Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A billion hungry people

Soaring commodity prices pushed the number of people without enough food close to 1 billion last year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Prices have been falling since July, partly because of a drop in fuel costs, but they are still a third higher than they were in 2005 and 61 percent higher than in 2000, the Food and Agriculture Organization says.

At a two-day food security conference in Madrid sponsored by the United Nations that ended yesterday, delegates from 95 countries met to discuss the food crisis that has stoked social unrest in many parts of the developing world and is threatening to push millions more people into hunger

Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food secure when its occupants do not live in hunger.

Alex Wijeratna, a food rights campaigner for Action Aid, an anti-poverty agency based in London, told the International Herald Tribune that the most important message to emerge from the meeting was the need to include smallholder farmers in new agricultural strategies.

"If you're going to tackle hunger, you have to be talking to the people who are growing food all over the world," Wijeratna said.

The Global Call to Action Against Poverty, an alliance of civil society movements, contrasted the slow pace of initiatives to defeat poverty with governments' relatively nimble response to the banking crisis.

"The fat cats of the financial world got huge governmental support within months," the group said in a statement. "Not so the starving street cats."

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