Action Against Hunger Calls for a Global Fund to Fight Hunger and Malnutrition

Hunger, the leading cause of mortality, is still not treated as a public health problem

The phenomenon of rising food prices is witnessed by Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in many countries in which it operates (Haiti, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Philippines, Ethiopia, Somalia…). In response, the association calls for concrete action through the urgent creation of a global fund to fight against hunger and malnutrition so that finally the foremost cause of death on the planet can be ameliorated.

According to our teams on the ground, several phenomena intersect across countries. In Burkina Faso, millet, milk and oil have increased in price by 25% in 1 year. In Bangladesh, prices of foodstuffs have doubled or nearly doubled over the same period. In areas where the association is involved in Afghanistan wheat has increased by 70% to 100% in one year.

In these countries, the phenomenon of rising global commodity prices is also impacted by climatic hazards which significantly lower local agricultural production. For example, floods and hurricane Sidr ravaged crops and stocks of Bangladeshi farmers; the extremely harsh Afghan winter this year has pushed families to prematurely consume their stock of food; desertification and / or consequences of past wars in West Africa have hampered agricultural production locally.

Action Against Hunger teams on the ground also found that city dwellers are often most affected by this price increase given the surge in fuel prices, further raising the cost of transporting food from rural areas to cities. Thus, in Liberia, a bag of 100 coconuts cost $6 a few months ago, but today it costs more than $ 25 in the capital, Monrovia. In addition, in urban areas, people who do not produce food are 100% dependent on their purchases for food and hence subject to high prices at the stalls.

If the rise in food prices affecting dozens of countries around the world continues, this may be the eve of a critical situation for more and more people. The impact of this increase is all the more devastating in countries where people are mostly very poor and vulnerable. In most countries where ACF is involved, vulnerable populations live on less than one dollar a day and spend almost their entire budget to food. Therefore, the slightest increase in prices may lead very rapidly to malnutrition.

The increase of the price of food is often cited as one of the causes of malnutrition by the recipients of nutrition programs. Recall last September, when riots in Burma had begun following the rising price of rice and fuel. There, ACF had found a doubling of admissions of people suffering from severe malnutrition in its therapeutic feeding centers.

Call for a Global Fund to Fight Hunger, Reform Food Aid

In this context, ACF is very concerned about the impact of rising prices on world food insecurity. There are now 854 million people who suffer from hunger, with nearly 5 million children dying each year. In view of current events (rising demand, higher oil prices, impact of climate change, agro-fuels), these figures have a strong likelihood of further increase.

Hunger is the leading cause of mortality in the world; yet in many countries, malnutrition is still not treated as a public health problem. Therefore, ACF calls for a global fund dedicated to the fight against hunger and malnutrition, based on the model of special funds established to fight AIDS or tuberculosis. Beyond statements of intent made by many countries today, ACF suggests practical ways to curb the phenomenon by setting two priority areas of intervention for this fund:

  • Treatment of malnutrition according to vital urgency
  • Prevention of malnutrition to act in the longer term (revival of agriculture locally so that poor countries widely importing foods can gradually gain self-sufficiency; revive the economy of families, especially in urban areas, so that the most vulnerable people have the means to buy food;…)

Food Aid For The Most Vulnerable

If stocks have previously always been roughly available to respond to emergencies, Action Against Hunger fears that the vital assistance to many people may be questioned. Action Against Hunger therefore calls that donor countries are committed to maintaining these stocks of unconditional food aid or financial amounts equivalent, regardless of changes in the price of agricultural raw materials.

In addition, ACF calls for a better functioning of global food aid based on the needs of populations rather than the political choices of donor states. That way, assistance can be better targeted and better used.