October 17, 2006

More are Hungry Despite World Leaders’ Pledge

by Philip Thornton, October 16, 2006, the Independent

Today should have been a day for a celebratory feast. Exactly 10 years ago 176 world leaders at the World Food Summit pledged to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015.

Instead it is a day for commiseration and recrimination. More than 850 million are still hungry - some 18 million more than in 1996. And while issues such as debt forgiveness, a better trade deal for Africa and climate change have grabbed the headlines, food has been left off the menu.

Food facts

* 852 million people still go hungry. In 1990 the figure was 824 million

* Six million children die from hunger each year

* We have enough food to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories per person per day

* Rich countries provide $330bn (£1.78bn) in subsidies a year - six times the money they give in aid

The head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the body charged with leading international efforts to end hunger, will today launch a thinly veiled attack on rich countries’ failure to provide desperately needed funding and political leadership.

Jacques Diouf, the Senegalese who has led the FAO since 1994, will say: “More than 850 million people still remain hungry and poor. Action should be supported to improve rural livelihoods by reversing the decline of public investment in agriculture over the last two decades.”

He said decisions taken at the G8 summit in Gleneagles last year on debt forgiveness had released resources for investment in the sector. “But much still remains to be done, and innovative actions are welcome,” he said. “Increasing the volume of public investment in agriculture is [an] absolute necessity.”

However, instead of a ministerial summit, there will be a musical performance from one of the 24 FAO goodwill ambassadors, who include Ronan Keating and Dionne Warwick, and a 5km race through Rome’s historic center which could attract up to 5,000 runners.

Poverty action groups condemned the failure of political leaders to use today to kick-start talks on boosting funds for agricultural development.

ActionAid said official aid to agriculture and rural development fell from $6.7bn (£3.5bn) in 1984 to $2.2bn in 2002. “The political rhetoric of world leaders has not been matched by concrete steps to guarantee the right to food,” said Julian Oram, its food policy analyst.

“Rather than redoubling efforts to meet the 2015 targets on eradicating hunger, world leaders have chosen to stay home and bury their heads in the sand. There seems to be no political will to tackle hunger.”

He stressed that the FAO should not take all the blame, and that “governments are letting it wither on the vine”.

The FAO said it had made huge achievements since it was set up in 1945, and pointed out that the target of cutting the absolute number of affected people was much tougher than the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the proportion of undernourished.

In Asia and the Pacific the number fell from 570 million to 524 million between 1991 and 2002, while the proportion decreased from 20 to 16 per cent. Both measures fell in every Asian country except North Korea, where the number had doubled.

But sub-Saharan Africa remained the most food-insecure region in the world. The absolute number of undernourished rose 22 per cent, from 169 million in 1991 to 206 million in 2002.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: “Addressing hunger is not just about increasing the amount of food available. Having no job or income, being unable to farm effectively or being chronically sick all play a key role in chronic hunger.”

He said DfID had committed £30m a year to a welfare safety net that had helped to take more than 7 million people out of annual emergency relief.

“We are building on this approach with African governments to help take 16 million Africans affected by chronic hunger out of emergency relief and give them long-term social protection by 2009,” he said.


Post a Comment

<< Home