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Summit Leaders Split On Helping World's Hungry

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As the first-ever World Food Summit closed Sunday, the Rwandan refugee crisis provided delegates with a case study of the needs of the world's hungry.

Catherine Bertini, executive director of the UN's World Food Program, called on world leaders to act immediately to aid the more than 1 million refugees in eastern Zaire. She predicted that within a month more than 100,000 children could be at risk for severe malnutrition or death.

Hundreds of thousands of the refugees were later reported to be returning home, a development Ms. Bertini called "wonderful."

The Nov. 13-17 summit, which was sponsored by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, brought together delegates from 187 nations to discuss the elimination of world hunger.

According to the Rome declaration, more than 800 million people worldwide "do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs." Participating nations pledged to work to cut this number in half by 2015.

Many delegates, however, expressed reservations about individual points of the 43-page declaration. In a written reservation, the US said the right to adequate food was "a goal or aspiration" and not an international obligation on governments.

Also, the Vatican, Argentina, and several Muslim states opposed the adoption of language from a 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo on population control.

During the summit, three points emerged as vital in the fight against world hunger: eliminating poverty, giving due attention to the role of women in developing societies, and bringing rising population levels under control.

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