World Food Programme: Giving generously

AS RECENTLY as the mid-20th century, famines over the world still killed large numbers of people. Millions died in Ukraine in the 1930s; in India, Vietnam and Indonesia in the 1940s; and in China in the 1950s, in disastrous (though often man-made) hunger crises. To help minimise the costs of future famines the World Food Programme (WFP) was founded by the United Nations in 1961, as a multilateral institution designed to co-ordinate the distribution of food aid to needy places around the world. Last year, the WFP helped to feed over 90m people in 80 different countries.But the way it distributes food relief has been changing. In the 1960s, the organisation’s aid programmes for the developing world focussed on the distribution of food staples, often bought in developed countries, directly to the poor. Later, it was discovered that sourcing food more locally tended to be less disruptive to the local economy. Free distribution of food imported from elsewhere can undercut local food markets and cause more fundamental economic problems to occur. Buying more of it locally, it was found, tended to help farmers in the region more in the medium term.In some ways, this has been a successful strategy. Deaths from famines in the last decade have dropped to the tens of thousands rather than the millions seen earlier in the century. For instance, when food prices increased …

Link to article: www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/03/world-food-programme?fsrc=rss

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