Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Horn of Africa famine manmade'

Source: Press TV

The famine in the Horn of Africa is a result of artificially high prices for food and civil conflict than natural and environmental causes, a World Bank's expert says.

"This crisis is manmade," said lead economist for Kenya Wolfgang Fengler in a phone interview with Reuters on Tuesday. "Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine."

The price of maize, or corn, was significantly higher in east Africa than in the rest of the world due to controls on local food markets, he noted. "Maize is cheaper in the United States and in Germany than it is in eastern Africa.”

"In Kenya, the price for corn is 60 to 70 percent above the world average at the moment," Fengler added. "A small number of farmers are controlling the market which is keeping prices artificially high."

The World Bank President Robert Zoellick had also warned that global food prices, which have reached near record highs, are threatening the lives of the poorest people around the globe.

Food prices around the world were 33 percent higher this July than in 2010, while oil prices have climbed 45 percent, ramping up the price of fertilizers, Zoellick said on Monday.

The drought and famine have affected more than 11.8 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Somalia has been the hardest-hit country in what is being described as the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years.

Over the last three months, reportedly 29,000 children under the age of five have died of malnutrition and starvation in Somalia while the lives of 600,000 children in the region remain at risk, the bank has revealed.

"Persistently high food prices and low food stocks indicate that we're still in the danger zone, with the most vulnerable people the least able to cope," World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced in a statement.

He also warned of the high volatility in goods markets, calling for international alertness to the possibility of widening crisis.

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