Menu ENN Search

Effect of food prices on household food security and malnutrition

Summary of report1

In 2007 and 2008, international food and oil prices soared causing riots in over 30 countries. Despite cereal prices falling on the global market, recent surveillance shows that food commodity prices have remained high or increased in 32 of the 36 vulnerable countries monitored. Concern about the impact of this prompted Action Against Hunger (AAH) to launch a number of country studies to to understand better how high and volatile food commodity prices affect household food security and malnutrition. Assessments were conducted by AAH in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic (CAR) and Liberia. Four basic questions were asked: Do high global food prices translate into local increases in malnutrition? Are all countries equally affected? How do the effects of high prices vary within a specific context? Was the response good enough?

The main conclusions of the AAH report based on these studies are as follows.

Data from Ethiopia show that high prices have been closely followed by an increase in malnutrition and under-five mortality rates. However, not all countries have been affected equally. Findings from CAR reveal only modest increases in prices and statistically insignificant increases in malnutrition. Research in Sierra Leone showed that even within the capital city, Freetown, prices and household reactions varied. Furthermore, the response to the current food security crisis has been poor - the AAH investigation in Liberia identified a number of flaws in the national responses to the soaring prices and rising malnutrition rates.

AAH asserts that there is enough evidence to suggest that high global food prices have had a substantial negative impact on livelihoods, and possibly malnutrition. High prices decrease access to food and lead to a reduction in the diversity and quantity of diets, especially among the poor. It is further argued that the similarity between coping mechanisms employed during seasonal price spikes and the global prices rise in 2008 is striking. This should inform the design of interventions, as responses to seasonal hunger are tried and tested and can be quickly built into national and international action plans. AAH also states that, to date, the international response to high and volatile food prices has been ineffectual. Donors should provide the necessary funds to immediately establish a pilot intervention to tackle comprehensively malnutrition in five priority countries.

The report points out that when presented at the High Level Conference on World Food Security in June 2008, the United Nations (UN) Comprehensive Framework for Action conservatively estimated that US$25-40 billion per year in additional funding is required to restore global food and nutritional security. AAH argue that this figure is insufficient and estimate a need of US$38-70 billion per year for implementation of a minimum package effectively to combat seasonal hunger worldwide. This package does not include any provisions to promote agricultural development or functioning markets. Following the High Level Conference, world leaders pledged US$12.3 billion to tackle the food crisis but have only donated US$1 billion to date - the lowest ratio of materialised funds to funds pledged of any global appeal in recent history. The authors contrast this commitment with the World Food Programmes (WFP) success in achieving its target of US$755 million in additional funds, and argue that this demonstrates that food aid remains the only large-scale comprehensive intervention that the international community is willing to support.

The report also asserts that the lack of response was not due to lack of information. Early warning systems such as FEWSNET2 did provide sufficient information for response to the growing food price crisis as early as 2005. Failure to trigger serious debate until riots broke out and media coverage raised the stakes in early 2008 shows that the links between early warning systems and decision-making processes must be questioned and revised. The four case studies illustrate the importance of local variation and hence the need for locally-adapted responses. The recent emergence of the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security and the UN High Level Task Force has injected new life into the debate surrounding food security and nutrition. The definition and design of national and global strategies should involve a wide range of actors, particularly civil society groups.

In the report, AAH call for major donors to demonstrate their commitment to the eradication of hunger immediately. Between US$70 and $150 million in predictable annual funding would allow a comprehensive pilot intervention to treat one million malnourished children in five priority countries.

The report concludes that if action is not taken now, then high food prices will trap millions of children in a downward spiral of poverty and malnutrition.

Show footnotes

1AAH (2009). Feeding Hunger and Insecurity. The Global Food Price Crisis - a summary of AAH research in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Liberia. Briefing Paper - January 2009. Available at: http://www.aahuk.org/documents/Jan2009-FeedingHungerandInsecurity-HQ.pdf

2USAID Famine Early Warning System, www.fews.net

More like this

FEX: Call for strategic US approach to the global food crisis

Summary of report1 US Government vessel offloading in the port of Djibouti 42,000 MT of donated food aid in Ethiopia in 2002. The food will reach Ethiopia after a three day...

FEX: The Psychology of Food Riots: Why do price hikes lead to unrest?

