Southeast Asian MPs urge ASEAN economy ministers to immediately tackle food crisis


JAKARTA – As food and fuel prices rise at alarming rates around the world, Southeast Asian parliamentarians are urging their countries’ economy ministers to meet in an emergency summit and to agree on measures to address the impending food shortages and widespread hunger that currently threaten millions of people. their fellow citizens.

The world economy, already weakened by the pandemic, is taking a new blow with the war in Ukraine, one of the main producers of cereals in the world. Food shortages, rising oil prices and fears of a global recession are already driving up commodity prices. The average inflation rate in ASEAN fell from 3.1% in December 2021 to 4.7% in April 2022, compared to 0.9% in January 2021. And, as always, this affects the poor the most.

“ASEAN must act collectively and must do so now. Climate change, the ravages of Covid-19, unequal access to resources and now Russia’s war on Ukraine are having devastating effects that no country can solve alone. There is an urgent need for a coordinated effort to protect the most vulnerable from a potentially devastating economic downturn,” said Mercy Barends, Indonesian MP and member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians Board of Human Rights (APHR).

Food price inflation could further increase the number of undernourished people in ASEAN. According to World Bank data, the share of undernourished people varied in 2019 from 5.3% in Laos to 6.5% in Indonesia, 6.7% in Vietnam, 7.6% in Myanmar, 8.2 % in Thailand or 9.4% in the Philippines.

People displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable to rising food prices, which weigh even more heavily on women and children. In Myanmar, there are more than one million internally displaced people (IDPs), most of whom were forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict sparked by the illegal February 1, 2021.

ASEAN member states adopted the Integrated Food Security Framework in 2020, outlining food security measures that included emergency and relief measures in case of food shortages, but it needs to be updated and improved to to solve a worsening problem. ASEAN must prepare for the future and act decisively to facilitate access to food for all, support its producers and scale up targeted and nutrition-sensitive social protection programs.

“Our economy ministers must come up with a clear roadmap on how to deal with the severe consequences of the current rise in food prices on those who are already experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and hunger. We we need trust and cooperation, and it is only through collective effort that we can overcome the many challenges that have combined to create this crisis,” said Barends.

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