The United Nations says progress toward reducing world hunger has stalled. The U.N.'s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says chronic hunger kills millions each year, especially children, and millions more will die unless more money is invested in the fight against hunger.
The report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002, is grim reading. Of the more than nine million people who die each year from hunger, six million of them are children under the age of five. In some parts of the world, it says, the number of undernourished may actually be growing.
Presenting the report at the U.N. food agency's headquarters in Rome, spokesman Nick Parsons was blunt. He said it shows very little progress in the fight against hunger.
"We bring together the very latest figures on how the world fight against hunger is going and I'm afraid it shows a pretty bleak picture," he stressed. "To all intents and purposes progress against hunger has slowed almost to a halt."
Mr. Parsons said the food agency is calling on the international donor community and developing countries to increase public investment in sustainable agriculture and rural development. "What we say is that unless we invest in the agricultural sector and in rural development, we won't make any progress because that's where the poor and the hungry live, 70 percent of them in developing countries live in rural areas but investment in those rural areas has been falling," said Mr. Parsons.
Experts at the U.N. agency say that investment in hunger reduction can have enormous economic benefits, both for rich countries and poorer countries. These benefits would be generated through the longer and more productive lives of those who, once their hunger is relieved, are able to contribute more profitably to the economy of their countries.