World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned at a recent World Bank-IMF meeting that the planet was hurtling toward a food crisis, akin to the chaos that erupted in 2007-2008 across the Global South. The context this time is in some ways more daunting: a perfect storm of social and economic upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East, natural and nuclear disasters in Japan, debt crises in Europe and the U.S., and epidemic unemployment worldwide.
In the past year, Zoellick said, soaring food prices have plunged some 44 million people into poverty. Another ten million would become impoverished with just a 10 percent further rise in the UN's food price index, which jumped by 25 percent last year. Poor regions hover on the brink of malnourishment due to depleted safety nets and broken emergency back-up resources.
Following the G20 meeting in Washington this month, Oxfam issued a statement criticizing the conference's failure to come up with meaningful ways to stave off the coming crisis:
Leaders today said the food crisis is desperately urgent, and that the G20 will act on it at its next meeting in June. That's 66 days away; nearly half a million children will have died of hunger by then.