Dozens of non-governmental organisations, trade associations and politicians have joined forces in Switzerland to form a national coalition to combat world hunger.This content was published on October 14, 2006 - 16:28
Allied against Hunger was launched on Saturday in the Swiss capital, Bern, ahead of World Food Day on October 16.
The alliance, which includes the aid organisations Bread for All and Caritas Switzerland plus the Swiss Farmers Union, says it aims to inject new impetus into efforts to cut the number of people who go hungry.
It claims that pledges by nations at the World Food Summit ten years ago to cut by half the number of undernourished people by 2015 are not being met.
At the time the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 800 million people were not getting enough food.
"Today the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition has risen to more than 850 million," says the coalition in its manifesto.
"Our objective is to mobilise public awareness, political will and financial resources in order to reduce by half the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015 at the latest."
The idea for such a body was put forward by the then Swiss president Samuel Schmid on the occasion of last year's World Food Day. It was then taken up by the Swiss secretariat to the FAO, housed within the Federal Agriculture Office.
World Food Day
On Friday international development and humanitarian aid professionals attended a symposium in Bern on Investing in Agriculture for Food Security – the theme of World Food Day.
The event was hosted by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which has supported a new FAO publication on the right to food to be launched in Rome on Monday.
According to the FAO, foreign aid for agriculture and rural development has fallen from over $9 billion a year in the early 1980s to less than $5 billion in the late 1990s.
The UN body is calling for investment in agriculture – together with support for education and health – to turn this situation around.
"Investment in infrastructure in rural areas, especially in water, roads, power and communications, has a crucial role in kindling agricultural growth," says the FAO.
"If countries get these conditions right, dramatic benefits to agriculture and poor rural households can be expected."
On Monday more than 400 restaurants in both the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland will be donating part of their takings to nutrition projects run by the charity Terre des hommes in 17 countries. Last year 407 restaurants took part, raising more than SFr123,000 ($97,000).
swissinfo with agencies
World Food Day was established by FAO member countries at the organisation's 20th general conference in November 1979.
The date chosen – October 16 – is the anniversary of founding of the UN body.
It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries.
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