Our speakers – President of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband; former PM and current Foreign Secretary David Cameron; and UNICEF’s country representative in Somalia, Wafaa Saeed – all spoke powerfully of the need for urgent action against global malnutrition and for effective pressure to bring it about.
They highlighted the progress that was achieved in the past, with the proportion of people suffering from severe hunger almost halving between 1990 and 2015. Today however, that progress has gone into reverse. Malnutrition is a leading cause of death among children under five. Between one and two million children will have died from it by the end of this year, and millions more who survived will not have had access to the minimum nutrition they need to develop and reach their full potential. This is a tragedy on an unimaginable scale.
It is why our alliance was brought into being: to press Government and politicians of all parties to restore the UK to the heart of global efforts to end malnutrition; bringing together leaders from scientific, business, finance, military, diplomatic, faith and civil society backgrounds, to demonstrate the breadth of commitment and expertise on this issue.
It is why this October we supported the launch of Hunger to Health, a roadmap for UK action to treat and prevent malnutrition and address its long-term causes. And it is why we will campaign on its recommendations throughout next year.
The human tragedy wrought by malnutrition is why we were active at the main UK-wide party-political conferences, highlighting the foundational nature of nutrition to all human development. And it is why we engaged with the Government on its welcome International Development White Paper and Global Food Security Summit and have had many positive engagements with opposition party politicians.
It is why we partnered with the Development Engagement Lab and Save the Children (UK) to gain a greater understanding of public attitudes on global hunger. The opinion research, published in December, showed that an overwhelming majority of the public believe the UK has a moral duty to tackle global hunger and consistently ranks it in the top development issues the Government should be tackling. And it is why as we go into 2024, we will redouble our efforts to raise the political profile of global malnutrition and drive action to end it.
Looking back to the launch event which set us off on our journey, I would like to say that our decision to invite David Cameron was an act of strategic brilliance built on the political foresight that he would become Foreign Secretary just a few months later. But that would not be entirely truthful!
Nevertheless, when I learnt of his appointment, I did recall his closing words about UAMH at that launch: “We need you, it is not inevitable what is happening, it can be stopped,” he said. “It is pressure and campaigns and raising the profile and sharing the expertise…these things are vital, and as you do so, I will support you every step of the way.”
Thank you, Foreign Secretary! We look forward to working with you, and political leaders across parties in the coming year, to bring closer the day when all children have access to the nutritious food they need to grow and thrive.