Keeping a Focus on World Hunger

Forum Points Up a Problem Overshadowed by Mideast Tensions

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ROME, MARCH 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- While nations were bracing for the war in Iraq, a group of diplomats, journalists and theologians met here to ensure that the major problem of world hunger would not be forgotten.



A forum entitled "Hunger in the World: A Lenten Dialogue Between Diplomats, Journalists and Theologians" was sponsored jointly by the Lay Center at Foyer Unitas and the Vincent Pallotti Institute and held at the Pontifical Irish College.

The March 19 event was moderated by Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Addressing the gathering that included more than 20 diplomats and ambassadors, Dianne Spearman, director of policy and strategy for the World Food Program, informed the audience that more than 840 million people are malnourished.

Each day, 24,000 people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases, she said.

According to statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), world hunger could be halved by 2015 if another $24 billion per year was invested in agricultural development, rural infrastructure and economic diversification in rural areas.

Spearman cited FAO statistics that this investment would provide $120 billion per year in economic development in the impoverished areas.

In comparison, industrialized nations spent $300 billion subsidizing their own agriculture, a practice that allegedly harms local agribusiness in poverty-stricken areas.

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson, said great strides would be made in solving world hunger if new biotechnology that raises the nutritional and productive capabilities of traditional foods were shared and practiced. He contended, however, that agricultural politics and anti-science attitudes prevented this solution from being realized.