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Is There Enough Food for Everyone?

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Growing up in the frugality of 1980s Northern Ireland, my mother regularly told me to eat all of my dinner because there were children starving in Africa. As a five-year-old, I was puzzled by why we couldn't just send food to them, given I didn't want it and they were in desperate need.

Is there Enough Food in the World for Everyone? While 870 million people are going hungry every night, others have so much that food waste is endemic.

This week, a coalition of over 100 NGOs launched a new campaign entitled... wait for it... Enough Food for Everyone, If. The campaign claims that if governments and businesses make the right decisions, we could end hunger in a generation.

Launch events around the UK culminated in a spectacular light show at London's Somerset House, with faith leaders, musician and even Bill Gates lending their weight to the campaign.

Ending hunger is not just about ensuring everyone has enough food to eat. It is about making sure they have the right nutrients. This is particularly crucial for children in the first 1000 days of life - from conception to 2 years old. Today 2.3 million children die because of malnutrition, and a further 165 million are stunted.

This means their brains and bodies are permanently damaged. Writ large, this is silently crippling the potential of a generation of teachers, entrepreneurs, future leaders. Investing in solving the problem makes good economic sense.

An investment of just $5bn in simple interventions by the G8 could add as much as 20% to the future earning potential of these children contributing $125bn to the global economy each year by 2030.

Of course, throwing money at this won't solve the problem alone. Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen famously claimed that no famine has every occurred in a functioning democracy. Governments need to be accountable to their people for how they use resources - their investments in training for farmers, in health systems and in education.

Businesses also need to play their part. Most food is produced by companies and job creation is crucial if families are to have enough money to spend on a nutritious diet. But some unscrupulous companies are also contributing to the problem.

Since food prices spiked in 2008, rich governments and companies are increasingly buying up large tracts of land in poorer countries. Often this land is used to produce crops for export or for biofuels, while the citizens of that country go hungry.

As they struggle to balance the books, developing countries are losing as much as $160bn each year to companies dodging taxes, aided and abetted by tax havens with strong links to G8 countries. Dealing with this tax gap alone could raise enough public revenues to save the lives of 230 children under the age of five every day.

What distinguishes this campaign from previous international development campaigns is that rather than simply asking for more aid, it calls on the G8 to get its own house in order, by taking international action to force transparency on land deals and government budgets, to tackle tax havens, and to honour its own commitments to public investments in agriculture.

Never before have we witnessed such progress in tacking extreme poverty. In 1990, 12 million children died before the age of 5. In 2011, it had fallen to 6.9 million.

The next challenge is tackling hunger. If the G8 makes the right decisions this year, we can take major steps towards ensuring that no one goes hungry.

You can add your voice to the campaign at www.enoughfoodif.org

There is Enough Food for Everyone... IF.

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