World food aid at 20-year low, 1 billion hungry-WFP

LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Food aid is at a 20-year low despite the number of critically hungry people soaring this year to its highest level ever, the United Nations relief agency said on Wednesday.

The number of hungry people will pass 1 billion this year for the first time, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said, adding that it is facing a serious budget shortfall.

To date the WFP has confirmed $2.6 billion in funding for its 2009 budget of $6.7 billion.

"This comes at a time of great vulnerability for the hungry," the WFP said in a statement.

"Millions have been buffeted by the global financial downturn, their ability to buy food is limited by stubbornly high prices. In addition, unpredictable weather patterns are causing more weather-related hunger," the WFP said. (Editing by Anthony Barker)