The number of malnourished people around the world is set to increase by 44 million to almost 1 billion by the end of 2008 due to the combined impact of the food and fuel price crises, according to a World Bank report.
Poor families around the world are being pushed to the brink of survival, causing irreparable damage to the health of millions of children, said the report, entitled Rising Food and Fuel Prices: addressing the risks to future generations.
It added that as families cut back on spending, there are also grave risks for the educational performance of poor children.
“While people in the developed world are focused on the financial crisis, many forget that a human crisis is rapidly unfolding in developing countries,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.
“The financial crisis will only make it more difficult for developing countries to protect their most vulnerable people from the impact of rising good and fuel costs,” added Mr. Zoellick.
The report, slated for presentation this weekend at the annual meeting of the World Bank and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sets out a series of priority measures aimed at reducing the impact of the food and fuel price crises on the poor.
These include making existing cash transfer programmes more generous, providing nutrition for infants and pregnant women, expanding food distribution programmes, using targeted subsidies for poor consumers, and implementing additional measures to prevent children from dropping out of school.
“Malnourished children cannot develop into healthy adults and become productive members of society who can contribute to the growth needed to lift themselves and their country out of poverty,” the Bank stated in a press release issued yesterday.
In May the Bank launched a $1.2 billion rapid financing facility to help poor countries cope with the food crisis. Since them, around $850 million has been committed to finance seeds, plantings and feeding programmes. In April Mr. Zoellick called for a “New Deal for Global Food Policy” that included a variety of measures providing immediate help to poor people and farmers while increasing food production.