A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
More than 75,000 people will die of hunger during the three days that G8 Agriculture Ministers will meet to talk about the food crisis, said international agency Oxfam today. Oxfam is warning Ministers, meeting in Italy from 18 – 20 April 2009 that the answer to the global food crisis is not increased production in rich countries but support for the world’s poorest farmers.
A mix of new and old problems – unfair trade rules promoted by rich countries, under investment in world agriculture, the economic crisis, and climate change – are conspiring to keep 963 million people around the world hungry.
G8 countries have, for decades, steadfastly refused to make changes to agriculture and trade policies which undermine food production in poor countries. Rich countries provide more than $125 billion in direct subsidies to their own farmers – whose produce gets dumped on poor country markets – putting local farmers out of business.
By contrast G8 countries have delivered less then a fifth of the $20 billion in aid for agriculture which was promised at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Summit in Rome in 2008 – and it is still not clear if this money is additional to current overseas aid spending. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization $30 billion is needed every year to support farmers in developing countries.
Global cereal prices are 71 per cent higher than in 2005 and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that a new price hike is likely during 2009. The poorest people, who spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food, will face hunger and malnutrition. Poor farmers meanwhile are not benefiting from higher prices because they lack access to markets.
Climate change will have a massive effect on agriculture especially in the poorest countries. It is estimated that reduced yields from rain fed crops in Africa and other parts of the world will put an additional 170 million more people at risk of hunger.
Oxfam calls on G8 countries to commit to long term, predictable assistance to small-scale food producers in developing countries. They must ensure that poor farmers have a voice in discussions aimed at addressing the food crisis and for the radical reform of rich country trade, energy, agriculture and financial policies that have helped create the crisis.
Chris Leather, Senior Food Advisor for Oxfam International said:
“Today one child dies every five seconds from hunger. That fact alone should galvanize Agriculture Ministers from the world’s richest countries into action.
“Agriculture Ministers must recognize that solving the food crisis is about helping farmers in poor countries stay afloat in these difficult times – not increasing food production in rich countries.”
Notes to editors
For more information or to arrange an interview contact:
Anna Mitchell, Oxfam Press Officer, UK
tel: +44 1865 339 8157; mob: +44 7796 993 288
The Oxfam International Statement: G8 Ministers of Agriculture must take concrete action to eradicate world hunger (pdf, 105kb)
How Rigged Rules around global trade work to keep people in poverty.