CHIWAN PORT, CHINA - The arrival of the last shipment of WFP food aid to China marks a significant watershed in the campaign to end global hunger, the world's largest humanitarian agency declared today.
The docking in southeastern Shenzhen city of the MV Blue Dream, carrying 43,450 tonnes of grain, capped 25 years of World Food Programme assistance, the United Nations agency said, while urging fast-growing China to step up support for hundreds of millions of malnourished people beyond its borders.
"This final cargo is above all a tribute to China's singular success in alleviating hunger at home," said WFP Executive Director, James Morris. "China is now one of the world's leaders in fighting hunger -- this is a truly historic moment."
"WFP has phased out assistance to more than two dozen countries over the past ten years, but China's transition is by far the most significant. We need China's help and resources to apply the crucial lessons learned here to other countries still struggling with hunger," said Morris.
The wheat, valued at US$7.2 million (RMB60 million), is to be distributed to more than 400,000 poor farmers and their families to support food-for-work schemes in four provinces: Gansu, Guangxi, Ningxia and Shanxi. Over 60 percent of the recipients will be women and children. The shipment is part of a multilateral donation from the Government of Canada, allocated by WFP to China.
"This last shipment represents a turning point in our relationship with China," said WFP's Representative in China, Douglas Broderick. "Having fed 30 million people over a quarter of a century, WFP now looks to Beijing to share its expertise and commitment."
WFP is phasing out assistance at the end of this year. Since 1979, WFP has provided China with aid valued at almost US$1 billion, helping millions of vulnerable people in remote central and western regions meet their immediate food needs and create community assets. These include roads, irrigation networks and drinking water systems.
Some 300 million Chinese have been propelled out of poverty over the same period, a hugely impressive achievement underpinned by the country's rapid development into one of the world's most dynamic and competitive economies.
China attained national food self-sufficiency in the mid-1990s, nourishing 20 percent of the world's population from just seven percent of its arable farmland. By 2000, the average per capita calorie intake of its rural population had reached 2,600 kilocalories, exceeding the internationally recommended minimum.
The Chinese government has been an increasingly strong supporter of WFP's work in the country. Since 2001 it has been committing twice the value of resources the agency mobilises from external donors. Last year, its contributions amounted to more than US$35 million (RMB290 million) up from US$20 million (RMB165 million) in 2003.
China has also provided funding to help WFP feed hungry people elsewhere in Asia, and in Africa. Earlier this year it pledged US$1 million (RMB8.3 million) to support the provision of emergency food assistance to needy survivors of the tsunami that devastated large areas around the Indian Ocean last December.
In addition to promising higher financial contributions, China is now working with WFP on the terms of an agreement to make its very considerable expertise available to strengthen the agency's capacity to respond to sudden food emergencies.
"China's leaders acknowledge that hunger and poverty are root causes of conflict and instability around the world, and are committed to advancing the development of poor countries," Broderick said.
Globally, the number of hungry people is rising, with some 852 million people undernourished worldwide. Yet the availability of food aid has declined from 15 million tonnes in 1999 to 10 million tonnes last year.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year. WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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