For information only - not an official document.
    10 October 2000
 Secretary-General Calls on Governments, Civil Society, Private Sector
And International Organizations to Fight World Hunger

NEW YORK, 9 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for World Food Day, which is observed on 16 October:

Humanity has made great progress over the last decade.  From mapping the human genome to instantaneous global communication, giant leaps have been taken.  Yet a great human tragedy still afflicts our world.  Today, 800 million men, women and children are denied the most basic human right of all:  the right to food. 

Food is essential to human life -– without it nothing happens:  no learning, no business, no art, no literature, no progress.  Hunger is a major constraint on human development and the realization of human rights.  It not only destroys the lives and hopes of individuals, it damages the peace and prosperity of nations as well.

The problem of hunger is particularly acute in the developing world.  One in five people in developing countries does not have access to food of sufficient quality.  In Africa, one out of three children suffers from chronic malnutrition.  Overall, 6 million pre-school children die every year as a result of hunger.

To make this new millennium free from hunger, we must take action urgently on many fronts, not just to feed the hungry, but to eliminate the underlying causes of hunger.  Ending hunger and food insecurity is not simply a matter of growing more food.  Recent studies have shown that four out of five malnourished children in the developing world live in countries that boast food surpluses. The larger short-term challenge is to make sure that food gets into the hands and the mouths of those who need it now -– the poor, women and young girls, isolated rural communities, ethnic minorities living on the economic margins of society, and victims of wars and natural disasters. 

We must also focus on a wider, long-term strategy.  At the centre of this strategy must be a move to increase the education levels of women and girls.  This has proven to be a powerful weapon against hunger in the past, and will be the key to a hunger-free world in the future.  More broadly, we must strive for a pattern of economic growth that genuinely reduces poverty, especially in rural communities.  We need policies that give more employment opportunities to the poor, and safety nets to protect the most vulnerable.

We are now better placed than at any time in recent history to win the fight against hunger.  The key elements of a strategy for building a hunger-free world exist.  What has been lacking until now is the political will to put them into practice.  Now is the time for all to join together:  governments, civil society, the private sector and international organizations alike.  Together, we can turn the dream into reality, and make the new millennium truly free from hunger.

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