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Why hold a hunger summit?

Parents wait for help for malnourished children from a mobile health clinic that goes from village to village in remote northern Chad. Photo: Flickr/IFRC.There is international agreement about how to tackle malnutrition. Ireland, the United States and now the United Kingdom are putting the spotlight on hunger. A panel of top economists have said child nutrition should be the top global priority. And yet, hunger may be increasing.

In the past year, humanitarian organisations have been responding to serious food crises across Africa. Oxfam has warned of a pending emergency in Somalia, while the Famine Early Warning Systems Network has identified further threats to food security through to the end of September, including West Africa and the borders of Sudan and South Sudan, where inadequate facilities in refugee camps are already putting thousands at risk, according to Medecins Sans Frontières Ireland.

When the hunger crisis hit the headlines last year, it was only after famine had already been declared in Somalia, killing an estimated 100,000 people and affecting 12 million,” writes Sarah Morrison pointedly, in the Independent on Sunday (August 5).

On Sunday (August 12), UK Prime Minister David Cameron will host a hunger summit to coincide with the closing day of the Olympics. It comes in the wake of a report by Save The Children which found that the number of acutely malnourished children has grown over the last decade. Charities are hoping the summit will be followed by concerted and urgent action.

US Secretary of State Hiliary Clinton is currently on an 11-day tour of Africa. The White House launched its new U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa in June. The strategy includes promoting food security, although not as the top priority. It plans to do so through the Feed the Future Initiative, and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition launched at the 2012 G-8 Summit.

Ireland, with famine still fresh in the collective memory, spends twenty per cent of its aid on programmes tackling global hunger. It is also taking a global lead in targeting hunger.

Last summer, Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Eamon Gilmore, T.D., and Hiliary Clinton co-hosted a High Level Forum in Dar es Salaam on the fight against hunger in Africa.

The previous September, Ireland launched a 1,000 day partnership with the United States. The timeframe was chosen to highlight the importance of a child’s early years, including pregnancy.

“It is part of a wider initiative to “Scale up Nutrition, an unprecedented global consensus about what is needed to tackle hunger, including direct action in health and nutrition, as well as integrating nutrition into broader efforts in health, agriculture and development,” Paul O’Brien wrote of the partnership last year for

Concern Worldwide, of which O’Brien is the Overseas Director, is continuing the theme with a “1,000 Days” campaign which it launched in May. According to Concern, the right nutrition can save more than one million lives each year. Concern CEO Tom Arnold will be attending the summit at 10 Downing St. “It is hugely significant that this is happening on the final day of the Olympics,” said Mr Arnold.

Also launched in May, was the Copenhagen Consensus 2012. A panel of five leading economic experts – four with nobel laureates – set priorities among a series of proposals for confronting global challenges. Based on a cost-benefit analysis, the top priority was given to bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in pre-schoolers. According to the report:

“For about $100 per child, this bundle of interventions (including micronutrient provision, and also complementary foods, treatments for worms and diarrheal diseases, and behavior change programs), could reduce chronic undernutrition by 36 percent in developing countries. The expert panel noted that the educational benefits as well as the health benefits should be taken into consideration. Even in very poor countries and using very conservative assumptions, each dollar spent reducing chronic undernutrition has at least a $30 payoff.”

With that payoff, one might wonder why a summit is needed.

Related Articles, Publications and Campaigns

Below are a selection of related articles on, and third-party publications and campaigns on the theme of hunger.

Hilary Clinton and Tom Arnold, CEO, Concern at the launch of the ‘1000 days’ partnership between the US and Ireland in New York. Photo: Concern.Selected related articles on

Hunger: Irish and experts focus on children, research and small farmers

Thousands at risk in South Sudan camp

South Sudan refugee crisis: “All of these deaths are preventable”

Donor fatigue: World Food Programme halves food rations to refugees

Horn of Africa: EU to fund disaster preparedness as crisis continues

Irish potatoes leading a revolution in Malawi

Ireland to promote African trade and investment through innovative Agri-food development fund

Seed management improving food security in Mozambique

Drought response lesson one: water, seeds and fodder are better than food

Analysis: Food insecurity linked to conflict

Media inattention towards Horn of Africa crisis 'inconceivable' and 'wrong'

Insured Kenyan farmers await drought compensation

July 4th a chance to mark US-Irish co-operation on tackling child hunger

Irish Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to co-host forum on hunger in Africa

Related publications

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Food security alerts, updates and briefings

UN FAO FAO Food Price Index (July 5; forthcoming: September 6, 2012).

