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Saturday, November 13, 1999


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U.N. Says Global Hunger Easing But Sees Shortfall
10:53 a.m. Nov 13, 1999 Eastern

By Tim Hepher

ROME (Reuters) - The number of people going hungry in the developing world has fallen by 40 million in five years, but faster action is needed to meet an international pledge to halve world hunger by 2015, the United Nations said on Saturday.

The 180-nation Food and Agriculture Organization said the number of malnourished had fallen to 791 million in the last available survey for 1995-97, but the decline masked a deterioration in sub-Saharan Africa where over a dozen countries still face serious shortages.

The U.N. agency is fighting to cut the number of poorly fed people to 400 million by 2015 in line with promises made at a 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, the highest level gathering in its 54-year history.

But stagnating agricultural production in the developing world and global financial crises have hit the world's poorest regions as commodity prices languish around two decade lows.

A report on world food supplies presented to a FAO meeting in Rome on Saturday said the number of underfed people had fallen from 831 million in 1990-92.

``This reduction of about eight million people per year on average is encouraging, but still far below the figure of 20 million required to achieve the objective of the World Food Summit,'' the FAO's Senegalese Director General Jacques Diouf told delegates after being re-elected for a second term.

The toll on populations in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled over 25 years, with 180 million people lacking food in 1995-97 compared to 164 million in 1990-92 and 89 million when the first report was drawn up for 1969-71.

What progress has been achieved since the ringing pledges issued at the 1996 summit has been concentrated mainly in East and Southeast Asia.

FAO said it was concerned by static progress in other regions including the Caribbean, still repairing the devastation brought by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998.

It also renewed the alarm over shortages in East Africa where food aid for five million people is needed in Ethiopia alone.

In all, the number of countries facing food emergencies stands at 37, unchanged from a year ago, according to the FAO report.

Founded in 1945, FAO has a budget of some $650 million every two years to advise governments on tackling hunger and assisting economic development.

Its Rome-based sister organization the World Food Program sends relief to cope with short-term emergencies.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.Reuters News Service
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