Rome Summit to Address ‘Enormous Tragedy’ of World Hunger

ROME ~ The UN food agency is to host a summit next week to address the “enormous tragedy” of world hunger, Director-General Jacques Diouf said.

“Every six seconds a child dies of hunger,” Diouf told a news conference. “This enormous tragedy is not only a moral outrage and an economic absurdity, but also it presents a serious threat to our collective peace and security.”

Recalling the food riots of 2007 and 2008 in 22 countries, Diouf said: “Remember, hungry people are also, rightly, angry people.”

High food prices persist in the developing world, Diouf said. “For the world’s poorest people, the food price crisis that hit even rich countries a couple of years ago, the food crisis is far from over.”

Diouf said he could not state the number of heads of state or government who will attend the summit next Monday through Wednesday, formally titled the World Summit on Food Security,

He said a “large number” would attend, at a level similar to a gathering in 2002 called to evaluate the first ever such summit in 1996.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Brazilian and Zimbabwean presidents, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Robert Mugabe, have announced their intention to attend.

Diouf called for US$44 billion a year in official development assistance to be invested in agriculture, a level equivalent to about 17 to 18 percent which the FAO considers necessary for effectiveness.

That level was seen in 1980, shrank to 3.8 percent as of 2006 and has recovered to around five percent today, Diouf said.

“To be successful in achieving the green revolution in Asia in the 70s where we had a looming food crisis… we needed that amount of resources to address the problem of around 800 million people who were hungry,” he said.

“Despite all the appeals, we have seen more readiness to react to crisis, conflict, drought, et cetera, rather than to address the problems of those who are producing food,” Diouf lamented.

The Senegalese FAO chief added: “Ending hunger may seem to some people a daunting, possibly a utopian, task… (but) there is no country that is not capable in the Third World in general and in Africa in particular of ensuring its food security in five years.”

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