Global leaders agree deal on “undernutrition”

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Up to US$4.15 bn is pledged to address undernutrition between now and 2020 at a London meeting of  international politicians, scientists and business leaders.

Picture: HarvestPlus

Picture: HarvestPlus

World leaders signed a global agreement on June 8th that will prevent millions of infant deaths, and boost the life chances of millions more, by equipping the developing world with the means to beat malnutrition.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation president Jamie Cooper-Hohn led a high level summit in London of developing and developed nations, businesses, scientific and civil society groups, committing them to supporting a historic reduction in “undernutrition”.

Undernutrition is a chronic lack of nutrients that can result in death, stunted physical development and in a lower resistance to illnesses in later life. It is the biggest underlying cause of death in under-five-year-olds in the world and is responsible for 8,000 child deaths each day. It stunts the growth of children, reducing their potential, undermining their adult earnings by up to 10%, and in some countries reducing the size of the economy by 11% as a result.

The participants – who signed a Global Nutrition for Growth Compact – committed their countries and organisations by 2020 to:

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

Among the participants at the central London summit were two presidents and four prime ministers from Africa, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, philanthropist Bill Gates, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Unilever chief executive Paul Polman.

Donors secured new commitments of up to £2.7 bn ($4.15 bn) to tackle undernutrition up to 2020, £1.9 bn ($2.9 bn) of which is core funding with the remainder secured through matched funding. The UK committed an additional £375m of core funding and £280m of matched funding from 2013 to 2020.

The UK’s International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

Undernutrition is stopping children and countries from reaching their full potential, accounting for the loss of billions of dollars in productivity. A strong and healthy workforce is vital if a country’s economy is to prosper. This means business and science taking a lead in fighting for good nutrition because we understand that better nutrition is the smart way to tackle extreme poverty, child mortality and economic underachievement.

The commitments secured today will help transform the life chances of millions of children and pregnant women by ensuring they get the right nutrition at the right time, securing greater long-term economic growth and prosperity for all.

Nutrition for Growth builds on the process started at last year’s Hunger Summit held by the UK and Brazilian Governments in London, which highlighted the devastating consequences of undernutrition on children.

The World Health Assembly recently agreed a new global target of a 40% reduction in the number of stunted children by 2025. The commitments secured at this meeting will transform progress towards this goal.

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