Save the Children The Child Development Index 2012: Progress, challenges and inequality (press release: “More hungry children now than at any point this decade” July 18, 2012)

Oxfam The Food Transformation - Harnessing Consumer Power to Create a Fair Food Future (press release : “Mothers want to help fix our broken food system” July 18, 2012)

The White House New U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa (press release June 14, 2012)

UNDP Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future (press release May 15, 2012)

IFPRI/IFRC Reducing the risk of food and nutrition insecurity among vulnerable populations (press release May 15, 2012)

Copenhagen Consensus Center Copenhagen Consensus 2012 (press release May 14, 2012)

ActionAid USA Pledges, Principles, and Progress: Aid to Agriculture Since L’Aquila (press release May 4, 2012 )

African Development Bank Agriculture Sector Strategy 2010 - 2014 (press release April 10, 2012)

Lídia Cabral and John Howell Measuring aid to agriculture and food security (ODI Briefing Papers 72, February 2012)

Oxfam, Save the Children A Dangerous Delay: The cost of late response to early warnings in the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa (January 18, 2012)

Duncan Green, Oxfam Why did help arrive so late? Evidence v Incentives in the Horn of Africa drought. (January 18, 2012)

Key global development and media publications released in 2012

Selected campaigns

Several high-profile NGOs are fundraising to address current food crises, such as #Sahel2012. In addition, some have specific campaigns on hunger.

The 1,000 Days partnership is a global partnership that promotes targeted action and investment to improve nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 days between a woman's pregnancy and her child's 2nd birthday when better nutrition can have a life-changing impact on a child's future and help break the cycle of poverty. Irish Aid, the US Department of State, Concern, and One are among the partner organisations.

Concern Worldwide “1,000 Days” campaign

One Thrive: Breaking the Cycle of Hunger and Poverty

Oxfam International's GROW campaign and Agriculture campaign; Oxfam Ireland's GROW campaign - a youth-oriented communication initiative spearheaded by FAO, in partnership with other UN agencies, civil society groups and interested individuals.

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Lar Boland: Ecopreneurs

Ecopreneurs, DRCBlister PackagingStripping Moringo leaves
Plant extractsProducing medicinal tabletsTablets
Celosia argenteaEcopreneursChiefs
Daily lifeVillageHeliconia Stricta
Botanical GardensDaily lifeBa’Aka women

Ecopreneurs, DRC

Luki Biosphere Reserve. Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, photojournalist Lar Boland documented the harvest of medicinal plants to create a new business opportunity in DRC.

Blister Packaging

A worker operating a blister pack machine in one of only two pharmaceutical plants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Stripping Moringo leaves

Workers stripping Moringo leaves at the center where the plants are transported after harvest. They will be processed (dried, ground and extracted), conditioned (packaged, labeled) and stored there.

Producing medicinal tablets

A worker operating a machine in the final stages of producing medicinal tablets.

Celosia argentea

It has been reported that the ethanolic extract of this herbaceous plant contains flavonoids, saponins, glycosides and tannins (kindayohan/celosia) of potential medicinal value.


Four Ecopreneurs in discussion with Anna Samake, Portfolio Manager with philanthropic group Lundin Foundation.


Support for the Ecopreneur programme has come from local chiefs of the Luki Biosphere Reserve region of DRCongo

Daily life

Luki Biosphere Reserve is unfortunately in the process of a long term collapse from a species rich haven into a degraded landscape.


A typical village in the Luki Biosphere Reserve of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Heliconia Stricta

Normally grown for their beautiful flowering, some Heliconia are grown for their roots and seeds for potential medicinal use.

Botanical Gardens

National Botanical Gardens in DRCongo (Jardin Botanoque de Kinshasa).

Ba’Aka women

Women return from a day foraging in the forest. The Congo Basin provides food, water and shelter to 75m people and 150 distinct ethnic groups.