During his first official visit to Thailand, the chief of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called on Asian countries to support efforts to tackle hunger and poverty in the region and around the world.
Executive Director James Morris said Southeast Asia has the economic potential to produce the largest number of “emerging donors” to the agency in its humanitarian efforts.
“We need the countries of this region to work with us in alleviating the crises in this region and the world,” Mr. Morris said in Bangkok, citing Thailand as a new donor to WFP. The Government donated 3,000 tons of rice in response to the Afghanistan emergency in 2001, and this year a private consortium mobilized 30 tons of rice for the Iraq emergency.
While in Bangkok, Morris is consulting with the WFP managers of 11 countries in Asia on ways to build on progress made so far. He is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and other senior government officials to discuss the deepening collaboration between Thailand and WFP.
Mr. Morris noted that the strong economic potential of Asia is matched by the enormity of its problems, notably high malnutrition levels in some areas, spiralling rates of HIV/AIDS, and natural disasters that are taking on an increasing severity because of unusual combinations of drought and flood.
In August 2001, WFP moved its regional bureau from Rome to Bangkok to be in a better position to oversee emergency and development operations in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Earlier this week, Mr. Morris was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he visited two WFP-supported projects to help children. He also met with Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss the agency’s work in the country and the crucial role played by the Government in improving the agricultural, educational and health sectors of the country.