The plan presents an opportunity for the UK Government to resume leadership to tackle global malnutrition, unlocking progress on key development goals and enhancing global security, supporters say. It comes as the UK Government gears up to host the Global Food Security Summit in London 20 November, and the International Development Committee’s decision to hold an inquiry into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) work on global malnutrition. Both recognise the need to act to halt the spiralling hunger crisis which kills more than two million children under five and blights millions more each year.
Hunger to Health: A UK Action Plan to Turn the Tide on Global Malnutrition and Hunger was convened by the Eleanor Crook Foundation with contributions from policymakers, academics, NGOs, and charitable organisations. The launch event was hosted by co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Nutrition for Development David Mundell, Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, and Labour Peer, Lord Ray Collins of Highbury.
The panel, chaired by BBC Africa Editor Mary Harper, also included school meals campaigner Christina Adane, ONE campaign youth ambassador Adenike Bamigbade, and UK Director of the Eleanor Crook Foundation Zander Woollcombe. A film from Dr Mairo Mandara, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Founder and Board chair of Girl Child Concerns and UAMH Global Leadership Council (GLC) member was shown.
Malnutrition is entirely preventable. Yet the latest figures show three billion people – or 42 per cent of the world’s population – cannot afford a healthy diet. The report says the number of people facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity spiralled from 193 million in 2021 to 258 million in 2022. But bilateral spending of the UK Overseas Development Assistance budget by the FCDO on malnutrition has fallen by more than 60 per cent.
Welcoming the panel, UAMH CEO Jonny Oates recalled the UK’s past success when we contributed to halving the number of people who were undernourished in the decades following the famine in Ethiopia in 1984.
“Sadly, progress has now gone into reverse,” he said. “Hunger to Health highlights that to get back on track we require a range of solutions with partnerships with the most impacted countries, from immediate interventions to treat and prevent malnutrition to longer term action to strengthen health services, to reform food systems and support developing country-led initiatives to overhaul the global financial system.”
Good nutrition is foundational to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals from health, education, economic development, gender equality and security. Hunger to Health’s contributors argue that spending precious ODA budget on malnutrition would pay dividends with every pound invested resulting in a return of over £13.
The five-year plan proposes proven, cost-effective, scalable solutions to deliver 300 million interventions and save 718,000 lives. It comprises three steps delivered in the immediate, medium, and long term. The first to address child starvation. The second to enhance food security by investing in sustainable food systems. And the third to build a global movement to beat malnutrition by investing in policies at home and building influence internationally.
The first step, known as the Power 4, spans the critical window of pregnancy and early childhood and consists of multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS), vitamin A supplementation, breastfeeding support, and ready-to-use emergency therapeutic food (RUTF).
In her film at the event Dr Mandara said: “The consequences of severe malnutrition go far beyond the consequences of the health to mother and child. It increases the risk of diseases, reduces the effectiveness of vaccines…it blights brain development which affects education, perpetuates gender inequality, and worsens instability and violence across communities and the world. The Power 4 make a big difference. These basic things work, can save lives, and can be scaled up today.”
The report has received statements of support from UK leaders across the political spectrum including: Rt Hon Baroness Catherine Ashton LG GCMG; Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson For Foreign Affairs and International Development; Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow International Development Minister; Lord Purvis of Tweed, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Development and International Trade; Rt Honourable Patrica Scotland KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; and Baroness Sugg CBE, Co-Chair of UAMH.
Statements of support have also been given by leaders in NGOs, academia, and the private sector, including: Robin Black, Professor of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which conducted the report’s modelling; Laura Kyrke-Smith, UK Executive Director, International Rescue Committee; Amy Recknell, Innocent Foundation Director; and Professor Liam Smeeth, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
UAMH GLC members, Professor Sir John Beddington CMG, FRS, HonFREng, Chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and Former Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Mike Nkhombo Khunga, Public health and nutrition specialist, Air Marshal (ret’d) Sir Graham Stacey, European Leadership Council, Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, and Lord Verjee CBE also contributed statements.
The report is available here: Hunger to Health - A UK action plan to turn the tide on malnutrition and hunger (hunger2health.org)