11 May

A Hungry Man Is an Angry Man


By Jacques Diouf.Director-General, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

The O’Leary: “When was the last time (or the first time) that you heard Obama mention the poor, the hungry?”

I’m also angry!

And I hope that after you’ve read this you’ll be furious too.

Today a human tragedy of vast proportions is upon us — but most politicians turn their heads.

In a world that spends over a trillion dollars a year on armaments, about a billion humans go hungry every day. Hunger and malnutrition rose by more than 100 million last year.

Every six seconds somewhere in the world a child dies of hunger-related diseases. That’s more than five million children a year.

That makes me angry. So now I am blowing the whistle. The truth is that for the past 30 years what world leaders have been doing about it is in fact less than nothing.

Since the mid 1980s, far from increasing international aid to agriculture in developing countries, aid meant to help poor people feed themselves has almost been halved. It has fallen by 43 percent.

You could say that at least world leaders are now talking about the problem, with hunger regularly on the agenda at their summits and high-level meetings.

True, between one photo op and another, they issue resounding declarations pledging early and resolute action. But let me blow the whistle again.

In L’Aquila, Italy, last summer, G8 leaders solemnly pledged to invest $22 billion in three years to help developing countries produce the food they need for their people. But ten months later, despite serious efforts to monitor the commitments and the creation of a fund for Global Agriculture and Food Security Program at the World Bank, how much of this pledged amount has reached the smallholder farmers in least developed countries? Almost none.

That’s because words are cheaper than money. People can’t eat words, though. If they could, one billion empty bellies would now be full.

Over the past 17 years I have reasoned with leaders, I have pleaded, and raised awareness on risks of explosions as we saw with food riots in 32 countries during 2007/2008.

But still hunger rises, so now I have decided to blow the whistle, and I need your help. I need you to blow it too.

Today, in events taking place around the world to launch “The 1billionhungry project,” thousands of people will be blowing yellow whistles. Giant banners saying “I’m Mad as Hell” will appear on buildings and on public transport in urban centers. A disconcerting video will go into circulation on the Internet.

I want you to blow your whistle as loud as you can to wake people up to the fact that one billion human beings are suffering hunger right this moment, that 20-30 kids died while you were reading this.

I want you to blow your whistle to say that it’s completely unacceptable and that you want it stopped. Now.

In September I’ll be going to New York to attend the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals Summit, due to review progress towards the Goals adopted by the UN in 2000. Goal One is to reduce by half by 2015 the proportion of people on earth who are hungry.

Now the beauty of statistics is that you can theoretically halve a proportion but end up with a larger number than what you started out with. That’s because the world’s population is still growing by 80 million a year and, perhaps unsurprisingly, because people aren’t proportions.

What interests me though is how many people are hungry, how many children are dying.

In October, I’ll be taking the petition to world leaders through the United Nations in New York – to say we have had enough of living in a hungry world.

To get their attention I’ll need at least a million names on that petition. I hope you’re furious. I hope you’re angry. I want your name on there too.

The 1 Billionhungry petition can be signed at

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