Poor countries get emergency food funds from World Bank
The World Bank Thursday launched a new 1.2- billion-dollar programme to get emergency aid to countries suffering from global food shortages and surging prices, dpa reported.
The new fund will fast track at least 200 billion dollars in grants to the poorest countries most hampered by the high cost of food, which the UN and World Bank have said is threatening to erase nearly a decade of successes in reducing global poverty.
Grants totalling 25 million dollars were approved Thursday for Haiti, Djibouti and Liberia - the first under the new facility. Haiti and others have suffered riots and even the dismissal of its government over food shortages.
Another 10 countries have made requests for grants. The remaining 1 billion dollars will be divided up through a mixture of grants and loans in a streamlined process that effectively bypasses the usual votes required by the bank's board of member countries.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said developing nations - especially in Africa - are seeking immediate resources to launch projects that could drastically increase food production, such as buying seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming harvest season.
"These initiatives will help address the immediate danger of hunger and malnutrition for the two billion people struggling to survive in the face of rising food prices," Zoellick said in a statement.
Total World Bank support for agricultural programmes will increase to 6 billion dollars in 2009 from 4 billion dollars in 2008, the development bank said.
Zoellick said he will push for a clear action plan at a UN meeting in Rome from June 3-5 to tackle the food crisis and provide poor countries with immediate support.
"We don't need to reinvent the wheel. These leaders are asking for action now," he told reporters in a conference call from Japan.