More Hungry People in '09 Than Ever Before

UN Reports More Than 1 Billion Undernourished

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ROME, JUNE 23, 2009 ( The U.N. meeting on development set to begin Wednesday has a tall order to fill: The Food and Agriculture Organization has reported that this year, global hunger will reach an all time high, with one-sixth of the planet’s population going hungry.

L’Osservatore Romano reported on the latest FAO report, released Friday. The news that 1.02 billion people are undernourished points to the importance of Benedict XVI’s June 14th appeal during the Corpus Christi Angelus address.

«[Hunger] is an absolutely unacceptable situation that even after the efforts of recent decades is proving difficult to reduce,» the Pope lamented. «I therefore hope that on the occasion of the upcoming U.N. conference and at the headquarters of international institutions provisions shared by the whole of the international community will be made, as well as those strategic decisions, sometimes far from easy to accept but which are necessary in order to assure basic foodstuffs and a dignified life to one and all, in the present and in the future.»

The FAO affirmed that the increase in hunger is not due to poor harvest, but rather to the economic downturn that has brought about lower incomes, coupled with food prices being higher.

«A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,» said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf in a statement from the U.N. organization. «The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions.»

Hunger was being reined in during the 1980s and the first part of the ’90s, but for a decade, it has again been on the rise, FAO reported. This year, the number is projected to rise 11%.

Though the majority of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries — the most in Asia and the Pacific (642 million) — there are some 15 million in developed countries as well.

The food crisis of 2006-2008 already had set the stage for growing hunger, the FAO noted. At the end of 2008, food prices were an average 24% higher than two years earlier.

Diouf affirmed that increased world hunger threatens world peace. «The present situation of world food insecurity cannot leave us indifferent,» he said.

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