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UN food program cuts back aid

There likely won't be enough money to feed everyone who qualifies for food aid in many African countries.

“If we don't get a cash injection by that time, we will have to start winding the service down, and ultimately the whole service itself will be suspended,” said the program’s senior public affairs officer, Greg Barrow.

“How will doctors reach their patients? How will people have clean water if the engineers who help to build wells can’t get there?” wrote Pierre Carrasse, chief of the program’s aviation department, in a media statement.

The timing comes at an awkward moment for farmers and livestock herders in East Africa and the Sahel, where drought and high food prices have aggravated unemployment and hunger.
Food prices in African markets have been so awry that, in a rare twist, the U.N. finds itself feeding the urban poor in capital city shantytowns, where humanitarian assistance has never before been needed. Many of the newcomers there are ex-shepherds and goatherds who have abandoned the desiccating pastures of Africa's Sahel.

Those herders who have stayed behind, and are trying to eke out a living despite plummeting livestock prices, are becoming more difficult for aid agencies like WFP to reach.

And the food itself is coming from further afield, too. In East Africa, food agencies are buying foodstocks from India and South Africa to keep from depleting the already strained local supply.

"We're at the point where the numbers of hungry people are projected to pass 1 billion for the first time in human history," Barrow said. "The budget that we are asking for this year is a lot of money, but if you compare it to the amount of money that governments have found for financial rescue programs and economic stimulus, it's actually not a lot, and the impact if we can't find that money is going to be huge."