The United Nations World Food Program is appealing to governments to come up with the $5.2 billion it needs to feed 100 million hungry people next year. The WFP says that amount is only a fraction of what governments are spending on their financial rescue packages.
The U.N. World Food Program warns it will run out of food by March without a quick injection of funds. WFP Spokeswoman Emilia Casella says millions of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other global hunger hot spots will go hungry when the warehouse stocks run out.
"A mere one percent of the money that has been spent for financial bailout packages in recent weeks would completely fund the World Food Program's 2009 budget. And, in addition, permit us to provide hot meals in school for 59 million children around the world, which is what we would aim for in our school feeding program. Our school feeding program now feeds about 19 million children around the world. But, it is about 59 million who need it."
Casella says the WFP would like to use some of the money for which it is appealing to set up a reserve fund for fast acquisition of food stocks for emergencies.
The WFP spokeswoman says money also is needed to boost the agricultural production of small farmers who can no longer afford to buy seeds and fertilizers. She says the price of these commodities has more than doubled since 2006.
Casella notes at the beginning of 2008, WFP was expecting to feed around 69 million people around the world. But, more than 100 million actually need food aid.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports high food prices have pushed 40 million more people into hunger this year, bringing the total number of those going hungry to nearly one billion.
WFP Spokeswoman Casella says it takes about 90 days from the time a donation is made for the food to actually reach the people who need it.
"So, we are not being precipitous here with this call. It is something that is actually quite urgent. The countries that are at most risk right now in terms of either further food ration cuts or new ration cuts are Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, also Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti. "As you all would know, these are all countries that are in an extremely fragile state to begin with. So, the idea of further cutting rations is kind of like adding insult to injury."
The World Food Program warns hunger can lead to civil unrest. Soaring food prices have led to riots in dozens of countries around the world. One of the worst situations was in Haiti where food riots caused the death of a number of people and drove the prime minister out of office.
WFP cautions governments not to let hunger spiral out of control.