Fight against hunger ‘cannot fail’ : UN chief

June 4th, 2008 - 8:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Rome, June 4 (DPA) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday at a world food summit in Rome that the fight against global hunger was “only just beginning.” “We simply cannot fail,” Ban said at a news conference at the summit’s venue, the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The highest food prices in three decades have exacerbated a crisis in developing nations where 850 million people were already facing food shortages, Ban told delegates from some 50 nations who attended the summit’s inauguration Tuesday.

World leaders needed to agree on longer term solutions to the price increases and other issues threatening food security, such as biofuel production, the UN secretary general reiterated Wednesday.

“Food production needs to rise by 50 percent by the year 2030 to meet the rising demand,” the UN secretary general said.

However more urgent measures were also needed, for example to ensure the success of next year’s agricultural harvests, Ban said.

Farmers in the northern hemisphere needing to plant their crops by the end of July needed immediate supplies of seeds and fertilizers, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, said speaking at the same news conference.

Diouf, who urged donor nations attending the summit to come forward with more aid, thanked the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank for pledging $1.5 billion over five years for food provision and agricultural production.

The head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was rolling out an additional $1.2 billion in food assistance, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said at the news conference.

Also speaking at the Wednesday news conference was World Bank President Robert Zoeelick, who said that all emergency efforts should focus on “the 20 most vulnerable countries.”

“With 2 billion people struggling every day to put food on the table,” food production needs to feature high at the G8 summit scheduled in Japan in July.

FAO has listed 22 countries that are particularly vulnerable owing to a combination of high levels of chronic hunger - defined as more than 30 percent undernourishment - and being net importers of both food and fuel.

Countries such as Eritrea, Niger, Comoros, Haiti and Liberia are particularly affected.

The UN Conference on World Food Security is scheduled to run through Thursday.

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