12 August 2008The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced the roll-out of a $214 million response to help millions in 16 countries hit hard by high food and fuel prices. The funds will provide critical assistance by providing life-saving food rations to highly vulnerable groups, continuing to feed school-aged children even while school is out, and giving supplemental food to pregnant women and young children whose mental and physical development is at stake.WFP also aims to expand food aid to urban areas hardest hit by high food prices, including through cash and vouchers, and to support small farmers and markets in countries where the agency will purchase food assistance locally, through the initiative. “With hunger on the rise, we are doing our best to stream incoming contributions to the people most in need in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “It is essential to launch a bold new set of responses to stem a full-blown hunger and nutritional crisis.” Ms. Sheeran noted that impoverished families that already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food are eating less, buying less nutritious foods, cutting out education and healthcare, and taking on more debt. “Food prices are not abating, and the world’s most vulnerable have exhausted their coping strategies,” she said. “Our action plan is targeted and customized to help the most vulnerable meet their urgent needs.” The new funding will assist people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Tajikistan, Uganda, Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territory.At the World Food Security conference in Rome in June, WFP announced a $1.2 billion cash package for 62 countries hit by high food prices.As a result of the rise in food prices, WFP’s budget to reach 90 million people worldwide in 2008 has risen from $3.1 billion to nearly $6 billion. So far, the voluntarily-funded agency has raised about half of its budget for this year, including through a historic $500 million donation by the Saudi Government earlier this year.