Ref. :  000032030
Date :  2009-07-30
Language :  English
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World struggles to meet urgent hunger challenge

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With a billion people on the planet going hungry every day, the world’s response to the urgent hunger needs of the most vulnerable is flagging, with the result that critical food assistance is already being cut.

The World Food Programme, which aims to feed 108 million hungry people in 74 countries this year, is facing “dangerous and unprecedented” funding shortfalls, the UN agency's Executive Director Josette Sheeran said here on Wednesday.

“Our budget for this year of assessed and approved needs is US$6.7 billion and we expect from our projections and working with government to come in at 3.7 billion,” Sheeran said at a press briefing ahead of meetings at the White House.

“We are actively cutting 3 billion dollars of our program – which means a reduction in rations and programs throughout the world, including those to the world’s most vulnerable people,” she added.

Fewer meals for children

In Bangladesh, home to some of the world’s hungriest people, a WFP programme set up to give meals to 300,000 children in school will now reach only 70,000.

In Guatemala, funding shortfalls could mean that in August, around 100,000 children under the age of 5, and 50,000 pregnant and lactating women are going to lose their supply of Vitacereal – a highly nutritious blend of maize, soy and micronutrients.

Sheeran said the world is “rightly” looking for sustainable solutions to the world hunger problem and she commended the G8’s recent $20 billion pledge to boost global food security. She said the pledge, which focused in particular on agricultural development, showed the industrialized world “takes the food security issue seriously”.

“At the same time, we must also keep pace with growing emergency needs,” Sheeran said. “The problem is not all about agricultural yields; the challenge is people cannot get access to food – whether because of poor infrastructure or because they can’t afford it.

Crisis compounded

WFP analysis confirms that the food crisis is not over in the developing world. In fact, the situation is more alarming in many countries than it was a year ago as the impact of high food prices is compounded by the recent financial crisis.

New data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization suggests food prices are higher today than a year ago – at the height of the global food crisis - in more than 80 percent of developing countries.

Sheeran, who praised the Obama Administration for prioritizing the issue of food security, was in Washington to urge policymakers to keep focused on urgent hunger needs as they seek to craft long-term solutions to hunger.

Looking forward to September’s G20 meeting in Pittsburg, which will be chaired by President Obama, she said WFP was calling upon the group “to take action not only on the financial crisis, but on hunger.”

- WFP's Funding Shortfall :WFP was aiming to feed 5 million hungry people in Bangladesh this year. Due to lack of funds, we are now aiming to reach only 1.4 million. Find out more about the effects of shortfall.

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