The World Food Program is making another urgent appeal for donations. The U.N. agency is asking for an additional $256 million, after requesting $500 million in March. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington on the crisis caused by soaring world food prices.
The executive director of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, says the convergence of factors driving up food prices has put the world in the eye of a storm. The U.N. agency chief says the cost of food that the WFP buys for distribution has risen by more than 50 percent in less than a year. She says that is forcing the WFP to either raise more money or cut its services.
"Without increased donations, all of WFP's work is threatened with a 40 percent reduction in coming months," she said. "This is why we've put out an emergency appeal to the world, an extraordinary emergency appeal."
In Washington, Sheeran said sharply higher food prices are causing human misery and are jeopardizing the stability of countries around the world.
"The World Bank estimates that these rapidly accelerating prices will drive 100 million people into even more extreme poverty, and places 33 nations at risk of instability due to soaring prices," she said.
The World Food Program chief blames five factors for the spiraling prices. First, she says an economic boom in developing countries has increased global demand for food. Second, record-high oil prices are driving up the cost of producing and transporting food. Third, Sheeran says rising demand for food-based fuel is also causing demand for food to explode. Fourth, she says recent severe weather has shrunk harvests. Finally, she says food export bans and hedging on futures markets have made food less available.
To address the crisis, President Bush this week released $200 million in emergency food stocks, and the U.S. Congress is considering a supplemental spending bill to meet urgent food needs.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says his country will double its emergency food aid to developing countries, to an estimated $100 million this year. He also asked governments, private industry and banks worldwide to work together to fight spiraling food prices.