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Plans for the Tokyo summit

In December 2021, the Japanese Government will host the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G).

Several countries have made pledges at previous summits. In November 2021, the Global Nutrition report found that by 2020:

  • 42% of country financial commitments had been reached or were on track
  • 43% of all country commitment goals were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

The report said the UK had met its three commitments made at previous N4G summits. These included pledges to reach 50 million people with nutrition-related programmes by 2020.

The UK Government is “actively considering” its approach to the summit. The International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition, which includes Save the Children and Unicef, has published recommendations for the Government, which include renewing its commitment to reach 50 million people with nutrition-related programmes by 2025.

Global malnutrition: Key statistics

Malnutrition takes several forms, including undernutrition (such as being underweight), consuming insufficient quantities of minerals and vitamins, being overweight or obese, and diet-related diseases (such as heart disease).

It is a major cause of preventable deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization has said that 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, and 462 million are underweight. Around 45% of deaths among the under-fives are linked to malnutrition, mostly in low- and middle- income countries.

Effects of the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the underlying causes of malnutrition, such as poverty and poor access to services, and threatens the potential for global nutrition targets to be achieved.

The World Food Programme has said it is not possible to account for the impact of the pandemic on malnutrition at present. However, it said that 2020 saw a rise of 118 million in the number experiencing hunger, with the global total rising to around 768 million people.

In December 2020, Unicef cited research published in Nature that estimated the pandemic could, by 2022, result in an additional 9.3 million wasted children (being too thin for their height) and 2.1 million maternal anaemia cases.

UK aid: Strategy, spending and effectiveness

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) intends to publish an action plan on ending preventable deaths in 2021. This will include integrating nutrition services into other health services, be focused on women, girls, and young children, and aim to empower governments to address malnutrition.

The UK has provided about £6.6 billion in bilateral aid for various sectors related to nutrition from 2009 to 2020 (such as food assistance and agriculture).

Aid spending has been scrutinised by both the International Development Committee (IDC) and Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). In 2020, the ICAI concluded that DFID’s aid on nutrition was making a “significant contribution” to reducing malnutrition. The Government accepted recommendations to share best practice on cross-programme work to improve nutrition, and to support the transition towards farming practices which are sustainable and protect the environment.

In October 2021, the FCDO accepted a recommendation by the IDC to improve food quality and diversity, which the IDC argued had been given a lower priority than the quantity of food.

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