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Belgium makes record €26 mln contribution to fight hunger with WFP

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BRUSSELS - The Government of Belgium has announced a new €10.6 million (US$ 15.9 million) contribution to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), capping a record year in which it donated a total of €26 million (US$ 37.6 million) to help fight hunger worldwide.

Belgium's 2009 donation is its largest-ever donation to WFP - more than 50 per cent higher than in 2008, when it contributed €18 million (US$ 24.7 million).

"Belgium has shown great solidarity with those who are less fortunate. In a year when many people in industrialized nations are facing financial difficulties, Belgium has been even more generous than before, helping vulnerable people in developing countries - those hit hardest by the global economic crisis," said Gemmo Lodesani, director of WFP's office in Brussels.

From this month's contribution, €9 million ($13.5 million) will be used to provide urgent food assistance to drought-affected people in Kenya and Somali and Sudanese refugees in Kenya; malnourished children and vulnerable rural people in Niger; conflict-affected people in Pakistan and Yemen; flood victims in Laos and people affected by high food prices in Ethiopia.

In addition to its generous contribution for food assistance, Belgium also contributed almost €1.6 million (US$ 2.4 million) to the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). Operated by WFP's Aviation Unit on behalf of the entire humanitarian community, UNHAS carries aid workers to some of the hardest-to-reach zones in the world.

UNHAS was facing possible closure in some areas due to lack of funds. Thanks to Belgium, UNHAS will continue flying in Chad, Niger, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Without it, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people would not be reached by aid workers providing medicine, clean water, nutrition and other vital services.

For further information:

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Cell. +1-646-8241112