The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: 1.3 Billion People Live in Extreme Poverty

There are 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty and close to 900 million chronically undernourished globally, according to United Nations.

A joint statement issued on Thursday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme and Bioversity International in Rio de Janeiro said another one billion suffer from "hidden hunger", a lack of vitamins and minerals.

The statement was issued in line with the United Nations conference on Sustainable development dubbed "RIO + 20 conference" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

It said undernourishment in children prevented them from ever reaching their full physical and cognitive potential, costing lives, livelihoods and economic growth.

"We must all understand that the Rio vision of sustainable development cannot be achieved as long as hunger and extreme poverty persist," it said.

For the last decade, Rwanda has witnessed a spectacular economic growth, according to Opia Mensah Kumah, the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Kigali.

The country is on track in terms of achieving the MDGs and millions have been lifted out of poverty. Severe challenges remain, however, in the energy sector.

Only 11% of the population has access to electricity and 86% relies on firewood as the main source of energy.

Rwanda identified access to electricity as one of the main drivers of economic development and poverty reduction. As part of the EDPRS 2, the Government of Rwanda is seeking to heavily invest in the energy sector.

In addition, in its national strategy "Green Growth and Climate Resilience" the Government of Rwanda lays out a clear and plausible path to achieving the ambitious development targets of Vision 2020 in a way that is sustainable.

"Rio+20 and the SE4ALL initiative provide great opportunities for Rwanda to provide global leadership in the development of a greener, more equitable and more sustainable world. By making the right choices today, Rwanda will be able to demonstrate that green growth, poverty reduction and sustainable energy go hand in hand," Kumah says in a separate statement.

"The United Nations in Rwanda stands ready to support the efforts of the Government of Rwanda to provide access to sustainable energy for all."

Kumah noted investing in right technologies, designing the right policies and creating the right policy framework and incentives needed to expand sustainable energy access to all are crucial for the Rwanda's future.

The joint statement stated it will require not just universal acceptance of the right of every person to be free from hunger, but also profound changes in the way we produce and consume food and manage the earth's resources.

It said Rio+20 was a golden opportunity to bring together the agendas of food security and sustainable development to build the future 'we want'.

It called for on Rio+20 to demonstrate the political will to improve governance, reform policy and, above all, take action to fight hunger.

The statement said the world now faced the challenge of raising global food production by 60 per cent by 2050, while managing the natural resource base so that we are not robbing future generations.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was launched on June 20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil twenty years after a major summit on Environment and Development that was held in the same city.

Rio+20 is an opportunity to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, a chance that must be seized if we want to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable energy is one of the key priorities of Rio+20.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. It called on the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize and coordinate activities to increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues in a sustainable manner.

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