Dr John Sentamu: World leaders need to show more ambition in tackling hunger

Around 170 million children worldwide risk life-long impairment because of their diets

Share
Related Topics

It is a sad and unacceptable fact that in this age of relative plenty nearly 1 billion people go hungry every day. Despite an abundance of food worldwide, one in seven people do not have enough to eat and the hidden crisis of malnutrition underlies one in three child deaths. At the G8 meeting this week in the US, world leaders have the opportunity to do something about this by renewing their 2009 pledge to invest more money in agriculture and nutrition, with a focus on the world's poorest people.

In South Sudan, from where I have just returned, people are living under the shadow of conflict, deprived of some of the most basic services that we all take for granted, and struggling to afford enough food to feed their families. In spite of their deprivations and traumatisation, they are resilient, hopeful and determined to survive and thrive. Their faith is infectious and should inspire us all.

The Bible rightly says that "man shall not live by bread alone" but without bread – or more accurately, without a balanced and nutritious diet – many lives are seriously compromised. Poor nutrition has knock-on effects for the rest of a child's life. An estimated 170 million children worldwide risk life-long impairment of their physical and cognitive development – a condition known as "stunting" – because of their diets.

This is not just morally repugnant at an individual level – it also has important economic implications. Stunted children earn an average of 20 per cent less when they become adults, and malnutrition can cause a 2-3 per cent reduction in a country's national income. This is why eight of the world's leading economists, including five Nobel Laureates, agreed in 2008 that combating malnutrition was the best investment we could make in development.

Sadly, in spite of progress over the past 20 years, many factors – climate change, volatile food prices, economic uncertainty and demographic shifts – are now jeopardising the fight against malnutrition. Up to 450 million lives will be blighted by stunting in the next 15 years, according to research by Save the Children.

It does not have to be like this. We know the solutions to poor nutrition and can do much more to promote sustainable agriculture. In fact, world governments promised three years ago to do just this. At a meeting in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009, the G8 pledged an extra $22bn (£14bn) to agriculture, targeting smallholders and working with national governments.

Three years on, the headline pledges have not been achieved. A recent report from ActionAid revealed that although spending by donors increased by 60 per cent after they made their pledge, several countries, including Italy and France, actually cut their aid after the meeting. Furthermore, the promise to concentrate on countries with national plans to eradicate hunger has not been consistently followed, and there remains little correlation between countries with high rates of hunger and those that receive the most aid.

As another G8 meeting looms, aid agencies and experts agree that world leaders need to increase ambition, boost political will and refocus efforts. Politicians must revamp and extend the L'Aquila initiative, with a clear focus on smallholder farmers and women, and a commitment to address not just productivity but nutrition. They should agree an ambitious global target to improve nutrition.

With opportunities like this within reach, we all have a moral responsibility to take action and hold politicians to account. And it is in our own interests too. The world simply cannot afford the ongoing economic costs of malnutrition.

Our Prime Minister has shown great leadership by defending vital aid spending, but this commitment must continue. The UK has made a promise to the world's poor and I hope Mr Cameron will press fellow world leaders to use this G8 meeting to get back on track to addressing child malnutrition.

We must ensure that we have a fairer system globally, where those who are most in need have the opportunity to help themselves. With the UK holding the next presidency of the G8, now is the time to make that system a reality.

Dr John Sentamu is the Archbishopof York

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The royal dress code can't cloak Prince Charles

Joan Smith
Ed Miliband  

Rochester by-election: A little respect goes a long way, Ed Miliband

John Rentoul
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin