure of the Madrid conference, which is expected to end with a statement outlining specific measures to be adopted to fight hunger around the world.

The World Bank worked with UN agencies to help the world’s neediest when food prices soared in 2008, the statement said.


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