Olympics close with new commitments to end ‘hidden killer’

Mo Farah, Olympic double gold medalist with Andrew Mitchell, U.K. secretary of state for international development at the Global Hunger Event. Photo by: Patrick Tsui / Crown Copyright

The hunger summit in London didn’t make as much noise as the Olympics, but U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer hoped it will build momentum in the global fight against hunger.

The summit took place on schedule — at the end of the 2012 London Summer Olympics. It was attended by several government officials and sports personalities, including Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, whose foundation helps drought victims in the Horn of Africa.

The United Kingdom, which co-hosted the event with Brazil, announced several commitments, including 120 million pounds ($188.2 million) for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research to carry out drought-resistant crop research and a scheme that would provide early warning signals on hunger through SMS, according to a press release.

Plans to engage U.K. companies, such as Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline PLC, in making affordable “nutritious food” available to poor families were also unveiled, but the details are still not clear.

Malnutrition remains a “hidden killer” to this day, Save the Children’s Justin Forsyth said in an opinion piece for the Guardian, adding progress on the matter “remains stubbornly slow.”

Forsyth hailed Cameron’s leadership on hunger and hoped the summit will be “the start of something much bigger.” The world is on track to meet the World Health Assembly’s target of reducing 40 percent — or 70 million — of the number of stunted children by 2025. But this could only be achieved if 25 million children are saved from stunting from now to the start of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, according to Cameron and Temer’s joint statement.

The event was no pledging summit, according to the Guardian. Instead, it was Britain’s way of making this year’s Olympics in London a legacy and hinting that malnourishment will be on top of the G-8 agenda next year. This, if ever, will build on the New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition launched this year at the G-8 summit in the United States.

The hunger summit garnered mixed but generally positive reactions from the development community. Britain has shown that it can work up a “legacy for the games which is about more than medals and arenas,” according to a statement signed by 10 nongovernmental organizations, adding there is “real hope now” to “end global hunger and fix the broken food system.”

Forsyth, meanwhile, said “unprecedented political action, private and public investment and a massive increase in lifesaving programs” would be needed to reach the 25 million children target by 2016.

“The important commitments made here … are just the beginning,” he said.

But Naomi Hossain, a research fellow from the Institute of Development Studies, said the hunger summit achieved “not a lot,” especially in tackling food price volatility.

“What we really needed from the Summit was less charity and science and more solidarity with food justice campaigns,” she said.

In a tweet, Roger Thurow, author of The Last Hunger Season, said, “Good to raise the clamor … now, keep the focus and follow through.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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