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UN food agency seeks to curb ever-rising of tide of hungry people around the world

UN food agency seeks to curb ever-rising of tide of hungry people around the world

James Morris
With the ranks of chronically hungry people growing by 4 to 5 million a year since the mid-1990s, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) officials from 80 countries are gathering in the Danish capital of Copenhagen today for five days of brainstorming on the immense challenges facing the world's largest humanitarian agency.

“We must reverse the trend, and give priority to the world's poorest and hungriest people,” WFP Executive Director James Morris said.

“Tens of millions of people, especially children, count on us each and every day. Investing in their lives and their futures will render huge dividends for generations to come. The fact that more than 300 million children are chronically hungry is the world's greatest shame today,” he added.

While the number of hungry people grows, making achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) an increasingly remote possibility, WFP's funding for major emergencies such as Darfur, Afghanistan and Niger fell to an average of only 57 per cent in 2005, one of the lowest levels in its history.

The MDGs seek to slash a host of ills, such as extreme hunger and poverty, high infant and maternal mortality and lack of access to education and health care, all by 2015.

The challenges facing WFP are immense, the Agency said. Last year opened with the Asian tsunami, continued with the devastating drought and locust invasion in Niger and ended with the earthquake in Pakistan ? all of which stretched both donors' generosity and WFP's capacity to respond.

The task ahead is daunting. Although international development aid has reached record levels in recent years, the amount devoted to food aid for emergency operations is falling far short of needs, it added.

In 2005, WFP reached 96.7 million people in 82 countries.

Secretary General Kofi Annan will address the gathering on Sunday.