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U.N.: Hunger relief at a standstill

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Source: The Campaign.

U.N.: Hunger relief at a standstill

October 15

AP

WASHINGTON -- Progress toward reducing famine worldwide has stalled and hunger spread in some countries over the past eight years, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday.

The report said seven countries together -- China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nigeria, Ghana and Peru -- reduced hunger for about 100 million people from 1992 to 2000. But 96 million more people went hungry in 47 countries during that period for reasons ranging from war to drought to population growth.

"Unfortunately, I don't have very good news to report today," said Charles Riemenschneider, director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in North America, as he cited statistics from the report.

He noted that sub-Saharan countries in Africa continue to have high numbers of hungry people.

"Most of the increase took place in Central Africa, driven by the collapse into chronic warfare of a single country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the number of undernourished people has tripled," the report said.

Of the 840 million hungry people around the globe, 36.4 million are citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the organization said. In comparison, China -- including Taiwan -- relieved hunger for 74 million people.

Riemenschneider said part of the problem is that countries are not improving roads or investing in farm programs that would combat hunger.

"In countries where people are most hungry, unfortunately the countries invest the least in agricultural and rural development," he said. "Poverty is ultimately the cause of hunger."

Food donations from developed nations have dropped, contributing to the food crisis in countries experiencing drought and government instability, Riemenschneider said.

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"I think in many countries when they start to slip off the front page of the newspapers, donors tend to slow down," he said.

While biotech crops could help reduce hunger, an editor of the report, Andrew Marx, said companies are producing such crops for industrial purposes, rather than designing ones that would survive harsh weather and soil conditions in needy countries.

Countries at the World Food Summit in 1996 set a goal to curb hunger for half the famished population by 2015. The U.N. organization said the new estimates, however, indicate that countries must boost their efforts to fill empty stomachs before then.

"In order to make up for the lagging progress to date to reach the World Food Summit goal on time, we must now strive to reduce the number of hungry people by 24 million each year from now until 2015," the organization said in the report.

That pace is almost 10 times faster than the rate at which hunger was reduced from 1992 to 2000.

Studies show that economies improve when hunger and malnutrition are treated, said the U.N. organization, which encourages farming development to increase food production around the globe.

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