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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Hungry to Bed, Hungry to Rise

Hungry to Bed, Hungry to Rise

Date : 11th June 2002, Source : ENS

ROME, Italy, June 10, 2002 (ENS) - Food, that most basic of human needs, is in critically short supply for nearly one in every eight people on Earth.

"Every day, more than 800 million people worldwide - among them 300 million children - suffer the gnawing pain of hunger, and the diseases or disabilities caused by malnutrition," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the delegates at this morning's opening session of the World Food Summit: Five Years Later.

"As a result, according to some estimates, as many as 24,000 people die every day," Annan said.

In an effort to help the hungry, delegates from more than 180 countries are gathered in Rome for the UN sponsored summit, an assessment of progress since the first World Food Summit in 1996. The stated purpose of the summit is to revive political will and mobilize resources to reduce by half the number of hungry people to around 400 million by 2015, a pledge made at the first World Food Summit.

"Progress in cutting by half the number of hungry has been far too slow," Annan said. He called for an anti-hunger program that could become "a common framework around which global and national capacities to fight hunger can be mobilized."

"Eliminating hunger is a moral imperative pertaining to the most basic of human rights, the right to exist," said Dr. Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Eliminating hunger is also in the interest of the powerful countries," Diouf said. "Imagine the size of the market if 800 million hungry people were to become consumers. How much more peaceful the world would be if there were less of the poverty that is accompanied by injustice and despair." Dr. Diouf reiterated the proposal for an ambitious anti-hunger programme announced by the FAO last week. It calls for an additional public investment of US$24 billion annually to be made in poor countries to reduce by half the number of hungry people.

Annan said that greater access to food, and agricultural and rural development should be addressed at the same time. Farmers should be given greater access to land, credit, technology and knowledge that would help them grow more resistant crops, as well as ensuring plant and animal safety, he said.

Diouf told the delegates that public support for agriculture in developing countries has decreased even though farming is the livelihood for 70 percent of the world's poor. "Six years after the World Food Summit 1996, death continues to stalk the multitude of hungry people on our planet," he said. "Promises have not been kept." Since 1990, assistance from the developed countries and loans from the international financing institutions for agriculture fell by 50 percent, Diouf said. "As a result, the number of undernourished has only fallen by six million per year instead of the 22 million needed to attain the objective set in 1996. At this rate, the target will be met 45 years behind schedule."

Millions of people are on the brink of starvation in Southern Africa, two United Nations agencies warned May 30 after comprehensive investigative missions to six countries. The FAO and the World Food Programme said at least 10 million people in four southern African countries are threatened by famine.

Zimbabwe is in the greatest danger due to a lengthy drought and the disruption of farming operations by the ongoing land reform activities and widespread illegal invasions. In his remarks to the summit's opening session, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi of Italy stressed as top priorities in the eradication of hunger the importance of "debt relief; access of developing countries to the Northern markets and more substantial financial flows towards the South."

President Ciampi called for "a full cancellation of outstanding bilateral debt for the poorest countries."

In his message, Pope John Paul II expressed concern about decreasing assistance to developing countries, and said that poverty and hunger risk jeopardizing the existence of people and nations. The Pope's message was delivered by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See who said the Pope wants nations to guarantee that "everyone receives their daily food."

Senior U.S. officials participating in the summit stressed the positive role of biotechnology in the production of more food, a position taken in support of the big U.S. biotechnology companies which manufacture and market genetically modified seeds.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told reporters in a briefing that because biotech crops require fewer pesticides, the quality of water sources near fields where they are being grown is improved. In her speech to delegates, Veneman said that the United States would host a world science and technology conference in early 2003 to examine the role of technology partnerships in increasing food productivity.

Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) told reporters that with higher yields of biotech seeds, farmers will not exhaust their fields so rapidly, reducing the need to clear forests for more farmland and saving valuable forest resources.

Natsios said USAID is increasing its annual budget for agriculture programs by $100 million.

The United States, as the largest provider of food aid, has been donating three-quarters of the food distributed through the UN World Food Program. "Other donors need to step up," Natsios said.

Document last updated on Wednesday 01 August 2018

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