Simon Bishop, Chief Executive Officer, The Power of Nutrition
This week the G7 published its Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crises Compact. At The Power of Nutrition we welcomed the widening of the Compact beyond an immediate response to humanitarian crises, food security and food assistance to a more multi-sectoral, long-term approach, incorporating nutrition, WASH, gender, and broader health interventions.
This reflects the hard-fought efforts of our sector to advocate global leaders to recognise the growing nutrition crisis, and nutrition as foundational to health and socio-economic development.
However, the Compact lacks significant detail on nutrition financing commitments and diplomatic action from the G7 leaders. And it would be fair to say its timing is contradictory and feels a huge blow to the health and development community – just weeks after we learnt about unprecedented cuts to the UK aid budget in the middle of the worst health pandemic in over 100 years.
What is particularly sad with the UK as G7 hosts is that Britain has been a genuine global leader in nutrition for the last decade. Its commitment to funding nutrition – stemming from the 2013 Nutrition for Growth Summit, of which The Power of Nutrition was born out of – prevented millions of deaths and brought down levels of stunting (where children are shorter than they should be, due to chronic malnutrition) and wasting (where children weigh much less than they should, due to recent severe weight loss). The UK gained a reputation as a leader in development and this is rapidly disappearing, damaging relationships with key partners.
More worryingly, women and children are suffering from the lack of commitment and urgency by global leaders. Levels of child malnutrition started rising again in 2020, with an additional 5 million children stunted – bringing global levels to a staggering 149 million. Malnutrition is still the underlying cause of half of all deaths under 5. The financing gap to address this life-altering but easily preventable condition is also widening. All projections point to these figures continuing to grow unless urgent action is taken.
We believe that humanitarian interventions should not come at the expense of vital longer-term interventions to improve nutrition for mothers and their children, which encourage health resilience and, ultimately, improve people’s livelihoods and prosperity. If G7 leaders fail to announce resources for such interventions, their humanitarian aid will fall short and the health and prospects of people in vulnerable countries will be compromised for years to come.
G7 support for tackling famine and hunger is therefore welcome, as is the Compact’s commitment to participate in the UN Food Systems Summit and Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit. What we desperately need to see now, in this Nutrition Year of Action, is tangible announcements about funding to fill the chronic financing gap.
Global leaders must also vocalise the severity of the nutrition crisis to bring it into the spotlight and ensure nutrition does not become a neglected issue.