The Washington Times - October 8, 2008, 02:54PM

The World Bank expects the number of malnourished people around the world to increase by 44 million to 967 million this year because of high food and fuel prices.

Robert Zoellick, the bank’s president, told reporters at a round table Wednesday that, although prices have come off their recent highs, that decline has not been significant enough to have a real impact on poor people’s lives. Mr. Zoellick cited a report on the issue prepared by his organization.

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“While people in the developed world are focused on the financial crisis, many forget that a human crisis is rapidly unfolding in developing countries. It is punishing poor people to the brink of survival,” he said. “The financial crisis will only make it more difficult for developing countries to protect their most vulnerable people from the impact of rising food and fuel costs.”

The report will be presented at the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington this weekend.

Mr. Zoellick, a former U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state, offered his views on the global turmoil, welcoming the decision of the Federal Reserve and five other central banks to lower interest rates at the same time Wednesday. “Coordinated” actions bring important benefits, he said.

He declined to comment, however, on a recent remark by Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, that U.S. foreign aid might suffer because of the current economic difficulties.