United Nations agencies estimate that about 800-million people in the world do not get enough to eat; and nearly 500-million of them are so undernourished that they have not enough energy to lead a normal life.
KARAMOJO, UGANDA, 1980 (REUTERS)
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CU PAN UP Starving child with swollen stomach, SV child receives paper from official 0.31
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Background: United Nations agencies estimate that about 800-million people in the world do not get enough to eat; and nearly 500-million of them are so undernourished that they have not enough energy to lead a normal life. The World Food Council has recently been meeting in Mexico, and its Executive Director, Mr. Maurice Williams, reported afterwards that world food production has increased, but improved production has not been matched by improved distribution. He called the over-all picture "unstable and unbalanced".
SYNOPSIS: Cereal stocks are concentrated in North America -- where production is so high that prices have fallen and farmers are finding it difficult to meet their costs. So they are cutting back on production, with ominous implications for continuity of supply in the future.
In contrast, the world's hungry are mainly concentrated in Africa. People in the rich countries are moved by its acute crises. International charities and United Nations agencies took immediate action to relieve the distress and utter destitution caused by the Biafran war in Nigeria and the Karamojo famine in Uganda.
It is the chronic undernourishment that exists in much of the African continent that is causing concern to the World Food Council. Sometimes it is exacerbated by the presence of homeless refugees, who must eat, but do not produce. Drought, poor management, lack of roads and transport, all contributed to a fall of 15 per cent head in African food production in the 1970s; and it is expected to fall again in the '80s.
The World Food Council was told that there had been positive improvements in Asia, including India and Pakistan. In South-east Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma have maintained economic growth in the face of world recession. Rice production has increased in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the past few years, though they still need substantial foreign aid.
Disastrous floods this year and last followed severe drought in some of China's most important food-growing areas. It is known that production was badly hit, and emergency measures had to be taken. But the Chinese authorities release few statistics to the United Nations about how its thousand million people are faring.
Mexico was host country to the recent meeting of the World Food Council. It is regarded by the Council as one of the few countries which has adopted a national food strategy and made it work. The former President, Luis Echeverria was one of the founders of the plan for Mexico to achieve self-sufficiency in basic foods. The Council would like to see many more countries adopt similar plans.
The Council has noted the progress in coping with emergencies. Karamojo children look very different now from the walking skeletons of 1980.
But now it wants recipients and donors to cooperate in planned development over a period of years. Special help for smallholders and women farmers, land reform and improved storage and marketing are included in its recommendations.
The European Economic Community has undertaken a major development project in Upper Volta. Poor though it is, the country exports meat to its neighbours. The Community has provided refrigerated storage to help expand this trade. This is one illustration of the kind of planned help that Mr. Maurice Williams wants to see greatly extended.