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

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Students protest outside the University of London on 9 December 2010 against government proposals to let universities triple tuition fees  

'I’m gonna kill this lot', and other things a police officer shouldn't be saying during a protest

Hannah Dee
A woman walks past a pro same-sex marriage 'Yes' banner hanging in the window the Green Party's office in Dublin on 21 May 2015.  

Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum: A whole nation will now decide if I should be an equal citizen

Ross Golden Bannon
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable