Clinton: 'Ireland knows what hunger is'
US Secretary of State and Micheal Martin co-host summit on child malnutrition
Published 22/09/2010 | 05:00
Hillary Clinton hailed the Irish people's "passion for fighting hunger" yesterday in New York, as she and Foreign Minister Micheal Martin co-hosted an event aimed at stepping up efforts to deal with child malnutrition.
The event launched the so-called '1,000 Days Challenge'. The name comes from the growing realisation that the (roughly) 1,000-day period -- beginning when a woman first becomes pregnant and ending when her child is two years old -- is of vital importance. A growing body of research has shown that the effects of malnutrition during this period are irreversible.
The high-profile occasion featured a video presentation narrated by Hollywood star Matt Damon and attracted particular media attention because of the US Secretary of State's involvement.
The historic resonance of issues of hunger and famine in Ireland was commented upon by both Ms Clinton and Mr Martin. She said that "the Irish people and the Irish Government know what hunger means from their own history".
Mr Martin added that Ireland and the US "are bound together by our shared history -- a history that witnessed hundreds of thousands of Irish people fleeing hunger at home and finding refuge in this country, where they built new lives".
Yesterday's event came almost exactly two years after the publication of the Irish Government's Hunger Task Force Report.
The task force, which included Bono and American economist Jeffrey Sachs among its members, recommended three main actions aimed at reducing hunger. These were to help boost the productivity of small farmers in struggling areas, to address mother-and-child malnutrition, and to maintain international political momentum for the reduction of hunger and poverty.
Mr Martin emphasised during his speech yesterday that "undernutrition remains one of the world's most serious, but least-addressed, problems." Around 860 million people worldwide do not have sufficient food. Approximately 200 million children suffer from chronic undernutrition.
Mr Martin also noted that the Irish Government had made a commitment to devote 20pc of its overseas aid budget to hunger-reduction efforts.
In an interview yesterday, he encouraged other nations to follow the Irish example.
"Many people can now realign their aid budget to this target," he said.
The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, also spoke, asserting that "we can make a big difference to undernutrition".
The 1,000 Day Challenge is aimed at accelerating progress towards the achievement of the first of the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed in September 2000. The first MDG called for a halving of the people who suffer from hunger and chronic poverty by 2015.