From start to finish, 2008 was one of the most challenging in the World Food Programme’s history. The impact of high food prices, followed by the global financial downtown have placed extra strains on WFP’s work, and the lives of the almost 100 million people we aim to feed next year.
As an agency that depends entirely on voluntary donations, WFP has had to appeal repeatedly to donor governments to fund its operations. While food commodity prices have recently dropped from their peaks, many of those who depend on WFP for food assistance are still facing high prices on local markets.
In 2009, WFP needs to raise US$5.2 billion for urgent hunger needs and WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, has called for a “Human Rescue Package,” to feed the growing numbers of hungry people. Unless WFP can raise funds quickly for some of its most critical operations, warehouse stocks could run dry as early as March, affecting millions in Haiti, Uganda, Bangladesh and other global hotspots.
In response to the needs of the hungry, WFP is urging world leaders to commit just a fraction of the funds they have found to support bail-out packages for ailing financial institutions, or stimulus programmes to invigorate economies that have fallen into recession.
Even before this year comes to a close, a shortage of funds for vital operations has meant that WFP has been forced to cut rations to hungry people in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Without a rapid injection of funds, life-saving food assistance operations will come under threat in the New Year in Bangladesh, Chad, Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WFP’s work in Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, could also be jeopardised without new funding by the middle of the year.