World hunger crisis spiralling out of control
9 January 2009
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has urged countries to
step up and allocate to urgent hunger needs a fraction of what is
proposed for financial rescue packages to address the global economic
"We need to send a bold signal of hope to the world with a human
rescue package," said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World
Food Program, speaking from New Delhi during her first visit to India in
December, the country with the single largest population of
undernourished people in the world.
"As we take care of Wall Street and Main Street, we can't forget the
places that have no streets," she said, referring to UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon's challenge to political leaders.
WFP — which aims to feed nearly 100 million of the world's hungriest
people in 2009 — announced today that it will start the New Year needing
US$5.2 billion for urgent hunger needs.
Without a rapid injection of funds, millions of people in Haiti, the
Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya and other hunger hot spots will run out of
food assistance by the end of March, when warehouse stocks run out. WFP
is voluntarily funded, and relies on annual contributions for all of its
Sheeran said that with a mere 1% of what has been tabled for
financial rescue packages and stimulus packages in the United States and
Europe, developed countries could fully fund the work of the World Food
Program, and make a mark toward meeting other urgent hunger needs, for
example feeding all 59 million hungry school children worldwide ($3
billion per year) and the establishment of a reserve fund for fast
acquisition of food stocks for emergencies.
Funds are also needed to boost the agricultural production of
small-holder farmers who have seen the price of seeds and fertilizers
more than double since 2006.
"World leaders need to be confronted with the values implicit in the
policy choices they are making," Sheeran said. "The world is poised to
produce trillions for financial rescue packages. What will they produce
for the human rescue?"
WFP's urgent call comes off the back of historically high food
prices, followed by continued market volatility. The global financial
crisis, which is enveloping the developed world, is spilling into the
developing world as incomes are affected, and trade, capital flows and
This month, the Kyrgyz government asked WFP to help feed 600,000
people pushed into desperate hunger following a sharp decline in the
remittances which account for 20% of the country's GDP.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced last week that
another 40 million people have been pushed into hunger this year
primarily due to high food prices, bringing the total number of hungry
to nearly 1 billion worldwide. This increase comes after four decades of
progress when the international community collectively helped to bring
down the percentage of hungry people from 37% to 17%.
Sheeran noted that hunger can lead to civil unrest, as witnessed in
Haiti, where people were killed and a prime minister was driven from
office when food prices soared earlier this year. There were riots in
dozens of other countries around the world.
"We are at a critical juncture where we risk watching hunger spiral
out of control as the world's population is set to climb toward 9
billion mid-century," Sheeran said, adding the effects of hunger during
a child's earliest years prevents them from reaching their full
intellectual and physical capacity.
"We can't afford to lose the next generation," she said.
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