Gates Fdn & five nations give $97 million to fight hunger. Short by billions

Hey, can we get a little help here?

Hey, can we get a little help here?

In anticipation of an international meeting next week in South Korea that will likely focus on the global economy, currency regulation, trade and maybe climate change, it’s worth remembering:

A billion people, one out of every six on the planet, are hungry. Right now.

Next week is the G20, or “Group of Twenty” meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations in Seoul. The protesters and the police are already clashing conceptually in preparation for clashing in reality.

Today, the recently created Global Agriculture and Food Security Program announced it was awarding a second found of funding, $97 million, to fight hunger in Ethiopia, Niger and Mongolia. The primary goal is to help small farmers in these countries improve crop production as well as their own economic well-being.

The new food security initiative, operated through the World Bank, was launched last April with about $900 million in funding from the Gates Foundation, the U.S. and the governments of Canada, Spain and South Korea. Australia recently joined in the effort with a $50 million donation.

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Since the program was started, it has awarded food security grants to eight countries totaling $321 million.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the commitment of the international community to forge a strong, swift and coordinated response against global food insecurity,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Uh, no it doesn’t. Not really.

The $97 million is better than nothing, but twenty countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East applied for nearly $1 billion in assistance in this second round as world food prices climb, people go hungry and agriculture productivity declines in many poor countries.

Contrary to what Geithner says, few other nations have joined in this effort — which represents a failure to follow through on a promise made at a G20 meeting last year.

“The G20 pledged $22 billion to reverse decades of neglect of small farmers in the developing world,” said Bill Gates in a statement accompanying today’s grant announcement. “It’s time to follow through on those promises.”

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.