The head of a U.N. food agency called on people around the world Wednesday to join him in a day of fasting to highlight the plight of undernourished people, whose ranks have surged past 1 billion in the global economic crisis.
Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, said he hoped the move would encourage action by world leaders who will take part in a three-day food summit at the agency's headquarters starting Monday.
Presenting the summit goals to reporters, Diouf called for "a global day of hunger strike" on the eve of the summit to show solidarity with the world's hungry.
Diouf said he would begin a 24-hour fast on Saturday morning. The agency also launched an online petition against world hunger.
The Rome-based agency announced earlier this year that hunger now affects a record 1.02 billion, or one in six people, with the financial meltdown, high food prices, drought and war blamed.
FAO hopes its World Summit on Food Security, with some 60 heads of state so far expected to attend, will endorse a new strategy to combat hunger, focusing on increased investment in agricultural development for poor countries.
The long-term increase in the number of hungry is largely tied to reduced aid and private investments earmarked for agriculture since the mid-1980s, according to the agency.
Countries like Brazil, Nigeria and Vietnam that have invested in their small farmers and rural poor are bucking the hunger trend, Diouf told the news conference.
They are among 31 countries that have reached or are on track to meet the goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015, he said.
"Eradicating hunger is no pipe dream," Diouf said. "The battle against hunger can be won."
The FAO says global food output will have to increase by 70 percent to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050.
To achieve that, poor countries will need $44 billion in annual agricultural aid, compared with the current $7.9 billion, to increase access to irrigation systems, modern machinery, seeds and fertilizer as well as build roads and train farmers.
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