Nutrition can be a driver of change or a barrier to progress. According to the Global Nutrition Report (GNR), which has been presented in Kampala on the eve of the sixth Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security Conference (30 October), there is a need for a strong political commitment, investment and accountability if the goal of reducing malnutrition is to be achieved.
Among the GNR’s key findings: 58 million children under age five are stunted, fourteen million children are wasted and ten million are overweight, and none of these children are growing healthily.
The GNR shows that in Africa there are some notable bright spots and important progress in tackling malnutrition: Kenya is the only country in the world on track to meet all five World Health Assembly (WHA) child nutrition targets by 2025. Ghana is on course for four targets while Uganda, Algeria, Benin, Liberia and Swaziland are on course for three targets. Twenty six countries are on track for two or one targets while Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe are off track for the five Nutrition WHA targets for which information is available.
These targets cover the critical indicators of under-five stunting – wasting and overweight, under six months’ exclusive breastfeeding, women of reproductive age anemia and low birth weight.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 6th ADFNS and launch of the GNR, the Prime Minister of Uganda, Hon. Ruhakana Ruganda, said that malnutrition still remains a challenge in Uganda, and that calls for combined efforts of all stakeholders.
Hon. Ruhakana also highlighted the importance of focusing on the first 1,000 days of life as well as the commitment of Uganda government under the new Uganda Nutrition Advocacy and Communication Strategy for the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2019, to advance nutrition sensitive agricultural food systems that ensure optimal maternal and child nutrition.
“We cannot continue like this. Africa must feed itself. No child should go to bed unfed. We know that hungry people cannot be productive. What we need to do is investing in our people, our nutrition so that they are fully empowered to maximize their potential,” he emphasized, deploring that Uganda loses about 16% of its GDP due to malnutrition.
Investing in nutrition, yielding economic benefits
On behalf of the FAO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Mohamed Ag Bendech, Senior Nutrition Officer and member of the GNR’s Independent Expert Group, presented the 2015 Global Nutrition Report’s findings, saying: “The Global Nutrition Report is all about being equipped with the right information to take on the challenge of malnutrition.”
“As a continent we must push for increased momentum in cutting rates of stunting, wasting and other forms of malnutrition such as anemia and vitamin A deficiency. It should be our priority right from the Regional to national and family household levels to invest in nutrition. The evidence also shows that improved nutrition enhances overall socio-economic benefits with healthier and more productive population”, he added.
Dr. Ag Bendech indicated that, in moving into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African government should commit to the key areas stressed in the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, to advance Nutrition and Sustainable Development, including building political enabling environments to reduce malnutrition, ensuring nutrition interventions, reaching the people who need them, engaging more sectors in the drive to improve nutrition, creating healthy food environments, increasing funding for nutrition and maximizing its impact, and strengthening accountability in nutrition.
Countries that are committed to reducing malnutrition have the capability to do so, according to the report. Investing in improved nutrition can have economic returns that outpace the U.S. stock market in recent decades.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)