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WFP leaders gather amidst growing hunger crises

WFP leaders, from some 80 countries, are gathering in the Danish capital over the next five days to discuss current and future challenges facing the world’s largest humanitarian organisation.

The number of chronically hungry people has been growing by four to five million a year since the mid-1990s, making achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, an increasingly remote possibility.

The fact that more than 300 million children are chronically hungry is the world’s greatest shame today
James Morris, WFP Executive Director
At the same time, WFP’s funding for major emergencies such as Darfur, Afghanistan and Niger fell to an average of only 57 percent in 2005, one of the lowest levels in its history.

The Danish government is hosting the Global Meeting. Denmark is one of WFP’s largest and most consistent donors; over the past five years, it has remained in the top 10 countries providing funds to help WFP do its work.

Immense challenges

Denmark is also among a small group of nations which have led the way in meeting the benchmark figure of donating at least 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income in Official Development Assistance.

The challenges facing WFP are immense. Last year opened with the Asian tsunami, continued with the devastating drought and locust invasion in Niger and ended with the earthquake in Pakistan – all of which stretched both donors’ generosity and WFP’s capacity to respond.

The task ahead is daunting. Although international development aid has reached record levels in recent years, the amount devoted to food aid for emergency operations is falling far short of needs.

Hunger on the rise

This can be seen in the struggle to reach the UN Millennium Development Goal aimed at halving the proportion of hungry by 2015. Since world leaders adopted this goal, the numbers of hungry have actually risen.

“We must reverse the trend, and give priority to the world’s poorest and hungriest people,” said James Morris, WFP Executive Director.

“Tens of millions of people, especially children, count on us each and every day. Investing in their lives and their futures will render huge dividends for generations to come. The fact that more than 300 million children are chronically hungry is the world’s greatest shame today,” he said.

Among the illustrious guests attending the meeting is the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who will address WFP staff on Sunday.