In 2003, UN food agency helped more people than ever in its 40-year history

In 2003, UN food agency helped more people than ever in its 40-year history

After mounting the largest humanitarian aid operation ever with its efforts in Iraq, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in 2003 helped 110 million hungry people worldwide – a record in the agency's 40-year history.

“We are proud of our achievement in feeding so many of those in need, but we are acutely aware that they represent only a limited proportion of the world's hungry, many of them suffering in silence," WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said today in Rome.

At the peak of its operations in Iraq, WFP moved 1,000 tons of food an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite enormous obstacles, while at the same time helping to feed 40 million people across Africa, which was enduring one of its worst food disasters in decades.

Generous contributions were made towards WFP's budget of $4.3 billion this year, but there were significant shortfalls in some operations, leaving the agency without food to meet the urgent needs of the hungry, who tend to be mainly women and children.

Lack of resources forced WFP to reduce rations to 300,000 people in drought-hit Eritrea and countless others across southern Africa. On the other side of the world, 2.2 million people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will again be deprived of WFP cereal rations this month, a number expected to rise to 3.8 million early in 2004 unless fresh pledges are made urgently.

This year proved conclusively that HIV/AIDS is not only a major cause of hunger, but that hunger accelerates its spread and lethal impact. "The battle against AIDS is a battle against time," Mr. Morris warned, pledging the agency's support in that endeavour.

In sub-Saharan Africa, with 11 million children orphaned by AIDS, “we are working with governments to integrate AIDS prevention into school feeding programmes because AIDS has turned children into parents,” he added.

According to a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

(FAO), the global number of chronically hungry has crept back up to almost 800 million people, after decreasing in the early 1990s, and without the political will, chance of achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goal of halving that figure by 2015 is remote.