|Africa has the largest proportion of people that suffer from chronic hunger [FAO]
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for "urgent and concerted actions" from world leaders and international organisations to help put an end to chronic hunger, which affects almost one billion people across the globe.
Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General, Pope Benedict XVI, and the president of Rwanda were among leading figures backing the call on World Food Day on Saturday.
"Responding properly to the hunger problem requires urgent, resolute and concerted action by all relevant actors and at all levels. It calls for the need for all of us to be united," Diouf said in a statement.
Every six seconds a child dies from hunger-related causes, according to the FAO.
Diouf stressed the need for governments to help boost agricultural output in order to overcome food shortages and fight rising food prices in a sustainable way.
"We have to resolutely reverse the long-term negative trend of the share of agriculture in official development assistance which dropped from 19 per cent in 1980 to three per cent in 2006 and is now at around six per cent," he said.
"Governments of low-income and food-deficit countries also should increase the share of agriculture in their national budgets from the present average level of five per cent to at least ten per cent."
Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, called for Africa, which has the largest proportion of people facing chronic hunger, to utilise the massive potential of land on the continent to cultivate crops.
|The Asia and Pacific region has the largest number of people that face chronic hunger [FAO]
"Let us look at things from the angle of opportunities," he said.
"People bemoan the fact that in Africa only six per cent of land is irrigated or that the average level of fertilizer used in Africa is only one tenth of the world average. Yet we know that 60 per cent of the world's uncultivated arable land is in Africa.
"Imagine the potential, working with nearly 2.5 billion people working in agriculture in rural areas, the smallholders of the world, if properly harnessed."
Seventeen out of 22 countries considered by an FAO report to be in a "protracted crisis" are in the African continent.
The FAO label means the countries are "facing enormous challenges like repeated food crises and an extremely high prevalence of hunger due to a combination of natural disasters, conflict, and weak institutions".
Although the region with the most undernourished people continues to be Asia and the Pacific, the proportion of undernourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 30 per cent, according to FAO.
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, who has been credited for ushering in a drastic improvement in the provision of public services in his country, was quoted in the FAO statement as saying that it is the responsibility of governments to provide farmers with the means to produce more food.
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"In most developing countries, it remains the responsibility of government to create the right climate for farmers, especially smallholder farmers and allied agro-businesses," he said.
"Becoming self-sufficient in food production cannot be separated from good governance."
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic church, took a more human approach to solve the problem.
In a statement to the World Food Day ceremony in Rome, Italy, where the FAO has its headquarters, the pope said that "in order to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, obstacles of self-interest must be overcome so as to make room for a fruitful gratuitousness, manifested in international co-operation as an expression of genuine fraternity".
Josette Sheeran, the World Food Programme's executive director, said he has high hopes that the worldwide food crisis can be solved soon.
"I truly believe now is the time for us to turn our dreams of a world free of hunger into reality," he said.
"Nelson Mandela had a dream, Martin Luther King had a dream, and Mahatma Gandhi had a dream.
"Now it is time for all of us to dream big and mobilise an unstoppable movement of humanity to act against the hunger that continues to condemn hundreds of millions of children to unfulfilled lives simply because they have not had access to nutritious food."
Earlier this month, the FAO revealed that 925 million people in the world live in chronic hunger, down 98 million from 1.02 billion in 2009. The decline was primarily attributable to better economic prospects in 2010 and the fall in food prices since mid-2008.