Urgent Call For United Action On Hunger

Published on 22 September 2011

With over 12 million still affected by the Horn of Africa drought, four of the world’s leading food security, development and humanitarian aid organizations are jointly calling for urgent action on hunger and malnutrition.

NEW YORK-- The World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations have joined forces with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as the IFRC’s annual World Disasters Report (WDR) 2011 is launched in New York.

The 2011 WDR focuses on the persistent problem of hunger and malnutrition and outlines some of the underlying causes of food insecurity which need to be urgently addressed by governments and donors alike.   The fundamental question raised throughout the report is why an estimated one billion people still go to bed hungry each night, despite the world producing enough food for everyone.

“This year’s WDR comes at a particularly timely moment, with millions still suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the Horn of Africa,” said Bekele Geleta, Ethiopian-born IFRC Secretary General, in New York for the launch.

“It is essential we keep the spotlight on hunger and ensure the terrible scenes from Ethiopia in the 1980s, and now in the Horn of Africa, are not repeated time and again. We need to seriously re-think the current global food system and ensure a fairer distribution of food across the world.”

The root causes of hunger are multiple and complex concludes the WDR report, citing a lack of investment in agriculture, rising food prices, climate change and food commodity market speculation as major factors contributing to chronic problems of severe hunger and malnutrition. An estimated three million children die before they reach the age of five as a result of under nutrition.

“As this year’s WDR highlights, an estimated 178 million under-fives are suffering from stunted growth as a result of lack of food and under-nutrition,” said David Nabarro, UN Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition. “This not only impacts on today’s children but will also have profound health, social and economic implications for the future. This is an avoidable tragedy; we are now seeing a stronger focus on sustainable solutions to prevent both hunger and poor nutrition.”

Greater investment in the agricultural sector is one major proposal explored in the report which argues that more must be done to support local farmers and small scale agricultural enterprises, particularly in light of the rising costs of seeds and fertilizers. Half the world’s food supply and 90 per cent of the food grown in Africa is grown by small farmers.

The role of women in agriculture is also examined in the report, with research showing that targeted investment in female farmers can improve yields by as much as 30 per cent.

“Only if we bolster agriculture and rural development in poor countries, and close the gender gap in agriculture as recommended by FAOs 2011 SOFA report, farmers and herders will be able to produce food and to adapt to challenges such as  food price volatility, drought and climate change,” said Lila  Ratsifandrihamanana, Director of the FAO New York Liaison Office.  

"We must work together to break the cycle of hunger and build resiliency for the world's hungry poor," added WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "WFP's action on food safety nets and local food purchase and production are powerful tools to empower people in disasters."

In addition to a decline in crop production, a new round of food inflation in 2010-2011 has pushed nearly 110 million people into the ranks of the undernourished. The factors behind the inflation are varied and difficult to pinpoint, but a reduction in global food stocks, climate change and financial speculation have all been factors behind the ongoing volatility of food markets.

“High and volatile food prices are likely to continue in the near future with the poorest of the poor being most at risk,” said the FAO’s Ratsifandrihamanana. “We have the resources, technologies and know-how to ensure food security for all and prevent human tragedies like the one we are witnessing today in the Horn of Africa. We must save lives and livelihoods.”

To see a fully copy of the 2011 World Disasters Report please go to:

Full report
http://files.designisgood.info/307000-WDR-2011-FINAL-email.pdf

Summary, English
http://files.designisgood.info/307000-WDR2011-Summary-EN.pdf

For further information or set up media interviews please contact:
Jessica Sallabank:  IFRC Senior Media Officer  Geneva:  +41 799481148
Rodrigo DeLapuerta: FAO Assistant Directeur-de-Cabinet. Rome.+390657053155
Florence Lasbennes: Chief of staff of the UN Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition.  Rome +39 335 610 11 30
Emilia Casella:  UN World Food Programme Global Media Coordinator. Rome +39.347.945.0634