London: World leaders on Saturday signed a global agreement to fight malnutrition in children and made commitments of up to USD 4.15 billion to tackle the global menace. The participants, who signed a Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, committed their countries and organisations to reduce the number of children under five who are stunted by an additional 20 million in developing countries like India by 2020.
Stunting affects around 165 million children worldwide and nearly 50 per cent of children in India. The World Health Assembly recently agreed a new global target of a 40 per cent reduction in the number of stunted children by 2025. Hosted by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, the central London summit saw the participation of two presidents and four prime ministers from Africa, philanthropist Bill Gates, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, the Guardian reported.
Donors on Saturday secured new commitments of up to USD 4.15 billion to tackle under nutrition up to 2020. The charter also aims to improve saving the lives of at least 1.7 million children by increasing breastfeeding and better treatment of severe and acute malnutrition. The UK committed an additional 375 million pounds of funding from 2013 to 2020. Countries which have previously increased nutrition funding, like the US and Canada, today committed themselves to continuing those high levels of funding while others, like the European Union, the World Bank and Ireland, have increased their support substantially.
Under nutrition is a chronic lack of nutrients that can result in death, stunted physical development and in a lower resistance to illnesses in later life. It is the biggest underlying cause of death in under five-year-olds in the world and is responsible for 8,000 child deaths each day. It stunts the growth of children, reducing their potential, undermining their adult earnings by up to 10 per cent, and in some countries reducing the size of the economy by 11 per cent as a result.
The funds will focus on making world-class scientific knowledge and evidence available, including through a new Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, so that farmers can grow nutrition-rich and resilient crops, such as vitamin-enriched sweet potato and corn, to feed their families and local areas. Jamie Cooper-Hohn, president of the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), said "Today marks the start of a sustained financial and political commitment to ending under nutrition within a generation."
"Working together, this unique coalition can take action which history will judge as having contributed to saving the lives of millions of women and children and setting nations on a strong economic path to prosperity," he said.