UN food agency spotlights seven global hunger hotspots

UN food agency spotlights seven global hunger hotspots

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today drew attention to seven hotspots worldwide – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chad, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe – where conflict has led to widespread hunger.

People in these countries “don’t know what tomorrow will bring and they often have to rely on WFP for their next meal,” the agency noted in a press release, calling for greater international support.

WFP’s food distribution of high energy biscuits to the western Afghan province of Hirat resumed late last month, having been halted in June because of road insecurity. The agency said that over 80 per cent of the 22,900 megatons of pre-positioned food to the country has now been dispatched to the high elevation areas where roads are inaccessible during the harsh winter season.

Cyclone Sidr devastated Bangladesh last month, killing 3,275 people, with the number expected to rise, and the UN has contributed to efforts to respond to the damage to homes, infrastructure, communications and agriculture. Delivery by air of high energy biscuits to remote and inaccessible parts of the country is ongoing.

Also in Asia, WFP said it is stepping up its operations in the DPRK, where a vessel carrying more than 2,400 tons of wheat flour is due to arrive this week, while several consignments of vegetable oil, sugar and dried skimmed milk are expected to be sent in the mail from China.

In eastern Chad, where four major battles between Government forces and rebel groups having taken place in the past six days, aid workers’ access has been impeded, disrupting food distribution.

Meanwhile in Somalia, WFP resumed distributing food after suspending operations due to insecurity in June.

A wet feeding programme kicked off on 25 November targeting 50,000 of the most vulnerable people living in the capital Mogadishu, with 10 wet feeding centres – each able to supply prepared foods to up to 5,000 people – expected to be operational within a few days.

Security incidents such as carjackings and acts of armed banditry have plagued humanitarian operations in the western Sudanese region of Darfur recently, with three commercial trucks carrying WFP supplies being shot at, leaving three drivers injured.

Sudanese Government military escorts are now active in South Darfur to avoid further incidents, and nearly 80 trucks loaded with WFP food are currently waiting for safe passage to Nyala.

Lastly, in Zimbabwe, although food distributions are proceeding, the difficulties faced included fuel availability, power cuts and mobile network problems. Shops in rural areas are still closed because of the unavailability of commodities, and the prize of maize continues to rise.