UN, Jimmy Carter Say Time Is Ripe to End Hunger

March 14, 2005

The time is now for the richest nations to share their cash, food, and knowledge with the hundreds of millions of people enduring extreme poverty and hunger, according a recent UN report.

"Millions of people die annually of hunger and hunger-related diseases, and many millions more suffer needlessly where famine is preventable," Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told National Geographic News.

President Carter said his work with the Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center over the past 20 years demonstrates that, with modest outside help, the hungry and poor can take control of their lives. If ignored, however, they may be moved to violence, he said.

"When a person's basic human needs—food, shelter, clean water, access to health care—are not available, there is a deterioration of the heart and soul. People experience hopelessness, and some may resort to conflict to achieve change," he said in a statement to National Geographic News.

Halving Hunger

National Geographic News asked President Carter to comment on why the developed world should care about and commit funding to fight global hunger, in light of a recent United Nations report urging developed nations to take immediate action on the issue.

Halving world hunger by 2015 is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) unanimously approved by the 191 member states of the United Nations in 2000. Other goals are to slash rates of poverty, disease, and related ills.

In January of this year, the UN-sponsored Millennium Project released a series of recommendations on how to best achieve the MDGs, including the hunger target.

According to the recommendations of the project's Hunger Task Force, hunger can be halved if every person in the developed world contributes 60 U.S. cents per month toward programs that increase agricultural productivity and address chronic malnutrition.

Pedro Sanchez is the director of Tropical Agriculture at the Columbia University Earth Institute in New York and co-chair of the Millennium Project's Hunger Task Force. He said that, while the report demonstrates that the goal is achievable, "it's not going to happen unless the world comes to grips with this politically."

According to the task force's report, political leaders made commitments to halve world hunger at five humanitarian-themed summit meetings between 1996 and 2002. What's lacking is action to implement and increase known solutions to meet those commitments.

Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Millennium Project's Hunger Task Force, echoed Sanchez's call for action on political commitments to halve hunger.

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