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Conquering hunger key to peace, UN food agency chief tells Washington officials

Conquering hunger key to peace, UN food agency chief tells Washington officials

James Morris
Conquering hunger is critical to peace and prosperity, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has told United States officials, urging stepped-up efforts to address the global problem.

“Today and every day for the foreseeable future, 18,000 children will die of hunger and hunger-related ailments – one every five seconds,” WFP Executive Director James T. Morris told a US Senate hearing on food aid yesterday.

“The number of hungry people – now estimated at 852 million worldwide – is growing by some 4 million a year. In spite of record contributions from our donors – led by the United States – the resources available to fight hunger are simply not keeping pace. We are not winning this war.”

Mr. Morris said the problem was “not only an affront to conscience in an era of plenty, but an untenable situation we ignore at our own risk.”

Investing in good nutrition for the youngest children and their mothers would break the cycle of “inherited hunger” that handicaps economic development in poor countries, he said. “This is the single best investment you can make in a better future for the poorest countries, indeed for all of us.”

The WFP chief, who was addressing the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, steps down in April from his post running the world’s largest provider of food aid. He said his five-year tenure was one of unprecedented challenge for WFP, citing huge disasters that ranged from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to the explosion of violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.

He also singled out the devastating impact of climate change and HIV/AIDS on food security, and the fact that both commodity and transport costs had risen sharply over that same period.

Mr. Morris said the US, the single-largest donor to WFP, could lead the world in making that extra investment, which he said could help reverse the negative global trends fuelling the continued rise in the numbers of hungry poor.

“President Eisenhower once said you can change the world with wheat, and not weapons. I believe that’s true,” he said.