Global Food Crisis In Spotlight At Madrid Meeting

"The financial crisis is hitting the world's hungry hard. Unemployment’s increasing, remittances are decreasing, global trade is decreasing. For the poorest of the poor it means their budget for food is shrinking" - Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director

ROME - UN agencies responsible for responding to the impact of high food prices are meeting in Madrid to map out ways to achieve “Food Security for All” even as the global financial crisis complicates the challenge further. (Read UN news release)

The two-day meeting, chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero, will look at how to galvanize political momentum on food issues and on the need for funds to improve food and nutrition security.

"When the food crisis hit last year, the world came together in the largest emergency response to hunger and malnutrition in human history,” said Josette Sheeran, WFP Executive Director, who is attending the meeting. 

“Now, as the financial crisis hits the hungry even harder, we must sustain these unprecedented efforts to meet the urgent food and nutritional needs of the most vulnerable people, while promoting smallholder farmers and agriculture," she continued.

The number of the undernourished in the world rose in 2008 to 963 million, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), undercutting progress on the first Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people who go hungry by 2015..

As part of the UN response to the ongoing crisis in global food security, WFP plans to feed 100 million people in 77 countries. As well as delivering emergency food assistance and supporting safety nets such as school feeding, WFP will be expanding the use of highly nutritious food products to address malnutrition among young children. To do this the agency needs $5.2 billion in 2009.

The meeting in Madrid follows the June 2008 “food summit” in Rome. In the 5 June Rome Declaration, 181 States and the European Community pledged to alleviate the suffering caused by the soaring food prices, stimulate agricultural development, food and small holder farmer production and address obstacles to food access and adequate nutrition. 

UN officials and representatives of international agencies belonging to the High-level Task Force on Global Food Security Crisis will be in Madrid. Among those expected to attend are FAO Director-General and Task Force vice-chairman  Jacques Diouf; International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Lennart Båge; World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran; UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, UN Conference on Trade and Development chief Supachai Panikpadi, Managing Director of the World Bank Group Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and UN food task force coordinator David Nabarro.