Press Release 98/40
FAO'S COMMITTEE ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY URGES COUNTRIES TO REMAIN FOCUSED ON WORLD FOOD SUMMIT GOAL: CUTTING HUNGER IN HALF BY 2015; AGREEMENT REACHED ON PROGRESS MONITORING SYSTEM FOR IMPLEMENTING SUMMIT'S PLAN OF ACTION
Rome, June 5 --- Agreement was reached today on arrangements to monitor worldwide progress on implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action, which calls for the number of hungry people in the world to be reduced from more than 800 million to half that by 2015.
As FAO's Committee on World Food Security wound up its four-day session, delegates agreed on a calendar and reporting procedures for monitoring the progress of individual countries toward implementing the Summit Plan of Action and achieving its goals.
The Committee, composed of representatives from 114 countries and the European Community, also called on countries not to lose sight of the World Food Summit goal and to continue their national efforts to fight hunger on all fronts. FAO experts are calling the implementation of the Summit Plan of Action "an emergency operation," saying it will be "a monumental challenge to cut, by at least half, the number of hungry people by 2015, given the prevailing levels of poverty and the high population growth rates in some countries."
New data, provided by FAO, confirm that agriculture forms the backbone of many of the poorest economies in the world and ironically it is the countries in which agriculture plays the greatest role in the economy that also have the highest numbers of hungry and malnourished people.
"These high rates of undernourishment perpetuate under-development. To overcome poverty, people must overcome hunger and the nutritional weakness it causes," said Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO's Economic and Social Department.
To improve this situation, it will be necessary to increase the income of the poorest people in the world, and the way to do that is to begin by improving agricultural production in the Low-Income Food- Deficit countries, according to FAO.
The UN agency continues to call on developed countries to assist in improving the food situation in the world's poorest countries, saying it is in the self-interest of developed countries to increase purchasing power and demand for food in these countries.
A special issue of FAO's Food Outlook, released during the meeting of the Committee, forecast 1998 cereal production at 1,911 million tons, marginally above last year's crop and a new record. If current forecasts materialize, cereal supplies would be sufficient to meet expected consumption requirements in 1998/99 and allow for the replenishment of global cereal reserves to minimum safe levels. According to the report, "the availability of bigger global cereal stocks than earlier anticipated has increased the margin of safety and allows for some cautious optimism for global cereal supplies in 1998/99." However, the report cautioned that with many of the 1998 crops just in the early stages of development, and the bulk of the rice crop in Asia still to be planted, these forecasts are still quite tentative.
It further warned that "a deterioration in prospects for 1998 crops cannot yet be ruled out, particularly in several southern hemisphere countries affected by the unpredictable El Nino-associated weather." The report said it is largely because of the effects from El Nino that the number of countries facing food emergencies has risen to 38 compared to 31 at the end of last year.*
The Committee on World Food Security is charged with measuring progress toward the World Food Summit goal. Before it opened, FAO had received detailed reports from 93 countries on their efforts to combat hunger
Almost all the reports from developed countries indicated that they have strengthened national systems to ensure safe, nutritious and high quality food supplies. Developed countries also reported on elaborate social welfare programs to support the poor, including income transfers schemes to meet such fundamental needs as food, basic health and social services.
In countries where the undernourished represent a significant proportion of the population, such as Angola, Bangladesh, Haiti and Mozambique, there is an emphasis on short-term measures such as food-for-work programs mainly with the support of food aid.
The focus of medium and long-term programs varies depending upon a country's situation and the nature of food insecurity problems. Poverty alleviation programs often include concrete measures to enhance access to land and/or security of tenure, as well as development of infrastructure and basic social services, land improvement through irrigation, access to credit, marketing and processing and development of storage facilities.
The Committee also made substantive progress in the development of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems, which is designed to help improve knowledge and increase the effectiveness of action aimed at reducing of the number of undernourished people in the world.
* The 38 countries suffering food emergencies are:
In Africa: Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
In Asia: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Korea ( DPRK), Laos, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea.
In Latin America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
In the Commonwealth of Independent States: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan.
For more information on FAO and the Committee on Food Security and its concluding report, please visit the FAO Website at http://www.fao.org