About 45,000 people hit Hyde Park yesterday for the Big IF Rally, that urged action on global hunger from G8 leaders when they meet on 17-18 June.
A colourful installation of thousands of plastic flowers, the petals of which represented the millions of children who die each year as a result of malnutrition, was the focal point of the rally. The flowers were made and laid by thousands of people who had travelled to Hyde Park from around Britain for the rally.
Organised by the Enough Food for Everyone IF coalition of NGOs, the initiative is the first major joined-up campaign since Make Poverty History in 2005, the last time the UK held the G8 presidency.
The IF coalition, which includes Save the Children, Oxfam, Unicef and Christian Aid, is calling on the G8 group of industrialised countries, which meets in Northern Ireland on 17 and 18 June, to increase funding to tackle malnutrition and stunted growth. The coalition also wants the G8 to make greater efforts to give people in poorer countries control over their land, both by ensuring transparency and greater accountability over land deals and by closing loopholes that allow companies to dodge paying tax.
Figures published by The Lancet on Thursday showed malnutrition to be the root cause of death for 3.1 million children, accounting for about 45% of deaths among children under five years of age. The growth of a further 165 million children was stunted as a result of poor diets. Previous estimates had put the figure at 2.3 million.
Celebrity speakers included the Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates, singer Angélique Kidjo and actor David Harewood.
Britain last hosted the G8 summit of super-power super-leaders in 2005, when wealthy nations promised to allocate 0.7 per cent of their wealth to international aid. Oxfam said: “One in eight people do not have enough to eat. All this can change IF the world’s most powerful leaders get serious about tackling global hunger, tax dodging and land grabs. With David Cameron as the current G8 President, June 2013 is our big chance to save and change millions of lives.”