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Chicago Bulls slam-dunk for UN efforts to feed hungry children in Darfur

Chicago Bulls slam-dunk for UN efforts to feed hungry children in Darfur

Children receiving WFP school lunch
First it was the International Rugby Board scrumming down, then the England and Wales cricket team going out to bat. Now it’s the Chicago Bulls slam-dunking for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the agency’s latest teaming up with the sports world to feed the millions of hungry and suffering around the globe.

At the start of last night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Bulls, holder of six United States National Basketball Association championship titles donated $100,000 to WFP to feed schoolchildren in Sudan's strife-riven Darfur region, with the money given in the name of team forward Luol Deng, himself from Sudan. They then went on to beat the Lakers 94-89.

“This timely, generous donation will enable us to reach some 3,000 children in war-torn Darfur by giving them a meal in school for an entire school year,” WFP Director of US Relations Jordan Dey said. “This wonderful gesture, in the holiday spirit, will also bring much-needed attention to the children of Sudan, who have suffered long years of conflict and deprivation.”

WFP’s food for education programme offers children a meal in school so that they are guaranteed one nutritious meal a day and can thus concentrate on learning instead of their hunger. Last year, WFP fed 21.7 million school-children in 74 countries. Research shows that free school lunches can increase attendance rates by 100 per cent, and boost performance as well as years at school.

The programme has an especially profound impact on the lives of girls who are often denied the same chance at education as boys. In 2006, WFP provided food aid to over 6.5 vulnerable million people in Sudan, Africa’s largest country.

Last month, it fed 2.6 million people in Darfur where more than three years of fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy have killed over 200,000 people and uprooted over 2 million more.

As a WFP humanitarian partner, Luol Deng has volunteered his time and name to help get the word out about hunger. In June, he partnered the Bulls, NBA and WFP to produce a public service announcement to help victims of the Darfur crisis; it was aired during the NBA play-offs. In 2007, he will team up with the NBA and WFP to raise awareness about global hunger.

Last month, the England and Wales cricket team joined WFP in a “Cricket Against Hunger” partnership to raise awareness and funds, and the agency already has a long-standing relationship with the International Rugby Board. A number of leading sports greats, including Brazilian World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho, Kenyan world marathon record holder Paul Tergat, and Sri Lankan cricket bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, are WFP celebrity partners.

The agency has recruited Italian Formula One auto racing star Jarno Trulli in a public service television announcement to show the speed at which malnourished children are dying around the world and the minimal amount it costs to slow the rate down.

“In five seconds, my Formula One racing car can go from 0-200 kilometres per hour. Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger – that's 720 children an hour, all day, every day. We can’t stop time, but we can stop the dying,” Mr. Trulli says.

And during emergency relief operations after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, US football stars, including New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson and former Australian rugby captain Nick Farr-Jones toured the worst hit areas to highlight WFP’s efforts to deliver food to survivors.