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INTERVIEW-WFP asks billion people for 1 euro to beat hunger
* WFP launches Internet appeal to beat funding shortfall
* Record 1 billion people face hunger
* Ask 1 billion in rich nations for 1 euro each
(Adds details paragraphs 11-18)
By Daniel Flynn
ROME, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The World Food Programme, facing a major funding shortfall as donor governments are hit by the financial crisis, is appealing directly to one billion individuals to give small amounts of cash to beat hunger.
Josette Sheeran, head of the U.N. food aid body, said the aim of the Internet appeal, launched on Saturday, was to get people in wealthy nations to give just 1 euro ($1.50) a week, which would be enough to end hunger for another billion people in the developing world.
It is the first time the WFP, which is mainly funded by national governments, has launched such an appeal.
"We now have hunger galloping ahead -- over a billion people now for the first time in history -- and because of the financial pressure on governments we think it's really important now to call on the citizens of the world to help solve this problem directly," Sheeran told Reuters in an interview.
Speaking ahead of a World Food Summit which starts on Monday in Rome, Sheeran said the WFP was on track to raise only around half the $6.7 billion it had targeted for this year, with most of it coming from national governments.
While this year's forecast $3.7 billion in donations would be WFP's second highest ever, it was still not enough to tackle the humanitarian crises around the globe, she said.
Sheeran said the WFP faced "a year of tough choices" as drought in the Horn of Africa, floods in the Philippines and conflict in northern Pakistan stretched its ability to cope with emergencies.
This came against a backdrop of tens of millions more people being forced into hunger by stubbornly high food prices in the developing world after the 2007-2008 food crisis.
"The problem at the moment is that WFP probably has 10 or 12 acute emergencies on its hands, each one complex, each one with its own compelling situation and none that can really afford to be neglected," Sheeran said.
"We are cutting rations, but we would rather send a message to the citizens of the world to help us fill this food cup," said Sheeran, holding a red food cup taken from a WFP programme in Rwanda. "Because it's just not an acceptable choice to not stand with those hungry right now."
CLICK ON THE RED CUP
Individuals can donate by visiting the WFP's website (www.wfp.org/1billion) and clicking on the red cup in the top right corner.
If even a fraction of the number of people targeted donated, it would provide a massive boost to the organisation's revenues, which are entirely funded by donations -- unlike some other U.N. agencies that draw revenues from the world body's budget.
The WFP, founded in 1962, expects to feed around 100 million people this year in 72 different countries, providing an estimated 28 billion meals. Only 7 percent of funds are spent on paying overheads, with the rest going to food aid, Sheeran said.
"We are saying to people...if they contribute, it will go to the intended purpose," said the former U.S. trade official. "Of the 25 cents it costs to get a cup of food to a child, 93 percent is for food and logistics."
"At WFP we are lean, we are not mean."
Next week's Rome summit organised by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will focus on increasing global agricultural output following the 2007-2008 crisis. That saw a doubling in the price of many staples, triggered by droughts, population growth, biofuel production and price speculation.
The FAO hopes to build on a pledge by leaders of rich nations at a G8 summit in Italy this year, who committed $20 billion over three years to boost agricultural output in poor countries, reducing the need for the food aid provided by WFP.
"Our missions at FAO and WFP are very different but can be complementary. Our joint message to the world is that we have to do both," said Sheeran. "The world has gotten itself in a bit of a mess on this issue and we now have urgent emergency hunger needs for one out of every six people on earth."
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