Food and energy price rises are leading to food riots.

Sir John Holmes, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nation’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a key note speech to the fifth annual Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference, said that rising food and energy prices were impacting humanitarian operations and having security implications across the world as a result of climate change. He had this to say:

“Indeed, we are beginning to feel the effects: last winter, large swathes of Central Asia were devastated by the most severe weather for nearly three decades. Cyclone Gonu, which hit the Gulf coast last June, was one of the most severe cyclones ever to hit this part of the world. What we are witnessing is not an aberration, but rather a ‘curtain raiser’ on the future. These events are not abnormal; they’re what I call the ‘new normal’. The number of recorded disasters has doubled from approximately 200 to over 400 per year over the past two decades. Nine of out every ten disasters are now climate related. Last year, my office at the U.N. issued an unprecedented 15 funding appeals for sudden natural disasters, five more than the previous annual record. 14 of them were climate-related…Compounding the challenges of climate change, in what some have labeled the ‘perfect storm,’ are the recent dramatic trends in soaring food and fuel prices, which are poised to have a major impact on hunger and poverty across the world and are having an immediate impact on the cost of humanitarian operations. Since mid-2007, food prices have risen an estimated 40% as a confluence of factors have increased demand. Current food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity; and as many households will spend more on food to the detriment of other household needs, price rises will also result in lower school attendance rates, poorer health care and asset depletion. The security implications should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe.”

Sir John Holmes posed the real questions that need addressing in the face of these difficulties: “are we properly prepared for this? Not only are we adequately prepared for the next big storm or flood or drought that devastates countless lives and livelihoods, but also how close are we to a generalized crisis of hunger and malnutrition? How exposed is the global emergency system to overload and failure? More to the point, are the tens of millions of people living in impoverished, drought and disaster-prone areas ready?” It is always the poorest who are most vulnerable and least able to withstand the impact of a crisis.

He pointed out that there are the means to tackle all these issues, if there is the will, and what was needed was to start investing in the concrete, practical risk reduction measures that can help save lives and livelihoods.

The main thrust of his key note speech was that it is going to take the combined efforts of all to prepare and mitigate their effects, and build on and develop lasting and substantive partnerships across all nations and sectors. Climate change will need to be tackled but its effects will continue to impact many and the resources to deal with these humanitarian crises must be provided for.


~ by abstraktbiblos on Wednesday, 9 April, 2008.

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