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Action needed now to tackle "double jeopardy" of food and fuel prices increases

Protection for people worst hit by rising food prices and increased help for small farmers must be the priorities for government leaders and policy makers, according to the CEO of Concern Worldwide, Tom Arnold.

Mr Arnold is addressing a major meeting in Washington DC today, Tuesday 15 July, of World Bank leaders, senior officials from the IMF, the UN and other international NGOs. The meeting is focusing on the current food crisis. The roundtable discussions are being led by World Bank President Robert Zoellick and the Managing Director of the World Bank, Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Mr Arnold, who is also chairman of the European Food Security Group, a network of 40 European NGOs, is outlining some of the best ways to tackle the “double jeopardy” of food and fuel price crises.

“There is broad consensus in the international development community and increasingly among governments in the developed world on the best ways to approach and solve this crisis,” says Mr Arnold. “The key point is that we need to act now and use the available and most effective means and channels to get food, cash and agricultural inputs to the poorest and most affected people. We know what the solutions are. Now we need to decide how to implement them.”

Concern Worldwide believes two main courses of action are required to help the most vulnerable people affected by the current food crisis over the short, medium and long term.

Firstly, a major and widespread response is needed from the international community to ensure that the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries have access to food or cash to buy food. Nutritional surveys in developing countries must be increased to understand and measure the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable. Pregnant women and young children must not be allowed to slip from chronic to acute malnutrition as a result of the crisis.

Secondly, there also needs to be a major effort to ensure that small farmers have the necessary inputs – seeds, tools, fertilisers and credit – for the next growing season. This support must fit within a long-term strategy of giving greater priority to agricultural and rural development.

Mr Arnold, one of three leaders of international aid and development organisations presenting to the conference, also describes the real effects of the food crisis that Concern Worldwide staff are seeing in the countries in which they work. The crisis is being compounded by drought and crop failure in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

In response to the food crisis, Concern Worldwide has launched a monthly hunger monitor. Its aim is to record the direct impact that rising prices are having on the lives of the poorest people in the poorest countries on earth. The hunger monitor utilises both statistical and anecdotal information from the countries in which it is working.