Having just met with displaced, war-weary South Sudanese sheltering in United Nations compounds, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged immediate help to end hunger and malnutrition around the world, warning that up to a million people could be at risk of famine in a matter of months.
"In South Sudan, I saw a country on the brink of a food security calamity," Mr. Ban told the Rome-based Committee on World Food Security, whose members include the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
"UN peacekeepers are sheltering about 80,000 people in a fragile yet important advance in upholding our commitment to protect civilians. But those outside the gates also need our assistance," he said, having seen just yesterday the hardships faced by families staying at the Tomping civilian protection site during his visit to South Sudan to push for a political settlement to the county's months-long.
Overall in South Sudan, millions of people displaced by politically-motivated violence are hungry and hundreds of thousands are suffering from extremely high levels of malnutrition. With fighting disrupting the planting period and the rainy season now underway, the situation is only going to get worse, the UN chief stressed.
"We will not eliminate extreme poverty or achieve sustainable development without adequate food and nutrition for all," Mr. Ban said highlighting the importance of food security to the global agenda. "We cannot know peace or security if one in eight people are hungry."
UN agencies and humanitarian partners, present at today's meeting, have been working in South Sudan, as well as other protracted crisis situations, such as the Central African Republic (CAR) and Syria.
Since December, WFP and partners have reached more than 502,000 people in South Sudan alone, according to April figures.
Mr. Ban launched in 2012 the Zero Hunger Challenge, with the aims for a future where every individual has adequate nutrition. Governments, working with organizations and businesses, have launched related programs in more than 30 countries as part of the challenge.
Speaking about his experience in his native Republic of Korea, Mr. Ban said he knows from "my own country's experience that ending hunger can be achieved".
He highlighted three main areas of focus for UN's work. These consists of accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on hunger, placing food security and sustainable agriculture in the post-2015 development agenda and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
On this last issue, Mr. Ban is convening a climate summit on 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York, pressing Governments to commit to increasing sustainable agricultural productivity, boosting resilience and remove emissions associated with agriculture.
He also highlighted the plight of 500 million smallholder farmers and the need to support them as they increase their resilience to shocks caused by a warming world.
While in Rome, Mr. Ban is also chairing the twice-yearly meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board (CEB), which brings together top officials from across the UN system.
Together with the members of the CEB, the Secretary-General will have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis, and then bilateral meetings with top Italian officials.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang addressed the SAVE FOOD International Congress in Dusseldorf, calling for joint action to tackle food loss.
While 842 million suffer from chronic hunger, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year, according to FAO estimates.
"Only the [people] who produce food can reduce food losses at any significant scale," he told participants at the event by SAVE FOOD, a collaborative initiative of the FAO and Messe Düsseldorf GmbH.
Established in 2011, SAVE FOOD - the Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste Reduction aims to reduce the estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is lost or wasted every year, with annual losses valued at nearly $1 trillion. The campaign has more than 250 partners.