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UN Summit Looks for Solutions to Global Hunger Pains

Officials from about 100 countries gathered in Madrid for a United Nations summit aimed at combating soaring food prices that are causing hunger around the globe.

Hands with rice

Price increases for basics such as rice are a big concern

There had been little progress in the fight against hunger recently, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on opening the conference on Monday, Jan. 26, attributing the problems to rising food prices in 2008 and to the international financial crisis.

The conference should facilitate "a drastic change in the way we govern hunger," Jacques Diouf, general director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said in an interview with the daily El Pais.

Looking for solutions

Children in Haiti show the bowl used for their meal of beans and rice

These children in Haiti only eat one meal a day

The meeting bringing together UN officials, representatives of international agencies and the civil society was to be closed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Tuesday.

The summit was aimed at charting the progress in meeting the goals of the Rome food summit in June 2008.

It will draw up a road map to ensure the enforcement of the Rome agreements to alleviate the suffering caused by soaring food prices and to stimulate agricultural development and food production, according to Spanish government sources.

More people going hungry

FAO symbol

The FAO wants more help for poor countries

The summit was taking place in the context of an economic crisis which was seen as complicating alimentary problems through price volatility and the credit crunch while food prices remained high in many developing countries.

"We have more and more hungry people, while food reserves are the second lowest in 30 years," Diouf said.

About 960 million people are undernourished, and more than 100,000 die daily of causes related to hunger, according to UN figures.

Obama called on to play a "leading role"

The summit will result in a Madrid Declaration on how to move forward.

The debates were to focus on how to meet emergency food needs, reinvigorate agricultural systems, increase investment in agriculture and improve market conditions.

"Rich countries continue to massively subsidize their farmers," Diouf complained.

Diouf said he hoped new US President Barack Obama would play a "leading role" in eradicating hunger, "starting with the United States, an advanced country which has 31 million hungry people."

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