Netherlands' donations to WFP top US$100 million in 2005

WFP has hailed the Netherlands for contributing more than US$100 million in 2005 to feed hungry people (mainly in Africa) and praised the type of donations for providing the flexibility required so food swiftly reaches those who need it most.

“The generosity of the Dutch is really extraordinary. The Netherlands has surpassed itself this year by contributing to WFP US$102 million so far – after giving US$78 million in 2004,” said WFP Executive Director James Morris.

“This money is saving lives. There’s simply no better investment than that.”

Fifth highest per capita donor

The most recent donation of almost US$10 million from the Netherlands makes it WFP’s fifth highest per capita donor for 2005, with every man, woman and child in the European country giving an average of US$6.30 to WFP – now the world’s biggest humanitarian agency.

The latest nearly US$10 million contribution goes to WFP’s operations in southern Africa, where more than 10 million people urgently need assistance.

Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all been hit by a fourth successive year of erratic weather that destroyed large swathes of agricultural production across the region.

HIV/AIDS pandemic

The food shortages have a devastating impact on millions of people affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region. Southern Africa has nine of the ten countries with the highest adult prevalence rates in the world; as a result, average life expectancy is declining as the number of children being orphaned rises.

There are currently four million orphans in southern Africa, many of whom do not have regular access to food, clean water, sanitation and education.

Plea by Kofi Annan

The donation from the Netherlands follows a recent plea by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan sent to 27 heads of state, the European Commission and the African Development Bank.

In a letter to world leaders, Annan said: “If we are to avert a catastrophe in a few months’ time, then food and cash must be pledged immediately,” to southern Africa.

WFP has an immediate funding shortfall of US$219 million to help 8.3 million of the most vulnerable people in the region through to the next harvest in March/April 2006.

Channelling funds

The Netherlands has given a total of US$13 million in cash for southern Africa in 2005 and late 2004 - without specifying which countries it should go to. This gives WFP the opportunity to channel funds to less funded emergencies and to buy food locally rather than wait months for “in-kind” food shipments to arrive.

“As long as sufficient amounts of food are available locally, and it’s of acceptable quality, buying in-country or in the region not only helps to support local markets, but it cuts down on transport costs and usually helps people get the food more quickly,” Morris said.

“The crisis in southern Africa is at a critical stage and the world must respond quickly while we have the opportunity to stop hungry people becoming starving people.”

Relief operations

In addition, the Netherlands has given a total of US$22.4 million so far in 2005 to WFP for its relief operations in Sudan and Chad, leaving WFP the option of deciding which particular operations in those countries get the funding.

Other 2005 donations from the Netherlands to WFP operations include: US$6.4 million to the Indian Ocean tsunami; US$7.8 million for Ethiopia; US$2.5 in response to the crisis in Niger; and US$1.2 million for Mali.

Other places regularly supported by the Netherlands include the Great Lakes region, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, the West Africa coastal region, Uganda, Angola and Afghanistan.

In addition to directed donations, the Netherlands gave US$36 million in 2005 as multilateral contributions, which WFP can allocate to its various operations or use to repay internal loans.