UK must stay a leading voice on international public health
On June 8, Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a Hunger Summit, Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science, to highlight the issue of hunger and undernutrition ahead of the G8 Summit in Belfast. The summit brought together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society organisations to find a meaningful solution to the problem of hunger and undernutrition worldwide.
As Co-Chairs of the APPG for Child Health and Vaccine Preventable Diseases we are delighted that the Hunger Summit will bring international development issues to the attention of world leaders at the G8. Although the focus of the Hunger Summit is on nutrition, it is important that we don't lose sight of other important interventions like improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), vaccines and medicines in the fight against child mortality. It is also vital that we recognise the effectiveness of integrating these interventions to provide lasting solutions to development challenges.
With these issues in mind, the APPG hosted a parliamentary event on June 5 to discuss the value of integrated health interventions in development policy and to better understand the relationship between WASH and undernutrition. We invited experts in nutrition policy and members of the NGO community, including WaterAid and Action Against Hunger, to provide an overview of the issue to an audience of senior parliamentarians.
Amongst the attendees were Baroness Northover, the Government's Spokesperson for International Development in the House of Lords; Sir Tony Cunningham, Shadow Minister for International Development; and the Chairs of the APPGs for Water and Sanitation in the Third World and Agriculture and Food for Development, Bill Cash and Lord Cameron, demonstrating the strong interest of Parliamentarians from all parties in this vital issue.
The issue is a particularly timely one, with the WHO and UNICEF having recently published their Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea. The action plan recommended that the integration of healthcare, WASH and nutrition interventions would play a key role in any attempts to end preventable deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by 2025. With the WHO estimating that 50% of cases of malnutrition worldwide are caused by repeated bouts of diarrhoea, and around 90% of diarrhoeal deaths thought to result from inadequate access to WASH, it is increasingly perverse and ineffective to address each of these issues in isolation.
It is hugely appropriate that the Hunger Summit should coincide with the UK's Presidency of the G8. The UK has long been a leading voice in the international community for driving forward international development and public health policy. From setting an ambitious target to reach 60 million people with WASH by 2015 to developing mechanisms for improving access to effective vaccines, the UK has been at the forefront of the push to end global poverty and eradicate preventable diseases. The APPG will continue to support the Government's efforts on development policy and to promote integration as a key theme for any new post Millennium Development Goal Framework.
Photo credit: PATH