Over the next six years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be spending $776 million to combat global malnutrition, doubling their current commitment to a cause which they felt has not been properly addressed.
Melinda Gates announced the decision and an accompanying program strategy at the European Development days, which is the European Commission’s annual development forum in Brussels, Belgium, and urged Europe to follow the charity in addressing the issue.
In her statements, she emphasized that nutrition is a consistently underestimated problem. Michael Igoe of Devex reports that one third of the deaths of children worldwide are caused by malnutrition, and a quarter of children have brains and/or bodies that never fully develop because of substandard diets. However, less than 1% of foreign aid is spent on nutrition.
Melinda Gates said:
I know of no other problem in the world that does so much damage yet receives so little attention.
Malnutrition is a quiet catastrophe. You can’t see it in the same way you can see diarrhea or malaria or pneumonia, or the other health problems that poor children face.
This aid will be going primarily to five countries where there is “a particularly large burden of malnutrition”: Nigeria, India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Burkina Faso. The funds aim to support the citizens of these countries until local government can properly address the issue themselves.
Radio VOP quoted Shawn Baker, the director of nutrition at the Gates Foundation, whose position did not exist before this ideological shift within the charity:
Families don’t recognize it. Communities don’t recognize it. Decision-makers don’t recognize it. If you’re deficient in vitamin A or iron … it’s invisible.
One thing we’re particularly excited about is much more purposeful collaboration with our agricultural colleagues. … I think that’s quite a big shift for the foundation.
The end game is really that domestic resources need to take up more and more of the burden of addressing these problems.
In addition to feeding children, these donations will also aim to help women and girls get properly fed before they even get pregnant, to promote breastfeeding, and to have nutrition added to food.
Gates highlighted the importance of working with women:
From their leadership as farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers to their role as mothers; investment in women and girls will be key to improving nutrition globally.
Britain’s Department for International Development will be matching the donation with $180 million, writes Joseph D’Urso of Reuters.