MILAN, ITALY — European governments must help combat hunger and malnutrition on a global level, as failure to do so will only boost migration flows and stoke conflicts, said United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

"Food insecurity and conflict go hand in hand" he said, noting that extreme climatic events, troubles in Africa and the Near East and now the Ebola outbreak in West Africa tend to spill over national borders and into other regions in a globalized world, often through forced migration.

"Illegal border crossings are an issue of concern in Europe and other parts of the world," Graziano da Silva said at the informal summit of E.U. agriculture ministers in Milan, Italy. "It is our common responsibility to help build alternatives. Sustainable agricultural and rural development in the countries of origin needs to be one of them.”

He urged E.U. ministers to consider malnutrition a public issue requiring concerted action. 

"Hunger is the most deplorable face of malnutrition, but it is not its only face,'' he said, noting that 5% of global economic activity lost annually and that more than 2 billion people, suffer from undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies or hidden hunger, which can manifest themselves as obesity.

He said he counted on constructive engagement from E.U. ministers at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) that FAO and the World Health Organization will host in Rome from Nov. 19-21. Agriculture is a critical part of efforts to improve malnutrition, he said.

ICN2 and Expo Milan 2015 "have been and will continue to be mutually supportive," he said, referring to the upcoming world's fair in Italy, which is focused on food issues and at which the United Nations will present its zero hunger vision.

ICN2 will promote Expo themes to a wide global audience, while Expo will broadcast ICN2 messages, he said.