The new U.S. ambassador to U.N. food agencies based in Rome recently arrived to take up his post.  Gaddi Vasquez directed the Peace Corps for the past four-and-a-half years.

Ambassador Gaddi Vasquez says public awareness of world hunger must be increased to provide greater support for international efforts.  He says he hopes to be a leader in addressing the devastating consequences of world hunger and poverty.

Vasquez arrived in Rome three weeks ago as the eighth U.S. representative to the U.N. food agencies.  He says he believes his experience as Director of the Peace Corps will be useful now.

"During my tenure I traveled to over 60 countries and I had the opportunity to see the strength of development work, the capacity of Peace Corps volunteers to build capacity in the areas of agriculture, in the areas of irrigation, maximizing or improving productivity," he said.

Vasquez says the Peace Corps concentrates its efforts in rural communities, villages, and towns and works at the grassroots level.  He says his time at the Peace Corps gave him the opportunity to see the strengths and challenges that are faced on a daily basis in the developing world.

Ambassador Vasquez says he plans to travel extensively in his new job and his first trip could be as early as December.  He did not announce a destination, but he says Africa continues to be a high U.S. priority for foreign assistance.

"We have made major investments of resources and personnel in Africa because there are a number of needs on different fronts and so consequently there has been a concentration of that," he added.  "How that spells out in my new capacity is yet to be determined, but there is no doubt that the continent of Africa is facing some significant challenges."

Ambassador Vasquez attended the opening of a new Crisis Management Center at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.  Just before the launch of the center, the U.S. mission announced an American pledge of up to $35 million over three years to fight avian influenza.