Global Food Security Summit 2023: Minister Mitchell’s speech

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Ladies and gentlemen, Your Excellencies, friends.

This is the first of 4 sessions that I mentioned entitled ‘Creating new approaches to ending preventable deaths of children’. And we’ve got here for the session some of the best minds in the world for tackling this subject. We’ve got an hour and a half to try to make real progress and I want to thank everyone in advance for focusing so hard on this vital subject.

We know that too many children are going to bed hungry and malnourished. It’s a point the Prime Minister set out right at the beginning of his remarks. And we are here united in our determination to change that – bringing all your expertise and experience to bear.

And as you know, we launched the UK international development white paper today, setting out our long-term vision for addressing critical global challenges. This includes preventing and treating child wasting, through new partnerships and sources of finance.

The collective effort to produce the white paper drew on the most expert minds in the business, including charities and NGOs, the private sector, academia and our partners abroad. It’s been an enormous undertaking, and I am hugely grateful to those of you who shared your expertise.

This morning we are bringing that expertise together again, with a focus on child malnutrition.

This summit is an important opportunity to galvanise action, shifting the dial to do more on prevention. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can enhance preventative measures, build resilience and optimise funding, in order to have the biggest impact.

A huge part of this will be vital scientific research. We’ve already seen some big breakthroughs over the years, with ready-to-use foods like plumpy nut, for managing child wasting in the community. This ground-breaking work dramatically reduced the need for inpatient care, increased the uptake of treatment and saved countless lives across the world.

We need more breakthroughs like this. That’s why the Foreign Office is supporting an ambitious research programme through ELRHA, to build a package of evidence-based interventions in nutrition, health, water and sanitation.

We are also proud of our work together with UNICEF. Since we launched our partnership three years ago to drive progress on child wasting, UNICEF has recorded some impressive results in the 9 targeted countries.

Last year, more than 4 million children were reached with essential nutrition support like Vitamin A, a 60% increase on the year before. And the proportion of children given lifesaving treatment for severe wasting increased from a third in 2021 to nearly half last year. We are continuing our work together with UNICEF to catalyse more sustainable financing, build stronger supply chains and help prevent, detect and treat child wasting.

I am also delighted to announce that we will extend this fantastic partnership to 2030, the year when the white paper ends, and double our funding with an additional nearly £31 million bringing the total to £61 million.

We will be working with UNICEF and our partners, including many of you here today, to campaign for action to reach at least 350 million mothers and children with services to prevent, detect and treat child wasting in the hardest hit regions of the world. Now I am delighted today to be co-chairing this session with UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Omar Abdi, and I am looking forward to hearing from him very shortly.

We are also working together with the World Health Organisation and World Food Programme to strengthen the evidence for preventing and treating child wasting. The WHO is today launching new guidelines, including, for the first time, on prevention. And I am delighted that WHO Director General Tedros is with us this morning and I am looking forward to hearing from him.

We are committed to implementing these guidelines and supporting you, our partners, to do the same.

As the Prime Minister announced this morning, the new funding for UNICEF includes a further £16 million for the Child Nutrition Fund, which we are inaugurating this morning alongside our partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, where we had that fantastic announcement by Sir Chris Hohn of his additional $50 million.

This is not just a UK-UNICEF partnership. It is, crucially, a partnership with the 10 countries that have joined us in using the Child Nutrition Fund Match-window to double supplies of therapeutic food within their health systems. And we hope more countries will join them.

I’m glad that Pakistan’s minister of health, Nadeem Jan, is with us, and we look forward to hearing more about this from him.

It is clear there is a great deal of expertise and determination in this room, so let us use this session, and this summit, to inspire each other to reach greater heights, save lives, and build a healthier future for the world’s children.

Thank you very much indeed.

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