Global leaders try to get serious about hunger

BigIF G8 rally and Hunger Summit
Young people participating at the BigIf rally in Hyde Park.

As the leaders of the world’s economic powers gather to discuss the state of the global economy and find common ground on pressing international issues, nutrition is featuring as a main topic.

New research from the Lancet says that malnutrition is responsible the death of 3.1 million children a year. A number that represents just less than half of all deaths for children under five years old.

Advocates pressed on the UK, host of the G8 summit, to commit to end hunger.

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign brought together scores of British NGOs to press the office of the Prime Minister to advocate for hunger appearing on the G8 agenda. It culminated with tens of thousands of people gathering in London’s Hyde Park this Saturday and more than $4 billion in commitments by wealthy countries to eliminate malnutrition in children.

The sum effectively doubles the amount of money already committed to malnutrition through 2020.

“If others played their part too the commitments that the UK is making today could help 37 million children fight malnutrition by getting the right food and the right care,” said Prime Minister Cameron in announcing the UK’s commitment of £375 million in addition to £280m of matched funding.

“If these children grow up healthy, they will increase their earnings by 10%. And at what cost per taxpayer? Not even as much as one pence a day.”

Leaders, including USAID Administrator Dr Raj Shah, signed on to the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact on Saturday. They set forward the goal to accomplish the following targets:

  1. improving the nutrition of 500 million pregnant women and young children
  2. reducing the number of children under five who are stunted by an additional 20 million
  3. saving the lives of at least 1.7 million children by preventing stunting, increasing breastfeeding and better treatment of severe and acute malnutrition

“Ensuring that a child receives adequate nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday can yield dividends for a lifetime,” said Dr. Shah at a nutrition event on Monday. “We will continue to work with our partners to promote targeted action in early nutrition that delivers results for some of the most vulnerable people around the world.”

Bill Gates joined the masses in Hyde Park to raise awareness and send a message to the leaders of the world. He was joined by luminaries such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, acclaimed director Danny Boyle and even David Beckham via a pre-recorded video message.

“We need to be more generous and we need to pay attention to what’s going on in these poor countries,” said Gates in an interview with the BBC. “If they were living in our neighborhoods obviously we would reach out and help them and that’s why today’s event is so important.”

Aid consultant Kirsty McNeill attended the rally and came back largely impressed by the number of people in attendance and how many were new to the campaign. She raises some questions about the political drivers of the campaign, but says that the lessons appeared to have been learned from previous campaigns.

“There will be plenty of time for post-mortems of the whole campaign later, but this weekend was overall a good reminder of the thing that brought most of us into campaigning in the first place: politicians have the power to change things and we have the power to make them,” writes McNeill.

The weekend’s events also saw the launch of the Global Open Data Initiative for Agriculture and Nutrition by Shah and UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening. The goal is to provide support for countries in order to make data related to agriculture and nutrition readily available for public global use.

“By embracing high-impact partnerships, science, and technology, we can achieve progress simply unimaginable in the past, including the end of extreme poverty, widespread hunger, and chronic malnutrition.” said Administrator Shah.

Cameron stressed the importance of transparency in his remarks. He said that transparency must go beyond a name and idea and become an integral part of eliminating hunger.

“We need something much wider and much deeper: a transparency revolution so that ordinary people can see that governments in poor countries get the tax receipts they are owed from international businesses, as well as the life-changing investment and technological knowhow that companies bring,” said Cameron.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]