Lunch hour at work officially starts at 1pm. Unfortunately, I don’t think the stomach and brain understand time. Despite having breakfast this morning, hunger pangs set in around 12:00pm itself. I cave in. No harm in bringing lunch forward by an hour if it means I can work the rest of the afternoon in peace – energized, focused, and functioning at 100%.
Then I think of the 795 million people going hungry who have to get on with their day-to-day activities (including strenuous manual labour) without enough food to fuel their bodies and minds. Sadly, we are now at the brink of an unprecedented four famines – putting more than 20 million people at risk of starvation and death in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. Urgent and immediate action is crucial to prevent colossal human and societal losses.
Alongside these humanitarian efforts, sustained and long-term efforts on food, but more importantly, nutrition. No doubt consuming potatoes, rice, or corn, or for that matter any one type of food every single day and for every meal will reduce hunger, but is filling stomachs enough? Our bodies need vital nutrients from a diverse diet to promote growth, protect against illnesses, and ensure optimal physical and brain functioning. It’s not surprising then that the burden of malnutrition is bigger than that of hunger –affecting every 3rd person, and over 2 billion globally. From poor nutrition stems a cycle of poor growth, illness, and lower school/work progress. This compromises health, education, and performance – ultimately increasing healthcare bills and reducing earning potential.
Back to the question in this case on the G7’s role on food and nutrition security. Why should they do more on this? For the simple reason that they can, and because current efforts are simply not enough.
Investing in food security and nutrition, particularly for vulnerable groups such as women, girls, children and small holder farmers is morally, economically and developmentally the most sensible thing to do. The annual G7 summit is an opportunity for the Heads of states of Japan, the USA, Germany, the UK, Italy, France, and Canada to meet and discuss pressing global challenges. Together these countries constitute nearly half of the global GDP. What could be a better opportunity than the summit this year in Taormina, Italy, for them to lead the world on tackling malnutrition?
Improving nutrition saves precious lives, and delivers a cost to benefit ratio of 16:1, saving trillions in healthcare-costs and economic losses. It also improves the impact of many other health and development interventions, and will take us closer to achieving at least 12 out of the 17 Global goals.
The G7 must be commended on their ambitious 2015 pledge at Schloss-Elmau to ‘lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030’. However, this target is bound to be missed if each of the G7 States do not step forward with resources and a concrete plan of action on how these will be invested. Investments must focus on expanding evidence-based solutions such as improving nutrition for women and girls, improving breastfeeding and complementary feeding for young children, treatment of severe acute malnutrition and vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) supplementation. This ought to be complemented with a long-term integrated, multi-sectoral, and food systems approach – improving agriculture to produce more nutritious food, and improve access and affordability of these foods; improving water and sanitation hygiene and health interventions to prevent illness that could compromise nutrition, and investing in education so that people and communities make better choices regarding family planning, dietary and health practices, and so on.
The 2017 G7 summit is the perfect opportunity for these world leaders to show how committed they are to improving food security and nutrition. I hope they seize it with the same enthusiasm with which I’m reaching out for my lunch right now.
Attached below is the Common position of the G7 civil society task force on food and nutrition security for the 2017 G7 summit. RESULTS UK and ACTION have helped develop this position and will be in the run up to the G7 to ensure ambitious commitments to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition.