ROME - Conflicts around the world mean there must be no "donor fatigue", the head of the World Food Programme told AFP in an interview, as the United Nations marks World Food Day on Wednesday.
Ertharin Cousin warned aid funds were running out for forgotten but ongoing humanitarian crises like North Korea or Yemen, as money shifts to conflicts such as Syria, where the media attention is stronger.
"There is no room for donor fatigue," Cousin said at the UN food aid agency's headquarters in Rome.
"The biggest challenge is ensuring we don't forget conflicts that are beyond the attention of the media," said the Chicago native and ex-official in US president Bill Clinton's administration.
"Food crises don't just affect the countries where people go hungry. It's a global challenge."
WFP supplies aid to about 97 million people in 80 countries, including 20 states that are mired in constant crises like Afghanistan, Haiti or Sudan.
Recent data shows the number of hungry in the world has fallen but still stands at 842 million people.
With an annual budget of around US$5.0 billion (S$6.21 billion), the organisation last year spent US$1.2 billion buying emergency food supplies.
"Our needs always exceed the funding that we receive. Signficantly," she said, adding: "We have almost a billion dollars shortage between what we have and what we believe is needed.
"We anticipate that this shortage will be even greater next year," said Cousin, who was appointed last year and was previously the United States ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome.
In the time she has been in office, Cousin said that aid to Syria had been scaled up from supplying 150,000 people to more than six million internally displaced people and refugees now.