Tens of millions of the world's poor will have their food rations cut or cancelled in the next few weeks because rich countries have slashed aid funding.
The result, says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Program (WFP), could be the "loss of a generation" of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilization. We are facing a silent tsunami."
New data seen show that food aid is now at its lowest in 20 years. If nothing more is given, 2009 will be its lowest contribution since 2001.
World food supplies are under increased strain this year following a succession of droughts, typhoons, floods and earthquakes that have destroyed crops in Africa and south-east Asia. But human needs are also greater because the financial crisis has led to widespread unemployment. In addition, the remittances from foreign nationals living in rich countries to their families at home are 20% lower than last year.
Says Sheeran. "Many of our funders do not feel that they need to give on the level of last year. They think the world food crisis is over, but in 80% of countries food prices are actually higher than one year ago."
Says Fred Mousseau, Oxfam's humanitarian policy adviser: "This will translate into more child deaths, with more than 16,000 children already dying from hunger-related causes every day."