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Relief for World Food Crisis Made More Difficult by Cyclones, Riots

In the wake of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar and widespread rioting in Somalia, the international community continues to try and respond with food relief programs to confront the rising need. World Food Program's head Josette Sheeran discusses the relief efforts.

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    For more on that, we turn to Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program.


    How has the World Food Program had to respond to the storms in Burma?

  • JOSETTE SHEERAN, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Program:

    Well, they have really taken their toll.

    We have planned an emergency operation, which should be approved tomorrow, to reach 500,000 people with emergency food assistance. And we're also worried because these storms have hit right in the middle of the rice harvest. And we're worried about the food lost, as we saw last year in Bangladesh, where we lost 300,000 acres of food production in the storm.

    So, we are worried about the immediate-term effect and making sure we reach people and save lives, but also the food that is lost for kind of future needs.


    Wasn't there already a tight food supply situation in Southeast Asia, with rice in particular?


    There is a tight food situation all over the world, including in Southeast Asia. So, we can't really afford to lose any of this production there. So, we will be monitoring that situation also and looking at how much we have lost as soon as things settle down.


    Well, when there is a catastrophe like that, where do you get the grain from on an emergency basis, if the neighbors can't immediately pony it up?


    Well, Ray, this is becoming an increasing problem.

    Today, more and more nations have shut down the ability to export food. And, in fact, we're really appealing globally for nations to allow at least for humanitarian purchases, even when they block exports of food right now, because we're having more and more trouble buying just to help people that are the victims of war or storms or just severe abject hunger.