World’s hungry swell to 852 million despite promises to eradicate hunger: UN expert

26 October 2006

Despite repeated promises to eradicate hunger, the number of people going hungry continues to grow – now more than 852 million – with a child dying every five seconds from malnutrition and related diseases, an independent United Nations expert said today.

It is a “shame on humanity,” especially when the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) calculates that our planet could feed twice the current population of 6 billion if there were better food distribution, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler told a press conference.

He blamed the fact that half of the hungry live on already degraded land, spreading desertification, the “massive underfunding” of UN feeding programmes, especially in Africa, and continued “dumping” of food produced in Europe and the United States with $349 billion in annual subsidies.

“African agriculture is objectively ruined by agricultural dumping by OECD countries,” said Mr. Ziegler, a Swiss university professor, referring to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that includes some 70 developed countries.

“It is a shame on humanity that in a world that is richer than ever before, 6 million children should die of malnutrition and related illnesses before they reach the age of five,” he said, noting that in 2005 there were 11 million more hungry than in the previous year.

Because hunger is primarily a rural problem – about 80 per cent of the hungry live in the countryside – he said there needs to be “massive investment” in these areas.

“Without adequate investment in small-scale irrigation and small-scale agriculture, there is little hope of eradicating hunger,” he told the General Assembly’s Third Committee on Wednesday.

He also called for “international protection” of the growing numbers of people forced to flee their lands for environmental reasons but lamented that such protection of “‘ecological refugees’ or ‘environmental migrants’ is currently as inadequate as the low level of investment addressing the root cause of environmental migration.”

During a September trip to Lebanon he said he found that Israel had caused “absolutely horrible” damage to the country’s infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries that will have long-term effects on food, water and livelihoods for more than a million Lebanese.

He “recommended that Israel be held responsible under international law for any violation of the right to food” and that it “comply with its obligations” to pay reparations and compensation for on-going losses due to the disruption of livelihoods.

It has been estimated it will take 7 or 8 years to clear the 1.2 million unexploded Israeli cluster bombs that litter the southern Lebanese countryside, he noted.

The Lebanese Government has said it plans to take Israel to the International Court of Justice and possibly to other international courts.

In a report to the Third Committee, Mr. Ziegler also said that “central to the protection” of the right to food is that there be “access to justice” when this right is violated.

 

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