World Failure to Fight Famine | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.10.2002
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World Failure to Fight Famine

Wednesday, October 16 is World Hunger Day 2002. The date coincides with the unveiling of Germany's new coalition agreement, which pledges a steady increase in development aid in the next four years.


Six million children suffer from malnutrition

25,000 people die every day from hunger and poverty, according to a report released on the occasion of World Hunger Day, on Wednesday, October 16.

The report showed plans to halve world hunger by 2015 had failed considerably, and that six million children under five still suffered from hunger and poverty across the world.

"If we continue at the current pace, we will reach the goal more than 100 years late, closer to the year 2150 than to the year 2015", Jacques Diouf, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday.

Target failed

The target of reducing world poverty by half was set in 1996. In order to reach this goal, the number would have to fall by at least 24 million a year, the FAO estimates.

The results as shown in the report, however, are daunting: In 1998-2000 840 million people suffered from malnutrition, 799 million alone in developing countries.

Role of water

This year, World Food Day focuses on the essential role water plays in ensuring sustainable food resources for a growing world population.

"The world's future production depends on the availability of adequate and sustainable water resources. Water covers three quarters of the earth, but only a small fraction is accessible as freshwater", according to the FAO.

The main culprit for the increasing loss of fresh water is agriculture. An FAO study of 93 developing countries indicates that some water-scarce countries already withdraw more water than they can renew. One in five developing country is expected to suffer from severe water shortage due to increasing irrigation by 2030.

But developing countries face serious problems too in the future supply of drinking water. As competition grows between water needed for agriculture and water needed for domestic use, and as industrial development curbs fresh water sources, water in large cities and industrial areas may also become scarce in the next decades.

Germany increases development budget

For the FAO, the key solution is to improve water management, and the efficiency of water usage, but also to advance agricultural production, for example by boosting soil fertility and adopting better agricultural techniques to increase farmers' yields.

This however, can only be done with help from other countries.

The essential role of development aid is one clearly recognised by the German government. In the new coalition agreement, the red-green coalition will increase the government's current development budget of 0.27 per cent of GDP to 0.33 per cent by 2006, a rise from the current 5.3 billion to 7.4 billion in the next four years.

According to Development Minister Heidi Wiezoreck-Zeul, the main aim of German development aid is the fight against worldwide poverty.

"If we want to contribute to the target of the century (the reduction of poverty by half in 2015), then this will mean - more growth", Wiezoreck-Zeul says. "But this too will also influence the consumption of energy".

Therefore, one of the most important tasks is to separate energy increase from growth, by improving energy efficiency, Wiezoreck-Zeul says.

Private-public partnerships

At the Johannesburg summit last month, Germany pledged some 500 million euros to the development and further introduction of renewable energies and the improvement of energy efficiency in developing countries.

However, in times of strained state budgets in Europe, the role of private financial aid is growing as governments become more and more reluctant to increase spending on development in Third World Countries.

"In the past years we have started development partnerships worth more than 3 bn euros", according to Wiezoreck-Zeul. With 1.9 bn from private partners, and 1.3 from state funds, she says, the importance of these partnerships is clear.

But despite Germany's increased development budget, it is still a far cry from the industrial countries' pledge to spend at least 0.7 per cent on development aid. Most developed countries ignore this pledge - the only ones to spend more are four European countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Holland.