UN expert decries 'assassination' by hunger of millions of children

Jean Ziegler briefs the press

28 October 2005 – Every child who dies of hunger in today's world is the victim of an assassination, a United Nations expert on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said today in New York.

The world's agricultural production should be able to feed 12 billion people, but globally, 852 million are consistently undernourished, 100,000 people die of hunger every day, and a child under 10 years of age dies every 5 seconds, Mr. Ziegler told a press conference. He called this a daily massacre of human beings through malnutrition.

The tragedy is most intense in Africa, where bad harvests have destroyed the lives of millions of people in the Sahel, especially in Niger, where only 430 tons of millet have been harvested this year instead of the usual 1.6 million.

With one third of the population on the verge of destruction, international organizations, and the majority of Member States, have not responded adequately, said Mr. Ziegler, who is an unpaid expert serving in an independent personal capacity. He received his mandate from the UN Commission on Human Rights and regularly reports back to it.

Other parts of Africa are also suffering, such as the 400,000 people living in refugee camps in the United Republic of Tanzania who receive only 1,400 calories a day, practically half the daily minimum of 2,400 calories recommended by the World Food Programme (WFP), he said.

Yet, as the crisis is worsening, the resources available to international organizations are declining, Mr. Ziegler noted. In 2003 for example, WFP had 10 million tons of food to use for distribution, but today it only has 7 million tonnes. Despite this growing crisis, Member States, particularly those of the Western World, are increasingly indifferent to the plight of the hungry, he said.

In Liberia, over 18 per cent of the population and more than 50 per cent of children below 10 years in age were gravely and permanently undernourished, a destruction that could not be recuperated, he noted.

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