UN: one billion hungry people in the world

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The United Nations' World Food Program (WFP) said today that for the first time in history, the number of hungry people worldwide will exceed one billion.

The huge number of people facing food insecurity has prompted the UN organization to appeal to individuals for the first time. The WFP launched the Billion for a Billion online campaign today, in an effort to get one billion people living in the developed world to give one euro (US$1.50) a week to the campaign.

File photo of Josette Sheeran (May 2007)
Image: Michael Gross.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran commented that donor governments have supported WFP efforts in the past, but they cannot be expected to do so anymore because of the financial pressure they are facing in the worldwide economic downturn. She said that the WFP was projected to make only $3.7 billion in donations, about half of the $6.7 billion it had targeted for 2009.

"We now have hunger galloping ahead — over a billion people now for the first time in history — and because of the financial pressure on governments we think it's really important now to call on the citizens of the world to help solve this problem directly," Sheeran told the Reuters news agency in an interview.

Sheeran noted the rise in the number of hungry people was partially due to increasing prices in the developing world following a food crisis in 2007–08. The WFP's resources are stretched due to many crises worldwide, such as violence in Pakistan, drought in eastern Africa, and flooding in Southeast Asia. The organisation can thus provide only limited assistance to those in need.

"The problem at the moment is that WFP probably has ten or twelve acute emergencies on its hands, each one complex, each one with its own compelling situation [...] We are cutting rations," Sheeran told Reuters.

Sheeran made the online campaign announcement ahead of the World Food Summit beginning on Monday in Rome, Italy, where world leaders will meet to find solutions to the growing number of hungry people in the world. The summit is to be hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.


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