Access to Nutrition for All - O'Donnell Urges Radical Approach to Food Security
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell TD, has called on the international community to develop new strategies for tackling poverty and achieving food security.
Opening the Local and Global Dimensions of Food Security Conference in UCC, she said that chronic food insecurity is an ugly and unconscionable reality faced by millions daily. "One billion people suffer from food insecurity today and six million children under five die annually from malnutrition and disease."
She said that food security was not about the availability of food, but about access to food at both a national and a local level. "During the famine in Bangladesh in 1972, they had a bumper crop and in Ireland in the 1840's corn ships were leaving Cork".
Early pre-emptive action from the international community would prevent the current food security problem in Ethiopia turning into a famine, she said. "In a global economy, decisions taken in New York can effect a tiny village in sub-Saharan Africa. Equally, decisions not taken in the bureaucracy in Brussels can be fatal to the starving as they await the generosity of the European Commission."
The key objective now must be to get food to those who need it as soon as possible."We have been assured by Ireland Aid's partners in Ethiopia - Concern and the World Food Programme - that they will reach the most vulnerable people".
But Minister O'Donnell said that the European Union had to answer the serious allegation that it delayed in replenishing food stocks in the central reserve in Ethiopia. "The Commission continues to defend its action but the facts speak for themselves."
She also expressed concern at EU predictions that world food production will not keep up with population growth. "Estimates suggest that the demand for cereal products for human and animal consumption in developing countries is expected to double between now and the year 2020. This would lead to a shortfall of 200 million tonnes by 2020 in developing countries alone," she said. "The time has come to tackle these challenges not just at the level of global statistics but at the level of human livelihoods at the grassroots".
She said that she believed that increases in agricultural productivity are an essential element of improved food security. "Over the past number of years, the Government through its official development cooperation programme, Ireland Aid, has substantially increased our investment in partner country agriculture. Of the IR£16 million budgeted for long term projects in Ethiopia this year, Ireland Aid will spend IR£3 million on food security programmes."
The Minister welcomed a new emphasis on Food Aid which makes it possible to provide products more suited to the diet of local populations. But she underlined the need to ensure that Food Aid does not undermine local production, markets or livelihoods.
The Minister said that in her role as Minister with responsibility for Overseas Aid she would continue to highlight the importance of food security in the fight to avert another devastating famine in Ethiopia.