Global Food Security Summit | New York, 20 September 2022. Credit: Paul Kagame
Global Food Security Summit | New York, 20 September 2022. Credit: Paul Kagame

Ending preventable deaths starts with nutrition

It all starts with nutrition.

From the first 1,000 days window, between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, access to a nutritious diet will condition every stage of a child’s development, and their future economic opportunities. If undernourished, children are more vulnerable to infectious diseases and common illnesses, they respond less effectively to vaccines and can become too short for their age (stunting), or too thin for their height (wasting). In the worst cases, undernutrition puts children at risk of premature death.

Ending preventable deaths starts with good nutrition. Yet, undernutrition is the reality for millions of people worldwide and represents around 45% of deaths among children under five years of age. In a world that produce immense wealth and resources, every death of a child from undernutrition is a tragedy and a failure to adequately respond to global inequalities. Global malnutrition is a result of a lack of prioritisation of the highest standards of nutrition outcomes, in both international development and governmental agendas.

Nutrition outcomes are impacted by political decisions related to access to health, education, social services, agriculture, land ownership, international and domestic conflicts, humanitarian issues, climate change, economic development, and many more. If equal access to nutritious diets for all is not prioritised politically, the effects always disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations, around the globe.

The UK Food Security Summit 2023

It is ten years since the first Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit, hosted by the UK government in 2013. Initiated to galvanise global government efforts and finances, the N4G Summit set an ambitious agenda for tackling global malnutrition. On the 20 November 2023, the UK government is hosting the Global Food Security Summit, to explore solutions that could turn the tide and prevent famine, wider food insecurity and malnutrition.

Ten years after the first N4G Summit, the UK government is playing an important role in putting nutrition high in the international development agenda, by both hosting the Food Security Summit and dedicating the first session on Ending Preventable Death of children. After the cuts to UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) that disproportionately affected FCDO’s nutrition funding since 2021, we urgently need to re-prioritise actions against malnutrition. This Summit is an opportunity for the UK government to position actions on nutrition high in its development agenda. Future UK policies and finances dedicated to nutrition will depend on the Summit’s discussions, and the decisions that our political leaders will take during this event on enacting the SDG agenda, and meeting the WHO Global Nutrition Targets.

Global Food Security Summit policy brief: Building effective global food security

This briefing covers new approaches to ending preventable deaths of children, science and technology to accelerate progress towards food security and nutrition, anticipating and preventing famine and food security crises and building a climate-resilient and sustainable food system.

Find out more

To end preventable deaths and deliver impact on malnutrition, it is essential that a broad package of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes have the resources required. The Global Nutrition Report estimates that globally, an additional US$10.8 billion financing is needed by 2030 to meet the WHO Global Nutrition Targets on stunting, wasting, anaemia and breastfeeding, despite the impacts of COVID-19.

At the same time, the total economic gains to society of investing in nutrition could reach US$5.7 trillion a year by 2030 and US$10.5 trillion a year by 2050. The first session of the Food Security Summit, on Ending Preventable Death, should therefore acknowledge this gap and see renewed commitments to invest in nutrition.

Closing the financial gap

The UK ODA budget on nutrition influences the reality of millions of people worldwide. With acknowledged results by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) in its 2020 review, the UK government achieved positive and encouraging results, by surpassing its own commitment to reach over 50 million people with nutrition-relevant programming, before its 2020 deadline.

However, the UK ODA cuts to nutrition budget since 2021 dramatically reduced the finances and programmes of the FCDO on nutrition. The International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition (ICAN UK) recently released a Stocktake report on UK aid for nutrition. The report found that nutrition financing was disproportionately impacted by the cuts to UK ODA in 2021, and that future years will see further reductions in spending if the UK government doesn’t commit to increased finances.

Ten years after the first N4G, the UK governments’ progress and leadership on nutrition have been set back by a decade. With this Food Security Summit, the UK government has an opportunity to restore its leadership in global efforts to tackle malnutrition.

What we need from the first session

At the upcoming Food Security Summit, we urge the FCDO to make the commitments necessary to restore its leadership on global nutrition. The first session of the Summit, dedicated to Ending Preventable Deaths of children, must see a political pledge to reverse the disproportionate cuts of ODA to nutrition and restoring its budget for nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes by 2025. The FCDO should pledge to:

  • Increase disbursement of nutrition-specific spending, and nutrition-sensitive spending in key development sectors, including, but not limited to health, agriculture, WASH, education, climate and social services.
  • Reiterate its commitment to reach more than 50 million women and girls with nutrition interventions in the next five years.

To ensure that the first session of the Summit is the start of further engagements from the UK government in global efforts to tackle malnutrition, the FCDO should:

  • Work with Civil Society to re-evaluate and increase its N4G 2021 financial pledge made early 2022, before the N4G Summit 2025.
  • Work alongside the government of France to make the next N4G Summit 2025 a success in securing new financial and political pledges to end malnutrition.

The success of this Summit depends on the decisions taken to end preventable deaths from malnutrition. Restoring the nutrition ODA budget at the Summit is the first step to achieve progress and honour a ten year old UK legacy.


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