Malnutrition is a cause of around half of all under-five deaths globally; in 2019, almost 3 million child deaths could have been prevented through improved nutrition. 144 million children under five are also chronically undernourished, affecting their long term development. The situation could worsen significantly in 2020 due to COVID-19, with the economic and social impacts of the pandemic increasing food insecurity and hunger, making efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition more important than ever.
Investing in nutrition is critical to ending preventable child deaths, as well as strengthening global health and pandemic preparedness. In 2013, the UK hosted the first ever Nutrition for Growth Summit and galvanised international action to tackle malnutrition that raised $23 billion over 7 years for nutrition programmes. But the money pledged in 2013 runs out at the end of this year, and the world is still a long way from meeting global nutrition targets, even without the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unless new money is available in the next few months, nutrition programmes could have to be cut just when they are needed most. The UK Government must therefore work with other leading donors and pledge new funding for nutrition programmes. At a time when Britain faces an economic downturn and cuts to our overseas aid budget, it is vital that investments in nutrition are continued. Please write to the Secretary of State for International Development Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Rabb, who will shortly be taking over responsibility for the UK’s aid spending, urging them to pledge financial support now for nutrition programmes over the next 5 years.