UN officials call for urgent action to address impact of spiralling food prices

9 April 2008 – Warning that soaring food prices could lead to increased poverty and unrest, several senior United Nations officials have called for urgent measures to tackle the global crisis, which threatens to hit the world’s poor the hardest.

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Deputy Executive Director has warned of the rise of a “new face of hunger” that will require the combined efforts of governments, the private sector, and humanitarian organizations to overcome.

“Food prices are now rising at rates that few of us can ever have seen before in our lifetimes,” John Powell told the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) Conference.

He expressed particular concern about the fact that markets are full of food, but large numbers of people simply cannot afford to buy.

Yesterday, at the same conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes warned that rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability.

The past few weeks have witnessed violent protests over rising food prices in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and, most recently, in Haiti, where several people have died in riots.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Emergency Relief Coordinator, discussed the issue today in his meetings with officials in Kuwait, the latest stop on his four-nation visit intended to encourage greater partnership with Gulf States in international humanitarian efforts.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for urgent measures to reduce the impact of high food prices on the poor, which he said was due to a combination of factors such as reduced production due to climate change, increased demand for biofuels production and the higher cost of energy and transport.

Director-General Jacques Diouf made the appeal at the first-ever Global Agro-Industries Forum in New Delhi, India, which has been sponsored by UN agencies to focus on how such industries can contribute to poverty reduction.


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