The U.N.'s World Food Program is struggling as costs of food and fuel skyrocket while the numbers of people needing help surge across the globe. Millions are in danger.
April 2, 2008 -- KHARTOUM, SUDAN (Los Angeles Times) -- For 15 years, he's been a "grocer" for Africa's destitute. But he's never seen anything like this.
Pascal Joannes' job is to find grains, beans and oils to fill a food basket for Sudan's neediest people, from Darfur refugees to schoolchildren in the barren south.
Lately Joannes has spent less time shopping and more time poring over commodity price lists, usually in disbelief.
"White beans at $1,160," the white-haired Belgian, 52, cries in despair over the price of a metric ton. "Complete madness! I bought them two years ago in Ethiopia for $235."
Joannes is head of procurement in Sudan for the World Food Program, the United Nations agency in charge of alleviating world hunger.
Meteoric food and fuel prices, a slumping dollar, the demand for biofuels and a string of poor harvests have combined to abruptly multiply WFP's operating costs, even as needs increase. In other words, if the number of needy people stayed constant, it would take much more money to feed them. But the number of people needing help is surging dramatically. It is what WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran calls "a perfect storm" hitting the world's hungry.