A more serious tone is emerging post-Games, with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian Vice-President Michael Temer taking the opportunity to put the spotlight on helping millions of children suffering from malnutrition in the the world’s poorest countries.
Olympic double gold medallist Mo Farah, Olympic great Haile Gebrselassie and football legend Pele, who have all campaigned to end the cycle of hunger and poverty by tackling their root causes, joined the leaders, along with others including non-governmental organisations and private sector, at Number 10 Downing Street last Sunday – the closing day of the Games – to highlight a push to tackle global hunger ahead of the next Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Long term exposure to a poor and inadequate diet and repeated infections have left 170 million children in the world suffering from stunting – a condition which stops children from fulfilling their potential because their bodies do not grow and develop properly. The United Nation’s World Health Assembly recently agreed a new global target of a 40 percent reduction in the number of stunted children by 2025.
The ‘hunger summit’ has been inspired by a declaration by the G8 at its last summit in the US in May, where President Barack Obama announced the creation of a new alliance on food security with African leaders and the private sector as part of an effort to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade. Alongside three initiatives announced by the UK at the London summit. other initiatives are underway by India, the EU, the World Food Programme and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation to make an impact on global levels of undernutrition, according to Downing Street. The UK will take up G8 chairmanship from next year.
An article in The Guardian newspaper says that the initiative has received ‘cautious welcome’. Campaigners argue that while control rests with the larger companies, it takes away the power of small farmers to feed their people.
The article quotes the Gates’ Foundation head of agriculture, Sam Dryden, who attended the summit, acknowledging the pressure of large corporations – as well as agricultural subsidies in the West – in squeezing out smallholder farmers in Africa.
“Agriculture is a local experience, eating is a local experience,” he is quoted as saying. “It is important that African countries develop their own systems and that smallholder farmers grow the crops they want to grow.”