The G8 summit opens in Italy with
leaders of the world's most powerful economies meeting on issues including the
global recession, regional security, Iran, world hunger, and aid to developing
World leaders have arrived in this medieval town in central Italy and one of the orders of business was to take note of the summit venue - an area stricken by a powerful earthquake just three months ago and still suffering from widespread devastation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the village of Onna, which was almost completely leveled by the quake. U.S. President Barack Obama was visiting the center of L'Aquila, also heavily damaged and still off limits even to local residents because it remains unsafe.
Nearly 300 people were killed in the earthquake and tens of thousands made homeless. The area is still experiencing frequent aftershocks. Italian authorities say they are confident the world leaders here will be safe, but they note there is an emergency plan in place should the need arise.
During the summit talks, the global economic crisis is high on the agenda.
U.N. officials and aid agencies say related issues - global hunger, food security and development aid need urgent attention.
A recent report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization shows a marked increase in hunger and malnutrition worldwide. FAO chief Jacques Diouf tells VOA that must be addressed.
"This report shows that because of the economic and financial crisis the number of hungry people has increased by 105 million in 2009," said Diouf.
The FAO report says more than one-billion people are now going hungry and suffering from malnutrition. Jacques Diouf says G8 leaders should live up to their previous aid commitments.
"They allocate 17 percent of official development assistance to agriculture - not in one year, it will take time," he added.
Aid agencies have criticized some G8 nations, summit host Italy among them, for not living up to aid pledges they have made in the past.
Other issues for discussion in L'Aquila include climate change, regional security and Iran.
China's President Hu Jintao is not attending the summit. He cut short his visit to return home because of ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang province of northwest China.