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After ‘year of disaster,’ donors must prepare for 2006: UN food aid official

After ‘year of disaster,’ donors must prepare for 2006: UN food aid official

Appealing to donors to prepare for the challenges of 2006, the head of the United Nations food aid agency today described this year as the most demanding the humanitarian aid world had faced since World War II, from the devastating Asian tsunami to the plague of locusts in Africa.

“The fact is that 2005 was an exceptional year of disaster for millions of people across the world,” James Morris, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, (WFP) said, also citing the continuing conflict in Darfur, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Stan, and the tragic earthquake in Kashmir.

“None of us knows what 2006 will bring. We can hope for a calmer year, with timely rainfall and limited seismic activity. But we have to be prepared for every eventuality. And if that means appealing for even more funding from our donors, that's exactly what we'll be doing,” he said.

Mr. Morris praised the response of most donors to crises in 2005 but expressed concern that in contrast to the overwhelming response to the tsunami, many WFP operations remained dangerously under-funded.

For example, its appeal for $100 million to provide air support for UN relief operations in Pakistan is less than half funded, while its operation to feed some 10 million people in southern Africa is more than $100 million short of the $317 million needed by April 2006.

He said one of the biggest challenges that WFP currently faces is in overcoming the time lag between a disaster occurring and donations coming in. To address the problem, the agency is drawing on reserve funds in anticipation of donations coming in.