The United Nations' food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, has appealed for increased spending to combat world hunger. The appeal came one week before representatives from all over the world gather in Rome for a World Food Summit.

At a World Food Summit held in Rome in 1996 delegates from around the world called for urgent action to eradicate the hunger suffered by over 800 million people. They pledged to halve the number of hungry people by 2015.

Acknowledging that the world is still far from eradicating hunger, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization on Tuesday urged countries to spend an extra $24 billion a year in the fight against hunger.

"We are reducing the number of hungry people by 80 million a year, which is encouraging, which is positive, which shows that we make progress," said FAO director-general Dr. Jacques Diouf recently. "But this is not enough. If we continue at that trend, we will reach [our] objective [by] the year 2030."

There are fears that there will still be 600 million hungry people in the world by 2015 without the extra investment.

In advance of next week's summit, the FAO has issued the report titled "Anti-Hunger Program: Reducing Hunger Through Agricultural and Rural Development and Wider Access to Food." According to the report, "fighting hunger is not only a moral imperative, it also brings large economic benefits." The report adds that the additional benefits are expected to be worth at least $120 billion a year, resulting from longer and healthier lives for all those benefiting from such improvements.