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  Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 07
UN food agency urges fight against hunger on World Food Day

ROME : The UN food agency marked World Food Day on Tuesday with an appeal for concrete action to guarantee the "basic human right" of freedom from hunger.

"Our planet produces enough food to adequately feed its entire population," Director-General Jacques Diouf said at a ceremony at the Food and Agriculture Organisation's Rome headquarters.

"Yet tonight, 854 million women, men and children will go to sleep on an empty stomach," Diouf added.

"The right to food calls for a shift in paradigm from charity to rights," he said. "Ensuring that every human being has an adequate and stable supply of food is more than a moral imperative ... it is the realisation of a basic human right.

"I invite you to join me in making the right to food a tangible reality for all."

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message read out at the ceremony, appealed for greater "consciousness, within the community of nations, of the solidarity that considers food as a universal right, without distinction and discrimination."

He added: "I think of the situation of children, the first victims of this tragedy."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, for his part, said in a message: "We need to do far more to place the integrity and rights of every human being at the centre of all our efforts.

"The world has the resources, the knowledge and the tools to make the right to food a reality for all," Ban said.

A week of World Food Day activities, with the theme "The Right to Food: Make It Happen," will mark the 62nd anniversary of the FAO's founding.

More than 150 countries have organised events for the occasion, including a "Run for Food" on Sunday in Rome.

Speaking at Tuesday's ceremony, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said that in sub-Saharan Africa, which along with southern Asia suffers the brunt of the scourge of hunger, "we see some light at the end of the tunnel."

But in order to "consign hunger to history" in Africa, the continent needs a "green revolution" involving a major increase in irrigation-based agriculture, widely available and affordable higher-yielding seeds and other inputs, he said.

"All countries are capable of guaranteeing the right to food to their people," Kikwete said. "However, for most of our people in the South this will be possible only by revolutionising our agricultural production."

He added: "All that is required is the reliability ... on the part of the donors to support and complement our efforts."

The FAO laments that despite the 1996 World Food Summit's pledge to reduce the number of undernourished people by half by 2015, the number of hungry people continues to rise.

"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," the FAO said when it released the 2006 report on the state of world food insecurity. Developing countries reduced the overall number of undernourished by three million to 820 million from the baseline period of 1990-92. But that figure was reduced by 100 million in the 1980s and 37 million in the previous decade, the FAO noted. - AFP/de

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