Economic crisis requires swift action on hunger

ROME (AFP) - The international community must do more to feed the worlds hungry in a historically unprecedented global economic crisis, the head of the UNs food agency Jacques Diouf said on Friday. In an address to mark the UNs World Food Day, Diouf called on world leaders to urgently find a broad consensus on the total and rapid elimination of hunger. The current (economic) crisis is historically unprecedented in several ways, Diouf said in the speech at the UNs Food and Agriculture Organisations headquarters in Rome. As developing countries are more financially and commercially integrated in the world economy, a drop in the global demand or supply and in credit availability had immediate repercussions on them, he said. Diouf said an additional 105m people had been pushed into hunger as the crisis had reduced the incomes and employment opportunities of the poor and significantly lowered their access to food. The FAO chief said there are now some 1.02 billion undernourished people worldwide - one-sixth of the global population. He suggested governments should increase agricultures share in official development assistance to its 1980 level of 17 percent, up from five percent today. Heads of state and government are set to meet in Rome on November 16-18 at a UN FAO World Summit on Food Security. Meanwhile, Brazil topped an anti-hunger scorecard on Friday followed by China where 58m people have more to eat but India earned low marks in a new ActionAid index. The study, released on World Food Day, scores the efforts by 50 governments to fight hunger, with calls for more action with more than one billion people in the world already going hungry. Some of the poorest countries in the world are making striking progress on reducing numbers of hungry people, while some wealthier countries are lagging behind, the Johannesburg-based group said. It praised President Lula da Silva for Brazils 73pc drop in child malnutrition through food banks, community kitchens and support for small farmers and land reform. Brazil tops our league table, showing what can be achieved when the state has both resources and political will to tackle hunger, the report said. Less than nine per cent of Chinas population now go hungry with 58m people no longer undernourished, edging the Asian giant into second place on the developing state table. The ranking of African states Ghana and Malawi in third and fifth place showed the fight against hunger did not depend on wealth, the group said. ActionAid said 30 million more people in India, listed at number 22 after countries like Ethiopia and Lesotho, had slipped into the hungry category since the mid-1990s. Hunger exists not because there is not enough food in India, but because people cannot access it, the report said. Rich nations drew criticism for reneging on commitments to finance a stronger fight against hunger. Greece, Portugal, Italy, the US and New Zealand are named as the worst offenders in reducing official aid to agriculture. Bottom of the developed nation scorecard is New Zealand, with a score of seven out of 100, followed by the US and Japan which were all given an E grade. The Democratic Republic of Congo, with nine points, is the lowest on the developing state list. ActionAid called on world leaders to fight hunger by supporting small farmers, protect rights to food, and tackle climate change. Its the role of the state and not the level of wealth, that determines progress on hunger, said Anne Jellema, ActionAid policy director.

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