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Press Release 97/52


Rome, October 20 - The first global TeleFood telecast, organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with the aim of raising awareness of the plight of the world's 800 million chronically hungry and malnourished, linked an estimated 100 million viewers in 60 countries on four continents, culminating with a star-studded concert at the Vatican last night attended by more than 5 000 guests.

The Italian national television company RAI, which presented eight and a half hours of TeleFood transmission in Italy with relays by satellite links to the rest of the world, estimated the audience at more than 100 million. Satellite operators Intelstat and Radio France Outremers (RFO) provided free downlinks for developing countries to connect to the RAI transmission. Many countries also broadcast programmes of their own on the TeleFood theme.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: "Everyone concerned has shown that as human beings they will not accept that other human beings should be chronically hungry. We need to make people around the world aware of the issues so that no-one can ignore the daily reality of hunger."

TeleFood was conceived by Dr Diouf as part of the annual World Food Day observations which mark the anniversary of the foundation of FAO and also as part of the follow-up to last year's World Food Summit in Rome. At the Summit, leaders of 186 countries, 112 of them represented at the level of Head of State or Government, pledged their efforts to cut by half the number of the world's hungry by 2015.

In several countries TeleFood programmes included appeals for donations. In Italy these reached over two billion lire (US$1.2 million) by the time the programme ended, with the Banca Commerciale Italiana opening 1 000 branches to accept donations and the credit card company CartaSi operating special phone lines to accept gifts by credit card. In Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries, US$26 000 had been raised in a series of events by the weekend. Amounts collected in other countries will be reported as they become known.

FAO said accounts were remaining open for donations, in some cases throughout November, with details of arrangements for receiving contributions in individual countries listed on the special TeleFood Internet site:

Dr Diouf told viewers that the main aim of TeleFood was to raise awareness of issues related to hunger, malnutrition and food security. He expressed his gratitude for the generosity of donors and repeated an earlier pledge that all the money collected would go to funding practical grassroots projects in the world's poorest countries, with none being diverted for FAO's administrative costs. The whole operation is subject to stringent external auditing.

"The money will go to the people who can use it. We are not giving people food, but the means to grow it for themselves, to achieve their own food security and become independent of aid," Dr Diouf said. He added that next year's TeleFood would include features showing how donations had benefited farmers in projects covering matters such as water management, crop and animal diversification and the use of higher yielding and more resilient crop varieties.

The TeleFood transmission by RAI was in two parts, the first including reports from developing countries, discussion of food security issues and live entertainment by international artists including Chalice from Jamaica, with a special "Food for All" song, the Adalberto Alvarez orchestra from Cuba, Gypsy guitarist Manitas de Plata from France and many others. There were also live links with Senegal and Morocco and an interview with the young Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, now playing for Inter Milan.

Ronaldo spoke of his own childhood in a poor Brazilian favella and his escape through sport. "I am grateful to those who helped me, and now I want to help others. The future of poor children depends on the help that we can give them. If everyone helps then there will be a result," he said.

The evening concert at the Sala Paolo IV in the Vatican starred rising young Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli with guests including Spanish opera star José Carreras, Italian flautist Andrea Griminelli, American singers Michael Bolton and Tony Bennett and the rock star Zucchero, who sang a specially rewritten version of Verdi's Va Pensiero. The chorus and orchestra of Rome Opera were conducted by Keri Lynn Wilson of the United States. Carreras led a stirring performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber song Friends for Life, written for the Barcelona Olympic Games.






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