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Special issue: Rising food prices

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Written by Steve Wiggins

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange focuses on the global food price crisis of 2007 and 2008. The sharp rise in food prices was mainly caused by a combination of reduced cereal stocks, increased demand and the rising price of oil, increasing the cost of fertiliser and stimulating the production of biofuels in the US. By 2008, the number of hungry people in the world had increased to over 1 billion, up from 850 million in early 2007. Populations already affected by crisis were hardest hit. While globally the price of cereals has decreased, it remains high in many of these countries.

Articles in this issue explore the extent, scale and impact of the global food crisis on vulnerable populations, particularly city-dwellers – a neglected group in humanitarian response – subsistence farmers and pastoralists. They explain how affected people reduced their food intake, changed their diet and reduced expenditure on basic goods such as healthcare and education; in some countries, migration, child labour and asset sales increased. Whilst there was general agreement among concerned actors on the need for a combined response to meet immediate food needs and to increase resilience through longterm investment in agriculture, market infrastructure and social protection, in practice the main response has been food aid and the provision of agricultural inputs. Locally, adjustments in safety net programmes, such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia, have been difficult, and finding donors prepared to fund both short-term emergency response and longer-term programming has been challenging, as our article on Liberia shows. Overall, the articles in this issue highlight the ever-more urgent need for reform of the international food security architecture.

Other articles in this issue examine new funding mechanisms in Sudan and Zimbabwe, an innovative approach to assessment and programming in the Niger Delta, measures to help older people in Northern Uganda and the provision of child-friendly spaces in Darfur. Finally, we review relations between NGOs and the government in Afghanistan, and Save the Children’s cash programming in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. As always, we welcome any comments or feedback, which can be sent to [email protected] or to The Coordinator, Humanitarian Practice Network, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, UK.

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