Djibouti + 11 more

WFP: 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:

($104 million; in addition to $110 million for the Horn of Africa as per the press release)

Djibouti: The country imports almost 100 per cent of its food requirements and is drought-prone. WFP will provide a general monthly food ration to 140,500 targeted beneficiaries in urban and rural areas, and will give highly nutritious food to 5,500 young children at particular risk of malnutrition. ($5 million)

Ghana: WFP will partner with government to expand Ghana's flagship national school feeding programme using locally produced, nutritious food to reach 100,000 children. An additional 115,000 people will be reached through nutritional safety nets and cash transfers. With food price increases ranging from 70-114 percent, a significant portion of Ghanaian households in hard-hit areas are eating only one meal a day, and some are consuming poisonous, wild roots. ($3.4 million)

Guinea: WFP will help 585,000 food insecure people by expanding school feeding to reach hungry families, including during the summer holiday period and Ramadan, while giving more help to malnourished children and women through health centers. High food prices have led to growing discontent among the Guinean population. ($10 million)

Haiti: Civil unrest remains a serious concern in Haiti, where WFP has fast-tracked efforts to reach as many hungry people as possible. Building on an initial response following the April food riots, WFP is expanding nutritional, education and socio-economic safety nets in urban and rural areas, for 2.5 million people. ($8 million)

Liberia: WFP plans to assist 220,000 people in direct support of the UN/Government joint programme on food security and nutrition. Scaled up activities focus primarily on Monrovia and immediate suburbs, incorporating school feeding, nutrition, cash- and food-for-work programmes. Liberia imports more than 70 percent of its food requirements, and the population has seen staple food prices rise by an estimated 30 percent ($10 million)

Mauritania: WFP will provide more food to 550,000 vulnerable people, including young children, while supporting efforts to establish and maintain village food reserves. Mauritania imports more than 70 percent of its overall food requirements; a recent food assessment concluded that high food prices prompted a 30 percent increase in the number of food insecure people. ($6 million)

Mozambique: WFP will target 160,000 people through social safety nets for school children, mothers, infants and toddlers and HIV/AIDS patients. Local production of nutritionally-enhanced foods and cash/voucher-based programmes are also part of the assistance package. Increasing food and fuel prices threaten nutritional security and social stability. ($5 million).

Nepal: A fragile peace agreement and continued reliance on neighbouring countries for essential commodities, including food and fuel, provide the backdrop to WFP efforts to assist an additional 1.3 million rural poor affected by rising food prices. Over 40 percent of Nepal's population is undernourished, and almost one in two children is stunted. Acute malnutrition approaches 20 percent in some areas. ($6 million)

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)

Pakistan: Ten million additional Pakistanis are now believed to be vulnerable based on their reduced caloric intake. WFP's response will complement the government's cash transfer programmes by targeting the households most affected by high food prices. School feeding, carried out jointly with UNESCO, will be scaled up to reach 2.8 million people. ($20 million)

Senegal: Within the context of Government's Social Emergency initiative, WFP will reach some 540,000 people through supplementary feeding, general food distributions, school feeding and food-for-work. School-based preventive feeding for children aged 6-24 months will also be piloted. ($6 million)

Tajikistan: Prices of bread and vegetable oil in Tajikistan have more than doubled since August 2007, while the prices of most other basic foods have increased by more than 50 percent. In support of the national action plan, WFP is to assist an additional 1 million people -- families will get food packages to help them cope, and some cases survive. ($10 million)

Uganda: Since the beginning of the year, prices of basic staple commodities have increased by about 50 percent. WFP, FAO and the Government of Uganda are combining efforts to cushion 159,000 subsistence farmers by helping them access to food, seeds and other tools they need, while also building roads and other market infrastructure. ($2.5 million)

Yemen: Through general food distributions, WFP will target 867,000 people in districts where more than two-thirds of the population cannot meet their basic food requirements. In addition, WFP will mount nutritional support, in concert with UNICEF, to reach 145,000 malnourished children and mothers. ($10 million).