The director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Jacques Diouf has called for a global hunger strike on the eve of the World Food Summit, which will be held in Rome from 16-18 November.

The aim is to draw attention to the plight of the over one billion people in the world who do not have enough to eat as heads of state and of government prepare to gather in pursuit of the new goal of eradicating global hunger by 2050.

Diouf is calling on people to refrain for eating for a day on 14 or 15 November. He has said he himself will be abstaining from food for 24 hours starting on the evening of 13 November.

FAO has also launched an on-line hunger petition at www. www.1billionhungry.org where visitors can add their voice to those who believe top priority must be given to ridding the world of hunger.

In the run-up to the summit non-governmental and civil society organizations representing farmers, indigenous people, women, youth and other groups will be gathering in Rome from 14-16 November to address the problem of hunger from their own perspectives. They will also prepare a joint statement to be presented at the summit.

The summit itself will consist of plenary sessions and round table discussions on different issues relating to food security including the economic and financial crises, climate change and rural development.

FAO estimates that there are now 1.02 billion hungry people worldwide against a total population of 6.9 billion. This compares to 840 million out of a total population of 5.8 billion in 1996, when the first world food summit was held, and to 854 million against a population of 6.5 billion ten years later. The number of hungry has risen by 100 million in the last year alone, due to a combination of factors including the rise in local food prices, lower incomes and increasing unemployment due to the recession. In 1996 world leaders pledged to cut the number of hungry people by a half.

For more information see the FAO website.

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