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The World Bank: World Hunger Growing


World Bank President Robert Zoellick says the escalating price of food is stunting opportunities and creating hardship for people in poor countries. The international lending organization says it aims to double agricultural business investment this year and called on rich countries to help offset the rising cost of food. Speaking to reporters ahead of the World Bank/IMF meetings this weekend, Zoellick said World Bank members must step up efforts to stave off what he called a "growing emergency" in developing countries. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

The World Bank says Sub-Saharan countries will be among the hardest hit by the skyrocketing cost of food. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, World Bank President

Robert Zoellick says the situation in the world's poorest countries makes the financial problems in developed nations seem trivial in comparison.

"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs - and it's getting more and more difficult everyday,” he said.

World Bank studies show the price of wheat has more than doubled in the past year, while the price of rice has risen at least 75 percent.

"In Bangladesh, a two kilogram bag of rice like this now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family,” said Zoellick.

Zoellick says the upcoming spring meetings by members of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank must do more than recognize the crisis. He called on rich countries to act quickly to expand safety net programs for poor nations and provide at least $500 million to meet their emergency food needs.

"This is not just about meals foregone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future - stunted intellectual and physical growth. Even more, we estimate that the effects of this food crisis on poverty reduction worldwide is on the order of seven lost years," he added.

Food riots have already erupted in developing nations where people spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food. The U.N. and World Bank blame the rising cost of food on a combination of factors including climate change, higher energy prices and the growing demand for biofuels.