This is a guest blog post by London campaigner Layla Moccia. Layla is interested in data modelling to overcome global developmental challenges; and in the intersections of technology, economic policy and sustainability. She studied Chemical Engineering at UCL, before then working in investment banking in mergers and acquisitions. Layla is now a Research Assistant at the UCL Institute of Sustainability, where she will be studying a masters in Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions.
I was aware of global hunger, but had assumed it to be an unfortunate phenomenon that was at least headed towards a decline.
But it is not. The UN’S 2019 report, ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’, found hunger had actually risen between 2015 and 2018. Through a recent publication by RESULTS, I learnt that the UN in fact expects us to ‘largely miss’ the goal to end malnutrition by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015.
Although aware of periods of difficulty in the global food supply chain (for example the East African Drought Appeal of 2017), I did not think that 1 in 9 people would be hungry in 2019.
Recent past initiatives
The first Nutrition for Growth summit was held in London in 2013 to address malnutrition (a lack of proper nutrition caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat). 26 governments, 27 business and science organisations, as well as 41 other stakeholders, in total pledged US $24 billion to improving nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programs (those that deliver on nutrition objectives whilst also helping to achieve other goals, e.g. crop education for farmers). The investments were to be delivered over the course of 7 years.
According to the ‘Follow the Funding Nutrition Report’ by the ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership, the UK is on track to meet its pledge of US $4.5 billion by 2020. Its nutrition programs having reached 42.1 million people between 2015 and 2018.
But despite the progress, (the summit alone having caused a 33% uplift in global nutrition spending), 821 million people remain hungry and 150 million children globally are stunted (prevented from growing or developing properly).
A number of reasons have contributed to a strained food system in developing countries. 80% of the food consumed in the developing world comes from small, and mostly rainfed farms, but variable rain patterns have become increasingly common due to climate change. This has been compounded by a severe lack of crop diversity in the farmers’ fields – this is 75% less than in the 1900s. Mismanagement and several conflicts in already poor nations have further made hunger a reality for millions.
Why is it in our interest to renew pledges?
The global cost of malnutrition, excluding obesity, is estimated at up to US $3 trillion. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill health than any other cause; preventing vaccines from working and compromising immune systems. In an ever more interconnected world, it is in our collective interest that the world population is sufficiently nourished to enable people to be productive global citizens.
Put simply, healthy people drive healthy economies, and this has positive repercussions whichever side of the world one resides.
Reducing the stunting of children by 40% by 2025 for instance, would result in more than $80 billion of additional GDP growth in 15 sub-Saharan African countries alone. At present Africa accounts for a third of all stunted children.
Allowing women farmers the same access to resources as men would result in 150 million fewer hungry people worldwide. It is these sorts of programmes, amongst many others, that nutrition-sensitive campaigns by DFID tackle and it is this work that must be protected as we come to the expiration of the 2013 Nutrition for Growth pledges and look ahead to the 2020 summit in Japan.
What is it that you can do as an informed and concerned citizen?
The seminal World Bank Investment Framework published in 2017 calculated that US $7 billion is needed each year to deliver nutrition services that will help achieve global targets for stunting, anaemia and breastfeeding by 2025 and to enable the scale-up of treatment for wasting. Finding the money for action on nutrition is a massive challenge that can only be achieved as part of concerted global efforts comprising of both public and private partnerships. As the leading donor to the Nutrition for Growth 2013 Summit, the UK has the opportunity to galvanize other donors and governments to renew their pledges at the 2020 Japan Summit, as well as building on their own commitments to realise the vision for a ‘Global Britain’.
It is important that your local representative is aware of how his or her constituents think about this – which is where you come in. Were it not for the collective campaigns run by organisations such as RESULTS and with the will of the public made expressively clear through such activities as engaging with local politicians, the UK would perhaps not have passed a bill in 2014 to enshrine in law its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on aid every year.
It is also important to remember that change is possible. The number of people living in extreme poverty for example, has fallen from 35% in 1987 to 10% in 2015. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of stunted children under 5 worldwide declined by 25%.
There are many reasons for wanting to eradicate global hunger. Undoubtedly there are economic costs associated with malnutrition that halt development in poorer countries and in doing so create ripple effects for the entire global economy. But essentially our best reason should be that it is simply the right thing to do.
Food is available. It is a question of systems and of access to education and technology for developing countries. Work carried by DFID (which has consistently been shown to be the most efficient and accountable spender of the UK aid budget) facilitates this, and in doing so facilitates a more prosperous world for us all.
As a concerned global citizen, you can be a part of the next round of global efforts against poverty. Writing to your MP is a great way of raising your concern about nutrition. You can find the contact details for your local MP here, or you can email your MP from the RESULTS website.