Food aid averts major famines, outgoing WFP chief tells Security Council
Despite the rising tide of emergencies, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been instrumental in putting an end to major famines, the head of the United Nations agency said today in a farewell address to the Security Council, which met to discuss food aid in the context of conflict settlement.
Catherine Bertini, who has just concluded her 10-year tenure as WFP's Executive Director, pointed to Afghanistan as the most recent example of how the international community had successfully prevented famine.
"Even at the height of the bombing campaign, on average we had 2,000 trucks of all sizes and shapes on the roads every day moving in and out of the country," she told the Council, adding that by December, the agency had exceeded its target for food deliveries into Afghanistan by 36 per cent.
"This same story of food aid preventing famine has been repeated over and over again, though I do not know that it has ever been as widely appreciated as it was in Afghanistan," she said, citing examples of successful relief efforts in Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Horn of Africa.
The outgoing WFP chief noted that food-for-work schemes were often used to rebuild schools, while daily meals provide incentives for students to attend. "In Afghanistan, where WFP's target is to feed 1 million children in school, UNICEF [the UN Children's Fund] tells us that attendance in some areas is already two to three times what we expected."
At the same time, she noted that the agency strove to ensure that its relief efforts did not interfere with national food production. "In Afghanistan and elsewhere, during reconstruction we phase out blanket distributions of free food," she said. "We do not want to create dependency and we want to make sure that food aid contributes to the long-term development of people."
Ms. Bertini is succeeded by James T. Morris of the United States, a corporate executive and former head of the Lilly Endowment, one of largest charitable foundations in the United States.