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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (IWN photo)
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (IWN photo)

This country will this month be recognised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for halving both the number and percentage of undernourished residents.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will travel to Rome to receive the recognition, he told Parliament on Friday.

“The Food and Agricultural Organisation, they just sent a letter to us. St. Vincent and the Grenadines … and Guyana are the two CARICOM countries which have satisfied two important tests in relation to undernourishment — one set by the FAO and one set by the Millennium [Development] Goals of the United Nations General Assembly. Halving the absolute number of persons undernourished and halving the percentage,” Gonsalves said.

He said that in 1992, about one-fifth of the population — 21,000 — persons were undernourished.

“In fact, it went up in [1995] to 22,000 persons,” he said, noting the situation under the New Democratic Party administration, which was in office from 1984 to March 2001.

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“It came down by 2002 to 11,000 and it is now under 5,000,” Gonsalves said during the debate of a supplementary appropriations bill that allocated loans of EC$208 million (EC$1=US$0.37) to the EC$652 million international airport being built north-east of capital, Kingstown.

Opposition lawmakers said that some of the money could have been used to fund social programmes and to improve other infrastructure, such as roads.

“I am not saying that we don’t have people who are finding it difficult you know,” Gonsalves said.

“But I am showing you how it has come and this remarkable progress and we are one of 18 countries in the world to have accomplished this,” he said.

“And, for that, the secretary general of the Food and Agricultural Organisation has invited your humble servant to Rome on the 16th of June to receive the formal recognition of the performance of our government and people,” Gonsalves further said.

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.