Save the Children Canada

Save the Children Canada

May 17, 2012 19:01 ET

Save the Children Challenges G8 Leaders to Stop Children Dying

Months of Warnings Fail to Prevent Malnutrition Crisis in Niger, Save the Children Warns

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 17, 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.

"Our staff is already seeing an increase in the number of children needing medical treatment for malnutrition. Canada was an early donor to the Sahel crisis. Unfortunately we still expect the numbers of affected children to rise as we move into the lean season. It is unacceptable that children are dying because of malnutrition. We must work immediately to stave off the worst," said Patricia Erb, President and CEO, Save the Children.

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.

Erb also noted; "Minister Oda has herself has said that it is important to help meet the need for food, but that it is critical to provide the right food. Nutritious food is the foundation for better health and better learning for children. A food security package announced at the G8 must have nutrition at its core."

Without a nutrition focus millions of children will not be 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.

"Almost half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years because they do not have the right food to eat or they can't absorb the nutrients. It is a shocking statistic, and G8 leaders must make a firm commitment to drastically reducing the number of stunted children in years to come," Erb said.

Save the Children has written to G8 leaders asking them to make stunting a centrepiece 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 aimed at increasing 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 has spokespeople available in Chicago, Niger, Burkina Faso (French) and London.

For Save the Children's G8 & G20 briefings go to http://www.savethechildren.ca/page.aspx?pid=915.

To donate to Save the Children's appeal or for more information go to http://www.savethechildren.ca/page.aspx?pid=563 or call 1-800-668-5036.

Notes to Editors

  • Total number of people affected in Niger: Estimated at 6.4 million (Source: OCHA), of which 3.3 million will be severely affected
  • Total number of people affected in Sahel region: 18.4 million (Source: OCHA) as a result of combination of erratic rainfall and crop production shortage, high grain prices, the global economic crisis, environmental degradation and chronic poverty and vulnerability
  • Through a multi-sectoral response, Save the Children has now reached over 250,000 people in Niger through interventions including curative health consultations, treatment for moderate and severe malnutrition and cash transfers to the most vulnerable households
  • In Niger, we are planning to reach 185,000 of the most vulnerable families (1.3 million people) to help stop them falling into hunger and build resilience to future crises
  • The most recent reporting on the delivery of L'Aquila in mid-2011 showed that only $6.5 billion had been disbursed or allocated out of the $22 billion pledged in L'Aquila.
  • Slow progress has been made: malnutrition rates have dropped by an average of 0.6% each year for the past 20 years (Source: The Lancet)

A combination of global trends - climate change, volatile food prices, economic uncertainty and demographic shifts - is putting future progress on tackling malnutrition further at risk. If these trends continue, Save the Children estimates that over the next 15 years 450 million children will suffer irreparable damage to their brains and bodies - a condition known as 'stunting'.

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