A child dies every six seconds of hunger

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With the world in financial turmoil, UN officials are drawing global attention to another global crisis, hunger, which they said affects millions daily and kills a child every six seconds.

“This year’s World Food Day comes at a time of crisis,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his message for the occasion on Thursday.

“Global financial turmoil is exacerbating concerns about rising food and fuel costs, which have already driven 75 million people deeper into the abyss of hunger and poverty,” the UN chief said.

Ban noted that this “colossal human tragedy” is unfolding as the world fights to keep the promise made in the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which is to reduce hunger and poverty by half by the year 2015.

“Even before prices started rising, 800 million people were going to sleep hungry every night”.

“And now, with energy costs rising and the price of food having more than doubled in the past year alone, an additional 100 million people could be pushed into hunger and poverty.

“These are life-and-death matters that we must confront with serious thought and resolute action,” he said.

Ban called on governments, organisations and citizens to forge meaningful partnerships to overcome these challenges so that the world can meet all the MDGs and, ultimately, usher in a world free of hunger and poverty.

In her message, Ms Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) agreed that at a time when the world’s attention is consumed by the financial crisis, it is appropriate to focus on the global hunger crisis. She described hunger as “a daily reality for families across the globe”.

“Rapidly rising food shortages, dramatic increases in fuel costs, and profound changes in climate conditions conspired this year to bring new dimensions of suffering and hardship to the poor, depriving almost one billion people of the food they need to live a healthy life,” she said.

In another message, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf called for a political and financial push to boost sustainable agriculture in the world’s poor countries, double global food production and free the world of hunger and malnutrition.

“I wish to reaffirm that we know what needs to be done to eradicate the hunger of 923 million people in the world. We also know what needs to be done to double world food production and feed a population that is expected to rise to 9 billion people by 2050,” he said.

He said that US$22 billion was pledged to promote global food security earlier this year, but that only 10 per cent of the amount had so far materialised mainly for emergency food aid.

“What we need is political will and delivery on financial commitments, if we are to be able to make the essential investments that are needed to promote sustainable agricultural development and food security in the poorest countries of the world,” Diouf stated.

Also speaking, the independent UN expert on the right to food has describing the situation of hunger in the world as “alarming”, while calling for a new production system to tackle the global food crisis.

The UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter stated that the violation on a daily basis of the right to food for hundreds of millions of people worldwide has its roots in an outdated and inadequate production system, rather than in the actual quantity of food available.

The Day is observed annually on 16 October, the day on which the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was founded in 1945.

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