Nearly a billion people worldwide are starving, UN agency warns

Ӣ Rising prices mean 14% now under-nourished
Ӣ Urgency over food crisis lost amid credit crunch

Almost a billion people go hungry each day after food price rises pushed 40 million more people around the world into the ranks of the undernourished, the UN food agency reported yesterday.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food prices have more than halved from their historic peaks a few months ago, but the cost of basic staples measured by an FAO index is still high: 28% higher on average than two years ago.

That has led to an increase in the number of people unable to afford to eat enough calories to lead a normal, active life. There are now estimated to be 963 million people, 14% of the world’s population, going hungry in 2008, up by 40 million from last year.

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  • Telegraph
    Parminder Bahra

    International aid programmes are in crisis, with governments around the world failing to honour funding promises, individual donors sceptical about aid policies and wealthy philanthropists losing money in the economic turmoil.

    Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the United Nations, told The Times: “We have a terrible situation because the overall aid system is on its knees and that was true even before this global economic crisis.”

    Professor Sachs said that the commitments made in 2005 as part of the Gleneagles agreement, when the G8 group of the world’s richest nations agreed to substantial debt relief and a commitment to increase aid to Africa, have not been fulfilled.

    “Promises that were made in 2005 are our benchmark with very specific time-bound commitments,” he said. “Europe is not meeting them, the United States is not really at the table properly, Japan has been cutting aid relentlessly and this is a very serious problem.”

    He added that the economic downturn will have dire consequences for the poorest nations. “It has recently been reported that the number of deeply hungry people has risen to nearly a billion,” he said. “There is an energy crisis, a continuing food crisis, a global economic crisis and aid efforts that are definitely flagging at best.”

    Professor Sachs’s work as adviser to Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, has led him to argue strongly the case for aid as the key to economic development. “There are a tremendous number of things that can be done and aren’t being done,” he said. “And we are really emphasising the need to step up aid in magnitude and intensity but also to improve the quality of aid.”

    Professor Sachs is critical of suggestions that it is more important for developing countries to secure a trade agreement in the World Trade Organisation talks than to be given more aid. He said: “Trade issues are not the most important issues, actually.

    “I can tell you that the problems of the poorest countries are the need for basic infrastructure, roads, power, skills, education, water, climate resilience and foreign partnerships that will come along in co-operation with the private sector.


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