Hours before the opening of the World Summit on Food Security, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf began a 24-hour hunger strike to call for action to end the scourge of hunger and in solidarity with the one billion humans who suffer chronic malnutrition.
He called on “people of goodwill everywhere” to join him in a worldwide hunger strike this weekend. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he will be joining the strike on Sunday.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf is spending the 24 hours he is on hunger strike in the reception area of the FAO headquarters building in Rome. Media interviewed him as he started the hunger strike last night. Diouf dressed in a tracksuit, overcoat and woolly hat to keep out the cold. His make-shift room in the reception area is equipped with a desk, a sofa to sleep on and a prayer mat.
© FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Diouf began his fast at 8 p.m. yesterday in the lobby of FAO headquarters in Rome, where he also spent the night. He told reporters, “I hope that through these gestures we will raise awareness, and build pressure from public opinion to ensure that those who can change this situation are able to do so.”
According to FAO statistics 1.02 billion people live in chronic hunger.
The World Summit on Food Security (16-18 November 2009) has been called to agree on immediate action to reverse the situation and build momentum to end the scourge of hunger and malnutrition, the FAO said in a statement.
Heads of state and government from FAO’s 192 Members have been invited to attend. Diouf hopes there will be as many participants as at the last FAO Summit in 2002.
“Despite all the promises made, concrete action on hunger has been lacking,” Diouf said earlier this week, adding, “In the absence of strong measures another global food crisis cannot be excluded.”
Diouf also launched an online anti-hunger petition on http://www.1billionhungry.org/. Visitors to the Web site are asked to sign the petition if they agree that one billion people living in chronic hunger is unacceptable. Everyone is encouraged to use Twitter or other social media tools to spread the word about the initiative.
The FAO produced this video to promote the petition:
One billion people live in chronic hunger. In the time it takes to watch this video, two children will die of hunger. If this situation is unacceptable to you, sign on http://www.1billionhungry.org
Video by FAO
“I would urge as many people as possible to sign our petition,” 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’.”
Diouf, who issued a call for a worldwide hunger strike at a press conference last Wednesday, will touch neither food nor water until 8 this evening.
Anyone wanting to join the strike can do so at any time this weekend, deciding for themselves how many meals to skip, the FAO statement said.
“I hope that this gesture, together with others, may help achieve our goal of reducing the number of people around the world suffering from hunger and the number of children–now one every six seconds–dying of hunger or related diseases,” Diouf said.
“We have the technical means and the resources to eradicate hunger from the world so it is now a matter of political will, and political will is influenced by public opinion.”
Jacques Diouf on hunger strike.
© FAO/Giulio Napolitano