ROME - Filipino singer Lea Salonga has been appointed a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to help in the global fight against hunger.
Salonga joined Italian actor Raoul Bova, Canadian singer Céline Dion, and American actress Susan Sarandon in calling for urgent collective action to eradicate world hunger that is still afflicting nearly a billion people globally ahead of World Food Day.
"With prosperity all around us and significant advances in technology and modern science, we cannot accept the numbers dying in the world for hunger," Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in a speech at the UN-FAO.
Kagame said governments needed to unite their political will and determination and collectively deliver on their commitments.
"It begs the question, what is the missing link? We know hunger kills and deprives people of their dignity, so why are we not doing more to combat it?"
Kagame said there had been "misguided presumptions" that the private sector would take responsibility for tackling the problem of the world's starving.
He called on nations to focus on "food security measures" but warned that small farmers must not be bypassed and "must be involved in finding solutions."
Small farmers and their families represent some 2.5 billion people, more than one-third of the global population.
The 30th celebration of World Food Day on Saturday has the slogan: "United against hunger." The main issues in focus are rapidly increasing demand for food commodities and changing climates that affect abilities to produce food.
Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN FAO, said that world hunger "threatens global security," and called for "greater coherence and co-ordination" among government efforts.
Diouf said "urgent collective action" was necessary for any chance of achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people in the world from its 1992 level of 20 percent to 10 percent by 2015.
"World food production will need to increase by 70 percent to feed a population of over nine billion people in 2050," he said.
The FAO estimates that 925 million people suffer from chronic hunger, compared to 1.023 billion people last year following the effects of the global recession and the 2007-08 spike in food prices.
Kanayo Nwanze, head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said small farmers had the potential to feed themselves and the world, but foreign investors were needed to create the necessary opportunities.
"I have seen it with my own eyes, the lives of entire communities have been turned around with just a little help," he said.
Josette Sheeran of the World Food Program said the time had also come for women, who produce the bulk of food in developing countries but have limited access to production, to become a force against global hunger.
"Women can be our secret weapon in the race to beat hunger," she said.
Sheeran also praised the positive example set by the "global surge of action from China, India and beyond" after the Haiti earthquake disaster.
Oscar-winning actress Sarandon said she was honoured and privileged to become an ambassador.
"As a mother I can't imagine anything more frustrating or upsetting than not being able to feed your child," she said.
"I'm accepting this award as a call to action," she said.