On the 8th June, business leaders, scientists, government officials and representatives from a range of organisations will come together for a UK-hosted summit on ways to reduce poor nutrition among children. To coincide with the summit, Bill Gates, Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury) and Graça Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, will attend a rally in Hyde Park this weekend as part of the campaign to end child malnutrition. Campaigners hope it will be the largest popular gathering against global inequality since the Make Poverty History march in 2005.
Entitled ‘Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science’, the summit itself (being held a week before the G8 gathering) will focus on the work of the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The summit is being hosted by the UK government, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the government of Brazil. Attendees will discuss how companies and science can help to expand food security across the globe. The summit’s organisers aim to raise as much as 1 billion dollars in investment for 2015-2016 to reduce malnutrition.
Existing programmes already show the feasibility and effectiveness of various methods to boost African agriculture and address the nutrition crisis in many developing countries. In its new ‘State of Food and Agriculture’ report, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation highlights some of these programmes, including schemes which support the needs of mothers and young children.
In Ethiopia, for example, many children in the Somali region of the country were suffering from severe malnutrition. In a project coordinated by Save the Children, pastoralists in the region were asked about the main factors affecting the nutrition of their children. Local people identified the health of their herds and seasonal migration away from their families as the main problems depriving their children of milk. Supplementary feeds, animal vaccinations and de-worming kits were provided to improve the health of cattle and new water supplies were created to reduce migration distances. This improved the availability of milk for the children, whose nutritional status remained stable even during severe drought.
Adding milk to school feeding programmes can also be an integral part of providing children with the nutrients they need. A controlled primary school-feeding study in Kenya showed that when children received milk and/or meat supplements with mid-morning snacks, they had higher intakes of nutrients such as vitamins A and B, and calcium, and greater dietary energy.
Campaigners will be hoping that with all the evidence available about how, with the right support, adequate nutrition of children can easily be achieved, companies and leaders will now get behind such schemes and fund many more them.