Dáil Éireann - Volume 663 - 15 October, 2008

Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress, in advance of World Food Day on 16 October 2008, that has been made both here and by the international community to eradicate hunger, according to the terms of the millennium development goals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35138/08]

  Deputy Peter Power: The Millennium Development Goal for hunger is to reduce by 50% the proportion of those suffering from hunger by the year 2015.

Progress to date on achieving this goal has been mixed. Success has been most marked in East Asia — notably in China and Vietnam. While some progress has been evident in other regions, such progress has been insufficient. In Southern Asia almost 50% of children are underweight and this region alone accounts for more than half of the world’s undernourished children.

The majority of those States making the least progress in reducing child malnutrition are located in sub-Saharan Africa, where a number of countries are unlikely to achieve the millennium hunger goal. In sub-Saharan Africa a small improvement has been recorded overall, with the percentage of underweight children less than 5 years of age having fallen from 33% to 29%.

These statistics do not take account of the full impact of recent global food price increases which are likely, at least in the short term, to further imperil the attainment of the millennium hunger target throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The recent report of our Hunger Task Force outlined the stark realities of the current hunger crisis. It is a chilling fact that the figure for the world’s hungry quoted on the cover of that report — 862 million — was the estimate at the time of the Rome Food Summit last June. By the time of the launch of the report in September, the estimate had already risen to over 900 million and rising — driven by the recent upsurge in world food prices.

The report of the Task Force rightly reflects a sense of urgency at this continuing scandal. I share that sense of urgency. Their report is timely and I welcome its focus on three key areas where they believe Ireland could help to achieve progress. It is my intention to take forward our work in these areas and, in order to facilitate this, I am establishing a new section within my Department which, inter alia, will have a special dedicated focus on food security and which will be tasked with advancing our work on addressing the issue of hunger in our world.