June 8, 2006

Rich countries need to pay up for emergencies: WFP

LONDON (Reuters) - Rich countries, particularly in the
Middle East, are shirking their moral duty to contribute enough
cash to tackle humanitarian emergencies, the head of the U.N.
World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday.

Describing it as "the scandal of our time," James Morris
said 350 million children were still hungry in 2006 while the
oil-rich countries of the Gulf were contributing only a
fraction of what they could give in multilateral aid.

"For us to do what we want to do sufficiently, we need
substantial more help from the Middle East," he said noting
that while Gulf countries could be giving the WFP up to $300
million a year, they were paying out only 10 percent of that.

He also singled out China and Russia as international aid
laggards among 25 countries he said could do better.

Morris was speaking to reporters after returning from a
week-long visit to Sudan.

He said there had been progress in the aid operation there,
noting peace accords had been signed and African Union
peacekeepers were able to operate more effectively, but what
has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis was
far from over.

The WFP faced the prospect of having to feed up to six
million people in Sudan by October -- the height of the
so-called lean season -- but funding was lagging and a serious
hole loomed for next year.

In May, the WFP was forced to halve its food rations to 2.7
million people in Sudan's Darfur region, where tens of
thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million
have fled their homes since rebels took up arms in 2003

It has since increased the rations to 85 percent of the
full amount following a series of new donations from the
Sudanese government and other last-minute donors, but Morris
said full rations would not be restored until October at the

The WFP is also having to test the 20,000 tonnes of sorghum
from Sudan's strategic food reserves after U.N. sources said it
had stored for too long and was infested with insects.

Morris said it was vital for donor countries to plan ahead
because of the long time lag for contributions to reach people
in the form of food and aid.

"It takes four to six months to convert a commitment into
something usable," he said.