The food price crisis is caused largely by greed and speculation rather than food shortages, the head of Southern Africa's development bank said on Tuesday. Spiralling food costs -- called a "silent tsunami" by the World Food Programme -- have ignited fury and a rash of protests from Haiti to Somalia to Bangladesh. Exporting countries have curbed shipments to ensure domestic supplies and tame inflation.

Myanmar's military government raised its death toll from Cyclone Nargis on Tuesday to nearly 22,500 with another 41,000 missing, almost all from a massive storm surge that swept into the Irrawaddy delta. The United Nations' World Food Programme began doling out emergency rice in Yangon, the largest city and former capital, and the first batch of more than $10 million worth of foreign aid arrived from Thailand. But a lack of specialized equipment slowed distribution.

Myanmar, which is under heavy US sanctions, has so far refused an offer of help from a US disaster response team after a cyclone killed thousands of people at the weekend, the State Department said on Monday. The US Embassy in Myanmar issued a disaster declaration authorizing the immediate release of $250,000 in assistance after the cyclone hit the impoverished country, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

With shortage of the food supply in Rolpa, families displaced during the conflict have been facing starvation, reports say. 32 tons of rice and five tons of pulses supplied by World Food Programme, Save the Children and USAID are yet to reach the district. The 243 families were given ration card last month to regularise the food distribution. As per the schedule of the local authority, the distribution of ration was to begin from the fourth week of April, but the Nepal Red Cross Society local committee is still unaware when the foodstuffs would arrive.

The call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a top-level task force to address the issue of the spiraling cost of food worldwide is precisely the kind of co-ordinated global action that is necessary at this precarious moment in history, and could not have come at a better time. The secretary general's other suggestions, that the World Food Programme needs to be fully funded, that key producer nations should not ban exports, and that bio-fuels need to be reconsidered in light of the current crisis, are also all well taken.

Poor communities in the hills and mountains of far and mid-western Nepal face a serious threat to food security due to this year's poor winter harvest, says a UN body. Along with bad crops resulting in a 20-40 percent fall in production, rising food prices in these areas where poverty and malnutrition are very high has triggered this painful situation, states the latest crop situation update prepared by the World Food Program-Nepal.

Humanitarian agencies in Sri Lanka are preparing for the fallout as increasing food prices and shortages put vulnerable populations at risk of malnutrition and leave many families no longer able to afford essentials such as medicalcare and school tuition. The global food crisis, referred to by World Food Programme (WFP) officials as "the silent tsunami" during a summit in London on April 22, is hitting home.

XUAN CANH, Vietnam: Truong Thi Nha stands just 4

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday ordered a top level task force to take on the global crisis caused by rising food prices and urged key producer nations to end export bans. The UN chief said the immediate priority must be to "feed the hungry" and called for urgent funding for the World Food Programme. Ban said after a meeting of the heads of 27 key international agencies that the new task force would be led by the UN's top humanitarian official, deputy under-secretary John Holmes.

Ms. Nha, her face weathered beyond its 51 years, said her growth was stunted by a childhood of hunger and malnutrition. Just a few decades ago, crop yields here were far lower and diets much worse. Then the widespread use of inexpensive chemical fertilizer, coupled with market reforms, helped power an agricultural explosion here that had already occurred in other parts of the world. Yields of rice and corn rose, and diets grew richer.