Oxfams report sounds global alarm

January 26, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – A report by an international aid agency is warning that hundreds of millions of people could slip into hunger across the globe, if urgent action is not taken to deal with the worldwide food crisis.

Oxfam Kenya Country Director Philippa Crosland-Taylor on Monday called on government and donor agencies to move with speed to prevent a catastrophe resulting from volatile food prices.

“This should be a wake-up call for all those who believe that the food crisis will be over soon. Leaders have a window of opportunity to prevent a worse situation resulting from the triple crunch of the economic crisis, climate change, energy and water scarcity”.

“They must act urgently to turn their plans into coordinated action that addresses immediate needs and begin to implement long-term reforms. Failure to act will see millions more people falling into hunger,” she said.

Decades of under-investment in agriculture coupled with the increasing threat of climate change mean that despite recent price falls, future food security is by no means guaranteed, and in fact the situation could get worse, said the Oxfam official.

The agency’s warning comes a week after the Kenyan government declared the current food crisis a national disaster that could adversely affect at least 10 million people in arid and semi-arid, and slums.

Oxfam’s report titled ‘A Billion Hungry People’ details the threats to global food security and exposes the lack of adequate coordinated international action to tackle hunger.

The report further warns that the food price increases of 2007 and 2008 and the global recession looks set to further increase the number of people going hungry because of its impact on employment, income and public spending.

Ms Crosland-Taylor cautioned that most parts of the country are considered to be ‘highly food insecure’ following last year’s post election violence.

She told a news conference in Nairobi that about nine to 22 days worth of grains are left in the strategic grain reserve, adding that the urban poor and pastoralists are likely to be hard hit if the situation is not addressed.

“Although global food prices have fallen in the last few months, they are not back to previous levels, and are likely to rise sharply again in the future.”

“Furthermore, price volatility itself is a problem, and more needs to be done to address the underlying structural issue that cause the chronic hunger affecting one in six people in the world today,” said Ms Crosland-Taylor.

Oxfam Regional Campaigns Manager for the Horn, East and Central Africa Region Michael O’Brien said that not enough has been done to tackle the situation globally.

“Branch reform of the aid system has not yet been taken. International institutions and donors must reverse decades of under-investment in agriculture and scrap blatantly distorting polices such as bio fuels subsidies that make things worse,” said Mr O’Brien.

Oxfam Regional Food Security Advisor Eric Zapatero says the food prices are likely to go down in the next three to four years.


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