The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced $17.6 million in emergency relief grants to help individuals most affected by the global food crisis and support small-scale farmers in developing countries as part of its global development program.
The largest grant — $10 million to the World Food Program — will be used to continue feeding young children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in Niger, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso, which each have high malnutrition rates. The foundation also awarded $2.9 million to Catholic Relief Services, $2.7 million to Mercy Corps, and $2 million to Oxfam America for efforts that include providing food for those most in need, helping families earn money for food through employment opportunities or cash-for-work programs, and helping farmers continue and improve their production in times of crisis.
According to the United Nations, rising food and fuel prices have put some 950 million people worldwide at risk of hunger and malnutrition. Women and young children, whose early nutritional needs are critical to ensure long-term health, are at the greatest risk. At the same time, increases in farming costs, such as transportation and fertilizer, are adding to the burdens of small farmers.
"The current global food crisis requires immediate action to feed people most at risk," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of global development program. "In the longer term, since agriculture and the needs of small-scale farmers in the developing world have been increasingly neglected in recent decades, we need a significant reinvestment in agricultural development — from donors and developing countries — that focuses on helping small farmers boost their yields and increase their incomes."