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PM and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil joint statment on maternal and child undernutrition

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

As the current and future hosts of the Olympic Games, we share a passion to unlock everyone's potential. This starts with good nutrition and disease control in early childhood.

Prime Minster David Cameron and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil today hosted an event to tackle the neglected global problem of maternal and child undernutrition. They said:

Over the last two weeks we have seen the best of sporting endeavour.  But as the 2012 Olympics close and Paralympics get ready to begin, we remember the millions of people in other parts of the world who will never be able to fulfil their potential, simply because they do not have enough to eat. As the current and future hosts of the Olympic Games, we share a passion to unlock everyone’s potential. This starts with good nutrition and disease control in early childhood. This is why today we challenge Governments, civil society organisations and the private sector to go faster to reach the 170 million children around the world affected by malnutrition. It is unacceptable, that, in 2012, as we review our progress against the Millennium Development Goals, that malnutrition is associated with one in three child deaths globally.

Children who are malnourished in their first 1000 days of life may do less well at school and go on to earn less. Because of the numbers affected, this can become a serious barrier to human development.  With food prices rising, and pressure on natural resources like water and land increasing, the time to act is now. If we don’t, we will see tens of millions more people facing a future of underdevelopment.

We can do better. We have the momentum for international action. The UN Secretary General has set out his Zero Hunger Challenge and the World Health Assembly (WHA) has suggested a target of a 40% reduction in the number of ‘stunted’ children - a particular form of long term malnutrition in the world by 2025. 28 countries have committed to do more through the Scaling Up Nutrition movement. The UN Committee on World Food Security provides a key mechanism for driving policy convergence and coordination.We need to build on this momentum now. If through collective global action, between the end of the 2012 Games and the start of the 2016 Games in Rio, 25 million children under five years of age can be prevented from being stunted, then the world will be on track to meet the WHA target by 2025.

We know what needs to be done.  Some of this is about access to technology - like connecting poor people around the world with the scientific breakthroughs and agricultural innovations that will allow them to grow more drought resistant and nutritious crops, helping to promote more diverse and healthy diets.  Some of it is about accessing markets: a range of companies offering production goods and services accessible to the poor farmers and getting foods on the market in sufficient quantities and at prices the poor can afford.

But none of this can substitute for political will and leadership. This is something that has been used in Brazil to bring rates of stunting down by half in ten years. Brazil did this through leadership, prioritising technology and market access to the very poorest, guaranteeing the rights to food, education and health, and investing in agricultural research and innovation. Transparency of data sources and nutrition results have allowed governments in countries like Brazil to track progress on nutrition indicators and allowed others to analyse the data and confirm the successes being made.

Britain is also stepping up to help address this global challenge. Britain has committed to reach 20 million children under five and pregnant women with nutrition programmes by 2015. This is being achieved by investing in life saving interventions known to deliver excellent value for money as well as leveraging more nutritional impact from investments in food security, sanitation and education. Britain is a strong supporter of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, helping to align donors behind national plans in Zambia and Nigeria and supporting civil society action to strengthen commitments and accountability. Britain has also tripled its investments in nutrition research in the last 3 years to help generate new evidenced-based solutions.

It is only by acting together in genuine partnership that we can identify and implement collective responses and produce concrete results to tackle malnutrition.  Today, we call on all parties to play their part, to act faster and to aim higher to transform the life chances of a generation of young children and to hold themselves accountable for progress. When we meet again in 2016, we want to be able to report real progress on tackling child hunger so that we can be proud of what we have started today.