I love it when nice people do good things. Nothing makes me happier. So when I saw that several of my very favourite children’s writers are backing the latest campaign from Save the Children, it put a huge smile on my face.
More than 25 children’s writers and illustrators, including David Walliams, Oliver Jeffers, Michael Morpugo and Philip Pullman have come together to warn of a global literacy crisis, ahead of the G8 nutrition summit on June 8th.
‘Eh?’ I can hear you saying. ‘What have literacy and nutrition got to do with each other?’
Well the answer to that is ‘quite a lot, actually’.
Save the Children’s Food for Thought report, released today, shows that chronically malnourished children are 20 percent less literate than those with a healthy diet, and less able to read or write a simple sentence.
165 million children across the world are chronically malnourished. Not only does this cause the death of one child every 15 seconds, it also locks in lifelong problems for millions more.
It affects children like Nguoth in Southern Sudan, who is pictured above. Here is Nguoth’s story in his own words.
I was five years old when I started school. Sometimes I had to stop coming because I was hungry. For two years I dropped out because I had to go to the river to fish and to the bush to collect wild fruits for my fanily. I think the situation is getting worse and more children are stopping coming to school to help their family.
I have two brothers and one sister. My sister left school in P2 so she could help our mother by collecting food and firewood. My older brother left this school and went on to finish P7 but then dropped out. My younger brother is still in school with me.
Many of my friends are absent again and again because they’re going to the bush to collect fruits. At the beginning of the year there were 28 children in my class. Now it’s around 21.
Today, most of my schoolmates have gone to fetch water from the river or to work in the market. Some have gone to a school in town where there’s food (a school feeding programme). Most of my friends are in P5 or P6 but I’m still in P3 as I had to repeat some years. This is my second year in P3. When I’m hungry I feel sick and go to the bush to find wold fruits. At least twice a week I stay home and don’t go to school. That’s why I’ve had to repeat some years.
Hunger is very bad in this area. We have no gardens to grow food because the floods destroyed them. The people are angry with each other and there’s no peace (referring to inter-communal conflict and cattle raids affecting the area). People are very sick, malaria is very high and lots of children are absent from school. It’s hard for children to be happy and take part in class because they’re hungry.
Despite being one of the most cost effective forms of development assistance, spending on nutrition programmes currently amounts to just 0.3% of global development spending. At the June 8th summit, world leaders have what children’s laureate Julia Donaldson calls ‘a golden opportunity’ to change that.
She says: “The devastating impact of malnutrition shouldn’t be underestimated. It stunts a child’s development, sapping the strength of their minds as well of their body, depriving them of the chance to be able to read or write a simple sentence.
“Leaders attending this summit have a golden opportunity to stop this. They must invest more funding to tackle malnutrition if we are to stop a global literacy famine.”
If you’d like to support the Food for Thought campaign there are several ways you can do so.
1. Read and share the full Food for Thought report.
2. Join in with the BritMums Twitter party today – Tuesday 28th May between 1-2pm. Tweet about the campaign more generally using the hashtag #foodforthought
3. Sign the Enough Food IF Petition urging world leaders to spend more on nutrition programmes.
4. Join other campaigners at the Big IF Event in London on June 8th.
Together we can give every child a life free from hunger.