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Christian Groups Hail $20 Billion Commitment to Fight World Hunger

( [email protected] ) Jul 13, 2009 01:44 PM EDT

Christian humanitarian groups over the weekend hailed news of the G-8’s commitment to investing $20 billion to help fight world hunger.

"We welcome President Obama's lead on this issue and the renewed focus by the G-8 on fighting global hunger," said Robert Zachritz, World Vision's director for advocacy and government relations in the United States.

"We have the audacity to believe that we can end global hunger if governments make these sorts of major commitments to join in the fight," added Bill O'Keefe, Catholic Relief Services’ senior director for advocacy.

However, while the commitment for a pledge of $20 billion over three years for a new "food security" initiative is higher than expected, anti-poverty groups are urging the United States and other governments to follow through to help people in the developing world feed themselves.

The need for bold action to fight hunger was underscored by the recent news that the global food and financial crises have pushed the number of people suffering from chronic hunger to more than 1 billion.

"While this effort is overdue, it is also timely. The food price crisis and our concern about the impact of global climate change on rain-fed agriculture in Africa make the effort all the more urgent," O'Keefe said.

Citing a recent call by Pope Benedict XVI earlier last week, CRS stressed that the problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries.

World Vision’s Zachritz also highlighted the need for long-term development, hailing the new "food security" initiative as a more holistic approach to ending global hunger.

"Tackling the need must include long-term agricultural development and providing quality nutrition, as well as food aid,” said O’Keefe. “We urge leaders to back this approach with funds and action."

According to the latest statistics, nearly one in six people in the world suffer from hunger as the number of hungry people worldwide has increased to nearly 1 billion over the past two years. Millions of people are lacking the nutrition necessary to maintain basic health and many are children who are unable to develop correctly simply because they lack the proper nutrition.

At least a third of all childhood deaths are a direct result of malnutrition, a condition that is completely preventable, as humanitarian groups point out.

"Considering their failure to meet their promise to double aid to Africa by 2010, the G-8 must seize this opportunity to help save millions of lives and demonstrate global leadership," said Patrick Watt, head of World Vision's G-8 campaign.

"If this renewed focus on fighting global hunger is followed through, it will be the best decision the G-8 leaders have made in L'Aquila," he concluded.