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UK campaign urges G8 to tackle causes of hunger

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 23 Jan 2013 03:14 PM
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LONDON (AlertNet) - A coalition of 100 development charities and faith groups has launched a campaign calling on Britain and other G8 governments to tackle the causes of hunger in the world's poorest countries by keeping their promises on aid and making sure small farmers do not lose out from land deals and tax dodging.

In a report issued on Wednesday, the "Enough Food for Everyone IF" coalition says some countries, including Malawi and Ethiopia, have made big strides in reducing hunger, "but the world as a whole is failing badly". There is little prospect of meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people in the world by 2015, it says.

"There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet one in eight women, men and children go to bed hungry every night. Each year, 2.3 million children die from malnutrition; women are more likely to go hungry compared to men," says the report.

High and volatile prices in recent years have made food unaffordable for many, and climate change is threatening farmers' yields and increasing global uncertainty, it adds.

The report warns that the consequences of childhood hunger will permanently damage the life chances of 937 million children and young people by 2025, and malnutrition will cost developing countries $125 billion a year in lost economic output by 2030. Up to 28 percent of children in poorer nations are underweight or stunted, it notes.

"It is still the reality that more people die each year from hunger than from AIDS, malaria and TB combined. In a world where there is enough food for everyone, this is nothing short of a scandal," said Ben Jackson, chair of the coalition. "We need a concerted effort from governments, civil society and philanthropists to tackle the root causes of this problem and together build a world where no child has to go hungry."

The coalition includes organisations such as ActionAid, CARE, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Vision and UNICEF UK.

The campaign aims to drum up momentum for high-level political action to curb hunger ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June and a special event on food and nutrition being organised beforehand by the British government, which has the presidency of the Group of Eight rich nations this year.

"Britain is leading the fight against global hunger and will continue to do so in 2013," said Justine Greening, the UK's development secretary. "With the added momentum that the IF Campaign will bring, I hope that together we have a real chance to eradicate world hunger.”

CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY

Backed by Bill Gates and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the campaign urges British Prime Minister David Cameron to convince wealthy nations there would be enough food for all "if" they:

- Prevent poor farmers being forced off their land in "land grab" deals to produce food for export
- Use available agricultural land to grow food for people rather than for use in biofuels
- Meet a longstanding goal to give 0.7 percent of national income as aid
- Invest more in nutrition programmes for children and mothers, and agricultural initiatives that support small farmers, especially women
- Raise more money to help poorer nations adapt to climate change
- Stop companies dodging tax in developing countries
- Improve the transparency and accountability of corporate activity, deals involving land and other natural resources, and government spending  

"Transparency and accountability are all the more vital given that, within the global food system, considerable power is concentrated in a small number of multinational companies controlling food production, trading, processing, retail and more," says the report.

It calculates that, if corporations stopped using tax havens and other methods to avoid paying the taxes they should in developing countries, enough public revenues could be raised to save the lives of 230 children under the age of five every day.

The official launch of the campaign on Wednesday evening is expected to attract more than 1,000 supporters of the NGOs involved, and will be attended by actors, musicians and sports stars.

A 3-D interactive animation, incorporating live tweets from the audience, will be projected onto the Somerset House building in central London, explaining that there is enough food for everyone but not everyone gets enough food. Once a Twitter target is reached, the animation will reveal the four main "IFs" making up the campaign's demands to G8 leaders.

COMPLEX PROBLEM

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which is not part of the coalition, says it welcomes the effort to push hunger up the international agenda. Greg Barrow, WFP's London-based spokesman, said there is a "frustrating" perception among the general public that hunger only happens in humanitarian crises.

"Hunger is not something that pops up once or twice or year, it is a reality that is lived every day by hundreds of millions of people. If this campaign contributes to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the problem, it will be a positive development," he told AlertNet.

Lawrence Haddad, a nutrition expert and director of the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, wrote on his blog that the campaign has "a lot of asks", while not proposing enough in some areas he sees as important, including social protection, building infrastructure to help farmers reach markets, and controlling food price volatility.

"I would have liked to have heard about what the INGOs (international NGOs) themselves are going to do differently to help end hunger - in partnership with the UK government or not," he said.   

"But the final thing to say is congratulations! I am impressed that so many INGOs managed to work together to agree on this. It deserves our full support," he concluded.

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