Madrid Food Summit: Consensus on Priorities, But No Action Plan Emerges

No action plan emerged from the High Level Meeting on Food Security in Madrid
Credit: Nichole Sobecki

Delegates at this week’s “High-Level Meeting on Food Security for All” have agreed to prioritize hunger and food insecurity as part of the international community’s response to the global food crisis. Acknowledging that hunger now affects close to a billion people, the meeting’s closing statement signalled broad agreement on the need to address global hunger in all its facets—from treating life-threatening acute malnutrition to investing in small-scale agriculture, from safety nets to social protection programs.

The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International applauds this agreement but questions the absence of a clear action plan. While discussions continue on longer-term solutions to the global food crisis, acute malnutrition takes a growing toll of young lives. Even though the most deadly form of severe acute malnutrition can be effectively treated, global efforts reach less than 10% of the affected children. As a result, some 10,000 children continue to perish daily, adding up to more than 5 million young lives lost every year.

Immediate Steps Needed on Global Malnutrition

Immediate steps can, should, and must be taken to address this entirely preventable crisis. ACF calls on government representatives, UN leaders, and institutional donors to immediately commit to closing this “treatment gap” by:

  1. Treating all children with severe acute malnutrition by 2012;
  2. Improving food aid quality for children by ensuring foods rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals;
  3. Providing $4 billion annually in targeted funding;
  4. Creating a global mechanism for addressing malnutrition.

“The Madrid food summit’s final statement says all the right things,” explains Nan Dale, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger, “but we need more than reassuring language—we need funding to support immediate action on global malnutrition. The global food crisis may be complex, but saving millions of starving children is relatively straightforward: We already have the tools and the know-how, we just need the funding to scale up our efforts.”

From Positive Momentum to Real Action

The closing statement issued by the “High Level Meeting on Food Security for All” does represent positive momentum in that it registered:

  1. Explicit concern with the number of undernourished people—960 million and growing.
  2. A determination to enhance rural development, anti-famine mechanisms, and social protection programs.
  3. Some funding commitments: the Spanish government’s commitment of 1 billion euros over 5 years (200 million euros a year)
  4. A commitment to an inclusive and broad process of consultation with all stakeholders.

Despite these positives, however, Action Against Hunger remains disappointed by the lack of concrete outcomes. Clear commitments are needed to immediately fund and scale up existing programs to save children on the brink of starvation. This can be done while we work out the details on how best to help vulnerable communities regain self-sufficiency, enhance safety nets, and ensure food security for the long term. The summit’s momentum must be leveraged into real action as soon as possible.

Recommendations presented to the High Level Task Force by international nutrition organizations Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, CARE, Concern Worldwide, and the Tearfund.