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Over 6 million people have died of hunger in 2005
October 14, 2005 13:27 IST
As governments across the globe struggled to provide succour to victims of natural calamities, chronic hunger - a little-known disaster - has already killed over six million people worldwide this year.
At a time when the world has been shocked by the horrific images of the earthquake in Pakistan, where thousands of lives were wiped out in a matter of a few seconds, the donor community must not to forget that away from cameras lurked hunger, the biggest killer of all, James Morris, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, said in a message marking World Food Day.
"Few people realise that hunger and related diseases still claim more lives than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. What is worse, the number of chronically hungry is on the rise again, after decades of progress. We're losing ground," he said.
"We believe that solving the problem of child hunger is the key to ending world hunger. If we can all work together to give today's children the chance to reach their full potential in adulthood and prepare them better as parents, we can actually break the inter-generational cycle of hunger and poverty," he said.
To save millions of lives from dying of hunger would cost the developed world far less over a year than it spends each week on agricultural subsidies, he said.
Contrasting developed countries with their social services, unemployment benefits, child allowances and income support, with the developing world, where there are very few safety nets, Morris cited the current drought in Niger as an example.
"With any luck, next year will be a good year for Niger," he said. "Maybe the rains will come on time...we can look forward to only about 450 of Niger's children dying every day of hunger related causes during the lean season," he said.
In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, each year an estimated 38,000 children, five years old or younger, die, nearly one out of three because of malnutrition. This means that, every single hour, a Haitian child dies before reaching the age of five, simply because he or she does not have enough to eat, Morris said.
The total number of hungry children in the world is about 100 million and they are currently getting no assistance at all, he claimed. To provide relief to them and an estimated 15 million under-nourished expectant and nursing mothers who are also without support, would cost about five billion dollars a year, he said.