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How will the hunger summit help children in Malawi and across the globe?

At the hunger summit over the weekend, commitments were made to double the funding available for the fight against worldwide child malnutrition.

Hosted by the UK government, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the government of Brazil, the ‘Nutrition for Growth’ summit raised further funding commitments from the international community to reduce malnutrition. If those commitments are met, spending will double from around 418 million dollars annually to around 900 million dollars between now and 2020. The UK has promised an additional 375 million pounds of core funding, as well as a further 280 million in matched funding over the next seven years. The European Commission has also raised its contribution significantly.

The new funding will mean more than 500 million pregnant women and children receive nutrition interventions. In addition, at least 20 million children under the age of five should be protected from stunting. With the backing of additional programmes, it is estimated that 1.7 million lives could be saved.

The UK prime minister, quoted in the Guardian, hailed the progress made at the summit but said commitments alone would not beat hunger. He said that developing countries would also need “a transparency revolution so that ordinary people can see that governments....get the tax receipts they are owed from international businesses”. The UK will host a transparency summit on tax next week ahead of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland.

Developing nations were also being urged to make strong commitments to spending on nutrition. Until now, nutrition has been a low priority in many African nations, accounting for only around 0.4% of official development assistance. Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, attended the summit and told those present that nutrition spending was now integral to Malawi’s national budget and would rise from 1-2% to 3.3% by 2020.

A spokesperson for the IF campaign against hunger hailed the summit as a “historic moment”. However, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed concern about the role of the G8’s new alliance for food security and nutrition. This alliance has been launched to encourage private investment in agriculture. NGOs are concerned that smaller farmers will, for example, be forced into buying expensive seeds and genetically modified crops. The director for the Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD) warned “big businesses are dictating policy and governments are handing out land to them”. Along with other environmental organisations, IRPAD is worried smallholder farmers, who make up the bulk of Africa’s growers, will lose out to land grabs and deals signed with multinational companies in what IRPAD dubs “a new wave of colonialism”.