World Vision Cuts Back Food Aid, Sounds Alarm

It's one of the largest and most trusted humanitarian organizations in the world that leverages compassion and generosity to help the most needy. Yet on Tuesday, World Vision announced a cutback on the number of people it can feed this year as it feels the effects of a slowing economy.

World Vision, a Christian nonprofit that tackles poverty and injustice across the globe, said it cannot feed 1.5 million of the 7.5 million it fed last year, according to CNN. The agency's food aid programs have been cut in East Timor and Sri Lanka and reduced in such countries as Burundi, Niger, Cambodia, North and South Sudan.

"We're walking into a very uneven financial environment [and] we're trying to make appropriate predictions of what's going to happen," said Steve Haas, vice president for church relations at World Vision.

World Vision has found a donating base that is well informed of what the organization is doing and continues to see their donating to the group as an important part of their daily faith walk even during a slow economy and it hasn't felt the bump as much as other charities have, Haas noted. But the global agency still has had to manage expectations and limit certain parts of their program.

The impact of food aid cuts falls mostly on children.

Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International, said in a written statement, "Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid." More than half of them are children, he said.

"Though we're able to feed people, we're not feeding people as we would like, and those people we are feeding are getting less than we would like," said Rachel Wolff, media relations manager for disaster response, CNN reported.

An increase in food prices and an increase in the need for food are primary reasons for the shortfall this year. Wolff predicts that the situation may get worse as the year progresses.

The United Nations' World Food Program has called the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency.

One of the causes for rising food prices is the diversion of corn to the production of ethanol rather than food, Wolff noted to CNN.

The humanitarian agency is sounding the alarm on the impact on poorer countries. Rising global prices for food and fuel, which have put a dent in the budgets of many Americans, have hammered Haiti, which survives largely on imported goods, according to World Vision. There, the unemployment rate is high and most residents earn less than $2 per day, making food unaffordable to many families.

Also, U.N's World Food Program warned Monday that rising food prices mean the poorest in Asia risk a "silent famine."

Severe consequences arising from the current food crisis include increased child mortality, lawlessness, and political instability, World Vision staff warned.

"If the world community doesn't invest this now, everybody will pay for it later," Wolff said to CNN. "You will have massive economic implications for these countries. Their work force won't have developed properly. Not to mention that it's horrific from a humanitarian standpoint. Those are the things we're sounding the alarm on."

More than 3.7 million children under 5 die every year due to malnutrition. Child health experts worry that the impact of even a short period of malnutrition will endure for years.

World Vision works in nearly 100 countries and last year distributed 147,000 metric tons of critically needed food aid from the U.S. Government and the World Food Program. The humanitarian group made an urgent appeal to international donors this week to step in.