Spikes in food prices, an increasingly unstable global climate and the prolonged economic slowdown have hurt poor people the most. The World Banks poverty experts assess how food prices, climate change, and macro-economic crises affect vulnerable populations to advise developing country governments and to inform the Bank's lending and analytic work.

Food prices: Between 2010 and 2011, higher food prices pushed 44 million people into poverty. Poor people spend a high percentage of their income on food, making them vulnerable to fluctuations in global food prices.

Climate change: Reports issued by the World Bank in 2012 and 2013 warn that rising global temperatures will roll back decades of development and threaten the livelihood of millions who live in flood-prone or drought-stricken regions. Disruptive weather and other climate change-related disasters will hit the poor the hardest as they are least able to adapt to a changing world.

Macroeconomic shocks: The 2008 financial crisis sent an estimated 53 million more people in developing countries into poverty. The prolonged global economic slowdown was estimated to cause up to 50,000 additional infant mortality deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa. Every time a macroeconomic shock hits, poor people bear the brunt of the impact.

The World Bank tracks global crises closely to help nations reduce their vulnerability to future shocks, and to make sure our staff provide technical advise and financial support where the need is greatest.


The World Bank works with client countries to build stronger safety nets, allocate emergency food support and build long-term food security systems that cushion the poor against crises. We are also ramping up investments in adaptation projects to help poor people protect themselves against climate change-related disasters.

In 2008, as dramatic spikes in food prices pushed tens of millions of people in developing nations into poverty, the World Bank responded by creating a Global Food Crisis Response Program to boost social protection and maintain short and long-term food production. The program’s grants initially targeted the poorest and most vulnerable countries, but have since evolved to focus on making social protection and food production systems more resilient to changing circumstances.

Our work to better protect the poor from economic crises spans many areas of the Bank’s work – including our public policy advisory services, social protection and disaster management programs, and vast body of economic research.



• Global Food Crisis Response Program resources have benefitted 66 million people in 49 countries. Social protection initiatives supported by the program are estimated to have reached 13.9 million people and support for short- and medium-term agricultural interventions have strenghtened 8.7 million farm households. The World Bank is engaged in policy dialogue with more than 40 countries to help them address the food crisis.

• The Horn of Africa Emergency Health and Nutrition Project is providing services to an estimated 500,000 Somalis who fled severe drought and starvation and now live in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

• In 2012, Bank financing for social safety-net programs in low-income countries reached a a record $769 million, an eight-fold increase over the past decade. It is estimated that 60 percent of people in developing countries lack effective social safety-net coverage to protect them against sudden shocks and chronic poverty.

• In Nepal, 91 percent of 1 million households targeted under a Bank project seeking to increase food security and improve agricultural production reported they were able to meet their food needs after the two-year project concluded. All of the subsidized fertilizers that was made available reached smallholder farmers. Under the public works component of the project, households had an annual employment of about 58 days, close to the project's target of 60 days.

• Lending for climate adaptation programs reached a record $4.6 billion in 2012. The Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, for example, is a dedicated fund of nearly $1 billion that is supporting nine country pilots and two regional pilots in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The program, which is supported by the Bank and other organizations, provides grants and near-zero interest concessional loans for a range of activities in highly vulnerable countries – such as improving agricultural practices and food security, building climate-resilient water and housing, and improved weather data monitoring.

• The Kiribati Adaptation Program has helped identify and pilot adaptation measures to improve coastal protection, freshwater supply, and sustainability in one of the most isolated countries in the world. The Pacific island is also highly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Half a kilometer of sea walls have been built along Kiribati's main road, more than 37,000 mangrove seedlings have been planted, and several water management improvements have been completed. All increase resilience to the effects of climate change for Kiribati’s 98,000 residents.


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