Policy

Reducing hunger and malnutrition in developing countries

Issue

There is enough food in the world to go around but almost a billion people go hungry every day and a further billion people are undernourished – not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need to live healthy and productive lives.

By 2050 the world will have another 2 billion mouths to feed. Changing consumption patterns, climate change and growing numbers of shocks, such as drought, price rises and conflict, are increasing the risk of hunger in many places in the world.

Without enough to eat, people in developing countries can’t even begin to work their way out of poverty. For children especially, being hungry or malnourished means they can die from common infections or suffer poor health in the long run – limiting their ability to learn in school, work or progress. 165 million children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.

We must respond to these challenges in a sustainable way, making sure food is fairly distributed, helping people access nutritious diets and avoiding damage to the environment that would put future generations at risk.

Actions

By 2015, we will:

  • help more than 6 million of the world’s poorest people from going hungry in times of shortage, with small cash transfers that allow them to buy the food they need when harvests are poor, and to invest in tools, seeds and livestock when times are good

  • help 20 million pregnant women and young children at risk of malnutrition, directly through the provision of vitamin supplements and nutrient-rich foods as well as indirectly through nutrition education

  • help deal with the causes of malnutrition by improving sanitation or helping to raise the status of women

  • make sure another 4 million people have enough food throughout the year by helping with agricultural production, processing and marketing food, providing water, sanitation and hygiene services, training and improving natural resource management

  • work with the international community to respond to emergencies which cause hunger when they occur - more information about this is in our policy on helping developing countries deal with humanitarian emergencies

  • help farmers in Africa and Asia to grow more of the food their communities need, with seeds, tools and technical training to improve their production, income and nutrition

  • work with other countries, businesses and aid agencies to encourage greater investment in farming, helping smallholders to expand their production with more resources (such as fertiliser) and better techniques (like inter-cropping, which involves growing 2 or more crops next to each other, tree planting and techniques which conserve the quality of soil), and helping them to sell their produce more widely (including exporting their goods internationally)

  • invest in agricultural research and innovation to find the best solution to malnutrition in different countries, including helping scientists develop more nutritious or more disaster-resilient crops

Background

We have committed to helping reduce hunger around the world as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of targets agreed at the United Nations in 2000. Target 1C of the MDGs aims to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015.

While some local progress has been made, this target is unlikely to be met around the world. Rising food prices - fuelled by growing populations, extreme weather and the global financial crisis - meant hunger levels spiked in 2009.

The UK government’s approach prioritises food and nutrition security - this means ensuring that all people have enough nutritious food for a productive healthy life, not just responding when there are hunger emergencies.

The UK renewed its commitment to reducing malnutrition in particular by joining the global ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ movement of 33 developing countries.

The Prime Minister has also led an international effort to meet the World Health Organisation’s target of a 40% reduction in the number of children who are stunted due to malnutrition by 2025.

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