High food prices have pushed another 105 million people into hunger in the first half of 2009, the head of the U.N. World Food Programme said on Friday, raising the total number of hungry people to over 1 billion.
Urging rich nations at a meeting of the Group of Eight's development ministers not cut back on aid, Josette Sheeran told Reuters the world faced a "human catastrophe" as more and more people struggle to eat a decent meal.
"This year we are clocking in on average four million new hungry people a week, urgently hungry," Sheeran told Reuters.
"Already for the first six months of this year, 105 million people have been added," she said, citing figures to be released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation next week that will raise the total number of undernourished people to over 1 billion.
In 2008, FAO said the world's hungry numbered 963 million.
The WFP needs $6.4 billion this year for food aid, but donors' contributions have fallen way behind that level -- it had around $1.5 billion at the end of last week.
The agency says it has had to cut food aid rations and shut down some operations in eastern Africa and North Korea because of the credit crunch.
"I know it seems a big figure, but if you compare it with the global stimulus package, it means that for less than 1 percent of that we could help meet the urgent human crisis that is unfolding, and that is just as essential to the stability of the world," Sheeran said.
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