Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 23:34 UK

Rich nations 'reneging' over aid

Ethiopian woman cutting down maize (file photo)
Mr Annan said world hunger was as big a concern as the financial crisis

Former UN chief Kofi Annan has accused rich countries of reneging on promises to help feed the world's hungry.

Speaking on World Food Day, Mr Annan said wealthy nations should not use the global financial crisis as a pretext for not meeting their commitments.

His comments were echoed by Pope Benedict XVI, who blamed world hunger partly on the "egoism" of nations.

Aid agency Oxfam say more than 900 million people are facing starvation because of soaring prices.

Mr Annan said 10,000 children were dying from malnutrition each day - a tragedy, he said, which was as great as a collapsed bank.

"The financial crisis deserves urgent attention and focus. But so does the question of hunger. Millions are liable to die [this year]. Is that any less urgent?" he asked journalists at a Fighting Hunger conference in Dublin, Ireland.

'Pledged and pledged again'

Mr Annan questioned whether governments would live up to commitments made at recent aid summits.

In 2005, a group of eight industrialised nations - or G8 - promised to increase aid to Africa by $50bn (37m euros) by 2010, and wealthy countries pledged $12bn at a UN food summit this June.

"How much of that $12bn has been paid out? How much of that $12bn was new money? How much of it had been pledged before and pledged again?" he asked.

In a message to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Pope said there was enough food in the world to feed the needy.

He said corruption, military spending and the "egoism" of nations was partly to blame for world hunger.

The Pope said rich countries were in a "race for consumption" as food became more scarce in other parts of the world, citing "boundless speculation" in the markets for driving up the price of food and fuel.

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