World leaders, NGOs, and businesses have joined together to pledge $3.4 billion to tackle the world’s malnutrition crisis — which affects one in every three people globally.
That figure includes $640 million in new commitments from donors, as well as pledges to increase and extend commitments that have been made previously.
As well as $1.1 billion in commitments from NGOs, the World Bank has pledged to increase its spending on nutrition to $1.7 billion by 2020.
The pledges were announced at the Global Nutrition Summit, held in Milan on Saturday, to accelerate what the world is doing to combat hunger and malnutrition — an underlying cause of nearly half of all global child deaths.
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“Every country in the world is facing a malnutrition crisis,” Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the UN and champion in the fight against malnutrition, said at the summit. “But we have a clear road map. We are more confident now than ever that ending malnutrition is possible.”
“We can not only achieve global nutrition targets, we can surpass them,” he added. “But we have to move much quicker.”
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Governments from Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, and Madagascar committed at the summit to reach more people, specifically mothers and children, with domestic nutrition programmes, while philanthropic organisations in India and Nigeria promised to spend $150 million to tackle hunger in the two countries, which have the highest numbers of malnourished children.
Lord Michael Bates, the UK’s international development minister, described the UK as a leader in the “international push to tackle undernutrition.”
He said the UK will be honouring all the commitments made at the London summit in 2013, including £575 million on nutrition specific programmes.
“In 2013, the UK committed to release up to £280 million in matched funding for nutrition programmes, as a way of incentivising others to follow our lead, and I am pleased to announced today we are unlocking all our funding,” he said at the summit.
“The elimination of malnutrition is within our grasp. It can be done. It must be done.”
The Milan summit coincided with the release of the independent Global Nutrition Report 2017, which found that almost every country in the world is facing a serious nutritional challenge
Of the countries surveyed in the report, 88% are facing a “serious burden” of two or three forms of malnutrition — including childhood stunting, which affects 155 million children, and anaemia in women of childbearing age.
On the other end of the spectrum, the report states that some 2 billion adults globally are overweight or obese, and 41 million children are overweight.
A UN report released earlier this year found that for the first time since 2000 world hunger increased from 2015 to 2016, with the number of chronically undernourished people rising from 777 million to 815 million — an increase of 38 million people in a year.
Climate change and conflict are both key reasons for the increase, according to the state of food insecurity and nutrition report, which was produced by five UN agencies.
While the number of children under 5 who are chronically or acutely malnourished has fallen in many countries, the rate of decline is not rapid enough.
The Milan summit emphasised that the world is currently off-track to achieve the global goal of ending hunger by 2030, and that more still needs to be done.
The Global Nutrition Report states that an integrated global approach is necessary to address the world’s malnutrition crisis.
The report emphasises that improving nutrition will “be a catalyst” for achieving all the global goals, and says that it would be a challenge to achieve any of the 17 goals without addressing nutrition.
It also calls for spending and investment in nutrition to be made in an integrated way, across sectors that impact nutrition outcomes indirectly, like education, climate change, or water and sanitation.
“Malnutrition has a high economic and health cost, yet not enough is spent on improving nutrition,” reads the report.
New analysis shows that domestic spending on undernutrition varies from country to country — some spend over 10% of their budget on nutrition and others spend far less.
While global spending by donors on undernutrition increased by 1% between 2014 and 2015, it fell as a proportion of official development assistance (ODA) from 0.57% in 2014 to 0.5% in 2015.
Meanwhile, spending on the prevention and treatment of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represented 0.01% of all ODA in 2015, even though the global burden of these diseases is “significant”.
“When nutrition is at the top of the agenda, countries can tap into their full potential,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in a statement. “Today’s summit made it clear that the world understands this. These commitments bring us one step closer to a future in which every child not only survives, but thrives.”