April 28th, 2008 05:15 EST
Food Crisis Deepening Across Globe as Major Aid Group Forced to Scale Back Assistance
Higher prices may force agency to cut urgent hunger assistance to 1.5 million people this year
Misery increasing in poorest nations: Haiti, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan - and among refugees
Afghanistan: From bread-and-tea diet to "just tea" in desperately poor western provinces
World Vision calls on donor governments to fund World Food Programme's $755 million shortfall
Amid surging food prices, child malnutrition, violent unrest and the prospect of prolonged food shortages, one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations has announced a potential 1.5 million drop in the number of people receiving its food assistance.
World Vision, whose work includes providing nearly 450,000 metric tons of food in some 30 countries, cites the soaring cost of food and unmet donor-nation aid commitments for a potential 23 percent decrease in the number of people it is able to supply with food aid this year.
"Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid," said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. "At least a third of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive."
The Christian humanitarian agency's field staff report that the spike in food prices, along with other factors, is deepening the hunger crisis for children and families in developing nations:
- Haiti: "Many Haitians are still recovering from last year's floods. Coupled with their low level of income, they cannot afford the high cost of even basic supplies and commodities. We're distributing food to as many people as we can but there is never enough. The next few months are critical for Haiti." –Wesley Charles, World Vision national director, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
- Afghanistan: "Wheat prices in Afghanistan's western provinces have increased 100 percent from this time last year. I am meeting families in the villages, who, for years, have been surviving on a diet of naan and chai, or bread and tea, alone. Today, they can no longer afford the bread...It's an unfathomable situation." –Mary Kate MacIsaac, World Vision communications manager, Herat, Afghanistan
- West Africa: "We have already had riots in major cities in West Africa, including Dakar, Senegal, by people protesting against the higher and higher prices of basic food staples. This is of serious concern to the region." –Paul Sitnam, World Vision regional director of humanitarian and emergency affairs, Dakar, Senegal
- Bangladesh: "Families in Bangladesh are still recovering from last fall's devastating Cyclone Sidr. Seven-year-old Supria's family lost their entire harvest in the cyclone; now her father struggles to find paid work. Without food assistance, it would be difficult for families like Supria's to find daily food." –James East, World Vision communications director for Asia-Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
- Somalia: "We expect to see increased malnutrition and disease, especially among children. Somalia, one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies, is about to get a lot worse unless we do something fast." –Chris Smoot, World Vision program director for Somalia, Nairobi, Keyna
- Jordan: "Iraqi refugees are among the hardest hit in Amman. Even before food prices started to spike, refugee families here had been surviving by watering down their yogurt because milk was too expensive, and by not eating fruit and proteins. Now, many will be forced to cut even more nutrition from their diets." –Ashley Clements, World Vision emergency advocacy advisor, Amman, Jordan
- South Sudan: "Food assistance is a vital part of rebuilding war-torn South Sudan: Feeding programs in schools protect children from malnutrition and motivate families to educate their daughters. Food-for-work programs enable roads to be built in a region that lacks critical infrastructure. But higher prices this year mean we'll be able to distribute food to thousands less. It's a crisis that will set South Sudan back years in its development efforts." –Seth Le Leu, World Vision program director, Juba, South Sudan
A lack of available funds from donor nations, combined with rising prices, has caused some regular food delivery channels to dry up, preventing the launch of new food aid projects where they are needed.
World Vision therefore calls on donor governments to increase resources in order to fund the World Food Program's $755 million shortfall. It also urges leaders of the world's leading industrialized nations to make the issue a priority at the upcoming G8 conference.
"This is a challenge that requires both short and long-term approaches to resolve," said Robert Zachritz, World Vision's director of advocacy and government relations in the U.S. "In addition to providing food for urgent hunger needs, it is essential to invest in long-term agricultural development, improve access to credit and to markets for struggling farmers, and to enact fair trade policies."
"Global leaders must act now to support long-term projects that will help prevent vulnerable communities from being malnourished as a result of the price increases," Zachritz said.
World Vision is accepting cash donations to address the global food crisis. Donations can be made online at www.worldvision.org, by phone at 888-56-CHILD or by mail to World Vision, P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716.
For expert interviews, photos and video b-roll, contact Cynthia Colin at 202.436.1266 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Amy Parodi at 253.709.3190 or Casey Calamusa at 206.310.5476.
Notes to Editor:
- The World Bank estimates the recent rise in food prices could push another 100 million people deeper into poverty. Ten percent of these will be children under 5.
- Malnutrition already contributes to the deaths of more than 3.7 million children under five every year. Insufficient nutrition has also stunted the development of 147 million pre-school children in developing countries. Malnourished children are also more likely to suffer and die from diseases like pneumonia, malaria and measles.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Visit www.worldvision.org/press