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In a letter to German President Horst Köhler, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concern at the plight of struggling African countries during the current global economic crisis. The pope's letter was released this month as new statistics show that a record 1 billion people—about one in every six—are suffering from chronic hunger in the wake of the economic crisis. The rate is much higher in Africa, where about one in four people suffers from chronic hunger. The pope said that Africa's future depends on an attitude of sharing and fairness that resists the "law of the strongest" and the pursuit of selfish interests. "In this context the support of the international community is needed, notwithstanding— and in fact precisely because of—the current financial and economic crisis that is particularly affecting Africa and the poorest countries," the pope said.

The new report on hunger came from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. It said the world economic crisis has lowered incomes and increased unemployment, reducing access to food by the poor. The FAO report said there were 100 million more chronically hungry people today than one year ago. The organization defines hunger as the consumption of fewer than 1,800 calories per day. The pope was responding to a letter from Kohler that preceded the pontiff's March visit to the African countries of Cameroon and Angola.