Weekly British scientific journal The Lancet, in cooperation with the World Bank, has written a series of articles to alert the international community to the "lamentable state of under-nutrition worldwide." If nothing is done to reverse the trend, the commitment made by the 191 Member States of the UN as part of the Millennium Development Goals to "halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger" will not be met.
Indeed, as malnutrition is still causing 3.5 million deaths per year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South Asia, and remains the root cause of most childhood diseases, experts emphasize that "the international nutrition system is broken. Leadership is absent, resources are too few (…) and emergency response systems are fragmented."
According to Meera Shekar,1one of the authors of The Lancet's series, it is necessary to respond by "setting up a new global governance structure and greater participation by civil society and the private sector."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has rallied behind the cause since the World Bank published its 2006 report on "Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development," has also committed to providing aid to the agricultural sector in developing countries.2
That the World Bank, experts via The Lancet and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have rallied behind the cause demonstrates not only that malnutrition is far from being eradicated, but also that agriculture is the sector to focus on, because it is the main driver of development and of the fight against hunger.
1 Meera Shekar is a Senior Nutrition Specialist working with the Human Development Network at the World Bank. She is also the author of the report "Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development."
2See our Learn and Understand article entitled "Agriculture: An Essential Factor in Development, Says Bill Gates" from February 4, 2008.