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Source: World Food Programme (WFP)
12 August 2008



Cash roll-out to help hunger hot spots


ROME – As nearly one billion poor people worldwide struggle to survive the unrelenting global high food and fuel price crisis, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today the roll-out of a US$214 million package directed at 16 hunger hotspots.

"With hunger on the rise, we are doing our best to stream incoming contributions to the people most in need in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean," said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. "It is essential to launch a bold new set of responses to stem a full-blown hunger and nutritional crisis."

The $214 million will provide critical assistance by:

- providing life-saving food rations to highly vulnerable groups;
- continuing to feed school-aged children even while school is out;
- giving supplemental food to pregnant women and young children whose mental and physical development is at stake;
- expanding food assistance to urban areas hardest hit by high food prices, including through cash and vouchers;
- supporting small farmers and markets in countries where WFP will purchase food assistance locally -- creating a win-win solution.

The increased cost of food has had a direct impact on WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency. Operational costs have ballooned, and the organization's base budget – the funding required to reach 90 million people worldwide in 2008 – has risen from $3.1 billion to nearly $6 billion. So far, the voluntarily-funded agency has raised about half of its budget for this year.

Sheeran noted that impoverished families that already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food are eating less, buying less nutritious foods, cutting out education and healthcare, and taking on more debt.

"Food prices are not abating, and the world's most vulnerable have exhausted their coping strategies," said Sheeran. "Our action plan is targeted and customized to help the most vulnerable meet their urgent needs."

With $104 million, WFP has been ramping up food assistance to support more than 11 million people in 14 countries particularly hard-hit by high food prices (see below). This includes help to urban areas where food is unaffordable and there is risk of discontent, such as in Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia, and Mozambique. School feeding programmes have been expanded and malnourished women and children are receiving additional nutritional care.

Voucher programmes have been accelerated in countries like Djibouti and cash transfers -- some targeting urban youth – are starting in Liberia, Ghana, Nepal and elsewhere.

In addition, in the Horn of Africa, where the effects of drought and insecurity have been compounded by high prices, WFP is also ramping up assistance by providing $110 million which includes funds from its emergency reserves, to meet urgent food needs including supplementary feeding programmes for malnourished children. In Ethiopia, more than ten million people are affected by drought, which has struck large sections of the country. The government has had to draw down the country's critical food reserves to cope with high prices. Retail prices for white maize, the cereal consumed most widely by the poor, have trebled in some places compared to last year.
In Somalia, where political instability is a key factor, WFP must more than double the amount of food it delivers through the coming months, to reach 2.4 million people by December. The suffering and destitution of millions is a result of insecurity, drought, a succession of poor or failed harvests, a weak Somali shilling and rising food and fuel prices. Parts of the country risk a disaster similar to the famine years of 1992-1993.

While the needs are immense, current donor response to WFP appeals for additional funds, including a historic half-billion donation by the Saudi government earlier this year, are allowing WFP to meet many of the new challenges. Today's package of $214 million includes projects specifically designed to mitigate the direct effects of higher prices on the population. In June, during the World Food Security conference in Rome, WFP announced a $1.2 billion cash package for 62 countries hit by high food prices.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed around 90 million people in 80 countries.
Visit our website: www.wfp.org
For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Brenda Barton, Deputy Director of Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Cell. +39-3472582217 (ISDN line available)
Caroline Hurford, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-72409001, Cell. +44-7968-008474
Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org
Marcus Prior, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. + 254-2076222336, Cell. +254-733528912


WFP Cash Package Roll-out:

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occupied Palestinian territory: WFP plans to assist an additional 120,000 people. More than two-thirds of household income in Gaza, and 56 percent in the West Bank, is now spent on food. Planned activities include vouchers for bread and cheese through local bakeries and grocery stores, as well as through expanded school feeding activities. ($2 million)

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