.- Tonight 854 million people will go to bed with an empty stomach even though enough food was produced to feed everyone. Aware of this sad reality, Pope Benedict XVI marked today’s World Food Day by urging all countries to recognize food as a universal human right.
In his message, the Pope noted that the right to food was enshrined in the Universal of Declaration of Human Rights, a document adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
Yet, Benedict challenged, the international community to face up to one of the most serious challenges of our time: freeing from hunger millions of human beings, whose lives are in danger because of a lack of daily bread."
Despite food being made a right, all of the efforts made so far to guarantee the right to food throughout the world had failed to significantly reduce the number of hungry, Benedict said.
"A sense of solidarity, in which food is considered a universal right without distinction or discrimination, must develop in all the countries of the world," the pontiff said.
He noted that the main causes of food shortages could be traced back to "human behaviour", such as wars and "a general economic and social deterioration".
Benedict's message was read out during World Food Day celebrations held at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ANSA reported.
The Director General of FAO, Jacques Diouf, noted in his message that progress has been made in alleviating hunger since it was made a right in 1948, but that the scale of the problem is still enormous.
"Our planet produced enough food to feed its entire population, and yet tonight 854 million people will go to bed with an empty stomach," he said.
FAO has been working with governments and NGOs to promote a set of guidelines aimed at helping policymakers ensure respect for the right to food.
World Food Day is commemorated annually in 150 countries. Highlights of this year's events include a worldwide candlelight vigil starting in the southwest Pacific and moving around the globe.
On the occasion of World Food Day 2007, universities in Italy, Ireland and Iran are establishing institutes or launching university courses on the right to food.