NEW YORK, NY—Global leaders must address the urgent needs of the 55 million children suffering from acute malnutrition during the G8 Summit in Ontario, Canada on June 25th and 26th, says international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International. G8 leaders should recognize the central role good nutrition plays in the realization of all Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and prioritize effective joint action to end malnutrition in the lead-up to the UN Summit on the MDGs in September.
While Action Against Hunger welcomes the G8’s focus this year on child and maternal health, it warns that progress will only be made if world leaders recognize that adequate nutrition is a key foundation for development and a prerequisite to achieving the MDGs.
Maternal and child under-nutrition is a major public health problem. It is the underlying cause of between 3.5 and five million deaths each year and is responsible for 35 percent of the disease burden in children under five. Failure to address maternal and child under-nutrition will render any G8 initiative on maternal and child health inadequate.
“Nutrition of adequate quality and quantity is crucial for the health of expecting and new mothers and the development of their children,” says Natalie Duck, Advocacy Advisor for Action Against Hunger. “Global action on nutrition can provide a strong foundation for accelerating progress towards the MDGs and should therefore be at the core of all development initiatives.”
Despite global commitments to reduce hunger, including the MDGs, 129 million children under five are underweight. As many as 19 million children are affected by severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition, despite the existence of proven, cost-effective solutions. The total cost of providing life-saving treatment for the 19 million severely malnourished children is estimated at between $4.5 and $9.1 billion—less than a fifth of the amount spent globally on pet food each year.
To increase progress toward the child and maternal health goals, ACF calls on G8 leaders to agree to a Global Action Plan that:
- Prioritizes nutrition interventions;
- Addresses acute malnutrition as an urgent priority; and
- Emphasizes interventions to prevent under-nutrition during pregnancy and for children below two years of age.
“The G8 summit and the upcoming MDG Summit provide a crucial opportunity to get the MDGs back on track,” says Duck. “The world has failed its children for far too long. The interventions to prevent maternal and child deaths exist. Urgent action is needed now.”