World Food Day: Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis
Sunday, January 17, 2010
11:06 AM
UNITED NATIONS— On Thursday, October 29, World Food Day was observed at the United Nations Headquarters where Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other notable speakers gave remarks to an assembly about the severity of the rapidly growing number of individuals that are malnourished throughout the world.

The situation in rural areas in developing countries is dire, coming in the wake of the surge in food and fuel prices in the past two years. 70 percent of the world’s hungry are on small-scale farms. The second crisis is hitting the poor. Money sent home from relatives working in the city or abroad has declined as the global unemployment rate quickly rises. In small agricultural fields, the poor have already exhausted their savings to buy food. In addition, there have been cut backs on health and education for these individuals.

The food crisis impacts most individuals in developing countries, predominantly in Africa and southern Asia. Over 1 billion individuals are hungry and malnourished with an increase of 100 million people just last year! This means that approximately one in six persons in the world suffers from hunger every day. Ki-moon stressed the importance for these individuals to gain immediate access to food and agricultural development while building canals and irrigation systems to provide clean, drinkable water.

“There has been an unacceptable rise in hungry people in the past two years,” emphasized Ki-moon. “We need even greater efforts to help those affected. We must invest in food production and distribution and there also needs to be political and financial support.”

As developing countries are more financially and commercially integrated in the world economy, a drop in the global demand or supply and in credit availability has immediate repercussions on them. Also, because of the widespread nature of the crisis, the normal mechanisms used by governments and households to cope with economic shocks are stretched thin, added Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Even though food prices have declined overall, they remain high in developing countries and there is still the possibility of another food crisis if concerted action is not taken to achieve food security,” stated Sylvie Lucas, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations. “Food security is not only about alleviating hunger, it is a complex and interrelated issue that concerns peace and well-being, economic security, environmental stability, the empowerment of women and sustainable development.”

Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, food price index rose, on average by 52 percent from mid-2007 to mid-2008. For example, global cereal prices are still more than 63 percent higher than they were in 2005, according to the International Monetary Fund. Factors that initially caused the food crisis are still present: the population growth rate is still high in many of the most food insecure countries, agricultural productivity is low, water availability and land tenure are significant problems and the number of floods and droughts is above long-term averages.

According to the World Food Bank, in 2008, officially recorded remittances accounted for around $300 billion USD. The current economic slowdown means a sharp decline in remittances sent home to poor families in both rural and urban settings. It is clear that the most vulnerable and hungry individuals need help now.

“I believe that moments of crisis often inspire people to action,” exclaimed Dr. Abdussalam Treki, President of the United Nations General Assembly.

The first step in reaching the hungry is to know their identity, location and situation. Monitoring food pricing helps governments keep tabs on hunger hotspots both within countries and communities. Safety nets and social programs must be created to catch the most vulnerable. Options include food distribution programs and various feeding programs. Establishing a network of food stamps and direct food aid or “food for work” would also be effective.

Investments of $30 billion USD a year would generate an overall annual benefit of $120 billion USD, which would improve agricultural productivity and enhance the livelihoods and food security in poor rural communities, develop and conserve natural resources and ensure access to food for the most needy through safety nets and other direct assistance.

“The urgency of this matter cannot be overemphasized,” said Heraldo Muñoz, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations. “If we lose this “window of opportunity” to attend to the special needs of post-conflict countries, it will inevitably undermine our efforts for years to come in terms of health, learning capacities and social opportunities and well-being for the populations concerned.”

Information
Location: United Nations Headquarters
Author: Vanessa Pinto
NGO: Manhattanville College

About
I'm a senior majoring in English. I attend and report on UN Briefings and other meetings from October through May. I published a novel at the age of seventeen and have three years of writing experience for my college newspaper, literary and travel magazine. My focus is magazine & editorial writing and travel documentary. I am also active in global volunteer efforts for peace and interfaith alliance, as well as the promotion of animal rights, women's rights and education, and disaster relief.

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