06/04/2013 10:17 am ET Updated Aug 03, 2013

"Nutrition for Growth": A Once-in-a-decade Opportunity, This Weekend

On June 8th, just days before the 2013 G8 Summit, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will convene world leaders in London for the high-level Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Science and Business event. Split into two halves, the day-long "golden moment" will harness global action on two urgent challenges: addressing the global nutrition crisis and bolstering Africa's agriculture revolution. Will world leaders realize the huge potential of June 8th? This post looks at what success would look like if they do.

The Nutrition for Growth event is arguably the single biggest opportunity in over a decade for the international community to secure financial and policy commitments to reduce the scourge of chronic malnutrition, which each year claims the lives of more than 2.4 million children and limits the potential of another 165 million. The economic toll is staggering - silently sabotaging the future productivity of entire countries. Nutrition stands out as an exception to the good news story of dramatic reductions in child mortality and extreme poverty: stunting rates in Africa today are nearly as high as they were two decades ago, exceeding 40 percent.

To finally turn the tide in the global nutrition crisis, leaders at the June 8th event must deliver bold and ambitious policy and financial commitments. The Nutrition for Growth event should mark the beginning of a new chapter for the nutrition sector characterized by accelerated impact, effectiveness, transparency, evidence, and scale. Partners at the event should commit to an ambitious stunting target through 2020, backed by credible funding pledges to achieve this progress. One billion dollars a year is needed from donors and partners to meet the Nutrition for Growth ambitions for stunting and wasting reduction in 20 countries. In addition, partners should initiate a new and improved process for developing higher quality national plans, with an emphasis on plans being peer reviewed, publicly available, evidence-based, and fully costed. Finally, all partners at the event should launch a transparency revolution for nutrition to ensure that nutrition plans, spending, and progress are transparently reported.

The June 8th event also presents a critical opportunity for the international community, African leaders and the private sector to empower African smallholder farmers. The focus on African-led agriculture at the Nutrition for Growth is especially timely, with the launch of the African Union's 2014 "Year of Agriculture" just a few months away. On June 8th, donors should back Africa's agriculture plans with the resources they need to deliver sustainable food security, by making pledges to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and committing additional bilateral and multilateral financial support for CAADP and Country Investment Plans.

G8 leaders should also seize the opportunity on June 8th to make sure that its major agriculture initiative is on track to achieve its goal of lifting 50 million people out of poverty. Last year, G8 leaders at the 2012 Camp David summit launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition - a partnership between the G8, private companies and national governments to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth. To ensure progress against this ambitious goal, G8 donors on June 8th should expand the New Alliance to at least six new countries. They should also strengthen the initiative with key improvements to its accountability, transparency and governance and to enhance the focus on women farmers and nutritional outcomes.

We know that progress is possible. Now is the time for political will. Fifteen years ago, the world came together and set bold, ambitious targets in the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease. Since then, there are half a billion fewer people living below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Child death rates have fallen by more than 30 percent, with about 3 million children's lives saved each year. Now is the moment to turn our focus to the global injustice of malnutrition. Two and a half million children should not die every year for lack of adequate nutrition. Look at all the good that world leaders can do if they seize the opportunity on June 8th. Leaders know what to do. Now it's time to deliver.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction to coincide with the UK government's summit on addressing nutrition and hunger in developing countries, set to take place in London on June 8. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on InterAction, click here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #Nutrition4Growth.