Recession compounds world food crisis: UN's WFP

Wed Mar 4, 2009 6:45am GMT

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The global economic downturn has compounded the food crisis, pushing more people over the brink of hunger and threatening stability around the world, the head of the United Nations' food relief agency said on Tuesday.

Food supplies are tight and expensive, and more people in poor countries are unable to afford what they need because of the recession, said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme.

"I think the world would like to focus on one crisis at a time, but we really can't afford to," Sheeran told Reuters after a speech to a think-tank and aid groups.

"These are not separate crises. The food crisis and the financial (crisis) are linking and compounding," she said, noting lack of food often leads to political instability.

Sheeran said the WFP needs about $6 billion this year for food aid, which it sends to about 100 million of the world's poorest people in 77 countries.

As of February 15, donor countries had contributed less than 10 percent of that total, or $453.4 million, including $171.6 million from the United States and $128.2 million from Japan.

Total contributions last year were $5.043 billion, up from $2.712 billion in 2007, WFP data showed.

Sheeran told Reuters she was worried that wealthy nations preoccupied with their own economic woes may not give enough to cover the WFP's requirements this year.   Continued...

<p>A malnourished baby cries in his mother's lap in southern Ethiopia, June 8, 2008. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>
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