Rich countries need to provide emergency food supplies to prevent rising prices and shortages triggering social unrest in poorer parts of the world, the heads of four major international bodies have said.
Calling for urgent and coordinated action, the World Bank, the UN World Food Programme, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund warned that the food crisis was pushing millions of people into poverty.
“The threat is highest for the poorest countries with a large share of consumption from food imports, but vulnerability is increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world’s poor,” the joint statement from World Bank president, David Malpass, WFP executive director David Beasley, WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said.
The World Bank has estimated that for each one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are thrown into extreme poverty worldwide, while Okonjo-Iweala warned last month that hunger raised the risk of food riots.
“The increase in food prices and supply shocks can fuel social tensions in many of the affected countries, especially those that are already fragile or affected by conflict,” the statement said.
Issued before next week’s spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington, the statement by the leaders of the four global institutions said the world was being hit by compounding crises – including Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and sharply rising costs of staple foods.
They called on the international community to support vulnerable countries through coordinated actions including emergency food supplies, financial support, increased agricultural production and open trade.
“We also urge the international community to help support urgent financing needs, including through grants. This should include financing of immediate food supplies, safety nets to address the needs of the poor, and for small farmers facing higher input prices.
“We also urge all countries to keep trade open and avoid restrictive measures such as export bans on food or fertiliser that further exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. It is especially important not to impose export restrictions on humanitarian food purchases by the UN’s World Food Programme.”