July 2, 2008—Group of 8 leaders and major oil producers must "act now" to address the "man-made catastrophe" caused by high food and oil prices, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said prior to the G8 Summit in Hokkaido, Japan, July 7-9.
"We are entering a danger zone," warned Zoellick in a July 1 letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, head of the upcoming G8 Summit. He added the crisis has worsened even since April.
For the first time since 1973, the world is being hit with a combination of record oil and food prices, threatening to drive over 100 million people into extreme poverty and reverse the gains made in overcoming poverty over the last seven years.
Some 41 countries have lost 3% to 10% of their GDP from rising food, fuel and commodity prices since January 2007. Over 30 countries have been hit by food riots, as the impact of the crisis reaches the household level.
New Deal on Global Food Policy
In April, 150 countries endorsed a New Deal on Global Food Policy—a plan to respond to the food crisis through social safety nets, increased agricultural production, and reduced trade barriers.
The World Bank announced it would boost overall agricultural lending to US$6 billion over the next year, which would nearly double the amount going to Africa and Latin America, and support over US$1 billion for new agricultural projects in South Asia. Lending for social protection, nutrition and food security is also set to double to US$800 million.
The Bank has allocated US$200 million to Bangladesh and US$100 million to hard-hit Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Niger to meet the additional expenses of food imports and to buy seeds for the new season.
Requests for Help Outstrip Resources
In May, the Bank created a US$1.2 billion facility, including US$200 million for grants, to provide rapid financing to feed poor children and other vulnerable groups. Funds are being disbursed to 12 priority countries. Another 31 countries are calling for assistance, totaling US$400 million in new grants.
"These calls for help outstrip our available grant resources," said Zoellick.
The World Bank estimates the world's hardest-hit countries need a total of US$10 billion in the short term for safety nets and agricultural support. "The international community needs to step up to this challenge," Zoellick said. Click here for details.The global community is facing an "unprecedented test in this new era of globalization," said Zoellick. "The question is whether we can act swiftly to help those most in need."
Rapid Aid Yielding Results
The World Bank is working with partners to identify countries most vulnerable to the crisis. Based on these rapid needs assessments, the Bank has begun disbursing funds to help the 12 priority countries and is moving quickly to approve funds for additional countries as demand for assistance grows. Click on the map for more details.