WFP issues global alert at UN Security Council

from World Food Programme
Published on 03 Dec 2002
New York - The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James T. Morris, today warned the UN Security Council of an unprecedented hunger crisis in Africa, where at least 38 million people are at risk.
In a stark address focusing on recent and extraordinary threats of starvation around the world, Morris said that there were no obstacles to preventing hunger - other than a lack of political will.

"This is an unprecedented crisis, which calls for an unprecedented response," said Morris. "The magnitude of the disaster unfolding in Africa has not yet been fully grasped by the international community. An exceptional effort is urgently needed if a major catastrophe is to be averted. Business as usual will not do."

Morris said the crisis in Africa was part of a worrying new global phenomenon of shifting weather patterns which have led to unparalleled natural disasters. Drought has ravaged not only the Horn and huge swathes of southern Africa and Western Sahel but also Central America, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

This year, WFP is struggling to feed up to 25 million additional beneficiaries in Africa alone; last year, the agency assisted 77 million people worldwide. Besides the millions of people requiring assistance in Africa, there are Afghan families suffering the effects of drought and decades of war, malnourished children in DPRK, and old and young people driven from their homes and jobs by violence in southern Sudan and Colombia.

Morris noted that hunger was still one of the biggest threats to life and health across the world - just as it has been for centuries. At the same time countries such as Russia, China and India, which had food shortages for decades, have boosted their production to the point where they are now becoming donors.

"It is hard to understand and condone hunger in a world that is awash with surplus food," Morris said. "Poverty, poor infrastructure and lack of earning power all undermine people's capacity to cope, but pause to consider the fact that 18,000 families will lose a child today - because of hunger."

On the absence of political will in tackling hunger, WFP's Executive Director challenged UN member states to re-commit themselves to the Millenium Development Goals which set 2015 as the date for halving the world's number of hungry people to 400 million.

Concerned about the plight of Africa, the general public around the world has initiated grass roots initiatives to try to raise awareness and more funds for the needy. A new campaign, Africa Hunger Alert (see supported by WFP, is gaining momentum, with 16 December set as a date for vigils and meetings to channel support to Africa.

"If we are to make any progress against hunger around the world, we will need a massive infusion of funds for humanitarian relief,"said Morris. "Never before has WFP had to contend with potential starvation of this magnitude on the African continent with the simultaneous outbreak of two enormous and complex crises exacerbated by HIV/AIDS and economic policy failures. The reality is that right now 38 million people in Africa alone face an urgent and imminent threat to their peace, security and stability."

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2001, WFP fed more than 77 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe, WFP Chief Spokesperson, Rome, Tel. +39-06-6513 2602
Khaled Mansour, WFP Public Affairs Officer, New York, Tel. +1-212-963 5196
Christiane Berthiaume, WFP Public Affairs Officer, Geneva, Tel.+ 41-22-917 8564
Caroline Hurford, WFP Public Affairs Officer, Rome, Tel. +39-06-6513 2330