WEST AFRICA Food prices inflict increasing pain

GENEVA (May 16, 2008) – West Africa is bracing for continued food insecurity, with several countries already having experienced food riots this year. A joint survey by CARE and Oxfam shows that the crisis is likely to be worsened by conflicts in Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Mali as food and fuel prices escalate globally.

In Niger, which experienced widespread drought and famine three years ago, increased numbers of people are coming to nutritional centers. The government is planning to distribute 20,000 tons of grain under an emergency plan, and the World Food Program expects to launch a blanket feeding operation targeting 250,000 children nationwide.

Cote d'Ivoire was the scene of food-related disturbances last month. Food prices continue to soar, with serious repercussions, especially for the most disadvantaged. In rural areas the people displaced by the political crisis have few resources and the World Food Program lacks sufficient food to distribute.

In Sierra Leone, there is growing concern that rising food prices could lead to increased deforestation, as those doing forest related work try to sell more wood to pay for food. Also farmers trying to take advantage of the higher prices may engage in more environmentally harmful slash and burn practices. Like other governments in the region, Sierra Leone has already reduced some tariffs on rice and is considering further cuts.

CARE is calling for actions including increased donor and government investment in small-scale agriculture and the elimination of trade-distorting farm subsidies.

For more information, please contact:
Bill Dowell, CARE International, Geneva, [email protected]

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s emergency relief efforts because our experience shows that their gains translate into benefits for families and communities.