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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 (APP): The World Food Day, which aims to promote awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger, was celebrated across the globe Friday, with UN leaders calling for international solidarity and cooperation to help all populations, especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

While Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a message underscoring the need for unity, the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, and the President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, addressed a special meeting in New York to mark the occasion.

In his message, the UN chief said efforts must be made to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste.

“In a world of plenty, it is a grave affront that hundreds of millions go to bed hungry each night,” the secretary-general, said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified food insecurity to a level not seen in decades

“Some 130 million people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of this year,” Guterres said. “This is on top of the 690 million people who already lack enough to eat.

Noting that he will convene a Food Systems Summit to inspire action towards this vision next year, the secretary-general said that “we need to make food systems more resistant to volatility and climate shocks.”

“And we need food systems that provide decent, safe livelihoods for workers. We have the know-how and the capacity to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world,” the UN chief said.

“On this World Food Day, let us make a commitment to ‘Grow, Nourish, and Sustain. Together.'”

Bozkir, the GA President, began by recognizing Food And Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) role as the oldest of the UN’s specialized agencies, and the critical role it has played, in addressing hunger and improving nutrition.

He also noted the contribution of “food heroes”: “from farmers and food chain workers, to drivers, shop assistants and food bank representatives, including here in New York, millions of people helped to provide sustenance and nourishment through difficult times.”

The GA president looked ahead to the Food Systems Summit as a chance to accelerate reforms, and remove barriers to ending hunger, and called for young people to be empowered to become the next generation of leaders and reformers in agriculture and food supply chains.

ECOSOC President Munir Akram noted that the loss of income that many have suffered since the COVID-19 pandemic, has mostly impacted the poor, who spend most of their income on food.

“The income decline had impacted food security and put food access at risk,” Ambassador Akram said, adding, “The most impacted are the poor and vulnerable as they spend on average 70% of their total income on food.”

The world, warned ECOSOC chief, was not on track to achieve zero hunger, the second of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, even before the pandemic spread.

COVID-19, he said, will mean that there will be millions more under-nourished people around the world, and some 144 million children will suffer stunted growth.

Some core issues must be addressed, Ambassador Akram said. These include keeping supply chains from being disrupted, investing in infrastructure for sustainable agriculture, and ensuring fair trade.

Technology that makes sustainable agriculture possible must be made available to poorer farmers, and the kinds of subsidies that have led to chronic over-production, and make it impossible for small farmers to compete in the market, must be ended, he said.

“Only by working together can we build back better, get back on track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reduce vulnerabilities to future shocks and disasters,” ECOSOC chief added.

World Food Day is an international day celebrated every year around the world on Oct. 16 in honour of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organizations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The World Food Programme got the Nobel Prize in Peace for the year 2020 for its efforts to combat hunger, contribution to make peace in conflicted areas and for playing role of driving force to stop the use of hunger in the form of a weapon for war and conflict.