A U.N. agency rolled out a $214million program Tuesday to help 16needy places hit hard by high prices for food and oil, amid a crisis already making it hard for aid groups to provide enough food for the world's hungry.
The World Food Program said almost 1billion poor people around the world are struggling to survive amid the higher prices. The agency is trying to reach those in critical need of assistance in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
“Food prices are not abating, and the world's most vulnerable have exhausted their coping strategies,” said Josette Sheeran, the agency's executive director. “Our action plan is targeted and customized to help the most vulnerable meet their urgent needs.”
The plan will provide assistance to groups such as pregnant women, undernourished children and people living in urban areas affected most by the food crisis.
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The Rome-based agency also hopes to cut transportation costs and help support farmers in countries where emergency food can be bought locally.
But the agency already faces “obstacles” in procuring food, particularly when trying to buy supplies locally, spokeswoman Brenda Barton said.
“At the markets we have been buying food it has become just too expensive,” Barton told The Associated Press. And, she added, “a lot of markets just don't have any food to buy.”
The agency's base budget for 2008 has risen from an original $3.1 billion to nearly twice as much. The base budget is the funding needed to reach 90 million people worldwide during the year, but the agency has collected only half of the required sum.
The price crisis is affecting many humanitarian groups.
“At a local level food prices are increasing and that, of course, impacts on our programs, making them more expensive,” said Chris Leather, a food security expert for the international relief group Oxfam. “It means that we have to increase the amount of money we are asking from our donors.”