Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
MADRID - The UN urged donors yesterday to release billions of dollars in aid pledged at a food crisis summit last year after riots in developing countries over soaring prices.
Jacques Diouf, director of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, and other delegates to an international meeting on food security, warned that the global economic crisis must not cause countries to neglect the nearly billion people in the world that the UN says do not get enough to eat.
The forum, organised by Spain and the UN, was a follow-up to the 180-nation summit held in Rome in June last year.
Diouf said that during and after that meeting countries and international organisations pledged about R221billion in development aid to alleviate hunger.
He did not say who pledged what or accuse any country of reneging, but called for swift release of the money.
"The commitments made must lead to new resources very fast," Diouf said.
Spain has so far disbursed about half of the R5billion in agricultural and food aid it has promised over the next four years, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.
The soaring prices for staples like rice that triggered riots in the developing world last year have come down somewhat, but they remain high compared to levels prior to the crisis.
The FAO's food price index last month was 28percent above its 2005 level, and 61percent higher than in 2000, according to figures released at the conference.
Josette Shearan, executive director of the World Food Programme, said developing countries dependent on agriculture run the risk of being left out as the world focuses on tumbling stock markets, flagging economic growth and failing banks.
As people in developed countries concentrate on Wall Street and Main Street, "we must not forget places with no streets", Shearan said.
Shearan identified four effects the financial crisis is having on the hunger crisis: remittances to poor countries are down, nations that depend on exports of farm goods are suffering because of the economic slowdown in buyer countries, investment in agricultural infrastructure is declining, and the credit crunch is particularly painful for small-scale farmers who need to borrow money.
The conference was attended by ministers or officials from 95 countries, as well as international bodies and NGOs. - Sapa