Summary of research1 A vendor in Yemen, another country where there have been food riots A recent article published online about the psychology of food riots makes for...

FEX: Equity in Donor Aid Allocation to Iraq

Loading food aid in Iraq Two short articles in a recent issue of the Lancet question the overall level of aid given and pledged to post-conflict Iraq1,2. One author (Singh)...

FEX: Global Prices, Local Diets: Reflections on repeated food price spikes and Undernutrition

Summary of review1 A mother prepares a meal in Malawi Prepared by Samuel Hauenstein Swan and Jennifer Stevenson Samuel Hauenstein Swan is Senior Policy and Research Advisor...

FEX: Financing the sustainable scale-up of CMAM in high-burden countries

Summary of research1 Location: Global What we know: Investment in the scale-up of community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) is needed to reduce global...

FEX: Nutrition funding: The missing piece of the puzzle

News Summary of report* A recent report by Generation Nutrition, a coalition of 85 civil society organisations, describes both why funding matters to nutrition and the...

FEX: Unified United Nations response to the global food price challenge

On 29 April 2008, a press release1 detailed a unified United Nations (UN) response to the recent dramatic escalation in food prices that is unfolding as a worldwide crisis....

FEX: Has financial speculation in food commodity markets increased food prices?

By Noemi Pace, Andrew Seal, Anthony Costello Noemi Pace is research fellow at University College London, Centre for International Health and Development. She was previously a...

FEX: Do poverty, poor health and nutrition increase the risk of armed conflict onset?

Summary of published research1 A recent study analysed the effects of improving economic, food security and health status on the risk of armed conflict onset, focusing on the...

FEX: Household threat of escalating food prices and recovery policies

Summary of working paper1 An elderly woman shopping in Colombia, one of the countries that experienced price rises A recent working paper by UNICEF briefly reviews possible...

FEX: Iraq - Sanctions Take Their Toll

By Killian Forde Under article 41 of the United Nations Charter, the UN Security Council (UNSC) may call upon member states to apply measures not involving the use of armed...

FEX: Global Nutrition Index

Summary of research1 Researchers have recently developed a global nutritional index (GNI) modelled on the human development index. It is based on three indicators of...

FEX: WFP Evaluation of Liberia programme

WFP recently commissioned an evaluation of the 1990- 1995 'period of WFP emergency operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote dIvoire. Three million people have been...

FEX: Fighting hunger on all fronts: AAH speak out in a new publication

Action Against Hunger (AAH) discuss their experiences of humanitarian interventions aimed at eliminating or preventing hunger in the newly published report: The Geopolitics of...

NEX: A regional nutrition strategy for West Africa

West Africa has a population of close to 372 million, of which 62.3 million are children under five years of age (CU5). Over one third of these - 19 million CU5 - are stunted,...

FEX: Advocating for nutrition in West Africa: The role of SUN Civil Society Alliances

By Judith Kabore and Laure Serra View this article as a pdf Judith Kabore is an advocacy officer at the regional office of Action Against Hunger. A journalist by training,...

FEX: The REFANI Project in Pakistan: adapting research to a multi-sectoral programme for impact measurement

By Zvia Shwirtz, Bridget Fenn, Riccardo Mioli, Ghulam Murtaza Sangrasi and Maureen Gallagher Zvia Shwirtz is currently the REFANI Communications and Research Uptake Officer,...

FEX: Child Development Grant Programme (CDGP) in northern Nigeria: influencing nutrition-sensitive social policy programming in Jigawa State

By Fatima Adamu, Maureen Gallagher and Paul Xavier Thangarasa Lisez cet article en français ici Fatima Adamu is the Communication Officer for Action Against Hunger...

FEX: Shared experiences of Southern Africa crisis

Malawi 2002, Medical Missionaries of Mary distribute Concern funded maize to most needy in Lilongwe Summary of meeting By Marie McGrath (ENN) On November 5th, 2002 a meeting...

FEX: Increasing Access to Ready-to-use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF)

By Jan Komrska Jan Komrska is a pharmacist working at UNICEF Supply Division leading Nutrition unit and responsible for procurement of products related to nutrition...

Close

Reference this page

Effect of food prices on household food security and malnutrition. Field Exchange 36, July 2009. p6. www.ennonline.net/fex/36/effect

(ENN_3921)

Close

Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.