On the last day of the Olympics, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer hosted the Olympic Hunger Summit, an event designed to draw attention to the issue of hunger and malnutrition around the world. The event was attended by government officials from several nations, private sector leaders, and Olympic athletes, including Brazilian soccer legend Pelé and Mo Farah, a Somali-born British double gold medalist who started a foundation to support development in East Africa. Prior to the event, several British Olympic athletes wrote a letter to Prime Minister Cameron urging him to "fire the starting gun on the biggest ever push against hunger and malnutrition."
At the Summit, Prime Minister Cameron and Vice President Temer called on world leaders to make a commitment to save 25 million children from malnutrition and stunting between the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Both the UK and Brazil are current leaders in food security and nutrition. The UK has been a vocal advocate and supporter of development programs and Brazil has experienced tremendous success in fighting hunger through Fome Zero, for which former President da Silva was awarded the 2011 World Food Prize.
According to DFID, three government and private sector initiatives were announced at the Summit:
- The UK government committed to support CGIAR to create drought resistance and vitamin enriched crops to help feed 45 million people a year in Asia and Africa. Alongside Canada, Ireland, the US and the Gates Foundation, the UK will also invest in HarvestPlus to roll out nutrition rich seeds and tubers to benefit 3 million people in Africa and India.
- UK companies like Unilever, Syngenta and GSK will work to find ways to make nutritious food available to poor families at prices they can afford.
- The UK government will work with partners like Ireland and Switzerland to improve government accountability in developing countries and to pilot text messaging as a way to provide early warnings of areas where nutrition supplies are needed.
While the Olympic Hunger Summit did succeed in shining a spotlight on the huge problem of malnutrition and hunger around the world, it remains to be seen if the UK, Brazil and other global leaders can keep the world's attention over the next four years. In the words of the British athletes: "The eyes of the world are on London 2012. The best legacy the Games can leave is a world where strong, healthy and well-nourished children can achieve their full potential in life."
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