The rising cost of food around the world has driven an estimated 100 million more people into poverty during the last two years.  And the Washington-based organization Bread for the World says the problem is growing.  As VOA's Catherine Cannon reports, the group is urging Congress and President-elect Barack Obama to reorganize the nation's assistance programs to fight world hunger more effectively.
Bread for the World, a Christian-based non-governmental humanitarian organization, says the need to fight global hunger is urgent.  The group's president, David Beckmann, says the problem is growing because of the global financial crisis.  He says the crisis poses a huge setback in the fight against poverty and hunger. 

"Over the last couple of decades, we've seen really remarkable progress against poverty," Beckmann said.  "But this crisis has driven 100 million more people into extreme poverty.  As Americans gather around their Thanksgiving tables this year, we still have a lot to be thankful for and it would just be wrong for us to be so preoccupied with our own problems that we forget the nearly one billion people in the world who do not get enough to eat." 

Experts like Beckmann say it is possible to help poor and hungry people even in troubling economic times.  Bread for the World, which specializes in providing analysis of hunger issues, is urging the incoming U.S. Congress and President-elect Barack Obama to take action against hunger. 

David Beckmann adds that the United States can fight global hunger more effectively in 2009 if the new administration and Congress consolidate American foreign aid programs.  

"We now have dozens of agencies in the U.S. government administering foreign assistance," he said.  "We need to pull those programs together in one strong development agency that would improve accountability, and it would create in the government a stronger voice for global development." 

Beckmann notes that the U.S. spends more than any other country on international development.  Although he argues the country can afford to spend even more, Beckmann says he is merely urging re-organizing what is already being spent.

He says that  if the U.S. had a more effective development assistance program, more people around the world would be able to escape malnutrition, illiteracy and disease.

Bread for the World is also encouraging the new U.S. leadership to focus on helping developing countries achieve the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, which include fighting AIDS, preventing infant mortality and promoting maternal health.

"We all know that over the next couple decades, we could see dramatic progress against hunger and poverty, historic progress," Beckmann said.  "And by embracing the Millennium Development Goals, we demonstrate that the United States is fully committed to that great vision."

The United Nations hopes to attain its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  The first of the eight goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.