Sign up today to join our online community, receive email alerts, and make a difference!

Better early warning could save millions of children's lives in disasters, says WFP chief in Kobe


KOBE - "With exceptionally generous help from Japan and other donors, no child who survived the Asian tsunami should die from hunger. Children suffered most in this tsunami, but with better early warning systems, we can spare millions of them in future," said James T. Morris, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), today in Kobe during his three-day visit to attend the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction.

While the massive destruction caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami on 26 December was not foreseen, it is certain that millions of people around the globe will be hit by disaster some time in the next five or ten years. Women and children will bear the brunt of the impact. Floods will again wash away much of Bangladesh. Hurricanes will no doubt sweep through Central America and the Caribbean. Drought is sure to parch the Horn of Africa.

"The Asian tsunami crisis could not have provided us with a more graphic illustration of the importance of emergency preparedness and early warning," said Morris. The number of natural disasters is rising, with about one third of WFP's 100 million beneficiaries now affected by natural hazards. In response to this growing trend, WFP has made disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness two of its corporate priorities. Among other initiatives, WFP has played a key role in the development of the new early warning tool, HEWSweb (

"The Asian tsunami shocked the world and massive relief efforts are underway for the survivors. The challenge we now face is to keep the momentum going for millions of other people around the globe whose lives are also stalked by hunger and poverty, but whose faces are rarely in the spotlight," said Morris.

When it comes to the number of those who die from hunger or related diseases, only one in 10 dies in a war or natural disaster. Every week, the same number of people who lost their lives in the Asian tsunami -- most of them children -- withers away from hunger and related diseases. These people die quietly in communities devastated by poverty without drawing international media coverage.

Morris told conference participants, "Let me issue one word of warning. The chronic hunger and malnutrition that afflicts 300 million children worldwide does not create the dramatic media coverage of a tsunami, but it causes far greater suffering. We cannot afford to lose sight of that fact. This too is an emergency."

The Government of Japan, host of the five-day World Conference on Disaster Reduction, today transferred US$ 60 million for WFP's tsunami relief efforts, the largest single donation to date. The immediacy of this contribution lends tremendous support to WFP. Morris met representatives of the Governments of Japan and Sri Lanka, and thanked Japan for its generous contribution. "I am deeply grateful to the Government and people of Japan for their solidarity with the nations devastated by this crisis," said Morris.

WFP is working around the clock to deliver emergency food relief for up to two million people affected by the tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Myanmar and Somalia. More than one million of the most critically-affected people had already received food rations within 20 days of the tsunami.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school -- a gift of hope for a brighter future.

For more information please contact (email:

Kaoru Nemoto
WFP Japan
Mob: +81 90 9844 9990

Heather Hill
WFP Indonesia
Mob: +62 811 864383

Gerald Bourke
WFP Indonesia (Banda Aceh)
Mob: + 62 811 98 7360 or + 86 1380 1054051
Tel: + 62651 49841/40810

Bettina Luescher
WFP Sri Lanka
Tel: + 49-170-9039479

Gregory Barrow
WFP London
Tel: +44 207 5929292
Mob: +44 7968 008474

Caroline Hurford
WFP Rome
Tel: + 3906 65132330
Mob: + 393481325018

Trevor Rowe
WFP New York
Mob: +1 646 8241112
Tel: +1 212 963 5196

Christiane Berthiaume
WFP Geneva
Tel: + 41229178581
Mob: + 4179 774 3921

Visit our website: To access WFP's up-to-the-minute maps on the tsunami crisis, go to For detailed information on air operations and other logistical activities, visit