Malnutrition causes 3.1 million deaths among children

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.

House of Lords backs UK government plans for same-sex marriage


Celebrations and singing outside the House of Lords

The House of Lords spent two days debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, with many members voicing their concerns…But it rejected an amendment aimed at wrecking the bill by 242 votes, moving it a step closer to becoming law.

The BBC’s Norman Smith said plans were on course for the first same-sex weddings to take place next summer.

The bill would allow couples, who can currently form civil partnerships, to marry…

The result was greeted with cheers from supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside Parliament…equalities minister Baroness Stowell of Beeston called the legislation a “force for good” which would strengthen marriage.

She said it protected both religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Baroness Royall, Labour’s leader in the Lords, said marriage had a “special status in our society”: “I firmly believe that our society will be strengthened when more couples are able to choose to make a lifetime commitment to each other and when all members of our communities are able to celebrate their identity and relationships within the institution of marriage…”

Peter Tatchell, who co-ordinates the Equal Love campaign, said: “This is a victory for love, marriage and equality“…

Bravo! Mail me a penny postcard when the United States government catches up to the growing number of Western industrial nations supporting full civil rights for their LGBT citizens.

Even Guy Fawkes needs to sleep

Protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask sleeps on a chair at Taksim Square in central Istanbul
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask sleeps on a chair at Taksim Square in central Istanbul June 3, 2013.

Turkish protesters clashed with riot police into the early hours of Monday with some setting fire to offices of the ruling AK Party as the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years entered their fourth day.

Turkey’s streets were calm in the morning after a night of noisy protests and violence in major cities.

150 arrested protesting against the agenda of Republican-owned North Carolina state government

Jennifer Ferrell stopped so her husband could take her picture. Then she waved goodbye to her 3-year-old twins and marched into the Legislative Building to get handcuffed.

“I’m excited. I’m not nervous,” the 34-year-old Raleigh resident said as she walked in a line of demonstrators. “I’m passionate. I’m not crazy.”

For weeks now, Ferrell heard about protesters getting arrested at the statehouse to demonstrate against the Republican majority’s legislative agenda. And like many Monday, she felt compelled to add her voice to the chants and her wrists to the handcuffs. “I knew it was time to stop watching and do it myself,” she said.

Authorities arrested 151 people in the rotunda between the legislative chambers during the latest “Moral Monday” protest – the largest mass arrest since the N.C. NAACP began organizing the weekly civil disobedience events in late April.

The number is nearly the equivalent to the arrests at the four prior protests combined and brings the total above 300 this session…

The growing momentum is reflective of the increased organizing muscle behind the rallies. The N.C. Democratic Party, outside political groups, student organizations and labor unions are openly promoting the protests…

The protesters’ list of grievances was as diverse as the crowd: education spending, voter ID, women’s rights, the elimination of the estate tax, private school vouchers and more…

Doug Swaim, a Charlotte resident, came to Raleigh with a busload of fellow congregants from the Unitarian church in Mecklenburg County.

He worries that Republicans are working quickly to “lock in radically conservative policies.”

“They’re not stupid, they understand the demographics of North Carolina, they know they only have a short time to do this,” Swaim said. “I’m sure they believe in what they’re doing, but I like to call this the last gasp of the angry white man.”

Until you do it, you really haven’t an idea how much satisfaction you will feel putting your physical presence on the line for justice. Most folks never happen to be in the right place at the right time. Even national and regional challenges to the corruption that is American politics take a great deal of logistics to put together. And, let’s face it, most folks have lives and families that demand a higher priority.

But, I must tell you – it’s been 53 years, now, since the first time I stepped forward to join with friends to break an unjust law. Makes you feel like a real American.