Walking to feed the poor

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Thousands of people - many of whom can no longer afford basic foods - will be part of the global walk to raise awareness and funds to feed poor children in schools.

The event will take place at Johannesburg Zoo on Sunday from 8am.

The initiative, "End Hunger: Walk the World", is a bid by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and its major corporate partners TNT and Unilever to raise funds for the WFP to provide meals to the 59 million children who attend school hungry every day.

Celebrities, government dignitaries, UN agencies, WFP corporate partners, employees, friends and families will walk over a 24-hour period in each of the planet's time zones.

WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said: "The price crunch is pushing millions of families to the edge, with tragic consequences for future generations.

"This event symbolises how people from all over the world can unite to raise awareness about the plight of the hungry poor."

Sheeran said hunger was the greatest threat to health worldwide, killing a child every six seconds.

High commodity and fuel prices, coupled with an increase in natural disasters - like those in Myanmar and China - threaten to wipe out any gains made against hunger in recent years.

TNT chief executive Peter Bakker said: "We are concerned about those affected by hunger and those threatened by the food crisis, whether they are our neighbours or live in a faraway country.

"Last December TNT and WFP celebrated the fifth anniversary of their partnership and TNT will continue to support WFP in the fight against hunger. I am proud that on every continent of the globe, TNT employees, their families and friends will again join Walk the World this year to raise funds and awareness for hungry schoolchildren."

On average it costs WFP only about R2 to give a cup of porridge, rice or beans to a child in school.

Celebrities such as Hlubi Mboya, Grethe Fox, Judy Ditchfield, Kim Engelbrecht and Tshepo Maseko support the initiative.

Funds will be donated to the South African Food Bank Network, a community-based nonprofit organisation that provides hunger relief or food assistance to people in need.

Alan Jope of Unilever said: "As food prices continue to increase, hunger is affecting the most vulnerable people more than ever.

"In these challenging times, Unilever remains committed and dedicated to our partnership with WFP."

The event has in the past five years mobilised approximately one million participants and raised funds to feed more than 100000 children in school for a year.