Moscow, 16 October 2008 - In the lead up to World Food Day, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) issued a challenge to its directors in more than 80 countries worldwide to develop new kinds of nutritional foods using local produce. The micro-nutrient rich products will be designed to reduce child malnutrition, especially among children under two.

“We’re learning that foods which are fortified for maximum nutritional impact can radically change children’s lives,” said Josette Sheeran, WFP’s Executive Director.

“We’re calling on our country leaders to be innovative in the critical area of nutrition, said Sheeran, adding that the irreversible damage of malnutrition – both physically and mentally - means a life sentence for 178 million children worldwide.

Rapidly rising food shortages, dramatic increases in fuel costs, and profound changes in climate conditions conspired this year to bring new dimensions of suffering and hardship to the poor, depriving almost one billion people of the food they need to live a healthy life.

"As world leaders are consumed with the unfolding financial crisis, now is the moment to send a powerful signal to those who are most vulnerable. The multiple crises – food, fuel, housing, credit – will hit all people hard, but for 923 million urgently hungry it has triggered a daily battle for life."

WFP’s private sector partner, Kemin Industries, has agreed to provide the overall scientific expertise and technical guidance. Among various quality standards, the resulting products must be locally acceptable, allow for scalable production, and be cost effective in the longer-term.

WFP is the world’s single largest purchaser of food for relief and safety net programs such as school feeding. In 2007, while assisting 86 million hungry people, the agency spent US$612 million on food in developing countries. This year it expects to purchase nearly US$1 billion.

World Food Day is 16 October. The number of undernourished people worldwide recently increased to 923 million in 2008, a rise of 75 million over previous figures.

“On this day, we remember those who have lived with the ache of hunger, for too long . . . and who now need our help even more.”

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN’s frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed 90 million people in 80 countries.

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