Meditation Focus #66

Alleviating Hunger on Earth


What follows is the 66th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, June 9, 2002.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Watch for India/Pakistan


The world has far to go to reduce poverty and ensure food security for all. More than 800 million people worldwide, three-quarters of whom live in rural areas and are largely dependent on local agriculture, are seriously malnourished. Over 2 billion people experience micronutrient deficiencies and hundreds of millions suffer from diseases related to inadequate, unbalanced, and unsafe food intake; children are particularly vulnerable and adversely affected. Chronic poverty, malnutrition, and disease contribute to the conditions under which drought or conflict becomes the trigger for famine to manifest itself. The persistence of widespread chronic hunger and malnutrition and threat of famine are simply unacceptable. Right now, nearly 13 million people in six southern African countries are at risk of starvation, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement. "The specter of mass starvation is threatening the region with the worst humanitarian disaster for a decade." About 4 million tons of food are required to feed those in desperate need and the World Food Program is asking donors for $350 million to $400 million to try to avert a famine in the region. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is hosting a global meeting at its Rome headquarters, June 10-13, 2002, to review progress towards ending hunger. The meeting, the World Food Summit: Five Years Later, is meant to track progress achieved since the 1996 World Food Summit and consider ways to accelerate the process.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in ensuring that no effort will be spared to make sure less and less human beings have to face the specter of hunger in a world of plenty. Envision humanity as one united family in which all members care for each other and in which extreme poverty and lack of proper nutrition are gradually eliminated through concerted actions, for the Highest Good of All.

This entire Meditation Focus is also available at


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This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.


Five years later, number of the world's hungry almost unchanged despite promises (Fri Jun 7)

ROME - Five years ago, delegates to the World Food Summit listened to impassioned speeches by Fidel Castro and the pope and pledged to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015.

On Monday, the follow-up World Food Summit opens to the reality that the number of people without enough to eat is just about where it was then — 800 million.

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which is hosting the summit, says there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed its 6 billion people. The issue is getting it to the hungriest.

"We cannot consider nowadays — with the possibility of daily telecommunications, transport, Internet, TVs and so on — that people can (in some places) be wealthy, be rich, and in other parts of the world, people are in a situation of starvation," Diouf said in an interview.

More than 100 heads of state and ministers attending the four-day summit are expected to recommit themselves to their original pledges to bring the number down to 400 million. Whether they will actually make good on those promises this time around remains to be seen.

For example, the food crisis in southern Africa, where an estimated 12.8 million people in six countries are at risk of starvation because of drought, floods, government mismanagement and economic instability.

Other issues are likely to come up as well — access to markets for poor farmers and the use of genetically modified foods. Both are flashpoints for environmental and farmers rights groups who will be holding a parallel food summit on the outskirts of Rome. (...) One of the most debated issues leading up to the summit was whether its final, nonbinding resolution would include a call for the development of a voluntary code of conduct on "the right to adequate food for all."

The European Union, the Vatican and developing countries within the Group of 77 block have endorsed the concept, but the United States remains opposed. While Washington is one of the top contributors to U.N. food relief efforts, it would find it difficult to endorse the right of all to food while still maintaining an economic embargo against Cuba.

Five years ago, the embargo received much attention at the summit, with Castro denouncing what he called a "crime against humanity" being committed against his people. It is unknown whether Castro will come to Rome this time around, but the draft of the final communique says "food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure."



Protesters Hold March in Rome (Sat Jun 8)

ROME _Under tight security, thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Rome on Saturday to air grievances over genetically modified food and other agriculture issues two days before the start of a U.N. summit in the Italian capital. (...) Organizers had predicted that about 50,000 marchers would show up, and after it began, put their numbers at 40,000. Police did not give a crowd estimate.

The four-day summit, hosted by the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, starts Monday. Organizers hope to press donor countries into keeping earlier promises to halve the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. The pledges were made at similar summit here five years ago, but progress has come up short.

More than 100 heads of state and ministers are expected to attend. Saturday's protest drew those pushing for land reform as well as those against the use of pesticides and genetically modified food.




Some facts and figures about world hunger (Fri Jun 7)

Here are some facts and figures about hunger in the world that delegates attending the World Food Summit will be addressing starting Monday.

- About 12.8 million people in six southern African nations — Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique — are at risk of starvation because of drought, floods, depleted foods stocks and economic instability.

- Of the 9.5 million undernourished people living in transition countries of Europe, nearly 60 percent live in four countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.

- UNAIDS estimates that over half of the 28 million people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas, devastating thousands of farming communities and leaving families struggling to produce enough food to survive.

- An estimated 54 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.

- At the 1996 World Food Summit, delegates pledged to reduce the number of the world's hungry people from about 800 million to 400 million by 2015.

- Currently, there is an annual reduction of about 6 million in the number of hungry people in the world. That number must reach 22 million a year to meet the 1996 U.N. target.

- $180 billion worth of investment in agriculture, infrastructure and services in the developing world is needed annually to meet the target.

Sources: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program, UNAIDS.

See also on the Net:



U.N. Fears Severe Africa Food Crisis (Fri Jun 7)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Two U.N. food agencies warned Friday that southern Africa will experience a severe food crisis without immediate international assistance.

Nearly 13 million people in six southern African countries are at risk of starvation, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement. "The specter of mass starvation is threatening the region with the worst humanitarian disaster for a decade," the statement said.

Meanwhile, about 100 aid officials, representatives of donor countries and government leaders from the affected countries met in Johannesburg for a second day Friday in an urgent effort to formulate a plan to prevent the crisis from becoming a famine.

About 4 million tons of food are required to feed those in desperate need, the agencies said. The WFP planned to ask donors for $350 million to $400 million in the coming days to try to avert a famine in the region, James Morris, the WFP's new executive director, said in Rome.

"Clearly we're going to have to have a huge response from the international community and this will be a great test, a great challenge," Morris said.

"The world essentially doesn't want starvation to occur. And the world will step up and respond to this. It's not to say it won't take a huge amount of work to tell the story and get every single last possible country to help us on board."

The hunger crisis has been caused by erratic weather and exacerbated by government mismanagement in some countries. Officials fear a full blown humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique as food runs out from last month's meager harvest.

Missions from the U.N. agencies traveled to the affected countries recently to assess the situation. Two final assessment reports, on Mozambique and Zambia, were released Friday.

According to the reports, 2.3 million people in Zambia will need about 175,000 tons of food aid before the next harvest in nine months.

The hunger in Zambia was caused by a second year of drought that has badly affected the southern part of the country. A lack of seeds and fertilizer have exacerbated the problem.

"People are turning to desperate measures, including eating potentially poisonous wild foods, stealing crops and prostitution to get enough for their families to eat," according to the report.

In Mozambique, a drought in the center and south of the country has put 515,000 people in the impoverished country at risk, the report said. Though northern Mozambique has a food surplus, the country's infrastructure is so poor that corn cannot be transported to the suffering areas without huge costs.



FAO chief links world hunger to violence (May 29)

NICOSIA, Cyprus - The head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Wednesday that the problem of world hunger was linked to violence.

"The injustice of 800 million people going to bed hungry every night while in other parts of the world food is abundant, and sometimes wasted, cannot be overlooked," FAO chief Jacques Diouf told delegates from 43 European nations gathered in Nicosia, Cyprus.

"Such a situation fuels the sense of frustration and swells the ranks of those who believe that inequities cannot be eliminated through peaceful means," he said.

"Unless the right of food is fulfilled, exercising all other human and political rights will be compromised," Diouf told European agriculture ministers and senior officials attending the three-day Nicosia conference preparing for a World Food Summit in Rome next month.

Beside combating world hunger, other issues to be discussed during the meeting include food safety and Europe's desertification problems.

He said Europe could play a central role in helping farmers in less developed countries through investment and technology transfers.

"It is essential to strengthen and coordinate the political will at the highest level and mobilize the necessary financial resources," he said. "This makes it essential for heads of state and governments of the European region to attend in person, to ensure the success of the (Rome) meeting."



Southern African Hunger Meeting Opens (Jun 6)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Aid officials and government leaders from around southern Africa began meeting Thursday in an effort to stave off a potential famine across the region.


Government mismanagement has only exacerbated the poor weather many affected countries have faced, officials said.

In Malawi, the government sold off its 167,000-ton corn reserve just before the crisis started. The government says it is investigating what happened to much of the money from that sale.

In Zimbabwe, the government's chaotic efforts to seize white-owned commercial farmland and redistribute it to landless blacks has sharply reduced the amount of commercial farmland dedicated to growing corn.

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Simba Makoni said Wednesday his government's land policies had worsened the crisis. "It compounds, it exacerbates, but it is not the primary cause of the problem," he said at a World Economic Forum gathering in Durban.

The Johannesburg meeting seeks to allay donor countries' concerns about giving aid to governments viewed as unreliable, said Ross Mountain, deputy head of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Officials also planned to discuss issues such as the lack of clean water and the AIDS pandemic afflicting the region.

Though the meeting would not address the hunger in war-ravaged Angola, Mountain said the country was also in bad shape with a "catastrophic nutritional situation among children." About 25 percent of children in some formerly rebel-held areas of Angola were malnourished and 10 percent were severely malnourished, he said.



WFP could not have managed to feed 77 million people in 82 countries in 2001 without the generosity of our donors. The Programme relies entirely on voluntary contributions to finance its humanitarian and development projects. Donations are made in cash, food or services. Follow the guide for information on ways you can help WFP fight hunger.

Governments: WFP receives no dues or UN assessed contributions

Corporations : increasingly vital contribution to WFP's activities

Individuals: you can make a difference

How to Help


Private individuals can make a difference in the global fight against hunger. With a personal donation, they can provide:

Special food for hungry children in nurseries

Food incentives to encourage poor girls to attend schools

Food as payment for people to rebuild schools, roads and other infrastructure in the wake of conflicts and natural disasters

To make an individual contribution to WFP's fight against hunger, fill-in in this coupon and send it with your check/postal order in US dollars, Japanese yen or any other currency _made payable to the World Food Programme _to one of the following addresses:

To make a donation: In the United States: US Friends of the WFP PO Box 11856 Washington, D.C. 20008 *Contributions by US taxpayers are tax-deductible

In Japan: Post Office Account World Food Programme Account No. 00220-0-19381

In Italy: Conto Corrente Postale/Postal Account No. 89132005

Elsewhere in the world: Chief, REA Resources Division WFP _Via Cesare Giulio Viola, 68/70 00148 Rome _Italy


Country by country guide to WFP/FAO assessments of southern Africa's worst hunger crisis in a decade:

Lesotho - A second year of severe weather has left some 444,800 people requiring emergency food aid. The government declared a state of famine in April.

Malawi - Over three million people will require emergency food aid over the next 12 months because of long dry spells and high food prices.

Mozambique - Severe dry weather in some of Mozambique's central and southern provinces have placed 355,000 people in immediate need of food aid, rising to 515,000 after September. To make matters worse, shortages in neighbouring countries have pushed food prices beyond the reach of a significant number of the rural poor.

Swaziland - Some 144,000 people will require food aid in Swaziland after a severe drop in agricultural production, a fall in the number of job opportunities and rising prices.

Zimbabwe - Drought and the disruption of commerical farmng caused by land acquisition activivities has left more than five million Zimbabweans at risk of starvation. Zimbabwe is facing an immediate, serious food crisis. Unless sufficient food can be imported, and the poorest people can access it, severe malnutrition and death caused by hunger will occur in the coming months. From June, more than 5 million people will need food aid, increasing to 6.1 million from December (4.4 million people in communal and resettled rural areas, 850,000 in urban areas plus 825,000 farm workers). The extremely poor main season has been caused by a severe drought between Jan-April (Zimbabwe's longest dry spell in 20 years and its fifth worst drought in a century) in most parts of the country, and the disruption to the commercial farming sector due to land acquisition activities. Abnormally high rainfall preceded the dry spell. CLIP



Stakes high for Africa at food summit (June 7)

Ibadan, Nigeria - With root and branch reform, agriculture could serve as the seed-bed of a drive to rescue Africa from poverty, experts meeting here said this week.

But as the continent's leaders prepare for next week's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summit in Rome, the future of farming in Africa could scarcely look bleaker.

The famine gripping Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland has brought 10 million people to the brink of starvation, the FAO and the World Food Programme warned last week.

Across a continent in which two thirds of the population live off the land, crippling poverty is boosting the spread and the danger of diseases such as AIDS/HIV and malaria.

At the same time the United States and the European Union, while paying lip service to the concept of free trade, continue to subsidise their own farmers to the detriment of African exports.

"The US farm bill doesn't help at all," admitted Shushma Ganguly, head of the World Bank's rural development sector. "The onus is on both the developed and the developing countries."

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) estimates that by 2010 around 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the population, will be malnourished.

Enrico Porceddu, chair of the IITA board, says that only a determined effort to promote agricultural growth can protect food supplies and keep down prices.

To do this, the international community must work with African experts to promote modern technology and marketing techniques, to develop the agriculture sector as the mainstay of the economy.

"Before, we were a purely a science for development institution," he told reporters at the IITA's campus on the outskirts of the Nigerian city of Ibadan. "Now we have change in focus ... We are getting involved in promoting market information systems and processing natural resources," he said.

"Agriculture perhaps doesn't get as much attention as Africa's more high-profile crises," such as AIDS and wars, "but rural poverty lies at the base of so many problams," he said.

Last week IITA and the World Bank brought together rural community associations, international development agencies and private agribusiness for three days of talks on the future.

Missing out on development

The centrepiece of their discussions was the World Bank's new development strategy, dubbed "Reaching the Rural Poor", which will be a key topic at the Rome FAO summit.

Ganguly and her colleagues describe the initiative as a means to bring expertise and capital together across the continent as planners try to work directly with farmers, business and national research programmes to increase production and sales.

Money is to be found, through savings and investment, to make sure Africa does not sink further into poverty by missing out on developments - such as genetic modification - which are expected to boost yields elsewhere.

Additionally, markets must be developed to allow farmers to climb out of the debt trap and to finance greater investment in crops and technology and to secure future food supplies.

"The important thing is that Africa not be left behind," says Boma Anga, managing director of the Nigerian agricultural commodity trader Goldchains International Ltd.



FAO unveils global anti-hunger programme

A multi-billion dollar initiative proposed to slash world hunger by 2015

ROME, 4 June 2002 -_"Fighting hunger is not only a moral imperative, it also brings large economic benefits," the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, proposing a new global "Anti-Hunger Programme" on the eve of the World Food Summit: five years later, which will be held in Rome on 10-13 June.

An additional public investment of US$24 billion annually must be made in poor countries to halve the number of hungry people by the year 2015, FAO said.

Without this investment, FAO fears that there would still be 600 million hungry people in 2015. Hence, the target of halving the number of hungry people from 800 to 400 million set by the World Food Summit in 1996 would not be reached. FAO stressed that the public investment should be accompanied by sufficient private resources.

Halving hunger is expected to yield additional benefits worth at least US$120 billion a year, resulting from longer and healthier lives for all those benefiting from such improvements, according to the "Anti-Hunger Programme."

Almost one person in seven does not have enough food to eat, FAO said. Most of the hungry people live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.


See also:


FAO unveils global anti-hunger programme
A multi-billion dollar initiative proposed to slash world hunger by 2015

United Nations Urges $24 Billion War on Hunger
ROME (Reuters) - The United Nations food body urged countries on Tuesday to spend $24 billion a year to halve world hunger by 2015 and said a new anti-hunger program would bring major economic benefit to many millions of people. Without this investment, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fears there would still be 600 million hungry people in 2015. "An additional public investment of $24 billion annually must be made in poor countries to halve the number of hungry people by the year 2015." CLIP

A rock star's new approach to world aid U2's Bono and Treasury Secretary O'Neill finish a 10-day African tour.

(...) Bono's agenda – to persuade developed countries to give Africa more aid, sweeping debt relief, and better access to international markets – is broader and more complex than any previous pop-star campaign. He is attempting to address the root of Africa's ills rather than just the symptoms. Perhaps more important, the singer is using new tactics to get his message across, trading a mass-media awareness-raising campaign for quietly bending the ears of the rich and powerful. CLIP

In-depth coverage about Poverty


Here are some of the latest developments in India and Pakistan. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that Peace may eventually prevail between India and Pakistan.


Hopes Rise for Easing of India-Pakistan Tension (Sat Jun 8)

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) Hopes rose on Sunday for an easing of tension between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan after a senior U.S. peace envoy said he expected India to take steps to cool the conflict in the next few days. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said among those steps was a possible return of some Indian diplomats to Islamabad and an easing of the military tension as well.

Reinforcing the U.S. push to defuse the crisis between the hostile neighbors, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is due to visit the region this week. In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on Saturday to urge them to help reduce tension.

India said it welcomed a Pakistani pledge to stop rebel infiltration. But Armitage cautioned that the crisis over the disputed Kashmir region was not over yet.

"When you have close to a million men glaring, shouting and occasionally shooting across a territory that is a matter of some dispute, then I think you couldn't say the crisis is over, but I think you can say that the tensions are down measurably," Armitage told reporters.

He was in Estonia -- after holding talks in Pakistan and India -- to brief Rumsfeld. Underscoring the crisis was still far from over, Pakistan said on Saturday it shot down an unmanned Indian spy plane and at least 13 people were killed in fighting along the frontier.

India said infiltrators into Indian Kashmir had triggered an intense exchange of fire in which three Indian soldiers and three Muslim rebels were killed. It said a reconnaissance plane went missing after a routine flight but gave no other details.


Armitage said Indian officials made positive comments during his meetings. "It is quite clear that there will be some actions on the part of India responding to the messages I brought from Islamabad and so I think quite clearly, at least temporarily, the tensions are down," Armitage said.

"I understand they are talking about some diplomatic actions which could include the return of some people to diplomatic postings in Islamabad, and some ratcheting down of some sort of military tension."

India and Pakistan scaled down diplomatic ties and started building up troops on the border after a mid-December attack on the Indian parliament that India blamed on Pakistan-based Kashmiri Muslim militants.

The two neighbors have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 -- two of them over Kashmir. Both have nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, prompting fears that a fourth war could turn into a holocaust.

Their forces have traded fire daily across the militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Armitage said India planned to make "some military gestures as well" to ease tensions before Rumsfeld arrives, but gave no details: "I got the very strong impression that they were inclined to respond to the international community, who was basically calling for restraint and a lowering of the tensions." Pakistan's Musharraf made it clear that he would do everything in his power to avoid war, Armitage said.


India and Pakistan have stepped up preparations for war even as governments around the globe feverishly seek to cool tempers but, in another sign tension might be easing, India welcomed a pledge by Pakistan to stop infiltration by Kashmiri rebels.

Describing Powell's call to Singh, the Indian government said in a statement: "Mr. Jaswant Singh informed Mr. Colin Powell that India welcomes the pledge that President Pervez Musharraf has given to...Armitage about immediately and permanently ending cross-border infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir."

Rebels have been battling Indian troops in Kashmir since 1989. India says Muslim Pakistan trains and arms them. Pakistan says it offers only political support.

Musharraf told Powell that Pakistan was "against war, and remained committed to peace and stability," the Pakistan state news agency said, but he complained that the Indian leadership had declined Pakistan's offers for a resumption of peace talks.

Armitage told India on Friday that Pakistan was committed to taking permanent action against the militants and India said it would monitor the implementation of the pledge, responding "appropriately and positively."

In-depth coverage about Kashmir Dispute

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