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Monday, October 31, 2016

Taking concrete actions on malnutrition in Africa

As African continent expressed determination to tackle malnutrition with zero hunger initiatives, it must be seen to be in deed and in words by following through all implementation programmes capable of making this dream a reality, writes REMMY NWEKE.
How to drum relevant supports required for the under-five children and their mothers to eventually tackle the hunger surrounding the subject of malnutrition in children cannot be over-emphasised, especially if the Zero Hunger for the continent of Africa will be achieved, then, there is need for the 54 member nation of African Union to take required actionable steps towards making this possible.

This also formed the focus of the recent study by the joint efforts of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Pardee Center for International Futures in Pretoria, South Africa, outlined some conditions that must be met in order for Africa to realise this goal. 

According to the Senior Advisor on Programme Development to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) NEPAD, Mr. Martin Bwalya, which noted that support for under-5 children and mothers as one of the dynamics of achieving zero hunger on the continent by 2025. He stressed at the formal launch of the Zero Hunger Report 2025 that, the demand side on agriculture produce is increasing access, including incomes, consumer subsidies, prices, school feeding programmes, are some of the support to under-5 children and mothers, as well as pregnant women. This, he said will not happen without the supply side which is productivity and production by way of expansion of cropland, yield increase, livestock heads and reduction of post-harvest losses.

Increase in cropland:
Bwalya pointed out that overall, the food availability needs to be increased by 437 million metric tonnes by 2025 or 47 per cent of current demand. 

“To do this requires cropland to increase by 1.5 per cent; crop yields need to increase by 3.2 per cent, and livestock head size needs to increase by 5.8 per cent year,” he said.

Insisting that in order for Africa to attain its goal by 2025, a wide range of actions by different actors to bring about the necessary substantial change in the dynamics of demand and supply is requisite, just as any efforts to eliminate hunger will have to factor in robust risk assessments, including climate change.

Corroborating Bwalya, the Regional Director for World Food Programme in Johannesburg, Chris Nikoi, emphasized that “If we continue on the current trajectory, we will not be able to achieve the Malabo Declaration target of ending hunger by 2025 and eliminating child stunting. Conditions for success include political will, as well as addressing the challenges of the impact of climate change and weather shocks.”

Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025 is possible:
The determination by NEPAD on the possibility of having zero hunger in the next nine years in the continent, re-echoed when the at Pretoria launch, when the chief executive of NEPAD, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, took the stage, indicating that on the premise of the goals set in the 2014 Malabo Declaration through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), would end hunger in Africa by 2025.

He noted that nearly one in five people is hungry, even as hunger has decreased steadily since the mid-1990’s, due to population growth, but has actually increased in absolute numbers. In addition, Mayaki said, net food imports since the early 1990s have grown to about 14 per cent of the total demand, maintaining that one of the goals set in the 2014 Malabo Declaration through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), is ending hunger in Africa by 2025.

He emphasised that success in Africa will therefore be through regional integration, be it in ending hunger, agriculture or infrastructure, highlighting the major levers in policies, investments, technologies as well as human and institutional capacities necessary to sustain desired levels of supply and demand-access to food.

Improving capacity to intervention implementations:
“We cannot continue doing business as we are doing it today, since growth in Africa has not been inclusive enough. We need improved capacity to implement various interventions to do things differently if we are to deliver on Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the goal of eliminating hunger by 2025,” Dr. Mayaki underscored.

Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), noted that hunger affects women and children disproportionately, while women are the backbone of agriculture in Africa.

“The face of hunger in Africa is that 32 per cent of under-5 children are stunted – the numbers have stagnated instead of going down. If the cognitive capacity of children in Africa is reduced for life, who are the future leaders for the continent? Agriculture needs to be more nutrition sensitive. Hidden hunger challenges are therefore critical and need to be addressed,” Dr. Sibanda said.

Speaking at the same event, Lynette Chen, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation also maintained that food security and the trajectory of economic growth need to be balanced with nutrition sensitive agriculture.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that during the launch of the report on ending hunger in Africa, it was recognised that while the goal of eliminating hunger by 2025 might be very ambitious, it is not impossible. Steve Hedden, Research System Developer from Pardee Center maintained that “how we define hunger will dictate how we get there and how we reach our targets.”

UN member states must take concrete action on malnutrition:
In drumming support against malnutrition and hunger globally, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations (UN) called on the government across the world to take concrete actions on malnutrition in all its forms. NaijaAgroNet also gathered that as at the time of going to the press, there are 193 UN member states in five regional groups, namely, the African Group with 54 member states; the Asia-Pacific Group with 53 member states; the Eastern European Group with 23 member states.

Looking at the aforementioned statistics, Africa seems to have a greater hand when it comes to voting in the United Nations, but the question remains whether this strength is being optimised to improve the well-being of the continent let alone ensuring that subject of malnutrition is erased.

It was not surprising that FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva insisted that the United Nations (UN) Decade of Nutrition offers a critical window for advances, pointing out that the 10 years running until 2025, will be a critical time for action to build healthy and sustainable food systems and end malnutrition in all its forms. He stressed at the just ended United Nations General Assembly which celebrated the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, that “The purpose of the Decade of Action on Nutrition is to continue to draw the world`s attention to the importance of combatting malnutrition.”

Exploring ICN2 for Africa malnourished:
He reminded governments of their commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 and called on them to transform those commitments into actions through national policies and programmes. He argued that a better governance on nutrition globally, “starts at country level” emphasizing that nowadays, one in three people worldwide is malnourished, pointing out that nearly 2.5 billion people suffer from at least one form of malnutrition, ranging from hunger to obesity to a lack of critical nutrients. 

“FAO has maintained a great synergy with WHO in leading the efforts in the fight against all forms of malnutrition. WHO is the lead in nutrition and FAO is here to complement that work. FAO has developed a work plan focused on the promotion of healthy food and healthy diets through nutritional education and the transformation of food systems,” said Graziano da Silva.


With the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) since 2014, African countries dream of making hunger and precisely malnutrition a thing of the past in the next nine years, mostly if requisite councils are taken and adhered to, will be a reality.

Therefore, we urge African countries to beef up their country level engagement both in terms of policies and commitment to continuity of programmes as within this period, most Africa countries will have the cause to have at least two general elections and powers are likely to change hands, but then the fear of continuity in policy and its attendant implementation becomes a nightmare that must be allayed whilst the opportunity still last.

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