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WFP sounds alert as world food aid plummets by 30 percent in 2004


ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has released global food aid figures for 2004 which paint a depressing picture for hundreds of millions of malnourished people. Total food aid delivered from all sources slid from 10.3 million tons in 2003 all the way down to 7.5 million tons in 2004.

The latest fall is part of a general decline in food aid volume since 1999, when 15 million tons of food aid were delivered. Over the same period, the numbers of chronically hungry people around the world rose by nearly eight percent.

Higher prices for cereals and record transport costs contributed to the precipitous slide. Total cereals provided by WFP, bilateral donations and through NGOs slipped from 8.9 million metric tons to 6.4 million metric tons, while non-cereals dipped from 1.3 million metric tons to 1.0 million metric tons.

"We are very disturbed by this trend. All the major donors have been building up their development assistance over the last few years and it is at a record level of nearly $80 billion. So the money is out there. More of it must make its way to hungry people," said WFP Executive Director James Morris.

"Five years ago, when food aid was 15 million tons, our colleagues at the Food and Agriculture Organization calculated that there were 790 million hungry people in the world. Now that figure has climbed to 852 million. And yet there is only half as much food available to meet their needs. That is shameful and unacceptable," Morris said.

Total food delivered through the World Food Programme slipped from 4.9 million tons in 2003 to 3.7 million tons in 2004 - a drop of 25 percent, somewhat less than the global trend. WFP the principal multilateral channel for food aid also accounted for nearly half the total food delivered for the first time.

"It's time for a Food First policy," Morris said. "Hungry children don't get any sustenance from the roads, ports and factories we build with the increases in development aid. But just who are we building this infrastructure for? We have to put ending hunger and malnutrition at the top of our priority list. The cost in human suffering is just too high and it's going up."

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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Brenda Barton,
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Christiane Berthiaume,
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Trevor Rowe,
WFP/New York,
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Gregory Barrow,
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Bettina Luescher,
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