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Hunger toll on World Food Day: 6,241,512 dead

To mark the occasion of World Food Day on 16 October, the Executive Director of WFP, James Morris, said that by the end of the day 6,241,512 people will have already died of hunger and related diseases so far this year.

He called on governments, aid organisations and the private sector to redouble their efforts on behalf of the hungry poor, with particular emphasis on children.

The number of chronically hungry is on the rise again, after decades of progress. We’re losing ground
James Morris, WFP Executive Director
At a time when the world has been shocked by the horrific images of the earthquake in Pakistan, where some 20,000 lives were wiped out in a matter of a few seconds, Morris appealed to the donor community not to forget that away from cameras lurked the biggest killer of all.

On the rise

“Few people realise that hunger and related diseases still claim more lives than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. What is worse, the number of chronically hungry is on the rise again, after decades of progress. We’re losing ground,” Morris said.

“We believe that solving the problem of child hunger is the key to ending world hunger,” Morris added. “If we can all work together to give today’s children the chance to reach their full potential in adulthood and prepare them better as parents, we can actually break the inter-generational cycle of hunger and poverty.”

Niger example

Morris contrasted the situation in developed countries, where the most vulnerable are protected by special provisions, such as social services, unemployment benefit, child allowances and income support, to that in the developing world, where there are very few of these safety nets, and cited the current drought in Niger as an example.

“With any luck, next year will be a good year for Niger. Maybe the rains will come on time, the locust swarms will be manageable and no other unexpected disaster will occur.

"If that happens – and it’s a bit of a long shot – we expect only about 450 of Niger’s children to die every day of hunger related causes during the lean season. And some consider that good news.”

Spotlight on Malawi

Similar crises were to be found in many other parts of the world, Morris said.

“Go across sub-Saharan Africa, and add conflict and HIV/AIDS to the equation, and the situation gets even worse. The spotlight is now on Malawi, where millions of people are facing a food crisis, caused by the failure of seasonal rains and the collapse of food production as a direct result of HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Hungry children

Morris said that of the total number of hungry children in the world, about 100 million were currently getting no assistance at all.

To provide them and the estimated 15 million under-nourished expectant and nursing mothers who are also without support, would cost about US$5 billion a year.

Some US$2 billion could be provided by the developing countries, leaving US$3 billion for the developed world to provide.

“A lot of money? Not when you consider that between them, the developed countries spend far more than that every week on agricultural subsidies,” Morris argued.