Global food price increase forces World Vision to scale back food aid program

One of the world's largest humanitarian organizations has announced it can no longer provide food to 1.5 million of the 7.5 million poor it fed last year.

World Vision blamed the soaring cost of food and unmet donor country aid commitments for the 23 per cent decrease in the number of people it was able to provide with food aid. World Vision has 31,000 staff working in around 100 countries worldwide and operates food programs in 35 countries. "Despite our best efforts, 1.5 million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid," said Dave Toycen, President of World Vision Canada. "Around 572,000 of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive.

"This pricing crisis is likely to take at least two years to stabilize. That is far too long for the millions of children under age five who need sufficient levels of nutrition now to develop properly. Without enough healthy food children under age five can suffer irreversible, impaired brain development and stunted physical development. This has tragic implications for a child's education and future employment potential."

The World Bank estimates that the recent rise in food prices could push another 100 million people deeper into poverty. Ten per cent of these will be children under age 5.

Higher food prices aggravate malnutrition, stunting

The food price crisis is making a terrible situation even worse for many children in developing countries. Malnutrition already contributes to the deaths of more than 3.7 million children under age 5 every year. Insufficient nutrition has also stunted the development of 147 million pre-school children in developing countries. Wasting (low weight for height) affects more than 46 million pre-school children annually. Malnourished children are also more likely to suffer and die from diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles.

"Aside from the awful effects of malnutrition on children themselves, imagine the devastating impact increased malnutrition levels will ultimately have on nations whose struggling economies are in desperate need of a strong, healthy and educated future workforce," said Toycen.

"The international community must ensure that preventing child hunger and malnutrition is the top priority in the search for a solution to the current food pricing crisis."

Call for funding the world food shortfall

Though price increases are a major reason for the fall in food aid recipients, another is the failure by some country donors to follow through on funding commitments made to the World Food Programme (WFP)-one of World Vision's largest sources of food aid.

The lack of available funds, combined with the rising prices, has caused some regular food delivery channels to dry up, and has prevented World Vision from launching several new food aid delivery projects where they are needed. In some countries it has even caused the organization to halt food aid programming.

World Vision is calling on governments and other donors to fund the $500 million WFP shortfall. It is also urging all donors to meet any food aid funding commitments it has made including those to the WFP. "Of course, food aid by itself is not a panacea for hunger and malnutrition," said Toycen.

"Breastfeeding children need healthy mothers, small-scale farmers need support to grow food, communities need help to mitigate the effects of natural disasters," Toycen said. "Therefore, the international community must also act now to establish a fund that supports those projects that will prevent vulnerable communities from becoming malnourished as a result of the pricing crisis. Wait too long to act, and treating millions of malnourished men, women and children will prove a huge undertaking. Prevention is considerably cheaper and more effective than a cure.

"If the international community does not act swiftly, then not only will rising food prices undermine the poverty gains of the last five to 10 years, but they will ultimately put a brake on developing countries' chances for any real future development through its youngest citizens."

World Vision is an international Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. Motivated by our Christian faith, World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

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