Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE International, has served in global health and development for much of her life. Yet, she began her keynote address by noting that she has learned more about nutrition since leaving the medical profession, than while she was a practicing physician.
She highlighted some startling statistics, including that every five seconds a child dies from hunger related diseases, and one billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Dr. Gayle warns: “If we do fail to act now […] we’re not just cutting ourselves short now, but clearly we are putting future generation in jeopardy.”
CARE first provided food aid to a broken post-war Europe, and has grown to an organization that operates in over eighty countries and uses complex, integrative food programs to fight poverty and hunger. Dr. Gayle believes that by focusing on women’s empowerment, strengthening resilience and healthy ecosystems, and transformative governance, the question of how to achieve “sustainable and just food systems for all” may be answered.
While leading CARE, Dr. Gayle has renewed focus on women’s empowerment because it is key to addressing underlying causes of hunger and poverty. A CARE program in Bangladesh showed that strengthening women’s decision-making abilities and improving their access to markets are critical to reducing stunting. Furthermore, by working not just to improve lives now, but also to give people tools to overcome challenges later in life, Dr. Gayle asserts that this resilience is critical to sustainable, long-term solutions to hunger. Finally, Dr. Gayle urged a focus on transformative governance, which is broader than simply good governance. It includes a wide range of partners in addressing hunger, and first must include and be accountable for the food insecure households themselves.
Dr. Gayle also noted three main challenges in achieving a sustainable and just food system for all. Integrative programs are a vital tool in addressing poverty and hunger, but also present unique challenges in their design, implementation, and monitoring. Similarly, complementary partnerships between organizations and groups can be very powerful, but also require extra capacity, patience, and the building of a shared vision. Dr. Gayle also noted a political climate that frames policy changes in terms of “winners” and “losers.” This system makes effective change and reform difficult, even when those changes are necessary.
However, ending global hunger is not a “winner” or “loser” issue. Dr. Gayle declares, “We must pull all of our resources and galvanize our moral will to end hunger […] there will be no losers.”