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Giving the poor greater access to food, rather than simply increasing food production, is the key to solving the world’s hunger problems, said Dr. Amos Namanga Ngongi in a speech at Yokohama City University on Oct. 16.Ngongi, the Cameroonian deputy executive director of the World Food Program, a U.N. relief agency, gave the keynote speech at the World Food Crisis Symposium that marked World Food Day. The event was organized by the Yokohama Association for International Communications and Exchanges in cooperation with the WFP.Ngongi said too much emphasis is placed on economic growth as a way to alleviate hunger in developing countries. “The hungry cannot wait until nutrition trickles down from economic growth” since the benefits of government policies and investment at a national level bypass them, he said.Ngongi said hunger “is an obstacle to acquiring income and skills.” He explained the WFP policy of giving direct food aid to the poor, which enables them to escape the cycle of hunger and poverty that prevents them from learning new skills or getting a job.Ngongi stressed the importance of providing food to women, saying that “investing in women is one of the best ways of investing in the future,” since a hungry mother is the first link in the chain of malnutrition that gets passed on to the child.Among the Japanese experts who gave speeches were Motoki Takahashi, an assistant professor of international relations at Kobe University, who discussed the implications of a world food crisis for Japan. Takahashi said that if Japan hoards food to protect its own people, Japan would suffer alongside the poor nations because an influx of refugees disrupts the international order.In assisting developing nations, Japan should give technical as well as monetary assistance, Takahashi said. Also, Japanese experts should work directly with local farmers to encourage them to help themselves. “The poorest nations must be the protagonists of development,” he added.In Rome, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini issued a globally circulated statement Oct. 16 to commemorate World Food Day. “We must, all of us, do more,” Bertini said. “I call on the international donor community, on governments, international and nongovernmental organizations and on people of goodwill everywhere to join us in a concerted effort to defeat, once and for all, the age-old scourge of hunger.”

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