Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about World Food Day and rising levels of child malnutrition.
I share your concerns about this issue. COVID-19 has revealed and exacerbated existing inequalities relating to access to nutritious food, and the secondary impacts of the pandemic risk doing untold damage to people’s lives. Malnutrition has also worsened the health impacts of the virus.
UNICEF has estimated 132 million people could go hungry in 2020, including 36 million children, as a result of disruption caused by the pandemic and its containment measures. It has also warned that 370 million children may miss out on nutritious school meals. Additionally, Oxfam has warned that by the end of 2020, 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to COVID-19.
This is very concerning, and my Labour colleagues and I are urging the UK Government to now step up and show genuine global leadership. I believe we must work together globally to provide humanitarian support. We must also tackle the root causes behind the lack of access to nutritious food.
Despite the UK Government’s stated commitment to the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, and to the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, I am concerned that recent cuts of £2.9 billion to the UK aid budget threaten to undermine the global effort to tackle malnutrition.
After the postponement of the 2020 Nutrition for Growth Summit, Ministers have not committed to funding nutrition initiatives at the present rate, and nor have they outlined plans for the future of the UK’s contribution to the Nutrition for Growth Summit.
The UK Government says that any new commitments are subject to Spending Review decisions and I will certainly be monitoring developments on this closely.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 – including the UK – contain a goal to end hunger and achieve food security and improved nutrition. I firmly believe the SDGs are important universal goals, and every country has a responsibility to contribute towards pursuing them.
Nobody should be hungry or malnourished in 2020, and I can assure you I will continue to support efforts to ensure we work together to fight malnutrition and end stunting among children.