Photo: Chris de Bode, Concern Worldwide

$3.4bn to help tackle hunger and achieve the SDGs, but is this enough?

15 November 2017
Author: Joanna Francis

We are living in a world where 815 million people go to bed hungry every night, 155 million children are too short for their age, 52 million children are too thin for their height and billions of people are not getting enough nutrients in their diet. This crisis is costing the global economy billions of dollars every single year and billions of people are not growing (physically and mentally) to their full potential.  

Hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among people who are already poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged. By not addressing it, we could fail to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and those who are most vulnerable will be left behind.

Why can’t we stamp out hunger?

The 2017 Global Hunger Index shows that steady progress has been made to end hunger, with global levels down 27% since 2000. But for the first time since then, in 2016, the number of hungry people actually increased, largely due to violent conflict and climate disasters that are pushing more people over the edge and making it harder to bounce back. 

Two years ago, almost every government in the world signed up to a promise to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 through the SDGs. But the world is off track to achieving this; this won’t only mean failing one of the goals, it would mean potentially failing all of them. A malnourished child is more susceptible to disease, they are more likely to have a lower IQ, be less productive at school, they will earn less as an adult, and they are more likely to give birth to a malnourished child, continuing the cycle for generations and making it almost impossible to achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030. The infographic below by the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network helps to visualize the centrality of nutrition to all of the SDGs. 


Nutrition and the SDGs


Yet, despite this, global investment to tackle hunger and malnutrition is alarmingly low. Only 0.5% of aid budgets and less than 2% of government health budgets are allocated to nutrition. That’s why the Italian government rallied stakeholders from all over the world at the Global Nutrition Summit earlier this month.

Taking action at the Global Nutrition Summit

The summit promised to encourage governments, donors, civil society, philanthropists, business and researchers to take responsibility, take action, and invest the much-needed funds to help tackle hunger and malnutrition. 

The Summit highlighted both opportunities and challenges of current trends, and how we should plan for the changes now to ensure a healthy, nourished and prosperous population in the future. Topics included the importance of planning healthy food systems in cities, where two thirds of the world’s population will be living in 2030; the importance of investing in adolescents given that there are 1.2 billion of them in the world with 16.2 million adolescent girls giving birth each year; and the importance of engaging the private sector to ensure nutrition is considered during all aspects of the supply chain - from seed production and distribution, to planting, to storage and transportation, to selling products at fair prices at markets. 

Accelerating progress to end hunger

Further to addressing the issues the international community must face, there was an opportunity for governments and organisations to stand up and invest.

A staggering $3.4 billion was committed at the Summit: $640 million in new funding was announced; $1.1 billion was committed by NGOs, nearly 10% of which was committed by Concern Worldwide, and $1.7 billion was committed by the World Bank. In addition, improved political leadership was promised by governments from Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Madagascar, Niger, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Brazil. 

$3.4 billion is an important commitment and a real step forward but we are still falling far short of the $7 billion needed each year to reverse the worrying statistics and accelerate progress to ending hunger; much more investment is needed to make a dent in the numbers of children who are suffering, and dying, from malnutrition. 

We have the recipe to end hunger

We know what’s needed to end malnutrition, but political leadership from more countries and investment from more actors is needed, now. I applaud the efforts made at the Global Nutrition Summit but we must not become complacent. 

Let’s build on the momentum from Milan, let’s reach the furthest behind first and let’s keep our promise to the world’s poorest people. I am hopeful that with the right investment and leadership we can end hunger by 2030, for good.

About the author

Joanna Francis
Concern Worldwide

Joanna Francis is senior policy officer (Nutrition) at Concern Worldwide.