Josette Sheeran, head of the UN World Food Programme, says that one third of children in developing countries have stunted growth due to hunger. She recently held a press conference in Washington urging action to fight the hunger now afflicting now over one billion people worldwide.
Sheeran says the Obama administration showed leadership in rallying the G-8 to commit $20 billion over three years to a plan to increase food production. But safety-net programs like school feeding also need to be increased now to fight the hunger crisis.
The World Food Programme is having to cut back programs like school feeding due to funding shortfalls totaling at least $3 billion.
Sheeran talked about making cuts to a school feeding program in Haiti because of lack of funding. The Haiti program had been running through the summer to help communities recovering from the 2008 food riots. Sheeran says, “it’s why we’re really putting out the alarm, because now is not the time to peel back these programs, which we’re about to have to do because of the level of funding.” Sheeran added, “I think it’s destabilizing to pull back emergency, urgent hunger programs at this extremely vulnerable time.”
At the press conference Nancy Roman, WFP's public policy director, also talked about devastating ration cuts. Roman stated that in Kenya, "we've determined to reach about 3.2 million people, mostly in rural areas. But we're having to give them significantly reduced rations… half the count really that we and others have determined that they need to be healthy."
Any program to increase food production will take some time to implement, and populations could suffer in the interim from ration cuts. The World Food Programme and a coalition of charities are seeking a comprehensive plan to tackle hunger that includes meeting emergency and interim food needs while building agricultural production.