Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for at least 3.1 million children, accounting for 45% of all deaths among children under the age of five and stunting growth among a further 165 million, according to a set of reports released ahead of a nutrition summit in London.
The shocking figures, published in the Lancet on Thursday, emerged as world leaders prepare to meet on Saturday to pledge extra money for nutrition, ahead of the G8 summit of industrialised countries on 17 June…
Aid for basic nutrition came to $418 million in 2011, only 0.4% of total official development assistance. Similarly, nutrition has been a low government priority in Africa.
Saturday’s nutrition summit, co-hosted by the UK, Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), is expected to see financial pledges from rich governments and declarations of commitments from poor countries.
Aid campaigners, who see the summit as the biggest opportunity in a decade to secure financial and political commitments on nutrition, expect pledges that will take the overall figure for nutrition to between $600m and $800m a year. Enough Food For Everyone IF, a coalition of more than 200 NGOs and faith groups, which is holding a rally in Hyde Park on Saturday to coincide with the summit, is calling for $1bn a year by 2015.
Even if the summit comes up with more money, it will fall far short of the $9.6bn a year the Lancet says is needed to reduce the number of deaths from malnutrition among under-fives by 1 million. The money would be targeted at 34 countries with high malnutrition rates, supporting interventions identified in the 2008 Lancet series as cost-effective. These include exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate, healthy foods for infants; providing mothers and children with sufficient vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and zinc supplements, iodised salt, and other micronutrient powders and fortified foods; and the prevention and treatment of cases of acute, severe malnutrition…
Brazil has been one of the success stories in reducing malnutrition. Daniel Silva Balaban, a director at the UN World Food Programme who was involved in Brazil’s nutrition policy, emphasised that hunger and malnutrition was a political problem, not an economic one.
Balaban pointed out that the success of a school feeding programme key to Brazil’s success in tackling malnutrition involved not just the ministry of education but also the co-operation of the education, health, social development and finance ministries.
It also helps if you’e not one of the nations whose military assumes a much higher priority than ordinary citizens – or their children.