TORONTO, Oct. 15 /CNW/ - According to UNICEF, one child under the age of
five will die every seven seconds today from a hunger-related cause. No, this
is not a typo. It means five million children's lives are lost every year.
That's something to think about today (Oct. 16) as we "celebrate" World Food
This year, there is little to celebrate. Soaring food prices have set
back global efforts to cut hunger in half by 2015. Further, food supplies have
been reduced dramatically by three primary factors: climate change is claiming
formerly cultivatable land; Western farmers are shifting production from food
to more profitable biofuels; and more land in developing countries is being
used for cash crops. And if that weren't enough reason for pessimism, there is
the current global economic turmoil that threatens the aid budgets of Western
nations. We are in the midst of a perfect storm with the world's hungry caught
in its vortex.
Internationally, World Vision is the UN World Food Programme's largest
non-government distributor of food aid to people in crisis. In 2007, we
delivered 412,656 metric tonnes of food with the UN and other government
partners, benefiting 11 million people. We understand the urgent need to
deliver food to the hungry, whether their food needs stem from poverty or from
natural and man-made disasters. But we also know that we need more than just
food aid to solve the current situation where more than 850 million people go
to bed nightly on an empty stomach. Only when people can feed themselves
rather than depend on food aid will hunger significantly decrease or even be
eradicated. Food aid is merely a short-term solution, albeit a vital one, to a
When the UN called for an emergency $755 million infusion of food aid
funding in the spring to combat soaring food prices, Canada responded quickly
and generously with a $50 million contribution on top of the $180 million
already allocated for this purpose. At the same time, the federal government
"untied" food aid, meaning that recipient countries no longer had to spend 50
per cent of their aid money purchasing food from Canada. Untying food aid
means the recipients spend less on transportation, receive the food more
quickly and can, theoretically, purchase more of it locally.
We congratulate Ottawa for these timely measures, but much more is
required to avoid a repeat food crisis in the future. Canada needs to invest
more in agricultural development aid so that emerging nations can grow more of
their own food and eventually feed their own people.
We have identified a number of programs that will deliver results in both
the short and long term. In the short term, we need to provide seeds,
fertilizer, animal feed and basic farming tools. Fertilizer costs,
particularly, have skyrocketed because of increases in oil prices that,
although they have subsided recently, in the long run will only keep going up.
A longer-term solution involves establishing micro-credit cooperatives
and agricultural training, an area of considerable Canadian expertise.
Subsistence farmers need further instruction and support in crop
diversification and sustainable agricultural techniques.
Canada can also show leadership in improving the lot of smallholder farms
by pushing for the reform of multilateral trade agreements and food and
agricultural institutions. Of the world's three billion rural people, more
than two-thirds live on small farms of less than two hectares. They are the
key to making their countries more food self-sufficient.
Recently the Canadian government said it would contribute to long-term
measures to stimulate world food production and increase investment in
agriculture. Our newly elected government needs to turn those words into
action. We need the government to invest in agriculture and adequate food and
nutrition. This requires a long-term strategy and a boost in funding to
$500 million a year.
We believe that Canadians expect this kind of leadership. The fact that
World Vision Canada has more than 600,000 supporters attests to our generosity
as a nation and a desire to see global hunger addressed.
The situation facing smallholder farms is more challenging than ever. On
World Food Day, we recognize that we cannot make inroads fighting disease,
inequality and poverty without supporting sustainable rural development. If we
provide this support, think of the children's lives that can be saved.
For further information:
For further information: Yoko Kobayashi, (905) 565-6200 ext 2151, (416)