Director-General QU Dongyu led the ceremony at FAO Headquarters in Rome, declaring that with food security worsening, and risk of serious levels of hunger in Asia and Africa at an all-time high, the world must “leave no one behind”.
‘A challenging moment’
Sending a special message to the event, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was taking place “at a challenging moment for global food security”.
A staggering three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet; the war in Ukraine has triggered surging food, fertilizer, and energy prices; and the most vulnerable are being battered by the pandemic, climate crisis, environmental degradation, conflict, and deepening inequalities.
“The number of people affected by hunger has more than doubled in the past three years”, he said, adding that “almost a million people are living in famine conditions, with starvation and death a daily reality”.
Be the change
Referring to this year’s theme, Leave no one behind. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, Mr. Guterres said that farmers need to access reasonably priced fertilizers to ensure enough food next year.
Governments, scientists, and civil society need to work together to make nutritious diets available and affordable for everyone and financial institutions must increase support to developing countries.
“Together, we must move from despair to hope and action” the Secretary-General said. “On World Food Day and every day, I call on you to be part of the change”.
The commemoration took place at a time when global food security faces multiple threats, pushing food, energy and fertilizer prices sky high amidst climate crisis and long-standing conflicts.
Moreover, the knock-on effect of COVID continues to highlight how interconnected economies and lives have become, as 970,000 people risk famine in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
FAO’s latest The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report illuminates that hunger worldwide is on the rise.
Raising their voices
A message read on behalf of Pope Francis reminded that people “are not just numbers, data or an endless stream of statistics”.
Alvaro Lario, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said the day should be a call to ramp up action to “help small-scale farmers in rural areas, who supply food to their communities and countries…despite inequality, vulnerability, and poverty”.
World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley described the food availability crisis as his “gravest concern”, saying “the world must open its eyes to this unprecedented global food crisis and act now to stop it spinning out of control”.
Celebrating the day
Events in Rome included an exhibit featuring photos taken from space by European Space Agency astronaut and FAO Goodwill Ambassador Thomas Pesquet, which highlights the climate crisis.
FAO’s first-ever Achievement Awards were handed out to people whose actions are transforming agrifood systems, and a Junior World Food Day event was held with a host of Food Heroes.
Awareness-raising events on the global fight against hunger will continue to take centre stage in the coming week.
Meanwhile, FAO’s Hand in Hand initiative continues to work to accelerate agrifood system transformation by eradicating poverty, ending hunger, and reducing inequalities.
It aims to promote decent rural employment, foster gender equality, social protection, end child labour, and support rural and Indigenous Peoples – custodians of much of the earth’s biodiversity.
Click here to watch the ceremony.