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World Food Summit Convenes in Rome - 2002-06-10

Delegates at a World Food Summit in Rome say much more needs to be done to help the world's hungry. Organizers say more than 800 million people still suffer from hunger in the world, with one person dying of malnutrition every four seconds.

Representatives from 182 countries are holding discussions on new strategies to combat world hunger. The summit is hosted by the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Security is tight for what is believed to be the largest meeting of heads of state since the September 11 terror attacks.

In a speech opening the four-day world food summit, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the time has come to halt the pain of hunger.

Mr. Annan called for farmers to be given more access to land, credit and technology. He said there is no shortage of food on the planet and that this summit must give new hope to the world's 800 million hungry people.

The United Nations food summit is to review progress on targets set five years ago at an earlier food summit. The delegates at that summit pledged to reduce the number of hungry people by 50 percent by the year 2015. FAO Director General Jacques Diouf says a lot more needs to be done if that goal is to be reached. "A solemn commitment was made to reduce to 400 million by 2015 the number of men and women who have to deal with hunger through restless sleep," he said. "Regrettably the political will and the financial resources have not reached the mark of human solidarity."

The United Nations says an investment of $24 billion a year needs to be spent on agriculture in the developing world in order to meet the targets.

Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of the growing food crisis in southern Africa as an area for urgent attention. Nearly 13 million people are facing famine in southern Africa.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa said that markets should be liberalized so that farmers in the developing world can compete with those from industrialized countries. He suggested that richer countries enter into a partnership of mutual accountability with the developing world to remove trade obstacles.