News / Economy

    World Hunger Down, But Not Enough

    Response to 2008 food price spikes falls short

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The United Nations Tuesday announced that the number of hungry people declined to about 925 million.

    That's lower than last year's peak of more than one billion, but still far too high, U.N. officials say. At this pace, the world will not meet the Millennium Development Goal to cut world hunger in half by 2015.

    Progress on hunger was falling short even before food prices peaked in 2008 and food riots broke out. Garry Smith, who coordinates the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's response to the crisis, says the food price crisis made a bad situation worse.

    "It was disastrous, in a way, that we added over 150 million people to the impoverished group around the world," he says.

    The forces driving prices up included unusually low food reserves, competition from biofuels, and the influence of speculators on commodity markets.

    High prices, less aid

    But there was a longer-term factor at work as well, says policy director Gawain Kripke with the advocacy group Oxfam America.

    "Over the last three decades, international donors providing foreign assistance have cut and cut and cut the amount provided for agricultural development," he says.

    Aid for agriculture fell from about 17 percent of donor budgets three decades ago to less than five percent before the crisis.

    "When food prices went out of control in 2007 and 2008, world leaders paid attention," Kripke says. "And at the G8 meeting in Italy, they made some new commitments for funding."

    Led by the Obama administration, they pledged $22 billion at that meeting in July 2009. Several donors also set up a trust fund at the World Bank to direct funds to countries with the best plans.

    Boosting agriculture

    The 2008 crisis also got the attention of developing-world leaders, who experts say had been neglecting their farmers. A growing number have since increased their budgets for domestic agriculture support.

    Many national leaders are also seeking to make the most of donors' renewed attention to agriculture. They are putting together comprehensive plans to boost food supplies. Five countries qualified for the first round of funding from the World Bank trust fund, worth about $230 million. Many more proposals are on the way.

    But the World Bank's Chris Delgado says that creates a potential problem.

    "There's been a tremendous effort by countries to really produce these peer-reviewed, inclusive, strategic plans," he says. "And my fear, and the fear of my colleagues, is that we're going to have a lot more really good proposals that we simply can't fund."

    Diminished trust fund

    That's because the trust fund is currently worth less than a billion dollars. And the $22 billion the G8 pledged overall turned out to be mostly re-packaged old money. Only about $4 billion to $6 billion is new money.

    And the FAO's Garry Smith says donors have not given much information about where even that money is going. "We have to take their word for it in a way that the money's being spent and that good things are happening," he says. "It's very difficult to understand what those things are."

    Even with the increased donor focus on agriculture, most estimates say tens of billions of dollars a year will be needed to make a dent in world hunger.

    "The ability to use aid well has increased considerably" in developing countries, says the World Bank's Chris Delgado. "There's still more to be done, but what's lacking now at this particular time is not ideas or institutions so much as the funds."

    World leaders will meet in New York next week to assess progress on the Millennium Development Goals. With the number of hungry people worldwide still hovering around one billion, experts say a major new investment will be needed to close the gap by the 2015 target.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9036
    JPY
    USD
    102.32
    GBP
    USD
    0.7297
    CAD
    USD
    1.3005
    INR
    USD
    68.004

    Rates may not be current.