Relentless tide of global hunger engulfs 1bn

Published on 07 April 2009

A tsunami was the image of choice to describe the blow of last year's food crisis. Today's situation resembles more the slow but relentless surge of a tide, gradually dragging more and more people into the ranks of the undernourished. Almost unnoticed behind the economic crisis, a combination of lower growth, rising unemployment and falling remittances together with persistently high food prices has pushed the number of chronically hungry above 1bn for the first time. The surge has reversed a decline over the past quarter century in the proportion of chronically hungry people in the world. "We are not out of the woods of the food crisis," says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Programme in Rome, which needs about $6bn (€4.5bn, £4bn) this year to feed the poorest, up 20 per cent from last year's record of $5bn. [...] Domestic food prices in many developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, have not fallen at all and in some cases are rising again because of the impact of poor harvest and lack of credit for imports. Ms Sheeran points precisely to that problem: "Local prices are rising. For example, the price of maize in Malawi has risen 100 per cent in the last year while wheat prices in Afghanistan are 67 per cent higher than a year ago."

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