I went to Europe last week and came home with three numbers I want to tell you about.
45,000. That’s how many people came to Hyde Park in London on Saturday for the “Enough Food IF” rally urging the G8 to accelerate the effort to break the cycle of hunger and poverty in poor countries. You read that right: 45,000 people came to a rally for the poor. Even as someone who has known about the remarkable generosity of the British government and public for years, I was still a bit surprised to walk onstage at the event and see such a big and enthusiastic audience. Solving a problem like malnutrition takes political leadership, and politicians need to know that the voters will be behind them. So it was terrific to see so many potential voters taking such a clear stand on the side of aid for the poorest people in the world.
A few of the 45,000 people who turned out for the Enough Food IF rally in Hyde Park.
0.7 Percent. I usually focus on big numbers, but 0.7 percent might be my favorite fraction. That’s how much the United Kingdom and the other G8 governments have agreed to commit that much of their budget to international aid. The UK is now meeting that target, and during tough economic times to boot. I got to talk about this with Prime Minister David Cameron, in a phone call before my trip and again at the Hyde Park rally. He knows how much these investments means for the lives of the poor. And he knows that through their generosity, countries like the UK and Norway have carved out a role for themselves as moral leaders.
Prime Minister David Cameron and I talked about the UK’s great commitment to foreign aid.
It’s not just rich countries that are stepping up. President Joyce Banda of Malawi came to London and announced that Malawi will triple the percentage of its budget that goes to nutrition, which was one of the biggest commitments of the day. We got to meet briefly, and I told her I hope more African countries follow Malawi’s lead.
20. It’s almost a rule of human nature that young people want a cause they can get behind. When I was going off to college in the early 1970s, students were protesting the Vietnam War. Today, more students than ever are getting passionate about global health and poverty. I see it when I do my college tours. On this trip, I saw it in Hyde Park and when I did an online chat on malnutrition that included teenage Tanzanian activist Frank Kapeta and YouTube star Charlie McDonnell. (You can see it for yourself in this interview about malnutrition that two London school kids did with journalist Roger Thurow.) If these issues are on the agenda of 20-year-old students today, in two decades they will be on the agenda of 40-year-old leaders—and that makes me very hopeful about the opportunity to make a difference now and for years to come.
Bangs and mash: On the set of my YouTube chat with Charlie McDonnell.