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EU to pledge 3.5 billion euros to fight malnutrition

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will pledge 3.5 billion euros ($4.6 billion) over the next seven years to help combat malnutrition in the developing world, the largest such EU donation to deal with nutrition.

The EU has been increasingly combining its humanitarian and development aid efforts to help countries become better prepared for sudden shocks, for example through health programs that make people less prone to malnutrition.

The funds will be used for both health programs and investment in agriculture, water and education to improve access to healthy foods.

"I find it incomprehensible that in an era of technological revolution, some 870 million people are still going hungry and malnutrition is responsible for over 3 million child deaths annually," EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said on Friday. "We have the means to stop this tragedy."

A study released in British journal the Lancet on Thursday cited new evidence that 45 percent of all deaths of children under 5 years of age are caused by malnutrition.

"The scale of investment could be truly transformational. The EU has been ahead of the game in recognizing the strategic importance of tackling under-nutrition," said Eloise Todd from humanitarian aid group ONE.

"Other donors should follow the Commission's lead and propose ambitious funding to tackle the scourge of under-nutrition and stunting."

The EU's pledge will be made formally at an international conference on nutrition in London on Saturday. The support will be aimed at 50 countries, 40 of them in Africa.

(Reporting by Ethan Bilby, editing by Gareth Jones)

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