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Strengthening the fight against hunger

Jun 21, 2010

Fighting Hunger Worldwide, a World Food Programme report underlines that the number of hungry people worldwide grew to more than 1 billion and many are still not able to afford food, particularly the rural poor. The report indicates that man-made and natural disasters affected these people and world food programme most.

Fighting Hunger Worldwide

Publisher: WFP, 2010

World Food Programme confronted a succession of challenges in 2009, each one demanding new approaches in the struggle to bring a measure of relief to the world’s hungry poor. Chief among these was the changing face of hunger itself, which continued to evolve over the course of the year as the numbers of hungry people in the world climbed to record highs, exceeding one billion.


Their ranks were swelled by entirely new sectors of society, including millions of unskilled urban workers driven into poverty and hunger by the twin afflictions of a global economic crisis and persistently high food prices.

For WFP, the sharp increase in the scale and nature of worldwide hunger posed a doubleedged dilemma. Not only did it include people beyond the agency’s traditional beneficiaries among the rural poorest of the poor, but it also occurred at a time when international food supplies were available.

The message, in brief, was stark: Many people were unable to feed themselves in 2009 not because they could not find food, but rather because they could no longer afford it.

WFP responded by delivering more food with less money. The agency reached 101.8 million people — 84 million of them women and children — in 75 countries in 2009. An unprecedented 4.6 million metric tons were delivered, higher than the 3.9 million metric tons distributed in 2008, when slightly more people — 102 million — were reached.

But WFP managed to achieve this feat with fewer resources. Donors were generous in 2009, contributing $4.2 billion, well above WFP’s $3.7 billion target but below the record sum of more than $5 billion contributed in 2008. Mobilizing such massive levels of funding, particularly against the backdrop of an economic downturn, proved to be one of WFP’s more complex challenges during the year.

If funding posed problems in 2009, other difficulties arose as a result of the deteriorating security climate for WFP staff and installations around the world. The agency, along with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, was targeted during the year by various armed groups and disenfranchised elements. The situation was further exacerbated by a disinformation campaign waged by militants urging violence against humanitarian organizations in general and against UN agencies in particular.

More than 600 security incidents involving WFP staff or installations were reported during the year, including intimidation, harassment, detention, theft, abduction and violent death. The most serious occurred in October, when a suicide bomber killed himself and five WFP staff at WFP’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan. In all, 15 people lost their lives while working for WFP in 2009, and another 35 were injured.

For WFP, staff security remained paramount, then and now. At the same time, WFP also recognized its mandate as a front-line humanitarian agency with responsibility for the lives of millions of victims of war and civil unrest. In response to these two competing concerns, the agency chose to adopt, as far as practicable, a “how to stay” security culture to ensure that WFP could continue to address the critical hunger needs of affected populations anywhere in the world.

While man-made disasters occupied WFP in 2009, the agency also coped with the effects of catastrophes provoked by nature. The UN’s International Strategy for Disaster eduction recorded 245 natural disasters during the year, of which 224 were weather-related and accounted for 7,000 deaths.

For WFP, the greatest challenge occurred as 2009 drew to a close and the new year dawned. Early in January 2010, Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which devastated the island country’s capital city and surrounding regions. In seconds, Port-au-Prince lay in ruins, creating the conditions for the most complex emergency operation WFP had ever mounted.

Never before had the agency been called upon to deliver relief in an urban environment that had been so damaged — shorn almost completely of infrastructure, with operations further hampered by the government’s severely restricted capacity to respond. Despite the difficulties, WFP managed to reach more than two million beneficiaries with more than 9,000 metric tons of rice within the first two weeks.

The Haiti quake came on the heels of a multiple disaster on the other side of the world. In late September and throughout October, the Philippines was pummelled by a string of typhoons, which submerged 80 percent of the capital city of Manila in floodwaters and laid waste to the country’s rice bowl in northern Luzon.

WFP responded with an extensive relief operation that would eventually reach more than 1 million people and cost almost 57 million by the time the initiative ended in June, 2010. he typhoons that hammered the Philippines highlighted yet another challenge WFP faced in 2009, one that it shares with the rest of the planet. Erratic weather conditions are global and require harmonized and concerted efforts worldwide. To this end, WFP enhanced cooperation throughout the year with a host of UN, government, nongovernmental and private organizations to prepare for and respond to the increasing number of weather-related disasters on our work.

These included following up the successful weather-index based insurance pilots WFP has operated in China and Ethiopia, as well as undertaking country-level feasibility assessments in China, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mali. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, WFP continued to develop RiskView, a software platform that quantifies weather-related food security risk in operational cost terms.

To strengthen the information pool about climate and weather-related disasters, WFP signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Meteorological Organization and as 2009 ended was working on a similar arrangement with the UN Environment Programme.

WFP also drew on its partnerships in the scientific community, both public and private, to introduce a range of innovative new technologies designed to ensure that the agency is better prepared for emergencies and able to respond faster and more effectively when they occur. Recent advances in satellite and other remote sensing technologies proved particularly effective, equipping WFP with “eyes in the sky” to forecast, monitor and deliver early warnings of climate-related hazards throughout the year.

But not even cutting-edge technology could mask the fact that WFP faced an unusual set of challenges in 2009. And those experiences clearly demonstrated that a “business as usual” approach was not enough in the search for solutions to global hunger. Accordingly, WFP began one new initiative in 2009 and accelerated another that had been launched the previous year.

The new initiative tackled chronic malnutrition. Rather than focusing on only the caloric content of generalized food rations, WFP began to design individual programmes for the specific nutritional needs of separate groups of vulnerable people, particularly young children and mothers.

At the same time, new nutritionally enhanced food products were developed and deliveries to targeted groups expedited. Purchase for Progress, or P4P, first launched late in 2008, uses WFP’s ability to buy food as a tool to both stimulate production and link small farmers to agricultural markets. 

In 2009, P4P began to gather pace. By the end of the year, the project had started implementation in 19 of 21 selected pilot countries, with 39,000 metric tons of staple crops purchased from 80 farmers’ organizations in 13 countries. Both of these initiatives underlined the new approach WFP embarked upon in 2010 in the search for the most appropriate — and effective — measures to deal with the changing face of global hunger.

Source : IISD
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