The current food crisis was preceded by more than a decade of losses in the fight against world hunger and reached new depths as a result of last year's food crisis, reported the United Nation's anti-hunger agency.
While the world turned its attention and opened its pocketbooks to funding aid areas such as emergency relief, debt reduction, and improvement of government practices, it had been reducing investment in agriculture, explained the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
"In the fight against hunger, the focus should be on increasing food production," FAO director-general Jacques Diouf told The Associated Press. "It's common sense…that agriculture would be given the priority, but the opposite has happened."
In a report released Wednesday, the World Food Program and FAO estimated the number of undernourished in the world today to be at 1.02 billion – the highest figure in history.
According to the report, most of the people suffering from chronic hunger are in Asia and the Pacific, where the number has reached 642 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa has the second highest number of chronically hungry people at 265 million, while Latin America, the Caribbean, the Near East and North Africa have about 95 million people.
FAO said unless the international community started investing in agriculture and food distribution, it would not be able to meet its U.N. Millennium Development Goal of cutting the number of hungry people in half by 2015.
The WFP-FAO report called for increased investment in agriculture to help poor farmers increase productivity and to be more resilient in crisis.
"World leaders have reacted forcefully to the financial and economic crisis, and succeeded in mobilizing billions of dollars in a short time period. The same strong action is needed now to combat hunger and poverty," said Diouf, according to CNN.
The FAO representative said leaders at the Group of Eight summit in July had set up the goal to raise $20 billion to help farmers in poor countries increase production. Diouf also noted that leaders are now starting to understand that delivering food aid is not enough and that it must be combined with an increase in agricultural production.
The release of the WFP-FAO report Wednesday came just days ahead of the U.N.'s World Food Day, which has been marked each year since 1979.
World Food Day, to be observed Friday, Oct. 16, is aimed at raising public awareness and strengthening the battle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
As in past years, many churches and Christian organizations will be participating in World Food Day.
Some denominations had observed World Hunger Sunday this past weekend to kick-off this week's Food Week of Action.
This year's Food Week of Action concludes Oct. 18.