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World Bank pledges $1.2 billion to battle food crisis

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  • World Bank offering grants and loans to address "immediate needs"
  • Initiatives are designed to help deal with soaring food places around the world
  • Food prices sparked riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt this year
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(CNN) -- The World Bank is making $1.2 billion available in grants and loans to combat the global food crisis, including $200 million for those most at risk in the world's poorest countries.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced the $1.2 billion food initiative Thursday.

"These initiatives will help address the immediate danger of hunger and malnutrition for the 2 billion people struggling to survive in the face of rising food prices," World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

Furthermore, they will "contribute to a longer-term solution that must involve many countries and institutions," he said.

The new money, called "rapid reaction facility," is designed to address "immediate needs," the bank said. Those needs include supporting food for work, conditional cash transfers and school feeding programs, as well as food production.

The bank also announced that it would increase its overall support for global agriculture and food to $6 billion next year, up from $4 billion in 2008.

Experts say soaring food prices have been propelled by rising energy and fertilizer costs, unfavorable weather and increased demand, in part from the subsidization of biofuels but also from population booms.

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, has called the food crisis "a silent tsunami" in developing nations.

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Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt this year over surging food prices brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the world's attention.

The World Bank's announcement comes ahead of a three-day United Nations summit in Rome, Italy, next week that will bring together international leaders to discuss the global food crisis.

Also on Thursday, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a joint report that said food prices would decrease from their current "peaks" over the next decade but said they would remain high.

The poor, particularly the urban poor and those in the least-developed countries, will be the most vulnerable, the report said.

"Coherent action is urgently needed by the international community to deal with the impact of higher prices on the hungry and poor," said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the FAO, at a news conference launching the report in Paris, France, the United Nations said.

The World Bank said it was approving a $5 million grant to Djibouti, a $10 million grant to Haiti and a $10 million grant to Liberia on Thursday.

In June, the bank said, it expects to provide grants to Togo, Yemen and Tajikistan.

All About United Nations World Food Programme

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