People living in mountains among world’s hungriest, UN food agency says
Mountain dwellers are among the world’s largest populations of undernourished and hungry people, a senior official with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Speaking in Rome at FAO’s launch of the International Year of Mountains, the agency’s Deputy Director-General, David Harcharik, said that by paying special attention to the plight of mountain people, the amount of hungry and undernourished citizens in the world – currently estimated at more than 800 million – could be reduced substantially.
According to FAO, the number of undernourished in the world is falling at a rate of only 6 million per year – well below the 22 million annually needed to reach the international target of halving the number of hungry people by 2015. “If we can improve conditions in mountain communities, we will go a long way toward fulfilling this important goal,” said Mr. Harcharik.
About 600 million people – one in 10 – live in mountain areas. Outside the
well-to-do mountain resorts and commuter towns in industrialized countries, the majority of mountain people are chronically undernourished, due partly to poverty and political marginalization, FAO said. In addition, mountain people face physical barriers, such as rugged terrain, poor communications systems and inadequate roads.
Above all, the agency blamed armed conflict for the poor conditions facing mountain dwellers, noting that most of clashes in the world today are in mountain areas. In 1999, 23 of the 27 major armed conflicts in the world were being fought in mountain regions. “How can you reliably produce food in conditions of war?” Mr. Harcharik asked. “How can you take steps to improve your life, to dream of a better future, when you don't know where your next meal is coming from – or if you will live to eat it?”
FAO pledged to give long-term priority to on-the-ground action in response to the needs of mountain dwellers. The agency also said it planned to support the efforts of national committees dedicated to the International Year of Mountains, noting that “countries have the power to develop laws and policies to encourage the sustainable development of mountain areas, and to ensure that decision-making processes include the full participation of mountain people.”