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World Food Program Executive Director Talks To English To Africa About The Continent's Food Crises - 2002-11-11

In April of this year, James Morris took over as executive director of the UN World Food Program, replacing Catherine Bertini. The WFP is the world’s largest food aid organization. According to the agency’s figures, it fed seventy-seven million people last year in more than eighty countries.

These are tough times for the World Food Program, with food crises in southern and east Africa. From New York, James Morris spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the food problems facing the continent. He says southern Africa “is already one of the poorest places in the world. The level of nutrition is very weak and you put on top of this serious drought, incredible complications on HIV/AIDS and then governance issues, you’ve got lots of people seriously at risk.”

The WFP estimates some fourteen and a half million people are at risk in southern Africa, with millions more facing similar problems in the Horn of Africa. Mr. Morris describes the situation as “daunting.” He says in battling problems caused by both man and nature, you begin “by being sure you have a system and resources in place to feed people so they don’t die.”

The WFP head says the long-term solution includes a strategy to help countries become self-sufficient. But he says, “We simply have to find ways to generate more resources for food to feed very hungry people.” He says the best possible investment is feeding children to ensure they lead happy and productive lives. This, he says, can prevent them from turning to violence.

Mr. Morris says, ”The world probably doesn’t appreciate the devastation of HIV/AIDS in Africa. And I think the world doesn’t appreciate how many children are severely at risk.” Despite this, he says, “It’s not difficult to solve the problems. There’s plenty of food in the world, plenty of resources, plenty of technology and plenty of goodwill and plenty of brainpower. And we just simply need to keep it focused and put it to work.”