Much like late Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s call for a weekly fast during the era of food shortage in the mid-sixties, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Thursday appealed for a day-long worldwide hunger strike against chronic hunger.

“We are suggesting that everyone in the world who wants to show solidarity with the one billion hungry people on this planet go on hunger strike next Saturday or Sunday,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said on the eve of the World Food Summit, beginning on November 16 in Rome. “I shall personally begin a 24-hour fast on Saturday morning,” he added.

According to FAO statistics, 1.02 billion people live in chronic hunger. The World Summit on Food Security has been called to agree on immediate action to reverse the situation and build momentum to end the scourge of hunger and malnutrition. Heads of State and Government from the FAO’s 192 member nations have been invited to attend, and Mr. Diouf hoped there would be as many participants as at the last FAO Summit in 2002.

“Despite all the promises made, concrete action on hunger has been lacking,” he said, adding: “In the absence of strong measures another global food crisis cannot be excluded.”

Online petition

The FAO has launched an online anti-hunger petition on http://www.1billionhungry.org. Visitors to the website are asked to sign the petition if they agree that one billion people living in chronic hunger was unacceptable. Everyone is also encouraged to use Twitter or other social media tools to spread the word about the initiative.

“I would urge as many people as possible to sign our petition,” Mr. Diouf said. “Each click will serve as another reason, in addition to the billion we already have, for ending hunger. Each click will also serve as a goad to world leaders to ‘walk the talk’.”

On the other hand, rising global hunger figures eclipse the fact that 31 out of 79 countries monitored by the FAO registered a significant decline in the number of undernourished people since the early nineties.

An FAO report titled ‘Pathways to Success,’ released on Thursday, highlights the progress made by 16 of these countries that had already achieved the target of halving the number of hungry people by 2015 or were on track to do so. The FAO paper, presented by Mr. Diouf, analysed in detail factors underlying the success of four countries that had reduced hunger significantly — Armenia, Brazil, Nigeria and Vietnam.

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