The World Food Program (WFP) has issued a new appeal for financial aid to respond to a growing worldwide food crisis. The agency says soaring fuel and food prices have rendered its original budget of nearly $3 billion inadequate to feed millions of hungry people in the world. It is hoping to raise an additional $750 million to meet the rising costs. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.
The World Food Program says it has received $900 million so far this year. This represents only 20 percent of what it needs to feed 73 million hungry people in 80 countries.
WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says it is urgent that donors come up with more cash quickly.
"Otherwise, we will have to take heartbreaking decisions by this summer," she said. "We will have to decide either to reduce the number of people that we are feeding or cut rations. You know those 73 million are really the most vulnerable among the vulnerable. Those people do not have access to food. They are in camps because they are refugees, because they may be in Chad or because they are displaced people in Darfur or in northern Uganda, because they are caught in fighting in Somalia."
And, the list goes on. WFP warns it will have to cut at least 400,000 children from school feeding programs in the next couple of weeks if it does not get more money.
World prices for rice, wheat and other staple crops have soared to unprecedented heights in recent months. The World Food Program says the price it pays for rice has jumped 70 percent in the last six weeks.
And these skyrocketing prices are hitting the world's poor the hardest. WFP notes poor people spend up to 80 percent of their budgets on food. Higher food prices are causing social unrest around the world. Riots have broken out in a number of countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Senegal.
The U.N. organization that coordinates humanitarian assistance says rising food prices in Kenya are adding to the country's political tensions. WFP spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs says fungi have wiped out five thousand, 600 hectares of rice in the Central Province.
She says this area produces the bulk of Kenya's rice.
Brys says rice cultivation in this region represents about 10 to 20 percent of Kenya's annual production. She says Kenya is a net importer of rice, even during good years, and the fungi problem will increase the amount of rice it has to import.
Global leaders including the U.N. secretary-general and president of the World Bank are calling for urgent action to address the food crisis.