NEW DELHI - The head of the United Nations World Food Programme, James T. Morris, today hailed the growing cooperation between the UN food aid agency and the Government of India in their common cause of reducing global hunger and promoting good nutrition among the poor, especially children.
Speaking today on an official visit to India, Morris said that the Asian economic powerhouse has both large grain reserves and vast experience in public food security programmes that can be marshaled for the benefit of the millions of hungry poor in Asia and around the world.
"WFP's partnership with India has tremendous potential for identifying innovative solutions to the problems not only of food insecurity but also the rising HIV rates and the natural disasters endemic to the region," Morris said.
During the five-day visit, WFP and the Government of India signed a cooperation agreement for the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. Sound nutrition is critical for people who are HIV-positive. When a patient develops AIDS, family food supplies often plummet. WFP will supply technical expertise in a three-year project that uses food in a variety of ways to encourage prevention, care and support of people living with HIV and AIDS as well as the treatment of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis.
Morris emphasized that the Government of India, by providing the food under this programme, is once again demonstrating to the world its humanitarian commitment to use its surplus food stock for the benefit of the vulnerable poor.
"WFP is proud to be a partner in this ground-breaking project and I am confident it will fulfil its dual purpose: to bring infection rates in the AIDS pandemic under control and give people living with the disease a longer and healthier life," Morris said.
Morris said that the agreement, signed during a two-day conference staged by the Government's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) that was the first of its kind in the south Asian country, is just one example of the strengthening partnership between India and WFP.
Morris stated that in his talks with the President of India, Dr. A. P.J. Abdul Kalam; Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress; and key cabinet ministers, he was impressed by the deeply felt commitment to undertake a leadership role in the fight against hunger and child malnutrition.
He noted that the GOI has agreed to work with WFP to explore ways of applying India's strengths -- such as emergency response to natural disasters, food-for-work programmes and communications technology - to the eradication of hunger and poverty, with a special focus on helping children.
The GOI is WFP's leading "non-traditional" donor, with its pledge of one million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan, delivered through the UN agency. The wheat, pledged in 2001, is converted into micronutrient-rich biscuits that are distributed to more than one million schoolchildren in Afghanistan. This year, the GOI donated US $24.5 million to WFP operations fighting hunger around the world.
Morris noted that WFP is building its partnership with the GOI on the pillars of previous successful joint projects with the Government and the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation. He paid special tribute to Professor Swaminathan, known worldwide as the "Father of the Green Revolution" in India, as an iconic figure whose immense prestige has allowed WFP to move closer to the goal of eradicating hunger.
"A future lies before us in which there are no more children crying from hunger or mothers giving birth to stunted babies," said Morris. "The challenge is ours. I believe that partnerships like the one we have with India is the one sure road to take us to that future."
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.
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