Asean MPs urge for emergency summit to tackle food crisis

by NURUL SUHAIDI / pic by TMR FILE

SOUTH-EAST Asian parliamentarians are urging economic ministers to hold an emergency summit to discuss how to tackle impending food shortages.

Indonesian MP and Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights board member Mercy Barends said a coordinated effort is urgent to protect the most vulnerable from a potentially devastating economic downturn.

“Asean needs to act collectively now. Climate change, the ravages of Covid-19, unequal access to resources and now the Russia-Ukraine conflict, are having devastating impacts that no country can solve alone,” she said in a statement today.

Food shortages, increases in oil prices and fears of a global recession are already increasing prices of essential commodities, while widespread hunger is currently threatening millions of people.

The average inflation rate in Asean went from 3.1% in December 2021 to 4.7% in April 2022, compared to 0.9 % in January 2021, affecting the poor most dramatically.

A World Bank data in 2019 noted that undernourished individuals ranged from 5.3% in Laos, followed by Indonesia (6.5%), Vietnam (6.7%), Myanmar (7.6%), Thailand (8.2%) and the Philippines (9.4%).

In Myanmar alone, over a million internally displaced persons were pushed to flee their homes as a consequence of the conflict triggered by the illegal coup d’etat on Feb 1, 2021.

“The people who were displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable to increased food prices and this takes an even higher toll on women and children.

“Our economic ministers must come up with a clear roadmap on how to tackle the severe consequences of the current rise in food prices on those who are already experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and hunger,” Barends said.

She added that the Integrated Food Security Framework (adopted by Asean member states in 2020), despite its outlined food security measures that included food emergency and shortage relief measures, needs to be updated and enhanced to address a worsening problem.

Asean must prepare for the future and act decisively to facilitate easy access to food, support its producers and scale up targeted and nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes.

“We need trust and cooperation and only through a collective effort will we be able to overcome the many challenges that have combined to create this crisis,” Barends concluded.