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Food Crises: Addressing the Current Crisis and Preventing the Next One

Policy Date: 10/28/2008
Policy Number: LB-08-01

Food Crises: Addressing the Current Crisis and Preventing the Next One

Whereas the American Public Health Association (APHA), in its commitment to health and human rights, seeks to end the serious global food crisis as it negatively impacts the health of the world’s population, it takes note of the following:
The Alma Alta Declaration, Conclusions of the World Food Summit of 1996 and its Plan of Action for World Food Security; the Millennium Development Goals; the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security; the Rome Declaration of the High-Level Conference on World Food Security; the Challenge of Climate Change and Bioenergy and its Comprehensive Framework for Action issued on June 5, 2008 by Heads of Government from 180 countries; and the G-8 Leaders’ Statement on Global Food Security issued on July 8, 2008, have called on the global community to commit to promoting food security and proper nutrition and eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in the world especially in developing countries. Despite such a clarion call, limited progress has been made:

• According to the United Nations World Food Program, already 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger and micronutrient deficiencies.1
• A child dies every 6 s from hunger-related causes,1 and 178 million children younger than 5 years old are stunted or short in stature caused by poor nutrition.1
• The chronically low productivity of farmers in the poorest countries, caused by the inability to pay for seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation, the policies in the United States and Europe of subsidizing the diversion of food crops to produce biofuels like corn-based ethanol;, climate change; and the growing global demand for food and feed grains are leading to the inability to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal: to eradicate poverty and hunger by halving the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day, achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, and halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.2

A critical step forward in the actualization of global food security is to secure adequate resources that are efficiently and effectively administered to those populations in need.

• Resources from donors such as the United States and other donor nations have decreased over the past 5 years to combat hunger. Despite a modest donor response after the recognition of the food crisis in early 20083; US emergency food aid declined nearly 52% in average tonnage delivered over the past 5 years.4
• In April 2008, President George W. Bush directed the US Secretary of Agriculture to draw down the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to meet emergency food aid needs. This release was estimated to provide $200 million in emergency food aid through the US Agency for International Development. In addition, President Bush requested $770 million in additional allocations, including $395 million intended to preserve price parity in existing food aid programs.5
• Historically, approximately 80% of US funding allocations for in-kind food donations went to Africa.4
• Transport expenses account for approximately 65% of US food aid expenditures, and the US Cargo preference laws require 75% of food aid to be shipped on US-flag carriers.4
• Recent global financial turmoil is exacerbating concerns about food and fuel costs, which have driven another 75 million people into the abyss of hunger and poverty and could potentially push 100 million more people in the developing world into extreme poverty and hunger, with serious consequences for global peace and security. Countries suffering from the food crisis receive resources and technical assistance from many different nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and donors with varied priorities and demands, placing pressure on food and agriculture ministries.

To end this current food crisis in the world, there must be short-term emergency measures and long-term solutions from governments and international organizations.

• “No preventive campaign against malaria, against tuberculosis, or against leprosy, [and] no . . . relief or child welfare activities, are likely to achieve success unless those responsible recognize the vital importance of . . . defective nutrition, and from the start give it their most serious consideration.”(6, p 69)
• As of April 2008, United Nation’s food aid programs called for a public investment of an additional $24 billion annually to halve the number of people suffering from food insecurity by 20157 and a third global summit of more than 150 world leaders pledged in Rome “urgent and coordinated action” to resolve the ongoing crisis.8
• More support is needed for immediate short-term and long-term action from the Rome Summit to assist countries affected by the food crisis and policy recommendations, including supporting small-scale producers, improving delivery of seeds and fertilizer to rural communities in addition to grain storage systems and processing facilities, strengthening social safety nets and local and national market structures, developing buffer food stocks and other risk management mechanisms—all vital tools for ensuring food security.9 Additional measures should include strengthening linkages between public research and technology, providing access to credit, and reforming policy to reduce the barriers to private sector investment.10
• Solutions require governments to embrace a human rights–centered policy framework for food and agriculture. The current food price crisis and growing hunger demand new agricultural and food systems that focus on feeding communities instead of commodities being traded in international markets.

Therefore, the APHA—
1. Encourages the US government to support and finance initiatives that are explicitly aimed at improving food security and developing long-term and sustainable food production and supply systems around the world to prevent any further acute food crisis and its related consequences.
2. Recommends that the United States revise its food and agriculture policies to decrease shipping and processing costs of food aid and to ensure that more funding for food aid is spent in recipient countries through cash transfers that increase local food production and benefit local food programs.
3. Recommends that the US government, foundations, and other donors increase substantially their resources dedicated to strengthening food and agriculture in developing countries.
4. Recommends that international NGOs include capacity building and strengthening of national and local food production and supply systems in their projects to ensure long-term sustainability after project funding ends.
5. Encourages genuine partnerships with affected countries to strengthen food security and joint policy development and implementation.
6. Urges donors, recipient countries, multilateral institutions, Bretton Woods institutions, and other entities involved in food and agriculture sectors to be mindful of the environment and climate change in the world when developing food security policy and programs.
7. Urges governments and international organizations to provide solutions that will stabilize food production and distribution to meet the global demand for nutritious, adequate, and affordable food.
8. Urges the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions to alter their current fiscal and monetary policies keep developing country governments from adequately establishing and expanding agricultural system capacity and workforces. Policies in future loan programs should allow countries the freedom to adopt options that allow for increased public spending in food and agricultural budgets in particular and to widely publicize such policy changes to finance ministries and staff.

1. UN World Food Programme. World hunger fact sheet. Available at: www.wfp.org/country_brief/hunger_map/pdf/WFP_HMAP07_ENG_R.pdf. Accessed October 20, 2008.
2. Sachs, Jeffrey D. The power of one: how to end the global food shortage. Time. April 24, 2008. Available at: www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1734834,00.html. Accessed October 14, 2008.
3. UN World Food Programme. Contributions to WFP by Programme category from 2003 to 2008. Available at: www.wfp.org/appeals/wfp_donors/Contributions_WFP.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2008.
4. US Government Accountability Office Report to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, US Senate. Foreign Assistance: Various Challenges Impede the Efficiency and Effectiveness of US Food Aid. Washington, DC: US Government Accountability Office; 2007. GAO 07 560. Available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07560.pdf. Accessed October 14, 2008.
5. US Agency for International Development. Statement of James R. Kunder, Acting Deputy Administrator, US Agency for International Development. US Response to the Global Food Crisis: Humanitarian Assistance and Development Investments, Before the Committee on Agriculture, US House of Representatives, July 16, 2008. Available at: www.usaid.gov/press/speeches/2008/ty080716.html. Accessed October 12, 2008.
6. Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, Public Health Commissioner, Government of India (1935). As quoted in: Rao BS. The Industrial Worker in India. Woking, Great Britain: Unwin Brothers, Ltd;1939: 69.
7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Soaring food prices: facts, perspectives, impacts and actions required. Presented at High-Level Conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, Rome, June 2008. Available at: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/meeting/013/k2414e.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2008.
8. Deen T. Development: more food summits, but less to eat. Inter Press Service News Agency. Available at: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=42701. Accessed October 12, 2008.
9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, High-Level Conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, Rome, June 2008. Report of the Conference. Available at: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/foodclimate/HLCdocs/HLC08-Rep-E.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2008.
10. US Government Accountability Office. Transportation Challenges That Impede the Efficiency of US food aid delivery. Presentation at 2007 International Food Aid Conference. Available at: www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/ifac_bo1_gao_070417.pps. Accessed October 20, 2008.