The World Food Program warns hunger and malnutrition will continue to rise as financial and food crises bite into the ever-shrinking income of the world's poor. The World Food Program says new creative ways must be found to feed the hungry as government resources dry up.
The World Food Program reports the number of hungry people in the world has topped one billion for the first time in history. The agency's Deputy Executive Director, Staffan de Mistura says this shocking figure set alarm bells off during this year's G 8 summit in Africa.
In reaction to that, he says the G 8 industrialized countries pledged to spend $20 billion during the next three years to confront world hunger. He says he believes the G 8 will keep its word.
"I was there. I saw the body language. I saw the way it was presented. I was aware of some of the discussions," de Mistura said. "I know who was particularly behind it - it was President Obama and I could see also the personal solemn commitment coming out of that meeting. President Obama, in particular, I think took it as a personal challenge. Yes. I trust this 20 billion."
But, even if the pledges are kept, de Mistura agrees it will not be easy to keep pace with world hunger. He says the number of hungry people in the world is expected to grow by more than 100 million during the coming year.
He notes time is running out on the provision of food aid by the rich to the poor. He says the message enunciated at the G 8 summit was that food handouts would not be endlessly tolerated.
He says governments are placing greater emphasis on ways to enhance food security.
"I will give you an example. Food for food security means food for agriculture development. The farmers being given the opportunity to produce more food, while being kept alive. The schools being able to keep the children going while the production of the farmers goes on," he said. "Buying food locally or giving food or cash vouchers so that people in a certain country can go on and buy local food and through that also helping the local shop keepers."
De Mistura says the ultimate goal is to get farmers to become self-sufficient. He says money must be given to help them produce more food. But, he notes this will take time. So, in the meantime, he says some of the G 8's $20 billion must be used for food assistance just to keep hungry people alive.