GLOBAL – Countries have been urged to reform their subsidy programs to enhance their effectiveness in curbing rising cases of food insecurity and malnutrition globally.

The call was made by the Heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Food Programme, and World Trade Organization in a joint statement on the global food and nutrition security crisis.

Citing WFP data, the leaders noted that 349 million people across 79 countries are acutely food insecure, and the prevalence of undernourishment is also on the rise, following three years of deterioration.

 “This situation is expected to worsen, with global food supplies projected to drop to a three-year low in 2022/2023. The need is especially dire in 24 countries that FAO and WFP have identified as hunger hotspots, of which 16 are in Africa,” the statement read.

Reform and repurposing harmful subsidies

To address the situation, the leaders called on countries to re-examine and reform their subsidies half of which are untargeted, inefficient, and costly to already constrained governments.

“Countries need to re-examine and reform their support to agriculture, which amounted to about US$639 billion per year between 2016 and 2018, and has since been on the rise,” the statement read.

“Much of this support incentivizes inefficient use of resources, distorts global markets, or undermines environmental sustainability, public health, and agricultural productivity.”

 The leaders noted that funding should be reformed and repurposed in ways that strengthen the resilience and sustainability of the agri-food system, such as the adoption of good agricultural practices, and research and innovation.

Other measures that governments could focus on include extension and advisory services, improved infrastructure and logistics, and digital technologies that improve productivity sustainably.

In addition to reforming subsidies, the leaders also called upon countries to facilitate trade and avoid policies such as export restrictions, which can impede access to food for poor consumers in low-income food-importing countries

Rescuing hunger hotspots

Despite the ravaging of hunger, the statement highlighted key contributions by the organizations and the way forward in serving the most vulnerable.

WFP said that in 2022 in collaboration with partners, the organization managed to reach more than 140 million with food and nutrition assistance.

In addition, the organization said that it sent over US$3 billion in cash-based transfers to people in 72 countries and provided support to school feeding programs in 80 countries.

On the other hand, the statement highlighted that FAO has invested US$1 billion to support more than 40 million people in rural areas with time-sensitive agricultural interventions, activities that primarily focused on the 53 countries listed in the Global Report on Food Crises. 

The World Bank is providing a US$30 billion food and nutrition security package covering the 15 months from April 2022 to June 2023, including US$12 billion of new projects, which have all been committed ahead of schedule.

In addition, the Bank has allocated US$748 million from its US$1 billion Early Response Financing modality of IDA’s Crisis Response Window (CRW) to mostly address needs in hotspots and is mobilizing additional funds for the CRW.

The organizations further said that funding for the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) must be mobilized to provide concessional financing to low-income countries facing balance of payment needs.

The global organizations in their statement also expressed sympathy for the people of Turkey and the neighboring Syrian Arab Republic who have suffered the recent earthquakes

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