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Working together towards zero undernourished persons in SVG

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Fri June 14, 2013

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves sets out for Rome today, beaming with pride all the way there and back. In Rome, headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, he will receive an award on behalf of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, from the Director General of the FAO, Mr Jose Graziano da Silva.{{more}}

Our country is one of only 38 countries around the globe to be chosen for awards for achieving significant milestones in the fight against hunger and poverty.Twenty of those 38 have satisfied the Millenium Development Goal, number 1, to halve the number of hungry people between 1990/92 and 2010/12. The benchmarks for measuring this were set by the United Nations General Assembly in the year 2000.

St Vincent and the Grenadines not only accomplished this, it is one of an elite 18 countries to have both met this goal, and an even more stringent one, set by the World Food Summit, to reduce the absolute number of undernourished people by 2012. Three other member countries of the ALBA grouping to which SVG belongs, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, are among the elite eighteen. Cuba, in particular, has made these strides in spite of being virtually abandoned by its former major ally, the Soviet Union, in the early nineties and still being the victim of an economic embargo by the world’s most powerful nation, the USA.

This achievement of our country is all the more remarkable considering the deep-seated global economic crisis which has affected most countries in the world these past five years and which has not yet abated. Many countries, developed and developing alike, have encountered setbacks in their quest to achieve the MDGs as originally targeted. SVG has managed to stay the course, making progress both under the past NDP administration of the nineties, when the proportion of undernourished dropped from 19% in 1990 to 11%, one year into the first term of the Gonsalves’ administration, 2002.

In the twelve years of the ULP government, the fight against hunger continued, resulting in that 11% being more than halved to 4.9% in 2012, a most impressive achievement. One must also take into context, in addition to the global economic crisis, the crippling effects of natural disasters and plant diseases in recent years, and the fact that all this is happening while we are undertaking the massive task of the construction of an international airport, making our progress all the more impressive.

This gives all the more reason for all Vincentians to be extremely proud of our achievement, and to see the award in Rome on Sunday as not just a Gonsalves award, as some are inclined to do, but an indication that our country is making progress in the face of formidable odds. At the same time, we must not be complacent, for as our ambitious Prime Minister has said, we must lay down the marker of striving to achieve zero undernourished persons. No one should go hungry in our country; that should be our national challenge.

This will not be easy, especially given our penchant to be dragged down the road of political partisanship rather than nation-building. In recent years in particular, there has been a campaign, designed to make people, here and especially in the diaspora, believe that our country is in the grip of a massive crisis, where poverty and hunger abound. The FAO statistics and the award to our tiny country is a slap in the face of such detractors. Guyana is the only other CARICOM country in the elite 18 and, indeed, among the 38 being honoured for their MDG achievement.

Even as we congratulate the Government, and its predecessor, we must maintain our national focus and strive for higher heights – achieving all eight MIllenium Development Goals (MDGs).

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