Threat to millions as food aid scheme runs out of money

Faced with the dramatically spiralling costs of wheat, rice and corn, the World Food Programme has made an unprecedented appeal for at least $500m (£250m) to help it continue supplying food aid to 73 million needy people this year.

Josette Sheeran, the organisation's executive director, told journalists yesterday that this was the first time in its history that the WFP had appealed for funds, not because of a crisis caused by famine or war but because of market conditions. And she warned that if extra resources were not received before the beginning of May, food rations would have to be cut.

"This is the new face of hunger," she said. "People are simply being priced out of food markets. It's the first time we have been hit by a dramatic market surprise. We have never before had a situation where aggressive rises in food prices keep pricing our operations out of our reach."

The WFP estimates that food prices rose by 55 per cent between June and the end of February, meaning it needed an extra $500m on top of the $2.9bn it had already budgeted for. However, prices have risen a further 20 per cent in the past three weeks, meaning the organisation's emergency shortfall could, in reality, be closer to $700m.

"It's a situation that is changing nearly every day. We used to adjust our basic food prices every year or two but now it's weekly or even daily because the changes are so quick and, unfortunately, all seem to go in the same direction," said Ms Sheeran.

She warned that if donors did not stump up: "We will see the scaling back of operations in the next months – each operation will need to be scaled back. There could be quite a dramatic effect on the number of people we are able to provide with food."

Rice last week jumped to a three-decade high, experiencing the same sort of spike that has already affected wheat, corn and soybeans. The price of these staple foods has been driven skywards by increased demand for food from the newly prospering parts of south and east Asia, damage to crops by natural disasters, and by the growing demand for biofuels. "It's a global phenomenon which is hitting the most vulnerable populations hard," Ms Sheeran said.

In Bangladesh, those on a dollar a day are dropping the protein element of their diet because they can only afford the basic staple rice. "And even those earning $2 a day are forced into coping strategies which could lead to a malnutrition crisis," Ms Sheeran said. "They are giving up health or educational needs to get a basic food budget."

It is the people eking out an existence on 50 cents per day that are suffering most, however, like people in some parts of El Salvador who have been forced to halve their nutritional intake. "We now have a situation where there's a lot of food on the shelves but people cannot afford it," Ms Sheeran said.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, wrote in an editorial in the Washington Post: "The new face of hunger is increasingly affecting communities that had previously been protected. The 'bottom billion', people living on one dollar a day or less ... do one of two things: they buy less food, or they buy cheaper, less nutritious food. The result is the same: more hunger and less chance of a healthy future."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?