Published: 4 July 2008
I am increasingly concerned by the growing rise in food prices that has a devastating impact on the everyday life of millions of vulnerable people throughout the world,” said Bekele Geleta, the new secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in a statement issued before the opening of the G8 summit in Japan on Monday.
“I urge G8 countries to prevent the food crisis from further escalating by supporting long-term community-based food insecurity prevention programmes, so that people always have enough to eat no matter whether commodity prices or fuel prices go up or down. I also call on governments to invest more in long-term action as well as in climate-related risks,” he added.
Mr Geleta said that the IFRC believes that what is commonly called the “food crisis” is not really a “crisis” but rather a lasting phenomenon. It is part of a wider humanitarian problem made up of a succession of droughts and floods and the spread of diseases, all fuelled by climate change as well as by new conflicts.
“We will go on providing affected communities with emergency food aid just like the Red Cross and Red Crescent currently does in a number of African countries, but we believe that food security cannot be ensured without long-term investment,” Mr Geleta went on.
He gave the example of the IFRC’s new five-year community-based food security initiative that was launched in 15 African countries in April, promoting local agriculture through projects such as sustainable farming, microfinance, small scale irrigation schemes and the establishment of food security early alert systems. Some 2.2 million people will benefit from these new programmes, which will involve volunteers from Red Cross and Red Crescent societies all over Africa. Mr Geleta, who was born in Ethiopia, took over as head of the world’s largest humanitarian organization from Markku Niskala, who retired at the end of June.