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World Food Program Calls 2005 a Disastrous Year

The World Food Program describes 2005 as the most challenging year the humanitarian aid world has faced since World War II. The U.N. agency says millions of people were in need of emergency assistance due to an exceptionally large number of disasters.

The World Food Program says 2005 began with the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed more than 200,000 lives and ended with the Pakistan earthquake that killed about 80,000 people. In between, it says humanitarian aid agencies struggled with crises such as drought and locust in Niger, the ongoing conflict in Sudan's province of Darfur and Hurricanes Katrina and Stan.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says there was a huge outpouring of generosity to the victims of the tsunami. But, this, she says, had the effect of diverting attention away from other emergencies. She says the World Food Program raised most of the money it needed. But, it took a great deal of time and energy.

"The crises that make the headlines, that you see on your TV screens are much easier to fund. But, the crises that we call the forgotten ones-those more than 850 million people that are simply hungry, it is much more difficult to get the funds, the money for those kinds of, what we call, the forgotten crises," she said.

Ms. Berthiaume says many WFP operations remain dangerously under-funded. For example, she notes its appeal for $100 million to provide air support for U.N. relief operations in Pakistan is less than half funded. She also says the WFP's $317 million appeal for 10 million people in southern Africa is short $100 million.

Ms. Berthiaume says the World Food Program fed 130 million people last year. This is the largest number of beneficiaries since the agency was founded in 1963.

The international community has pledged to cut world hunger in half by 2015. Despite of this, Ms. Berthiaume says the number of hungry people around the world is increasing.

"Hunger is still the number one cause of death in the world today. It kills more than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Every day it kills 25,000 people. Every day. It is an unnoticed tsunami every 10 days," she added.

The World Food Program says it faces many challenges in the year ahead. These include Sudan, where six million people are in need of food assistance, and southern Africa where nearly 10 million people are threatened by drought and HIV/AIDS.

In addition, the World Food Program reports more than one million quake victims in Pakistan and 1.5 million victims of the tsunami will continue to need support throughout the year.