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INTERVIEW - Mandela's widow warns leaders failing pledge to end world hunger

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 22 June 2019 16:37 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO - Graca Machel, widow of former President Nelson Mandela waves to well-wishers gathered to commemorate what would have been Mandela's 99th birthday in Cape Town, South Africa, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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'As I stand here this morning, every minute children are dying in Africa and Asia from malnutrition'

By Thin Lei Win

ROME, June 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world is nowhere near to achieving a global goal to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 because of a lack of accountability and responsibility by decision-makers, Nelson Mandela's widow warned on Saturday.

Graca Machel told ministers, ambassadors and representatives from 194 nations at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome that the failure was at all levels - international, country and individual.

"We are not doing enough on the pace and level of investment and we're not going to get there," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after her lecture.

"That's my assessment, and they have to prove me wrong," added Machel, whose namesake trust promotes women's and children's rights in Africa.

Member nations of the U.N. unanimously adopted 17 global goals in 2015 committing over 15 years to tackle a list of world's most pressing issues, ranging from conflict, hunger, gender equality and climate change.

But aid groups and financial organisations are increasingly raising concerns the world is off track to meet the ambitious set of targets by 2030.

Globally, 821 million people - or one in nine - did not have enough food to eat in 2017, the third consecutive year of rising hunger levels, according to latest U.N. figures.

Climate change is already affecting crop productivity and growing seasons, and could leave more people hungry in Africa, warned Machel, who is also member of the Elders, a group of elder statesmen set up by her late husband Nelson Mandela.

"If the current situation persists, Africa will be fulfilling only 13% of its food needs by 2050," she said.

"I want people to change their attitudes towards hunger," said Machel, a former first lady of Mozambique, whose first husband, President Samora Machel, died in a plane crash in 1986.

She urged international donors and governments to boost investment in rural areas and scale up efforts to end hunger.

"We have the knowledge, the technology. (But) even the resources which are necessary to invest in rural areas are not as big as the terrible things people are doing to destroy the environment," Machel said.

"As I stand here this morning, every minute children are dying in Africa and Asia from malnutrition," Machel said in an impassioned speech at the opening of the FAO Conference, the organisation's highest governing body.

(Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Belinda Goldsmitt Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit news.trust.org)

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