World Bank urges aid for poor on eve of U.N. food summit

14:13, 26 January 2009
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The World Bank expects...

Global food prices may have eased from their 2008 peaks but price volatility, together with the effects of the world financial crisis, has provided little respite for the poor, a senior World Bank official said on Sunday on the eve of a U.N. food meeting in Madrid, according to Reuters.

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is leading a delegation to the two-day meeting starting on Monday, said more resources and attention are needed to help the poor.

"Food prices are now volatile and that factor, combined with the impact of the financial crisis, only serves to heighten the challenges confronting the developing world," Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement.

"We expect high price volatility to continue and it will hit the poorest the most, as they spend half their income on food. More needs to be done as we must ensure those who are vulnerable get the assistance they need."

Okonjo-Iweala said while food prices have fallen they are still higher than, say, just three years ago. And in some countries, prices have not fallen as sharply as in others.

For example, in Kenya, maize prices went down by just 1 percent in the past quarter, while international prices for maize dropped by 32 percent, she said.

The World Bank expects to double its funding to poor countries hit the hardest by the food crisis, with $700 million (510 million pounds) in the pipeline from an emergency food fund managed by the poverty-fighting institution, she said.

So far, the Bank`s Global Food Crisis Response Program has disbursed about $500 million since May, with about 60 percent of the funding for seeds and fertilizer, including 250,000 tons of fertilizer and 1,500 tons of seed for 2.4 million small farms in the Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Somalia, Niger, Ethiopia and Togo.

Okonjo-Iweala said helping small-scale farmers boost production should be a key focus of international efforts, while additional resources, more effective and targeted spending and policies are also needed to boost agricultural sectors in the developing world.

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