By the time this day is over more than 40,000 people, mostly children, will have died. This is death toll equivalent to one hundred jumbo-jet disasters each day. Today and every day. The loss of human lives will add up to more than 14 million each year. Most will have suffered from a 'silent' assault - the kind that never makes headlines. Hunger and malnutrition kill.

The causes of hunger are many. Famine is often in the news but is only responsible for approximately 10 per cent of hunger related deaths. The other 90 per cent of deaths are caused by chronic and persistent hunger. Continual lack of food kills and lack of the right kind of food leads to death as it weakens people's defences against disease.

The right to have enough to eat is the most basic of human rights yet in a world of plenty there are over 800 million starving or undernourished people.

There is enough food to feed the global population and ending hunger is affordable in global financial terms. It is estimated that additional resources to eradicate hunger would total 11 billion pounds a year for the next 13 years. 11 billion pounds is equivalent to two months global expenditure on cigarettes! Hunger is NOT inevitable.

Food must not be seen as just another commodity. It is fundamental to life. It is a basic human right. That such deprivation and suffering should be allowed to exist in a world of potential food sufficiency is intolerable. 'Sustainable food security' which fuses the goals of household food security and sustainable agriculture must be a clear objective. It is a complex problem and the supply of food is not the whole issue; other issues include the distribution of income and land, whether people have enough income to buy food, how much food is wasted due to inadequate distribution systems - these questions need to be asked and answered in every country. Poverty is hunger's partner. One billion people - 20 per cent of the global population - are too poor to obtain enough food to sustain their bodies.

The challenge is immense. The head of the UN Development Programme has stated 'given likely population increases, world food output must triple over the next 50 years if the world's population are to have a nutritionally adequate diet.' The goal of achieving sustainable food security in the next century emerges as one of the greatest challenges, both in complexity and size, humanity has ever faced. Failure will lead to unprecedented levels of suffering.

Caring words are not enough. We need to marshal political will to achieve food security for all, but first we need to marshall our own will. How many children must die before we unite to become the enemy of hunger and poverty?

The world's greatest shame is not the 800 million starving and undernourished people in the world or that more than 40,000 people die each day; the world's greatest shame is that the rest of us fail to speak for them.

An FAO FOCAL POINT in the United Kingdom: WomenAid International

WomenAid International is a humanitarian and development agency providing assistance to women, their families and communities world-wide.  Recent large-scale projects have included supplementary feeding programmes for children attending schools and kindergartens as well as nation-wide refugee and vulnerable group feeding programmes in the Caucasus and Central Asia. WomenAid International has been an implementing and development partner with the World Food Programme , as well as being a partner of the European Community Humanitarian Office and has been able to undertake a major role in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and former Yugoslavia, as a main implementing partner involved in emergency feeding programmes. WomenAid International began its liaison with FAO in 1989 when it began promoting World Food Day in the United Kingdom.

World Food Day is observed worldwide on 16 October each year. Supporters work to increase awareness, understanding and year-round action on the complex issues of food security for all.

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