Worsening world hunger seriously threatens all possibilities for world peace, according to a presidential commission report released today.
The report, "Overcoming World Hunger: The Challenge Ahead," concludes that "there are more hungry people today than ever before" and that failure to satisfy their needs "could have grave implications for all nations, including the United States."
Accordingly, the report's major recommendation is that "the United States Government make the elimination of hunger the primary focus of its relationships with developing countries, beginning the decade of the 1980s."
The 251-page document is the product of two years of research, meetings and politicking by the 20-member Presidential Commission on World Hunger.
Carter established the panel Sept. 5, 1978, with the mandate to "develop factual data as to the causes of world hunger and malnutrition" and to develop recommendations for getting food to those who need it.
The commission found that one out of every eight persons in the world is "chronically undrnourished" -- hungry -- and that most of those hungry people live in developing countries.
The commission also found that much of the hunger is unnecessary -- the damaging product of international politics gone awry.
For example, the commission wrote: "Many developing nations . . . spend as much foreign exchange to import arms as to purchase equipment to help meet long-range development needs . . . .
"Few have displayed the national commitment and adopted the policies and programs that would lead directly to increased food production, better distribution, income-generating employment, and dissemination of the fruits of development to the poorest and hungriest individuals within their nations."
The report also accuses the United States and other developed nations of having "placed very low priority on alleviating world hunger."
"Since World War Ii, the industrialized countries have been preoccupied with East-West tensions and sustaining domestic economic growth," the report said.
"These primary concerns," the report continued, "have largely determined both the nature and the extent of the West's involvement with the developing world.
"With national security and anti-Communism as paramount concerns, more money has always been available for military assistance [to developing nations] . . . than for educating teachers, scientists, economists, farmers and health care specialists."
Hunger also continues to be a problem in the United States, even though substantial gains have been made in reducing malnutrition among Americans, according to the report. Here, as overseas, poverty is the basic cause of continued hunger, the report said.
The commission said this country should work harder to enlist the aid of other western nations, and the help of the poorer governments, in trying to fill the world's empty stomach.
Briefly, other commission recommendations include:
The creation of a "non-govenmental clearinghouse" to help private U.S. investors (particularly small firms) work with dveloping countries in creating food programs.
Action by the United Nations, with increased U.S. involvement, to eliminate obstacles to the creation of worldwide grain reserves.
Larger U.S. financial contributions to the United Nations' exsisting food programs.
A complete overhaul of the exsisting U.S. Food for Peace Program.
The commission acknowledged that its recommendations come at a time of increased domestic financial hardship. So did President Carter, in his response to the commission report.
"Some [of the recommendations] will be difficult to implement quickly in the face of fiscal restraints imposed by our fight against inflation," Carter said in prepared remarks.
"But I agree with the commission that our national security and our fundamental values compel us to mount a growing effort to build a world without hunger," the president said.
Carter said he intends to make that effort, and he promised that the commission's report "will not gather dust in the files."