FAO Head starts hunger strike

Will be joined by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

14 November 2009, Rome - Hours before the opening of the World Summit on Food Security FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf began a 24 hour hunger strike to call for action to end the scourge of hunger and in solidarity with the one billion humans who suffer chronic malnutrition.

He called on "people of goodwill everywhere" to join him in a worldwide hunger strike this weekend. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced he will be joining the strike on Sunday.

Spotlighting his initiative Diouf began his fast at 8pm yesterday in the lobby of FAO headquarters in Rome, where he also spent the night.  He told reporters, "I hope that through these gestures we will raise awareness, and build pressure from public opinion to ensure that those who can change this situation are  able to do so."

Makeshift mattress

Heating at FAO HQ is turned off at night so to keep warm Diouf wore a scarf, a woolen cap and an overcoat on top of his cream-coloured pajamas. Before bedding down for the night on a makeshift mattress of foam blocs, he completed his workday by examining and signing documents and taking telephone calls. 

"We have the technical means and the resources to eradicate hunger from the world so it is now a matter of political will, and political will is influenced by public opinion," Diouf said.

"I hope that this gesture, together with others, may help achieve our goal of reducing the number of people around the world suffering from hunger and the number of children - now one every six seconds - dying of hunger or related diseases."

Worldwide strike

Diouf, who issued a call for a worldwide hunger strike at a press conference last Wednesday, will touch neither food nor water until 8 PM this evening. Anyone wanting to join the strike can do so at any time this weekend, deciding for themselves how many meals to skip.

Asked how he spent the night, Diouf said, "I slept pretty well. The only problem was the cold." Apart from attending the opening of a forum of Non Government Organizations he will remain at his improvised workstation in the FAO lobby for the rest of today.

In a separate initiative, Diouf  earlier this week launched a global online petition to end hunger. Visitors to http://www.1billionhungry.org/  can register their agreement that ending hunger and malnutrition should be the world's number one priority.  

The World Summit opening on Monday will adopt a declaration committing the international community to eradicating hunger at the earliest possible date and to achieving the right to adequate food for all.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Jacques Diouf on Hunger Strike