- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

BEIJING — China became the world’s third-largest food-aid donor in 2005, the same year it stopped receiving assistance from the United Nations’ World Food Program, while the United States and the European Union remained the top two contributors, the U.N. agency says.

Donations from China almost tripled to 636,000 tons and accounted for more than half the rise in overall food-aid donations last year, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said in its annual report released late last week.

Most of China’s aid went to hunger-stricken North Korea, its longtime communist ally, with the rest going to Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Sri Lanka and a dozen other countries, according to the report.

The report was based on figures from the database of the International Food Aid Information System, which was developed by the WFP to help manage donations from around the world.

According to the WFP, global food aid grew by 10 percent to 9 million tons in 2005, with the United States providing 4.4 million tons, or 49 percent of the donations.

The European Union gave 1.65 million tons, the report said. Japan, the third-largest donor in 2004, was fourth in 2005, donating more than 440,000 tons.

Wheat and wheat flour were the main commodities donated, followed by coarse grains such as maize, maize meal and rice.

“Donations of food made the difference between life and death after the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and in Sudan, so we are extraordinarily grateful to all who gave last year,” said James T. Morris, the WFP’s executive director.

He warned there was still not enough “to meet the most basic needs of millions of individuals.”

The WFP began providing food aid to China in 1979, meeting the immediate food needs of more than 30 million poor Chinese and helping build infrastructure in their communities through programs that exchange food for work and training.

It made its final food donation to China in April 2005, a move that heralded the country’s gradual emergence from decades of dire poverty and hunger.

Incomes and living conditions in much of China, however, remain far behind those of the wealthy coastal cities. The leadership has promised to spend heavily on easing politically volatile poverty in the countryside, where nearly two-thirds of the country’s 1.3 billion people live.

The WFP’s report said sub-Saharan Africa for the first time received more than half of all the food aid, with Ethiopia receiving the most. Other major recipients included Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea and Kenya.

The amount given to Asia increased by 14 percent, the report said, with North Korea receiving the second-largest amount of aid worldwide, mostly from China and South Korea. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were the other Asian beneficiaries.

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