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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: Solar Grandmothers

Solar GrandmothersPuppetry knows no language barrierFrom student to master
Solar GrandmothersTogoaliseAkouavi
HotitodeMialo TassiHailed by the chief
Student to master 2Going solarMialo Tassi
AkouaviInstalling panels for a clinicSolar power for the clinic
Life in Agome SevahThe river MonoTrade across the Mono
FishingPetrolLife in Agome Sevah

Solar Grandmothers

Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, Photojournalist Lar Boland documented the solar technology training of 4 Grandmothers (pictured with mentor) at Rajasthan's Barefoot College and their return to Togo.

Puppetry knows no language bar

Puppetry is used for training at the Barefoot College as many of the women being trained are illiterate. Photo: Lar Boland.

From student to master

An Indian instructor who herself trained at the Barefoot College demonstrates the working of electronic panels to the Togolese solar grandmothers. Photo: Lar Boland.

Solar Grandmothers

A trainee working on the installation of a mobile solar lamp. Photo: Lar Boland.


  Togoalise is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.


Akouavi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.


Hotitode is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Hailed by the chief

On their return to Agome Sevah, the Solar Grandmothers are greeted by the Chief of the village. Photo: Lar Boland.

Student to master 2

Having returned to Agome Sevah after a six month training period at the Barefoot College, the Solar Grandmothers set about training others at their workshop. Photo: Lar Boland.

Going solar

A group of Solar Grandmothers and helpers on their way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agame Sevah, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother, on her way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


Akouavi, a Solar Grandmother from Agome Sevah erecting solar panels at a small village home. Photo: Lar Boland.

Installing panels for a clinic

Solar Grandmothers outside a newly built clinic which they are about to solar electrify. Photo: Lar Boland.

Solar power for the clinic

Solar Grandmothers install solar panels on the roof of the newly built clinic in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

Life in Agome Sevah

A family from the rural village of Agome Sevah have their daily wash in the Mono river which seperates Togo from Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

The river Mono

The much used Mono river which divides Togo and Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

Trade across the Mono

The river Mono between Togo and Benin is regularily crossed by traders. Photo: Lar Boland.


Children fishing in the Mono River. Photo: Lar Boland.


Petrol bought at a reduced price in Benin, and smuggled across the Mono river, is later sold on the streets of Togo, such as the capital Lome. Photo: Lar Boland.

Life in Agome Sevah

Everyday life in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


A Togo war veteran with his grandaughter. Photo: Lar Boland.


A man builds a small dwelling in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.


Children can now study in the evening with the help of solar power. In Togo, near the equator, it gets dark at around 5:30. Photo: Lar Boland.

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