26 February 2008 The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is warning of a potential nutritional crisis in Central America, where the prices of wheat and corn have nearly doubled in the past year, bad weather has pushed the price of beans to unprecedented levels.
The agency notes that the surge has meant that the actual calorie intake of an average meal in rural El Salvador, for example, is today roughly 60 per cent of what it was in May 2006.
“At this stage it is still premature to provide figures, but we fear a deepening nutritional crisis among the poorest segments of the population, those already food and nutritionally insecure,” says WFP El Salvador Country Director Carlo Scaramella, who is coordinating a study of the impact of recent rising prices in the region.
“At the same time, what we are seeing is the emergence of a new group of nutritionally and food-insecure people among the poorest strata of the population,” he added.
In response to the growing crisis, WFP has increased local purchases and is urgently asking international donors for more contributions, to make up for its sharp decline in purchasing power. The agency has also set up an internal task force at its Rome headquarters and is reviewing ways to better target its assistance.
At the global level, WFP plans to launch a series of consultations with leading experts in the field of hunger and food security, and has called for a special meeting with key non-governmental organization (NGO) partners to tackle the issue.
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