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Food prices and food security underlying concerns at the Meetings

Fionna Douglas's picture

Higher food prices are again a concern as the World Bank and IMF head into their Annual Meetings. In the last several months, volatility in the price of wheat has been reminiscent of the kinds of market movements that occurred during the food price crisis of 2008. While that volatility has decreased somewhat, the World Bank Group is asking the World Bank Board of Directors to reinstate its food crisis emergency fund – the Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP)--so the Bank can be ready to respond quickly again if needed.  The $2 billion program provided support for policy change, social safety nets and agricultural inputs to boost food production in hard-hit countries.
 

The longer term worry, of course, is food security, especially in light of a continued higher food prices, underinvestment in agriculture in the last decade, and changing weather patterns related to climate change. The Bank Group increased agricultural assistance last year to $6 billion, and will likely keep lending in the $6 billion to $8 billion range for the next several years, as recommended by our Agriculture Action Plan (pdf) for fiscal years 2010 to 2012. The plan calls for increased investments in agricultural productivity, especially in areas of Africa where the land is suitable and farmers currently struggle to make a living.

Bridging the Malaria Gap

Kavita Watsa's picture

As prominent advocates for anti-malaria efforts in Africa cautioned at the United Nations yesterday, recent successes against malaria—however significant—are still fragile. Both the malaria parasite and the mosquitoes that carry it can develop resistance, to drugs as well as to insecticides, and therefore the fight against malaria must gain rather than lose momentum.

“The British army surgeon who in 1897 helped discover that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes predicted it would be eliminated in two years, but the parasite has remained a silent and stealthy killer,” said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, noting that the preventable and curable disease continues to have a debilitating effect on many African economies.

Zoellick acknowledged the tremendous job that Ray Chambers, the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, had done to raise money for anti-malaria efforts, in conjunction with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. Anti-malaria funding, which stood at just $175 million in 2005, is $1.6 billion today thanks to their efforts and many countries such as Rwanda and Zambia have made dramatic progress in recent years.

Three Big Tasks for Every Woman, Every Child

Cristian Baeza's picture

Sri Lanka. Photo © Dominic Sansoni / World Bank


So the big news out of the MDG Summit today is the launch of Every Woman, Every Child, the new joint action plan to help reach MDGs 4 and 5 on child and maternal health.

The World Bank, numerous UN agencies, governments and civil society groups have all pledged their support. But another document with pledges is not going to make much difference to poor mothers and children in developing countries unless we act on three things.

The UN, the World Bank—and Twitter—help raise the game on malaria

Kavita Watsa's picture

Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, was here today to thank President Zoellick for $200 million to fund bed nets that will help prevent malaria in Africa. Chambers, who wants to bring a swift end to what he calls “the genocide of apathy,” conveyed a sense of great urgency as he described the UN’s sweeping campaign with 50 celebrities on Twitter—from Ashton Kutcher to Bill Gates. Through them, and through millions of tweets and re-tweets, money is being raised to ensure that all vulnerable people have bed nets by the end of the year. Yes, that’s this year.

As African governments look for ways to help the poorest people in the wake of the food, fuel, and financial crises, I think this was a very good moment for President Zoellick and Africa Vice President Oby Ezekwesili to note that anti-malaria efforts are relatively straightforward, with high returns on investment. The Bank’s effort to help close the gap—by funding 25 million of the 50 million remaining nets needed—is a timely one. It will cover seven countries—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zambia—among the 31 hardest hit by malaria.

“This was a highlight of my trip to Washington this spring,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s Finance Minister, “It is a key step to restore dignity to so many African men, women, and children.” Kenyatta called for a concerted effort by African governments to make sure that funds are used as intended and to scale up their own malaria funding. Finance Minister Mapon of the DRC spoke of great successes against malaria in his country, but noted that the “need remains sizeable.” And Zambia’s Minister Musokotwane echoed this conclusion, calling malaria “an obstacle to development.”

Bank to Mobilize over $7bn for Health, Education

Nina Vucenik's picture

High school girls taking notes. Suapur, Bangladesh.Photo: Scott Wallace/ World Bank The Bank said today it is mobilizing over $7 billion for health and education to help poor countries battle threats to their social services during the crisis. The new health and education numbers follow an announcement earlier this week that its investments in social protection programs, including social safety nets, are expected to rise dramatically for 2009-2010 to $12 billion.

As part of this announcement, the Bank released a report titled, Averting a Human Crisis During the Global Downturn, which examines how previous financial downturns affected countries’ social protection programs.

Crisis Can Affect Social Services Programs

Evidence from previous crises in Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, and Russia shows that governments were forced to cut health services as a result of shrinking budgets and that returning health spending to pre-crisis levels took up to 10-15 years to achieve, according to the report.

"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," said Joy Phumaphi, the World Bank's Vice President for Human Development and former Health Minister for Botswana. "It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."

AIDS Treatment Programs in Jeopardy

An AIDS orphan lies in a bed made from a hanging mosquito net and drinks a bottle of milk. Photo: Masaru Goto / World Bank The report also warns that according to preliminary findings from 69 countries, which offer treatment to 3.4 million people on antiretroviral treatment (ART), suggests that 8 countries now face shortages of antiretroviral drugs or other disruptions to AIDS treatment. Twenty-two countries, home to more than 60 percent of people worldwide on AIDS treatment , expect to face disruptions over the course of the year.

"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," Phumaphi said. "It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."

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