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Stunting: The Face of Poverty

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Globally, 165 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition – also known as stunting, or low height for age. Much of this damage happens in pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. It means a child has failed to develop in full and it is essentially irreversible – which means that the child will have little hope of ever achieving her full potential. 
 
The evidence tells us that malnutrition costs lives, perpetuates poverty, and slows economic growth. We now know that nearly half of all child deaths globally are attributed to malnutrition. I have seen in my own country, Indonesia, how stunting caused by malnutrition has diminished too many children’s futures before they even begin. Malnourished children are more likely to perform poorly in school and drop out earlier than their better-nourished peers, limiting their future earnings. Data from Guatemala show that boys who had good nutrition before age 3 are earning nearly 50% more as adults, and girls had a greater likelihood of having an independent source of income and were less likely to live in poor households.
 
Malnutrition diminishes not only the futures of individuals, but also of nations. Recent estimates suggest that as much as 11% of gross national product in Africa and Asia is lost annually to the impact of malnutrition. To end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, the world must commit to end child stunting due to malnutrition. I will be joining leaders from around the world in London this week to focus on this critical challenge.
 

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.

One more promise kept: the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Fionna Douglas's picture

Launch of Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

A remarkable thing happened at the US Treasury in DC today; the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pool resources, and as Bill Gates described it, “put small holder farmers, especially women, front and center” of a new multilateral agriculture and food security program. The Gates Foundation will contribute $30 million.

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) will focus on increasing agricultural productivity and linking farmers to markets. A special feature of the program is the focus on country ownership that puts countries in the driver’s seat.

The GAFSP was created in response to a call from G20 leaders last year for the World Bank to work with interested donor to set up a multi-donor trust fund to implement some of the $22 billion in pledges made by the G8 leaders at L’Aquila, Italy.