Global finance leaders should prepare for multiple inflationary shocks, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned, as fears of a global economic downturn continue to hit markets around the world.

With inflation reaching the highest levels seen in decades, vulnerable households in low and middle-income countries are most at risk of acute food insecurity. Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva stated this on Wednesday, following the publication of the ‘Joint International Financial Institution (IFI) Plan to Address Food Insecurity.’

She said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has precipitated serious economic and social consequences around the globe. Among them, many countries are now facing dangerous food shortages and sharply higher prices for food, energy, and fertilizers, she said.

She added that these pressures occur at a time when countries’ public finances are already stretched from the pandemic and public debt burdens are high. With inflation reaching the highest levels seen in decades, vulnerable households in low- and middle-income countries are most at risk of acute food insecurity. And history has shown that hunger often triggers social unrest and violence, she warned.

“If we have learned one lesson from the 2007-08 food crisis, it is that the international community needs to take fast and well-coordinated actions to effectively tackle a food crisis, by maintaining open trade, supporting vulnerable households, ensuring sufficient agricultural supply, and addressing financing pressures. I am honoured to have been able to work together with the heads of other international financial institutions to propose concrete actions. Coordination between us will be critical for the plan to have maximum impact in quickly alleviating food insecurity, especially for the most vulnerable households in the most vulnerable countries,” the IMF head said.

She maintained that working closely with the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions, the IMF will provide policy advice, capacity development assistance, and financial support to catalyse and complement financing from other institutions. The IMF is investing in its monitoring capabilities to allow for timely identification of countries with the most pronounced financing pressures, especially fragile and conflict-affected states, which will particularly be affected by food insecurity.

She said the IMF is working with country authorities on macroeconomic frameworks and policy priorities. A critical area of focus is to assist countries in their efforts to rapidly improve social safety nets to protect vulnerable households from the imminent threat of hunger. Helping members identify ways to safeguard food security without resorting to export restrictions has been another priority.

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