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Press Release 01/80 C4

Speaking Before Representatives from FAO's 183 Member States

Rome, November 3, 2001. - "The tragedy of hunger in a world of abundance and waste continues to be a troubling reality," Director-General Jacques Diouf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told representatives from the Organization's 183 member states today.

There are 815 million undernourished people in the world: 777 million in the developing countries, 27 million in countries in transition and 11 million in the industrialized countries, Dr. Diouf said. He called the average annual decline in the number of people suffering from hunger in developing countries "totally inadequate." That decline has been just 6 million people a year during the 1990s, according to FAO estimates.

To meet the 1996 World Food Summit goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015, the number of people suffering from hunger will now have to be reduced by 22 million each year. "At the present rate, it will take more than 60 years to reach this objective, " warned Dr. Diouf.

To effectively fight hunger and poverty, the FAO Director-General said the battle will "have to be waged on two fronts." In the case of emergencies, immediate targeted food aid is necessary, "but the only lasting solution is to help poor rural communities to do without food aid by increasing their own production, first for on-farm consumption, and then for the market."

In this regard, Dr. Diouf said that the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), which he launched in low-income food-deficit countries shortly after his election as Director-General in 1993, continues to expand in 95 countries. Thanks to this programme farmers have adopted simple low-cost technologies, and crop yields have very quickly increased, as has their incomes, said Dr. Diouf.

"However, the SPFS has not been able to cover all the low-income food-deficit countries, nor to include the recommended number of rural communities and activities in each country. Nine hundred million US dollars would be required for the Programme to be properly implemented in all the low-income food deficit countries," Dr. Diouf said.

The Director-General launched a special FAO Fund for Food Security last summer. The fund is to be initially funded at $500 million by voluntary contributions to assist farmers in developing countries increase their food production. A number of countries have already announced their intention to contribute to the fund.

Turning to FAO's Programme of Work and Budget, Dr. Diouf described the Organization's task as: "Doing always more, doing always better, but always doing with less - that has been FAO's paradox these last six years." He put savings to the Organization at $50 million each year since 1994 and said that 650 posts had been eliminated. "No other UN Agency has been placed under such stringent budgetary constraints. But, there are limits to everything and we cannot go on indefinitely in this direction."

"Is it not high time that certain countries renounced their policy of zero nominal growth of budget for this Organization? Is this not the time for courage in deciphering the messages from a world under profound change? Is this not the right moment to make a symbolic - but so very significant -gesture in response to the desperate calls of the weak," said the FAO Director-General, who deplored that the budget allocated to the Organization to assist the 815 million hungry people in the world is equivalent to just 40 cents a year for each undernourished person.

On The World Food Summit: five years later, originally scheduled for 5-9 November 2001, but delayed due to the current international situation, Dr. Diouf said: "I should therefore like to pay homage to the Council which has understood the ethical and political dimension of the problem and has thus decided that the Summit of Heads of State and Government will be held next year from 10 to 13 June."

"For the 815 million people who do not have access to sufficient food, including some 300 million children left to their sad fate, it is not acceptable to delay for too long the initiatives needed to achieve the objective set by the World Food Summit in 1996," warned the Director-General of FAO.


For futher information, please visit the FAO web site or contact the FAO Media Relation Service at tel.: +39.06.57052232.

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