Oxfam condemns lethargic reaction to global food crisis – Billions of vital funds missing

“If a child died every three seconds in the rich world, leaders would have an emergency summit every day.”
Barbara Stocking
Director, Oxfam GB
Published: 24 September 2008

As world leaders meet in New York at a special Summit on poverty, aid agency Oxfam slammed the lack of urgency by the international community in tackling the ongoing food crisis now affecting close to one billion people. Oxfam said that while the rich world had deep pockets when it came to bailing out banks, the needs of the poorest have been sidelined.

Oxfam calculations reveal that so far close to US$13 billion has been pledged for 2008 to help poor countries cope with the increase in food prices but only a fraction has been disbursed. The UN estimates that US$25-40 billion per year in additional funding is required to resolve the global food crisis.

Oxfam GB’s Director Barbara Stocking: “Despite their good words, donors have failed to live up to them. This seems to be routine for some leaders when it comes to dealing with poverty: they pledge large sums and then fail to live up to their promises. The US government has put forward more than $700 billion to prop up financial institutions. This sum is more than five times all foreign assistance, and twice the total GDP of all 49 Least
Developed Countries combined.”

Around 90 Heads of State and Governments, along with the CEOs of the world’s biggest businesses and hundreds of anti-poverty organizations, are expected to gather in New York on September 25th for the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals. The meeting will be hosted by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

“A crisis is unraveling in front of our eyes in the Horn of Africa where over 17 million are facing starvation due to drought and high food prices. Yet aid agencies have not closed a $700 million gap to deal with the crisis. That is one one-thousandth of just the latest commitments proposed for the financial crisis.” Stocking said.

Earlier this year, the European Union announced €1 billion in new assistance for developing country agriculture – the funding coming from savings to European farm programs due to high agriculture prices. However, key member states are squabbling over the funds. Oxfam is urging for key European member states to release the money.

Stocking concluded: “If a child died every three seconds in the rich world, leaders would have an emergency summit every day, not every eight years. They have given themselves two days to put poverty back on the political agenda. New York must be remembered as the moment when the tide turned on poverty.”