30 October 2006, Rome - Noting that promises are no substitute for food, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today called on world leaders to honor a 10-year-old pledge to halve the number of hungry in the world by 2015.
Ten years after the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) in Rome, which promised to reduce the number of undernourished people by half by 2015, there were more hungry people in the developing countries today – 820 million – than there were in 1996, Dr Diouf said.
“Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is currently increasing – at the rate of four million a year,” he continued. Dr Diouf was speaking in Rome at the launch of the annual FAO report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, or SOFI.
The leaders of the 185 countries who took part in the Summit termed world hunger “unacceptable and intolerable,” Dr Diouf recalled. “Today, I am deeply sorry to report that the situation remains intolerable and unacceptable – all the more so because ten years have passed.”
“Business as usual will not do,” Dr Diouf declared. Failure to achieve the World Food Summit objective would be “shameful,” he added.
According to the SOFI report, today’s estimated 820 million undernourished people in developing countries represent a marginal reduction of three million as against the 1990-1992 baseline of 823 million used by the Summit.
But the performance is even worse if measured against the 1996 world total of some 800 million – a 23 million increase. Keeping the Summit pledge would require reducing the number of undernourished by 31 million every year until 2015, whereas the number of hungry is currently climbing at the rate of some four million a year.
Nonetheless, over the past ten years, the proportion of people suffering from hunger in developing countries has gone down as the overall population has gone up, the SOFI report noted.
One in five people in the developing countries were undernourished in 1990-92, and this has now gone down to 17 percent.
Moreover, FAO’s projections suggested there could be a further drop from 17 percent to 10 percent in the next nine years. “This means that the world is on a path towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal on hunger reduction,” the report said.
.…THE NUMBER OF HUNGRY IS CURRENTLY CLIMBING AT THE RATE OF SOME FOUR MILLION A YEAR.
Nonetheless, the total number of undernourished in developing countries in 2015 was projected at 582 million. This would fall 170 million short of the World Food Summit target of 412 million.
More than half of these would be concentrated in South Asia and East Asia, with 203 million and 123 million respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa would be home to 179 million hungry – more than double the WFS target.
Overall hunger reduction trends masked significant disparities among regions, according to the report. For instance, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean had seen an overall reduction in both the number and the prevalence of undernourished people.
In sub-Saharan Africa, “the task facing the region remains daunting,” the report said. There were currently 206 million hungry in the region – nearly 40 million up from 1990-92, the baseline period used by the Summit.
The WFS target was still attainable if concrete and concerted action was taken, SOFI noted. This should be based on a twin-track approach emphasizing direct action against hunger together with a focus on agricultural and rural development.
The report listed a series of steps that, it said, was needed to eradicate hunger in the years ahead. They included: focusing programs and investments on “hotspots” of poverty and undernourishment; enhancing the productivity of smallholder agriculture; creating the right conditions for private investment, including transparency and good governance; making world trade work for the poor, with safety nets put in place for vulnerable groups; and a rapid increase in the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7 percent of GDP, as promised.
“We must step up dramatically our efforts to reach the WFS hunger reduction target. If the political will is there we can reach it,” the report concluded.