If the world hopes to achieve a set of internationally agreed development targets by 2015, it must begin by tackling hunger and extreme poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Addressing a high-level advisory committee in Rome, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “will test the international community’s political will to deal with a number of global problems and unite behind actions required for solving them.”
The MDGs were endorsed by world leaders at the 2000 summit in New York to achieve, by 2015, a measurable improvement in combating a host of global ills. Mr. Diouf said that fighting hunger and extreme poverty should be at the top of that list.
“We stand very little chance of achieving the rest of the goals – environment, education, child mortality, maternal health, gender equality, HIV/AIDS – unless the first MDG is achieved,” he told the committee.
The goal of halving the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger by 2015 appears to be within reach at the global level, said Prabhu Pingali, Director of FAO’s Agricultural and Development Economics Division.
He noted, however, that sub-Saharan Africa lags so far behind the rest of the world that close to half the world’s poor could be living there by 2015.
In 1990, the baseline year for measuring the MDGs, 20 per cent of people in developing countries were undernourished. FAO’s most recent estimates point to 17 per cent, or 815 million people, still suffering from hunger in 2000/02 and project that number to fall to 11 percent by 2015, Mr. Pingali said.
In sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, roughly one third of the population is undernourished, and that number is projected only to decline to 23 per cent by 2015. Without special action, that part of the world would not meet the Millennium hunger target until about 2030, Mr. Pingali added.