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A life free from hunger: read between the numbers

Big problem, big solutions

I’ve just been flicking through Save the Children’s latest report, A Life Free From Hunger, which launched today. It’s a big volume, but the problem it addresses, of child malnutrition, is much bigger.

The report is packed full of numbers. 170 million children are malnourished. 2.6 million children die every year because they don’t have enough food. Perhaps most worryingly, almost half a billion children could be affected by malnutrition in the next 15 years, unless urgent action is taken to improve progress.

It’s enough to set your head spinning and it’s easy to feel pretty overwhelmed by such a big problem, but stick with me…

The children behind the numbers

These aren’t just figures on a page. These are real children. Every one of them has become malnourished because of a global food system which stops them getting enough of the right kinds of food.

For every person in the UK, there are three children around the world who isn’t able to grow and develop properly. Those children are more likely to get ill and die before they reach the age of five.

Tackling child malnutrition

There’s no denying the problem is huge. But that doesn’t mean that we have to accept the extremely slow progress that has been made over the past few decades.

There is enough food in the world; we just need to spread it out in a way that’s fairer for the world’s poorest people.

Part of the solution is to deliver a set of ‘direct interventions’ — like supporting mothers to breastfeed properly or giving vitamin supplements. Here in Britain we take these things for granted, but elsewhere they are needed to save children’s lives.

A complex issue

But this won’t be enough on its own. A root cause of being malnourished is growing up in poverty. Increased financial speculation on food, and new patterns of land use, cause global food prices to remain very high and unstable and poor families to cut back on what they eat.

To tackle these causes we must invest in schemes that protect the livelihoods of poor people. And it makes financial sense to tackle this problem now, because malnutrition already costs the world billions.

Follow my blogs over the next few weeks and I’ll look at some of these solutions in more detail.

Time to act

We know what has to be done to tackle hunger. What’s needed now is the political will to do it. Together we can ensure that leaders, including David Cameron, take action on this issue to stop millions of children’s lives being crushed by the malnutrition.

You can help.

Name a day you’ll do one thing to help save children’s lives now

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