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Despite a goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015, the number of hungry people continues to rise. World Food Day celebrations are being held Friday to raise awareness to the plight of the world's hungry.
"World Food Weekend, World Food Day 2009, with their various activities, are serving as a milestone in the preparations leading to the World Summit on Food Security to be opened exactly one month from today," said Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations food agency based in Rome. Diouf welcomed participants to celebrations for World Food Day - the anniversary of the founding, back in 1945, of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Each year FAO chooses a theme for World Food Day. This year it's: "Achieving Food Security In Times Of Crisis". Diouf said that at a time when the fallout from the global economic crisis still dominates the news, it is important to remind the international community that the crisis is stalking the small-scale farms and rural areas of the world, where 70 percent of the world's hungry live and work.
"For the first time in history, more than one billion people are undernourished worldwide," he said. "This is 105 million more than last year and it means that one in every six persons in the world suffers from hunger every day."
The world's most populous region, Asia and the Pacific, has the largest number of hungry people - 642 million - followed by sub-Saharan Africa with 265 million.
The FAO's director general said the recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of a poor global harvest. He said it is caused by the current world economic crisis, which has reduced incomes and employment opportunities of the poor and significantly lowered their access to food.
Diouf added that the current food crisis is historically unprecedented. It follows the global and sharp increase in staple food prices in 2007-2008. He said world leaders are starting to understand that investment in agriculture must be increased.
The director general also said that it is of utmost importance to resolve how aid is channeled and how it is made to reach small farmers effectively. The FAO has said that global food output will have to increase by 70 percent to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050. The report calls for greater investment in agriculture to tackle long and short-term hunger by making farmers productive and more resilient to crises.
The report calls for greater investment in agriculture to tackle long and short-term hunger by making farmers productive and more resilient to crises.