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Pope calls for action on hunger

2009-10-16 16:02

Rome - The world must take "determined and effective" action against hunger after the global economic crisis pushed the ranks of the undernourished to a record one billion, Pope Benedict XVI said on Friday.

Developing countries need more investments, especially in agriculture, to ensure their populations don't go hungry, the pope said in a message to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation on World Food Day.

"This crisis requires governments and the members of the international community to make determined and effective choices," Benedict said in the message read at an FAO ceremony. "Access to food is more than a basic need, it is a fundamental right of individuals and peoples."

Benedict has frequently spoken out on the crisis, calling for a new world financial order guided by ethics and urging the world not let its poorest and most vulnerable inhabitants suffer the consequences of the downturn.

The crisis "is especially serious for the agricultural world, where the situation becomes dramatic," Benedict said in his message. "Agriculture must have at its disposal enough investments and resources."

The FAO said this week that aid and investment in agriculture have been declining over the past two decades, contributing to increased hunger.

This year, the number of hungry people around the world reached 1.02 billion amid high food prices and the global financial meltdown, according to the Rome-based agency.

The FAO says global food output will have to increase by 70% to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050. To achieve that, poor countries will need $44bn in annual agricultural aid, compared with the current $7.9bn.

Earlier on Friday, among other events to mark World Food Day, the FAO named five new goodwill ambassadors including track and field great Carl Lewis and fashion designer Pierre Cardin.