The United Nations has estimated that more than one billion people worldwide are going hungry, and has warned that if more land is not used for food production, 370 million people could face famine by 2050.
The three-day United Nations world food summit in Rome that began yesterday November 16, vowed urgent action to boost food security, but did not include exact targets to reduce world hunger, and thus has received criticism from several factions.
Aid agency Oxfam condemned the Rome summit’s resolution as un-costed, unfunded and unaccountable. Matt Grainger, a representative of Oxfam, called the summit a massive wasted opportunity. Vatican Radio reportedly called the lack of financial targets disturbing, while Greenpeace described the declaration as empty rhetoric.
Head of the UN food agency, Mr.Jacques Diouf and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has however condemned the absence of a deadline for the total eradication of world hunger – referring to the UN Millennium Development Goal deadline of 2025. Mr. Diouf said he was not in the room when negotiators finalized the statement.
“I thought it made sense to set that target, and I thought we would be discussing whether it should be in four years or five years or so on, not that we would be eliminating any target date in the declaration. I am not satisfied that some of the concrete proposals I made were not accepted. There was no consensus on this and I regret it,” Diouf said.
The World Summit on Food Security comes a year after major rises in food prices caused chaos in many developing countries, however most of the leaders of the world’s richest nations have not attended the summit.
The gravity of the current food crisis is the result of 20 years of under-investment in agriculture and neglect of the sector. Directly or indirectly, agriculture provides the livelihood for 70 percent of the world’s poor, experts have said.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations website, the global food insecurity situation has worsened and continues to represent a serious threat for humanity. With food prices remaining stubbornly high in developing countries, the number of people suffering from hunger has been growing relentlessly in recent years.
The global economic crisis is aggravating the situation by affecting jobs and deepening poverty. FAO estimates that the number of hungry people could increase by a further 100 million in 2009 and pass the one billion mark.
“The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world,” Diouf is quoted.
According to the FAOs agenda for action, poor countries need the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome hunger and poverty and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth.