November 12, 2004

Cornell Alumnus Calls for End to World Hunger

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Pedro Sanchez ’62, chair of the task force on hunger for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, spoke to a small crowd yesterday about his committee’s recommendations.

The speech was sponsored in part by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences International Program and by the college’s centennial celebration. It was the third and final in a series of lectures that included five World Food Prize laureates — Sanchez won in 2002.

World hunger affects 840 million people world-wide. The vast majority of that number, 92 percent, suffers from chronic malnutrition, while only 8 percent die from starvation as a result of extreme events such as war or famine. Contrary to these numbers however, the bulk of aid goes to that 8 percent rather than the larger numbers of sufferers.

Of this, Sanchez said, “The media in this country has it all wrong.” While he recognized the emotional draw of that minority, he pointed out that money spent on the majority of chronic sufferers could benefit many more people and improve millions more lives.

Sanchez, a native of Cuba, began his talk by citing the improvements of the last few years that have resulted in a ‘paradigm shift,’ in which organizations, IMF and the World Bank, who previously showed no interest in starvation in third world countries are now recognizing its importance in the global perspective.

One his main points, was the importance of good governance in combating hunger and only working with countries that are receptive to aid, like Ghana, and avoiding countries that sequester aid or are combative toward aid such as North Korea.

Throughout his lecture, Sanchez emphasized that the cutting hunger in half is a realistic goal, but it is a “political choice.”

His committee outlined the multilayered steps necessary to begin to end hunger, but all stages require large investments by first-world governments. Governments, he said, must be willing to commit to action in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. According to him, the U.S. has a zero commitment while on the other end of the spectrum Britain has demonstrated a “high level of commitment.”

“I hope what he is explaining will be employed. It is a little vague, but if employed, it could have a great impact,” said Prof. Chris Wien, horticulture. Susan Henry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Science, was impressed by the audience and the turnout for all three lectures in the series. She said the audience of this lecture was very “engaged” and approached the topic of world hunger with much thoughtfulness.

“It is inspiring that if you can have good governance you can eliminate hunger,” said visiting Ghanaian scientist Edward Kg Yeboah.

Archived article by Michael Margolis
Sun Senior Writer