It is the heart-breaking reality that today – on World Food Day – 66 million children come to school hungry, 23 million of them in Africa.
With the global population rising to 9.5 billion by 2050, the challenge is to increase the supply to all. In addition, climate change and the risk of drought, floods and irregular precipitation that comes with it poses a growing threat to our ability to grow enough food for everyone.
In Africa, where population growth is higher and temperatures are expected much faster than any other continent, the problem is strongest. There are the poorest who suffer the most.
Millions of small farmers across Africa depend on the rain to grow their own food and provide income, as well as support for their families and communities. But if something does not change, this kind of farming will not be able to produce the amount of food needed to keep pace with rising demand and climate change.
This is why British aid supports British leading world scientists in developing new technologies to help poorer farmers in Africa grow more efficient and nutritious crops that are more resilient to climate change.
Up to 1 million children die annually due to malnutrition.
About 30% of pre-school children are deficient in vitamin A, about 25% are not zinc, and a quarter is anemic due to iron deficiency.
Malnourished children are prone to diseases and diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and malaria, stunted growth, poor vision and the source of epidemics that could spread around the world.
In 2013, the Lancet attributed 105,700 child deaths to vitamin A deficiency alone.
Take, for example, wheat. 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty rely on wheat for food, but wheat diseases can destroy the entire crop field in a matter of weeks – and the way it spreads will be more unpredictable due to climate change.
UK assistance helps breed new wheat varieties that are genetically resistant to these diseases. This will help us avoid food shortages and save us from the arms race towards stronger chemicals that damage our environment and health. UK aid is also used to protect thousands of seed samples that could retain the genetic key to resistance to future crop disease.
This research also helps to combat climate change. For example, drought-tolerant maize, developed with the support of the United Kingdom, has raised farmers’ yields by up to 30%, with 20 million people benefiting in 13 African countries
Global hunger is also about the quality of food that people have access to
People may not need to realize that this is the way some money is spent to help the United Kingdom, but its significance and potential are enormous. I myself have seen the value of stronger varieties of prosa in Darfur and resistant wheat in Ethiopia. While our humanitarian activity is crucial, research projects such as these can help prevent the emergence of these crises in the first place.
Global hunger is also about the quality of food that people have access to. Lack of vitamin A is a common type of malnutrition in the developing world; threatens the growth of children, makes them more susceptible to illness and can lead to blindness.
UK aid has been used to develop crops with naturally elevated nutrients, including sweet potatoes, which provide 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A in one serving, potentially saving the sight and health of millions of children.
I am proud to announce that the UK aid has allocated another £ 5 million to ensure that this life-changing crop is sold across Africa and you get those who most need it.
Such crops can reduce global hunger and suffering, improve food security for future generations, and promote sustainable livelihoods to help lift millions of people out of poverty.
This is the result for Africa and Great Britain. By investing UK money in the UK’s global scientific research sector, we help prevent future food crises, prevent preventable diseases and help end global hunger – creating a better world for everyone