A Vatican official called on the international community to combat poverty that causes hunger following the release of a United Nations report this week that noted a steady rise in the number of people who are going hungry.
“The world must invest in peace, solidarity and justice. Otherwise, the world’s problems will continue,” said Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano.
The church official, who sits as permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization noted that “humanity has not done its duty enough for its poorest brothers.”
He said “hunger continues to grow” and the numbers “are really very alarming.”
The FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report estimated that 690 million people went hungry in 2019.
The report warned that the coronavirus pandemic “may add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world.”
“The world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030,” the report said, referring to one of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.
“If recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger will surpass 840 million by 2030 or 9.8 percent of the population,” read the report.
“This is an alarming scenario, even without taking into account the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.
Asia has the highest number of hungry people with 513.9 million, followed by Africa with 256.1 million and Latin American with 42.5 million.
In East Africa, about one-third of the population (30.8 percent) is undernourished. It is exacerbated by factors such as climate change, conflicts, and economic crises.
Monsignor Arellano said the international community should do more to combat hunger, noting that there is “lack of will” especially in removing man-made causes of hunger, such as conflicts, economic crisis, and climate change.
Recalling the advice of Pope Francis, the Vatican official said each person can help fight hunger.
“First of all, do not waste food; then, do not pass, as the priest or the Levite did, in front of the poor by closing your eyes or not listening to the cry of the hungry,” he said.
He said “more can be done” by non-government groups and parishes.
“We must invest in agriculture, a sustainable agriculture that not only thinks of today but also of tomorrow because the world doesn’t belong just to us,” he said.
Monsignor Arellano also called for solidarity because it is an “investment in peace” and “is a way of fighting hunger.”
“Hunger and poverty are related” issues, he said.
“Peace and, above all, the issue of cooperation and solidarity are related. The world must invest in peace, solidarity and justice. Otherwise, the world’s problems will continue,” he added.
Pope Francis told members of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a meeting last month that hunger is a problem that must involve everyone.
The pope appealed for good use of water, food production and its fair distribution, noting that while there are countries where food is surplus, there are entire regions where it is lacking.