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Keep the Momentum Building: With Pro-Nutrition Policies and Political Will, We Can End Deadly Malnutrition in a Generation

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PARIS, FRANCE -- As the G8 leaders meet in Lough Erne to discuss the world economy, they should keep in mind the proper role nutrition plays in development, through both public health and food security. During a pre-summit entitled Nutrition for Growth, an additional $4.15 billion was pledged directly in support of nutrition through 2020. However, the scourge of undernutrition is so massive and pervasive it will require a different scale of commitment than we have seen to date.

Nutrition: The Building Block for Every Child's Well-Being and Development

In the run-up to the recent pre-G8 Nutrition for Growth Summit in London, the medical journal The Lancet published new evidence that revealed undernutrition is now responsible for 45 percent of all child deaths under age 5, causing more than 3 million deaths each year. Undernutrition can also jeopardize children's ability to resist illnesses. At country level, it undermines economic development, by affecting children's ability to learn and achieve at school as well as later, in their professional life.

If global leaders are to unlock the future potential of generations to come, it is imperative that they scale up their investments in effective measures against global undernutrition.

During the pre-G8 Nutrition for Growth event, an additional USD $4.15 billion was pledged directly in support of nutrition through 2020. Action contre la Faim-France (ACF) salutes the positive gains made at the Nutrition for Growth Summit, bringing together stakeholders from a range of sectors and placing nutrition at the center of global efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger. Yet the scourge of undernutrition is so massive and pervasive, it will require a different scale of commitment.

According to The Lancet's estimates, it would cost $9.6 billion a year to scale up a package of 10 essential nutrition-specific interventions and achieve 90 percent coverage in the 34 countries that now account for 90 percent of the global burden of malnutrition. Yet according to ACF's Aid for Nutrition report, current donor government support for nutrition programs is just 1.5 percent of what is required annually. So while the new pledge of $4.15 billion over the next seven years is a significant improvement, it represents less than half of what is required annually to provide essential nutritional support for 90 percent of the populations affected by undernutrition.

The G8 Must Promote Better Agricultural Policies

The Nutrition for Growth Summit also included a second event on the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative launched by the G8 in 2012 to mobilize investments from private companies in African agriculture across six pilot countries.

ACF has three major concerns with the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

The first concern relates to nutrition. While nutrition may be in its title, the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security has so far failed to fully address nutritional issues, with very few of its investments actually including a nutritional component.

One year after its launch, it is time to acknowledge to what extent the New Alliance's agricultural investments have actually had an impact on hunger, and more specifically, on child undernutrition. Programming for nutritional impact, first and foremost, means including explicit nutrition-related objectives. G8 leaders must ground their vision in the available evidence that smallholder agricultural development leads to more effective food utilization and dietary diversity. Interventions into local food systems can be made more nutrition-sensitive by reducing women's disadvantages in farming (through access to inputs, seasonal credit etc), by promoting home gardens and small livestock to encourage more diverse diets and by fortifying staples with added minerals and vitamin.

Our second concern relates to land rights. The upcoming Lough Erne G8 Summit will launch a new Land Transparency Initiative that aims to support a number of pilot projects in African countries seeking to strengthen their land tenure systems using the UN's Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure framework. While ACF welcomes this initiative, we are very concerned that these same Land Tenure Guidelines are already being ignored in a number of countries where the G8 currently promotes private companies' investments through the New Alliance. This contradictory G8 agenda could actually result in the G8's promotion of large scale land acquisition, which is absolutely unacceptable. It is essential that African countries fully implement the Land Tenure Guidelines before any land-related investments or reforms are promoted so the interests of populations at risk of undernutrition might be better protected.

Our third concern relates to transparency and accountability. The New Alliance should establish sound monitoring frameworks that guarantee the systematic tracking of new resources in terms of their value for money and their contributions to nutrition security.

Finally, because private investments alone will never succeed in eradicating hunger, ACF calls on the G8 leaders and other donor governments to renew their commitments to public investments in agriculture that delivers food and nutritional security in ways that are accountable to their citizens.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland, June 17-18. For the next eight days, we will be featuring one post from an NGO based in each of the G8 countries -- this piece is from France -- and then one blog from the vantage point of the developing world. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on InterAction, click here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #DearG8.