UN agency urges nations to fund ‘human rescue’ package needed to feed millions

16 December 2008

Without a “human rescue” package, costing a mere fraction of the financial bailout and economic stimulus initiatives tabled in Western Europe and the United States, millions of people around the world will go hungry early next year, warned the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today.

Without a “human rescue” package, costing a mere fraction of the financial bailout and economic stimulus initiatives tabled in Western Europe and the United States, millions of people around the world will go hungry early next year, warned the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today.

WFP, which aims to feed nearly 100 million of the world’s hungriest people in 2009, announced that it will start the New Year needing $5.2 billion to urgently support its programmes combating global hunger.

Unless donors provide a rapid injection of funds, the agency’s warehouse stocks will run out by the end of March, condemning millions of people in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya and other hunger hot spots to live without essential food assistance.

“As we take care of Wall Street and Main Street, we can’t forget the places that have no streets,” stressed WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, speaking during a visit to India, which has the single largest undernourished population in the world.

With just one per cent of the money proposed for bailout packages across the developed world, Ms. Sheeran said that WFP could fully fund its work, and make a mark toward meeting other urgent hunger needs. Feeding all 59 million hungry school children worldwide, for example, would only cost $3 billion per year.

“The world is poised to produce trillions for financial rescue packages. What will they produce for the human rescue?” asked Ms. Sheeran.

“World leaders need to be confronted with the values implicit in the policy choices they are making,” she noted.

WFP’s urgent call comes off the back of historically high food prices and market volatility, which is compounded by the financial meltdown in the developed world, spilling into the developing world as incomes are affected, and trade, capital flows and remittances slow.

This month alone, the Kyrgyz Government asked WFP to help feed 600,000 people pushed

into desperate hunger following a sharp decline in the remittances which account for 20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Ms. Sheeran noted that hunger can lead to civil unrest as witnessed in Haiti, where people were killed and a prime minister was driven from office when food prices soared earlier this year.

“We are at a critical juncture where we risk watching hunger spiral out of control as the world’s population is set to climb toward 9 billion [by] mid-century,” she said, adding “We can’t afford to lose the next generation.”

 

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