UN expert decries global shame of rising numbers of hungry people

26 October 2004

Although the world has more than enough food to sustain all people, a dozen children under the age of five are dying every minute from hunger-related diseases and the number of malnourished is on the rise, a United Nations experts says in a new report.

Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, says 842 million people were permanently or gravely undernourished last year, an increase of 2 million on the previous figures. Hunger levels have now risen every year since the World Food Summit in 1996 called for global action to stem the trend.

In a report to the General Assembly, Mr. Ziegler says it is indefensible that so many small children are still dying because they do not have enough food to eat.

"How can we continue to live with this shame?" he asks, declaring that the time has come "to enforce the right to food."

Mr. Ziegler says hunger is neither inevitable nor acceptable. "We live in a world that is richer than ever before and that is entirely capable of eradicating hunger," he writes. "There is no secret as to how to eradicate hunger. There is no need for new technologies. There is simply the need for political commitment to challenge existing policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer."

The expert expresses doubt that the world can meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) that calls for the halving of the number of hungry people by 2015. While some countries have made gains in the last decade, many others have regressed, including India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan.

The Rapporteur states he is particularly concerned by the situation in Sudan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the occupied Palestinian territories and Cuba.

Mr. Ziegler calls for urgent action by Khartoum and Pyongyang to protect the citizens of their countries, and says the Israeli Government must respect its obligations as the occupying Power so that Palestinians enjoy the right to food. He also urges the United States "to refrain from unilateral measures that affect the right to food" of Cubans.


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