GLENEAGLES - As the leaders of the most powerful nations in the world gather in Gleneagles for the G8 Summit, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is today urging them to remember a simple fact: hunger and malnutrition are still the world's biggest killers, taking the lives of more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
At a time when modest steps have been taken on the long and tortuous road towards poverty alleviation, it is a bitter disappointment that the underclass of hungry people around the world continues to grow. As things stand, the world is no longer on course to meet the noble UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015.
Since the early 1990s, the number of hungry people has actually risen by 60 million and today a staggering 852 million people around the world know the acute pain of hunger. Those who suffer from this chronic hunger rarely feature in newspaper headlines or in television news bulletins. In many ways, they are the hidden hungry, leading wretched lives that are eked out far from the gaze of media attention that clusters around high-profile humanitarian emergencies.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where forgotten conflicts and hidden disasters continue to expose millions to the scourge of hunger. One African in three is malnourished and there has been little sign of change in that over the last decade. His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria has written eloquently on the need to address Africa's food needs in the quest for development. "There is a saying in my country that when you take hunger out of poverty, poverty is halved." He says, "That is why it is so crucial today that we give top priority to ridding ourselves of this blight on development."
President Obasanjo, who will attend the G8 summit in his capacity as chairman of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development), has called for a renewed focus on hunger. "Food is the stuff of life," He says, "Without it, free trade, debt relief and poverty alleviation will mean nothing to the millions of African farmers who till the soil and herd their goats in remote rural areas."
Hunger is a symptom of failure - failed harvests, failure to cope with natural disasters, and failure to overcome social inequities, ethnic strife and racial hatred.
In Africa alone, WFP and its partners are struggling to deliver humanitarian assistance to 26 million people in more than twenty different countries across the continent.
- In Southern Sudan, where civilians are
finally returning home after decades of war, WFP's operations are still
less than half funded ($124 million received).
- In southern Africa, where the triple
threat of HIV/AIDS, drought conditions and weak government capacity are
threatening the lives of at least 8 million people. WFP's operation to
feed them is less than 20 percent funded (US$ 67 million).
- In Niger and Mali, where a lethal combination of locust infestation and drought has left hundreds of thousands hungry, WFP is struggling to meet the needs of those affected because less than a third of the $11 million needed has been received.
While there have been encouraging signs of increased aid commitments from donor governments, the food aid component, which is so critical in Africa, is falling short.
Food is the "first aid" solution to Africa's problems. It brings hope in often turbulent circumstances, and stabilizes regions so there is an opportunity to work on longer-term humanitarian and political solutions.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.
Visit our website: www.wfp.org
For more information please contact (email address: email@example.com):
Greg Barrow, WFP/Gleneagles, Tel: +44 (0) 7968 008474
Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Mob. +39-3472582217
Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Mob. +41-79-2857304,
Trevor Rowe, WFP/NY, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Mob. +1-646-8241112, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-653 0010 ext. 1149, Mob. +1-202-422 3383