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Global walk: A triumphant step against child hunger

Liberia's president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf meets some young walkers before joining them on their 5km march.

ROME, Italy, 22 May 2006 - On Sunday 21 May, more than 760,000 people in 118 countries and 420 locations, across 24 time zones, participated in Fight Hunger: Walk the World.

All around the globe, people came out in force to deliver a message: child hunger has no place in this world and citizens working together can root it out.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), its humanitarian and corporate partners, political leaders, artists and sport champions, as well as war-displaced families and over 100,000 school children in sub-Saharan Africa alone, stepped forward in the fight against child hunger.

From Auckland New Zealand, to the Pacific Ocean island of Samoa, people rose up to declare it is unacceptable that 18,000 children die of hunger daily on a planet that produces more than enough to feed every inhabitant.

International capitals, rural communities, neighborhoods and historical landmarks served as the backdrop to walks which varied in size and style. In northern Uganda alone, on a hot and sunny day, more than 100,000 displaced civilians living in camps participated in the Walk. The downpour in London could have caused some problems for Walk the World, but there was no stopping committed walkers led by WFP Goodwill Ambassador, Princess Haya of Dubai.

In the Bolivian capital, La Paz, two brothers were reunited after having been separated for six years. Both are being fed by two separate school feeding programs administered by WFP. Participants in Lesotho had a wonderful time during the 11km Walk in Maseru, which was led by the country’s Hon. Queen 'MaSenate Mohato Bereng Seeiso. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was at the head of a 30,000-strong crowd through Monrovia that ended in the City Stadium.

In Indonesia, a world champion swimmer set a new world record on behalf of Walk the World by crossing the treacherous Bali straits while other supporters of ending child hunger were planting Walk the World: Fight Hunger flags at Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro summits. The call to end child hunger was heard in Red Square in Moscow, on The Great Wall of China, in the historic centres of Budapest and Prague, in the old cities of Amman and Cairo, and in hundreds of other locations in all continents around the globe.

And in his special Sunday morning address, participants around the world were encouraged when Pope Benedict XVI expressed his support for the Fight Hunger: Walk the World initiative to end child hunger by 2015.

“If we ignore child hunger, it remains a daily reality that ravages millions and goes unseen by most. We are bringing this otherwise invisible problem into the spotlight and moving citizens and governments to action,” said Arlene Mitchell, WFP Director of Walk the World. “There is no excuse for children to be chronically hungry, day in and day out in the 21st century. The world community still has to make a huge progress in order to improve the lives of children. Fight Hunger: Walk the World makes a step forward on the path.”

In Egypt, nearly 500 individuals from UN agencies, embassies, national and international organizations, media representatives, and schoolchildren gathered at one of the most scenic parks overlooking old Fatimid Cairo- Al Azhar park- on a beautiful sunny day in Cairo. They all marched together to collect funds and create awareness on one of Egypt's most successful projects for improving girls' education and fighting child hunger: the Girls' Education Initiative.

Children were delighted to have the walk starting from the Kid's Area where they were entertained by toys, games and face paintings. The starting point was very nicely arranged and filled with enthusiasm for the walk. In fact, the organization of the whole event was superb thanks to TNT's great efforts. The participation of around a dozen private sector sponsors added to the anticipated success. Lively songs were heard throughout the walk as well as narration of the event until walkers arrived at the finishing point where it was time to witness a spectacular sunset.

From then on, participants entered the stage area set on the park’s lake where refreshments and appetizers were provided and children could play while the VIP guest speakers made speeches. “It is a great event to gather here for such a humane and noble aim: the ending of child hunger. It is my honour to be standing here among this crowd who are fighting to bring food to the chronically poor,” said WFP Ambassador Against Hunger and Egyptian Actor Mahmoud Yassin. In the final act, a live concert took place playing the music of Egypt's best musical composers. Indeed the great music, lovely weather and beautiful setting made it both an enjoyable and memorable event.

“The event, initiated three years ago by TNT, global provider of express, mail and logistics services, aims to engage citizens worldwide, throughout the next decade to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people globally by 2015,” said Mitchell. “Without citizen action, the status quo will remain. But with it, the world can help to end the unnecessary suffering of children.”

The cash raised through the walk (the final tally is being calculated) will fund two successful global activities aimed at reducing child hunger: projects to help pregnant and lactating women and young children and school feeding projects which provide food for school students in developing countries.

Last year, WFP provided school meals for 21.7 million children in 74 countries. The Programme plans to reach 50 million schoolchildren by 2008. All too often pupils – particularly girls – are deprived of education because their families cannot afford to send them to school. Yet educating girls is one of the best ways of permanently escaping the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, poor health and hunger.




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