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More than one-sixth—over 1 billion—of the world population is hungry, announced World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran on World Food Day (Oct. 16, 2009), which marked the anniversary of the founding of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Today is world food day,” Ms. Sheeran said, “but for one out of six people on earth they are not even sure that they can fill this cup today. So I am going to rename this as the ‘no food day’ and call upon the world to remember that there are people who have nothing in the cup. One out of six people on earth will go to bed hungry tonight.”
Last year, the crisis became apparent after the FAO and WFP reported 100 million more people became undernourished—the highest number in four decades.
According to the UN, Asia and the Pacific Region have the most starving people: 642 million. Sub-Saharan Africa is second with 265 million, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean islands with 53 million, then the Mideast and North Africa with 42 million. Developed countries make up the remaining 15 million starving people.
The Associated Press reported that the number of those needing food in Kenya has dramatically risen from 2.5 million earlier this year to 3.8 million. Livestock herders have seen hundreds of their animals die and crops wasted because of drought. Concerning Somalia, AP reported that “a country ravaged by violence and anarchy for almost two decades, the monthly expenditure for food and other basic needs for a family of six has risen 85 percent in the past two years.” On average, “families spent $171 in September this year, compared with $92 for the same amount of food and other needs in March 2007.”
Children appear to be the hardest hit by the catastrophe. Otive Igbuzor, head of International Campaigns for ActionAid International, disclosed that a child dies of malnutrition every six seconds. Dr. Igbuzor calls it a world emergency requiring immediate action from both developing and developed nations (AP).
Although the UN achieved gains in the battle against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people began skyrocketing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year.
In a message read to the FAO on World Food Day, Pope Benedict XVI noted the need for developing agricultural investments in developing nations to alleviate hunger.
“Access to food is more than a basic need, it is a fundamental right of individuals and peoples,” said Pope Benedict, who called for a new world financial order guided by ethics and urged the world to not let its poorest and most vulnerable inhabitants suffer the consequences of the downturn of the global economy (AP).
In an exclusive euronews interview, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf pointed to a major reason for this catastrophe: military spending.
“In OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries, they spend $365 billion each year supporting agriculture, in countries where farming is less than 2 to 4% of the population” Mr. Diouf said. “In the Third World, the rural population is between 60 and 80%. So we need how much to help the development? $44 billion a year. We spend $1340 billion buying weapons. We can’t spend $44 billion on life? The problem is ethics, morals, politics. We’re hoping there will be a great realization. Sadly, because there are clashes in 22 countries and deaths and that we know that the food problem is a question of solidarity between humans which is also a problem for peace and world security.”
To avert the crisis, UN agencies estimate developing nations will need 55 billion euros (over $82 billion USD) in agricultural aid for developing countries if the world’s projected 9.1 billion people by 2050 are to be adequately fed. To avert disaster, the world must increase agricultural production by 70 percent in the next 41 years.
Consequently, during a summit in Italy, G8 leaders agreed to increase agricultural investment for the world’s poorest nations, committing 10 billion euros over three years toward food security (euronews).
But the FAO warned that the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve the number of malnourished people by 2015, can only be met through a more-focused, broad-based approach with worldwide investment in agriculture and economic safety nets for poorer countries.