Number of hungry people to top 1 bn in 2009: UN

June 19th, 2009 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Rome, June 19 (DPA) Some 1.02 billion people are likely to go hungry in 2009, a UN agency said Friday, blaming the “historic” high figure on the global economic crisis.
In 2008, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revised its estimate of hungry people from 963 million to 915 million, due to a better-than-expected global food supply.

But since then, the lower incomes and increased unemployment that have resulted from the world economic crisis have reduced the poor’s access to food, the FAO said in a statement.

“A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said.

“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 and to take the necessary actions,” he added.

Poor countries must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity, according to Diouf.

“Many of the world’s poor and hungry are small farmers in developing countries. Yet they have the potential not only to meet their own needs but to boost food security and catalyse broader economic growth,” Diouf said.

Governments, supported by the international community, need to protect core investments in agriculture so that smallholder farmers have access not only to seeds and fertilisers but to tailored technologies, infrastructure, rural finance, and markets, according to Kanayo Nwanze, who heads another Rome-based UN agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

FAO noted that whereas “good progress” was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade.

The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the current global economic downturn.

This year, mainly due to the shocks of the economic crisis combined with often high national food prices, the number of hungry people is expected to grow overall by about 11 percent, according to an estimate by FAO.

Almost all of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries, FAO noted.

In Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 642 million people are suffering from chronic hunger; in Sub-Saharan Africa 265 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million; in the Near East and North Africa 42 million; and in the developed countries 15 million in total.

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