GENEVA - The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, today called on members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to recognize the importance of food aid and support it as they negotiate agricultural trade reform.
Morris, who was for the first time addressing WTO representatives from Africa and the least developed countries, stressed the importance of strengthening the nutritional impact of food aid for those who needed it, while at the same time minimizing any commercial distortion caused by food aid on international and local markets.
Morris expressed his concern that discussions in the WTO Doha Round about "disciplines" on food aid could lead to a further dwindling of such aid, which had already plummeted by nearly 30 percent - from 10.3 million tons to 7.5 million tons in the past year alone, according to figures issued by WFP last week.
"The simple truth is that food aid commitments and deliveries are nose-diving while WTO is discussing their discipline. Please remember that simple fact and that the world's hungry children are paying the price," Morris said. "We do not oppose disciplines but we favour disciplines on food aid that make it more effective - sound food needs assessments, careful targeting and monitoring. That kind of discipline can be part of genuine agricultural trade reform that eliminates or greatly reduces the subsidies that distort food production and trade."
"These subsidies have done great harm to the competitiveness of developing countries and bled the treasuries of the developed world. Just a week's worth of those subsidies would give WFP and its partners enough money to eliminate child hunger in the neediest countries of the world," he added.
"I have just returned from Central America, where there are four million chronically hungry children. In Guatemala, one child in two suffers from malnutrition - in some rural areas the figure is as high as nine out of ten," Morris said. "Few people realize that hunger and malnutrition are, according to the World Health Organization, still the greatest threat to health worldwide, claiming roughly 10 million lives each year."
Morris said that while just four donors - the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan - currently contributed about 70 percent of the WFP's resources, a growing proportion of food aid was now coming from the developing and middle income countries. It was critical to keep up this momentum with these countries.
"If we are to make progress towards the goal of halving the number of hungry people, then many more partners need to join the effort. We especially need the help of more developing countries," Morris said. "The world's poor simply pass their hunger from generation to generation. You can help us by creating an enabling environment for food aid, and not one that undermines it."
More people died last year because they were hungry and malnourished than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
852 million people live with hunger, including 300 million children who are chonically hungry.
Apart from progress made in China, the number of hungry people has actually risen by nearly 60 million people since 1992.
At the same time, the volume of food aid worldwide has plummeted from 15 million tons in 1999 to 7.5 million tons last year.
Ironically, this has happened despite dramatic increases in ODA to $80 billion annually (a rise of almost 35% from 10 years ago).
The world's hungry are worse off now than they have been in years.
One in four of the world's children is underweight. The world's poor simply pass their hunger from generation to generation.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.
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.
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Deputy Director Communications