By Tom Arnold, CEO, Concern Worldwide
Almost 1,000 days ago, on July 10, 2009, the G8 met at L’Aquila, Italy and issued a joint statement launching the ‘L’Aquila Food Security Initiative’ (AFSI), committing the member nations to a $22 billion investment over three years aimed at responding to the ‘urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger.’
Of the roughly 385,000 children born on that day, many of the poorest of them would have died in infancy and early childhood. Those who survived would now be nearing the critical 1,000th day between their mother’s pregnancy and their second birthday.
The 1,000 days soon to be marked by those children also marks the closing of a window in which irreversible damage can be caused to a child’s cognitive and physical development if he or she is undernourished. Fulfillment and implementation of the L’Aquila Initiative in the 1,000 days since the summit could have saved the lives and changed the destinies of millions of children.
Sadly, by the time of last year’s summit, only 22 percent of the pledges had been fulfilled, with another 26 percent ‘on track’ – a total of less than half, according to the G8 Deauville Accountability Report. As G8 leaders convene this week at Camp David, there is an imperative, both moral and political, to renew and redouble the commitments made in L’Aquila. Millions of lives hang in the balance.
Even in these recessionary times, an investment in nutrition and food security has tremendous economic returns. Countries where children are chronically undernourished and stunted as a result often lose approximately 2-3 percent of their GDP each year, a trend that we could reverse by scaling up nutrition interventions, particularly during the critical 1,000-day window.
The fight against hunger, especially child hunger, is at a critical crossroads. We have never had as much knowledge, evidence, political will and grassroots engagement as we do today to make malnutrition history. Despite this, almost one billion people face food insecurity and 171 million children are stunted, physically, mentally or both, because they did not have enough nutritious food to eat in their early childhood.
The United States is slated to fulfill its pledge with Senate authorization of the fiscal year 2012 budget, but President Barack Obama, as this year’s summit host, has a particular responsibility to ensure that food and nutrition are not only on the agenda, but that the U.S. and G8 partners renew and strengthen their pledges.
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