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IP: * 26.11.03, 03:14
November 26, 2003
Hunger Worsens in Many Lands, U.N. Says

AKAR, Senegal, Nov. 25 — The number of hungry people worldwide has swelled in
recent years, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, because of war, drought,
AIDS and trade barriers, according to a report released Tuesday by the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The report, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003," found that
after falling steadily during the first half of the 1990's, hunger grew in
the latter half of the decade.

Between 1999 and 2001, the report found, more than 840 million people, or one
in seven, went hungry. Most alarming of all, between 1995 and 2001, the
number of malnourished people across the developing world grew by an average
of 4.5 million a year.

The agency said the findings would make it impossible to meet its goal of
reducing world hunger by half by 2015. That goal, set first in 1996, was
cited as a top priority by the United Nations Millennium Summit meeting in
September 2000.

The rise in hunger came even though the world produced ample food, and in 22
countries, including Bangladesh, Haiti and Mozambique, the number of
undernourished declined in the second half of the decade. "Bluntly stated,
the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will," the
report declared.

The agency called on rich countries to invest in improving agricultural
productivity, conserving natural resources and expanding access to global
markets for farmers in the developing world. Citizens of countries that spend
significant portions of their limited export earnings to import food are most
likely to go hungry, the report concluded. By contrast, countries that
succeeded in reducing hunger were those where agricultural production rose,
population growth slowed and H.I.V. rates were relatively low.

Antipoverty advocates said the report underscored the need to tackle the
underlying causes of hunger.

"We tend to think of the solution as, `Well, they need seeds and tools,' "
Adrienne Smith, a spokeswoman for Oxfam America, which is based in Boston,
said in a telephone interview. "Unfortunately there are structural issues
that conspire to keep people from thriving."

Throughout the 1990's, the report found, only 19 countries, including China,
reduced hunger among their peoples. In another 17 countries, where hunger had
begun falling in the early 1990's, the number of malnourished people climbed
in the latter half of the decade; this group included densely populated
nations like India and Nigeria.

"Unless significant gains are made in large countries where progress has
stalled, it will be difficult to reverse this negative trend," the report

Not surprisingly, the figures from countries at war, like Liberia and Congo,
were the most startling. Agricultural production has come to a standstill in
those countries, a great many of them in West and Central Africa. The vast
and fertile Congo topped the chart, with 75 percent of its population
estimated to be undernourished in the 1999-2001 period. In Afghanistan and
Burundi, 70 percent of the people were undernourished.

In southern Africa, the report went on, the AIDS pandemic has cut a
devastating swath through what otherwise would be its most productive
citizens. The disease has robbed families of their breadwinners and forced
some families to abandon their fields.

Hunger in turn has exacerbated the AIDS crisis, driving rural people to the
cities, where infection rates are high, and forcing women and children to
trade sex for money and food, the report found.

Pointing to the success of some countries, the report singled out efforts by
Brazil to tackle the roots of hunger: poverty, unemployment and land

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