WFP chief warns of greater challenges in 2006

Dec 30, 2005
Author: P&S

ROME. The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, this week described 2005 as the most challenging year the
humanitarian aid world had faced since World War II, but also warned that the New Year will undoubtedly bring further emergencies and even greater demands on donors.

"The fact is that 2005 was an exceptional year of disaster for millions of people across the world," Morris said, recalling the relentless onslaught of the Indian Ocean tsunami, drought and locusts in Niger, continuing conflict in Darfur, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Stan, and concluding with the devastating earthquake in Kashmir.

"None of us knows what 2006 will bring. We can hope for a calmer year, with timely rainfall and limited seismic activity. But we have to be prepared for every eventuality. And if that means appealing for even more funding from our donors, that's exactly what we'll be doing."

Morris expressed concern that in contrast to the overwhelming response to the tsunami, many WFP operations remained dangerously underfunded. For example, its appeal for US0 million to provide air support for UN relief operations in Pakistan is less than half funded (US.6 million), while its operation to feed some 10 million people in southern Africa was more than US0 million short of the US7 million needed by April 2006.

"Part of the problem is that we have become inured to television pictures of drought, floods, landslides and earthquakes - even to wars. We still feel compassion, but we have lost the sense of urgency. And what we feel as individuals is reflected in action by governments - the donations come in, but often more slowly than needed," Morris said.

In the end, however, the response of most donors to crises in 2005 had been terrific, he said.

Morris said one of the biggest challenges that WFP currently faces is in overcoming the time lag between a disaster occurring and donations coming in. One way WFP is achieving this is by drawing on reserve funds in anticipation of donations coming in. However, the agency is also experimenting with a scheme to provide famine insurance to vulnerable populations in regions prone to drought.


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