- World Food Programme (WFP) announced today roll-out of a US$214 million package directed at 16 hunger hotspots, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Today's announced package will include projects specifically designed to mitigate direct effects of higher prices on poor population.
"With hunger on the rise, we are doing our best to stream incoming contributions to most needy people in Africa, Asia and Caribbean," said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran in Rome today, adding "It is essential to launch a bold new set of responses to stem a full-blown hunger and nutritional crisis."
According to WFP US$214 million will provide critical assistance by giving out life-saving food rations to highly vulnerable groups; continuing to feed school-aged children even while school is out; giving supplemental food to pregnant women and young children whose mental and physical development is at stake; expanding food assistance to urban areas hardest hit by high food prices, including through cash and vouchers and supporting small farmers and markets in countries where the agency will purchase food assistance locally, as a way of creating a win-win solution.
The UN agency has however noted that increased cost of food has had a direct impact on its work, saying operational costs have ballooned, and that organisation's base budget - funding required to reach 90 million people worldwide in 2008 - has risen from US$3.1 billion to nearly US$6 billion. So far, WFP has only raised about half of its budget for this year.
Ms Sheeran noted that impoverished families that already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food are eating less, buying less nutritious foods, cutting out education and healthcare, and taking on more debt.
"Food prices are not abating, and the world's most vulnerable have exhausted their coping strategies. Our action plan is targeted and customised to help the most vulnerable meet their urgent needs," said Ms Sheeran.
With U$104 million, WFP has been ramping up food assistance to support more than 11 million people in 14 countries particularly hard-hit by high food prices. This according to the UN agency includes help to urban areas where food is unaffordable and there is risk of discontent, such as in Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia, and Mozambique. School feeding programmes have also been expanded and malnourished women and children are receiving additional nutritional care.
WFP also said voucher programmes have been accelerated in countries like Djibouti and that cash transfers - some targeting urban youth - are starting in Liberia, Ghana and elsewhere.
In addition, in the Horn of Africa, where effects of drought and insecurity have been compounded by high prices, WFP said it is also ramping up assistance by providing US$110 million which includes funds from its emergency reserves, to meet urgent food needs including supplementary feeding programmes for malnourished children.
"In Ethiopia, more than ten million people are affected by drought, which has struck large sections of the country. The government has had to draw down the country's critical food reserves to cope with high prices. Retail prices for white maize, the cereal consumed most widely by the poor, have trebled in some places compared to last year," stated WFP in a statement.
It continued that in Somalia, where political instability is a key factor, WFP must more than double amount of food it delivers through coming months, to reach 2.4 million people by December, saying suffering and destitution of millions is a result of insecurity, drought, a succession of poor or failed harvests, a weak Somali shilling and rising food and fuel prices.
WFP also warned that parts of Somalia risk a disaster similar to the famine years of 1992-1993.
In June, during World Food Security conference in Rome, WFP announced a $1.2 billion cash package for 62 countries hit by high food prices. This year, WFP plans to feed around 90 million people in 80 countries.
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