|Hunger Emergency in Niger Now Inevitable|
Save the Children says G8 Leaders Must Put Nutrition at Center of Talks
Lane Hartill 202.640.6608 (O), 202.294.9700 (M)
WESTPORT, Conn. (May 18, 2012) — As G8 leaders prepare to meet at Camp David later this week, Save the Children says that months of warnings have failed to prevent a serious malnutrition crisis sweeping Niger.
The charity said today that they are now shifting their focus to crisis response. Despite efforts from the Niger government, some donors and humanitarian groups to prevent the emergency, aid agencies have raised only half of their cash target needed to protect the Sahel nation's beleaguered population. Throughout West Africa, more than 18 million people are affected by food insecurity with over 1 million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Analysis carried out by the aid agency, which takes into account Niger government statistics, has found that a vast majority of families in the worst affected areas do not have access to enough food to survive the coming season without help.
"Families are resorting to desperate measures," said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. "Many have left their villages in search of work in cities. Husbands and sons have left to neighboring countries to find work. Thousands of children now need medical treatment for malnutrition, and we think those numbers will rise as the situation deteriorates."
The grim news comes not only on the eve of the G8, but as President Obama delivers a keynote speech on Friday on food security, alleviating poverty and promoting agricultural development in Africa. His audience at the symposium in Washington D.C. will include a number of African heads of State. Food security is on the agenda at Camp David, but Save the Children is concerned that leaders will shy away from making bold commitments to tackle malnutrition. As well as the food emergencies happening in parts of West and East Africa, a quarter of the world's children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, fuelled in part by a lack of affordable, nutritious food.
"Children need not only enough to eat, but enough of the right sort of food and nutrition during their first two years of life," said Miles. "If they don't get that, everything from their ability to learn to their lifetime earning potential is affected. A food security package announced at the G8 must have nutrition at its core."
This means millions of children are not getting the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients within the first few years of their life, restricting their mental and physical growth – a condition known as stunting.
"Globally, the direct cost of malnutrition is estimated at $20 to $30 billion per year. An investment in nutrition makes economic sense. G8 leaders must make a firm commitment to drastically reducing the number of chronically malnourished children in years to come," Miles said.
Save the Children has written to G8 leaders asking them to make stunting a centerpiece of any food-security initiative. The international community along with the organization is calling for a 40 percent reduction in stunting by 2025.
The G8's flagship food security initiative signed in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009 is set to expire at the end of this year but has yet been fully delivered.
Early indications suggest that a new package will be announced but Save the Children is concerned that the focus will be more on agriculture projects that focus on the volume of food produced, rather than focusing on the nutritional quality of that food and other actions that need to support nutrition.
The emergency in Niger is a sign of what can happen if hunger is not tackled before it is too late. Immediate action to reduce the number of malnourished children around the world can help millions fulfil their potential and protect families in lean seasons to come.
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.