Hunger and malnutrition are urgent development problems, despite the fact that the world has the capacity to feed everyone. They also have devastating effects on education, robbing millions of young children of the opportunity to develop healthy bodies and minds, as we highlighted in our recent policy paper on early childhood care and education. With a severe food crisis affecting 16 million people in West Africa and millions more in the Horn of Africa, the Group of 8, which has pledged at previous G8 summits to improve food security, has more reason than ever to follow up on its promises when leaders meet on May 18 and May 19 at Camp David, Maryland.
The development community and others are turning up the heat on the G8 leaders with a storm of #Dear G8 tweets on Twitter that point out the shocking scale of the problem, as we did in our policy paper:
- Every year, malnutrition is directly implicated in the deaths of over 3 million children and more than 100,000 mothers. About 28% of all children under age 5 in the developing world are stunted (short for their age) because of malnutrition.
- Poor nutrition devastates immune systems (making children more susceptible to disease), increases the risk of anemia and prevents proper brain development – all of which hold children back from developing the cognitive, linguistic and social skills they need to thrive.
- Children with high rates of malnutrition, especially in the first few years of life, are less able to learn. For instance, iron-deficiency anemia consistently reduces children’s test scores. Malnourished children are also more likely to start school late and drop out early.
The G8 leaders have an opportunity to take decisive action at Camp David. Of all the issues they must consider, none is more urgent than the needs of those threatened by the food crisis in Africa, which is jeopardizing the learning prospects of millions of young children.