THE BLOG

Food, Fatherhood and Fragility: A Call For Government Action

07/06/2013 15:53 BST | Updated 06/08/2013 10:12 BST

I'm living my life back-to-front.

Business. Government. NGO.

Suits. Chinos. Jeans.

In. That. Order.

Now in my mid-thirties I've taken to wearing a charity wristband for the first time... which sits somewhere between magic and tragic. So what has happened to live my reverse life? I can pinpoint three dates - two in the past, one yet to come:

1. March 2010: leaving UK government. I joined the UK government straight from university, having supported myself through term-time as a suit salesman (really!). Now I had a 'proper job' - interesting work, 30 days' holiday and a final salary pension scheme. After 11 years in Whitehall though I had a nagging sense that I could make more of a difference outside government. Governments can do great things, and there are some truly talented people there, but it is by necessity a world of compromise and negotiated solutions.

2. April 2013: joining World Vision UK. When I decided to focus my working life on a mission I believe in - to make the lives of the world's most vulnerable children better. I joined via inspiring stops at Unicef UK and the IF campaign - the UK NGO coalition to tackle hunger (and the cause for which I wear that wristband);

and yet to come

3. Summer 2013: the birth of my first child. I've found that this has made my work for children more immediate, more personal. As I read the books, watch my wife take her pregnancy multivitamins and get advice from extraordinary NHS midwives (largely to calm my irrational concerns...) I've been thinking about the hundreds - thousands - of dads-to-be around the world who don't get that reassurance.

Don't they have the same dreams and aspirations for their children? Are they feeling that same primeval drive to give their child the best possible start in life? Doesn't everyone have the right, wherever they live, to be able to feed their child and bring them into a world without fear?

So why am I thinking about all of this now? On 8 June the UK government is hosting a hunger summit Nutrition for Growth in London, bringing together the great and good from around the world. This is an extraordinary opportunity to put the world's focus on tackling child hunger - one which children now and in the future cannot afford for us to miss.

In government I would have been organising this, writing Ministerial speeches and trumpeting its success (real or imagined). At World Vision UK I'm campaigning for change, lobbying for results and hoping to trumpet its success (real not imagined).

So what would success look like? As the UK welfare system should be judged on its ability to help the most vulnerable in our society, so the international development system must be judged on how it supports the most vulnerable in our global society. And, for me, that's children living in the toughest places.

In the trade, these places are called 'fragile states' - an odd, almost misleading, term. These are some of the most difficult and dangerous places anyone is living in. They're the places which sometimes lead the 10 O'Clock news for a day or two then fade from the front pages.

Globally, 165million children - that's one in four of all children under five - are 'stunted': chronically undernourished which does long-lasting damage to their cognitive and physical development. In short they will never learn or earn as much as they would have, had they been well nourished in their first 1,000 days, from conception to their second birthday.

Conflict-affected countries are often deemed too difficult or unsuitable for long term planning on nutrition. Yet we have seen that the rate of stunting in African fragile states is 50% higher than in non-fragile states. In short, these are the children who need help most.

By definition, children are the foundation of a country's future prosperity and growth. It is therefore vital that the global community goes further and faster to invest in tackling child undernutrition in fragile states.

As I prepare for fatherhood I believe everyone, no matter where they are in the world, has the right to make a better life for their children. Every child is born equal and has the right to develop to their full potential wherever they are - whether born in the UK, Ukraine or Uganda.

So, at a time of global focus on ending child hunger, I ask this: that the politicians, business leaders, scientists and others descending on London don't get their priorities back-to-front. That they put children in fragile states first.