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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – January 13, 2003: World Hunger Crisis - 2003-01-10

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

International experts are concerned about a growing humanitarian crisis – world hunger. Last year, the World Food Program fed more than seventy-seven-million people in eighty-two countries. Many of the people who received food aid are refugees and people forced to leave their homes because of conflict. This year, the humanitarian organization estimates an additional twenty-five-million people will need food aid.

Several problems have caused the world hunger crisis. These include severe dry weather and conflicts within and between countries. The World Food Program says starvation is a problem in parts of Asia, Central America and the Middle East. However, the hardest hit area is Africa. Officials estimates about forty-million people on that continent alone are threatened with starvation.

Trevor Rowe is a spokesman for the World Food Program. He says people in Ethiopia and Eritrea are facing starvation because of dry weather and a continuing war along their shared border. Severe dry weather conditions, or drought, have left fields unfertile. This lack of rain has also halted crop production in southern Africa. People in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi are also suffering from starvation. The World Food Program calls this area of Africa the “hunger belt.”

Emergency efforts to ease the hunger crisis in southern Africa began nine months ago. By the end of last year, the World Food Program had given more than two-hundred-seventy-thousand metric tons of food to the six countries. However, food shipments could soon be halted if the World Food Program does not receive more money. Officials say the aid program in southern Africa needs about two-hundred-million dollars through March.

The World Food Program is urging the international community to give more money. Officials say help is especially important now because early signs point to another possible drought in southern Africa this year.

Mister Rowe says the disease AIDS in Africa is making the hunger crisis even worse. People are extremely weakened by the disease. So they cannot farm and they cannot take care of themselves. Mister Rowe says hunger and disease are linked. He describes the situation in Africa as a crisis within a crisis.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.