By Maria Saporta
An initiative to convene Atlanta-based global health organizations tackled the issue of world hunger Monday at an all-day summit at the J.W. Marriott in Buckhead.
In the second annual “Global Health Summit,” a host of government, nonprofit and business entities embraced a new approach to combat global hunger and malnutrition. Last year’s summit focused on global health and water.
“Atlanta really has something special to offer in the areas of global health and water, food and nutrition, they are global health issues,” said Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA. “Every five seconds a child dies fro hunger related diseases. Almost 900 million people in the world go to bed hungry. It just isn’t right when we have plentiful food around the world.”
Gayle said that sometimes the problems are so overwhelming that “we sometimes feel powerless.” But if Atlanta institutions can collaborate and share their expertise and become a voice for the voiceless, then real progress is possible.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said the timing of the summit was fortuitous because there is now a “new paradigm in delivery of food” that Congress will be debating in the next few weeks.
“Hunger around the world is not just an issue for the 900 million people who go to bed hungry every night but for everybody else,” Isakson said. “It’s not just an issue of compassion. A lack of water, a lack of health, a lack of food — those are national security issues. We can increase the power of democracy with the delivery of food aid around the world.”
Instead of just shipping food from the United States (aimed at supporting American farmers), the goal is to support hunger programs with cash and vouchers so food can be delivered as quickly as possible. Aid programs also can be used to help people grow their own food so humanitarian dollars can be dramatically reduced, according to Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future.
“A hungry crowd is an angry crowd,” she said, adding that it is part of a “Food for Peace” program. “We believe that in one generation we have the ability to rid the world of extreme poverty.”
In addition to CARE, co-sponsors of the summit were the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Wayne Lord, president of the Atlanta’s World Affairs Council, said Coca-Cola leader Robert Woodruff actually had the vision of Atlanta’s potential decades ago. Woodruff was largely responsible for having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent be located in Atlanta.
Tom Frieden, CDC’s director, said that in addition to hunger, “about one-third of the world has some sort of nutritional deficiency” that can contribute to stunting growth among children and to chronic diseases among adults. CDC is credited for having been the reason why Atlanta has emerged as a center for global health.
In the corporate community, there’s much greater acceptance of the need to work of societal issues.
“Our growth is dependent on the health of the communities that we serve,” said Denise Knight, director for sustainable agriculture for the Coca-Cola Co.
Eduardo Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation, agreed.
“Put aside the fact that it is right thing to do,” Martinez said. “People want to work for companies that are socially responsible.”
Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the Global Health Policy Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said that the second year “experiment” showed that there’s a diverse base of expertise in Atlanta that can galvanize around global health issues. “We have come away feeling very good about it,” Morrison said, implying that there likely will be a third annual summit.
Gayle also understood the value of having such a summit.
“I think the coming together of organizations is good,” she said.. “Having this convening every year is one way to have something tangible to get the partners in Atlanta to come together.”
Perhaps Sen. Isakson said it best.
“It’s kind of like a puzzle with all the pieces on the table, and you put them together and you have a beautiful mosaic,” Isakson said. “We have got all the pieces here in Atlanta. We just have to put them all together.”