African Leaders Unite Against Malnutrition

Akinwumi Adesina


African leaders at the just concluded African Development Bank annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, agree to fight malnutrition in the continent to enable save the lines of children suffering from malnutrition and enable them realise their full potential

By Maureen Chigbo, Lusaka, Zambia  |

THE birth of any new born baby brings joy to the society. That’s is why most countries of the world do everything within their capacity to ensure the safety of mother and child who are usually very vulnerable to adverse situations like diseases or the incessant violence that has escalated in Northeastern Nigeria since the beginning of Boko Haram insurgency in 2009. The insurgency has displaced thousands of families who are now living in internally displaced camps, IDP. The IDP camps are not the best place for babies to be born. But about 1,500 women gave birth in 28 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps in Maiduguri, Borno State, in 2015, according to the State Primary Health Care Management Board.

Sule Mene, executive secretary of the Board, told News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, recently that the deliveries were recorded between January 2015 and January 2016 with about 14,600 pregnant women receiving anti-natal health care, psycho-social services and child nutrition support.

One peculiar ailment that has troubled the children in the IDP camps and the mothers is the problem of malnutrition. About 1,261 children under five years old with severe acute malnutrition were admitted to nutritional centres, exceeding planned targets for 2015.

It is not only in the IDP camps that children are suffering from malnutrition. The problem is endemic in all African countries. And this portends a gloomy picture for children across Africa whose well-being are threatened as they may not realise their full potentials in life.

This is why the Global panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition at the just ended 51st annual meetings of the African Development Bank is making a case for achieving nutrition security in the sub-saharan Africa.

Uhuru Kenyatta

A summary of the findings in “The Economic Case for Investing in Nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa” states that good nutrition is not just an outcome of development, but also a driver of human development and economic growth. Better nourished populations are more economically productive. Africa’s future economic success lies in increasing human capital, which is an important determinant of labour productivity and raising labour productivity lies at the heart of raising incomes across Africa.

But under-nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa remains pervasive. Across Africa, 56 million or 36 percent of children under the age of five are chronically undernourished and 13 million or 8.5 percent are acutely undernourished. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread and overweight and obesity is increasing.

Malnutrition continues to be one of the main barriers that prevents children and societies from realising their full potential, and hence represents a significant economic burden. Investing in nutrition interventions, along with policy actions to address the underlying causes of malnutrition would help millions of children to develop into healthy and productive members of society.

The adverse effect of not addressing malnutrition in African countries is huge. The Cost of Hunger in Africa reports found that malnutrition imposes high social and economic costs. It costs African economies between three and 16 percent of GDP annually. National estimates for the cost of undernutrition in percentage of GDP in Ethiopia is 16.5 percent; Malawi, 10.3 percent; Rwanda, 11.5 percent and Burkina Faso, 7.7 percent.

New research released May 23, at the AfDB annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, shows that for 15 African countries, meeting the 2025 World Health Assembly target for stunting will add $83 billion to national incomes. This includes approximately Benin: $1.6 million, Chad: $3.7 million; Ethiopia: $15.9 billion, Lesotho: $151 million, Madagascar: $1.8 billion; Malawi $1.5 billion, Mali: $2.8 billion, Niger: $5.5 billion, Nigeria: $29.3 billion, Rwanda: $1billion, Senegal $1.7 billion, Togo: $842 million; Uganda: $7.5 billion and United Republic of Tanzania: $8 billion.

The benefit: cost ratios of 15 African countries indicate that investments to reduce chronic undernutrition are excellent investments. Any investments with a benefit: cost ratio that exceeds one is a good investment.

The adverse effects of malnutrition in Africa is why some African leaders including philanthropists and businesses have called for increased investment to eliminate malnutrition across the continents during the African Development Bank Annual Meetings 2016.

Paul Kagame

This follows release of new economic data by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, which shows that increased investments to meet the World Health Assembly target of reducing stunting by 40 per cent by 2025.

“Nutrition is not just a health and social development issue, nutrition is an investment that shapes economic growth for all African nations,” said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, who hosted a discussion among influential leaders, philanthropists and businesses on how Africa can achieve nutrition security through increased investments and public-private partnerships.

To empower people out of poverty, Adesina said, there is need to first invest in the gray matter infrastructure that will truly fuel progress.

“When the growth of our children is stunted today – the growth of our economies will be stunted tomorrow. But when Africa’s children are nourished and can grow, learn and earn to their full potential, we will be able to unleash the potential of the entire continent.”

During the event, a new Africa-specific investment framework by the World Bank and Results for Development showing the costs to achieve the World Health Assembly, WHA, stunting, wasting, anemia and breastfeeding targets was also unveiled.

Achieving these four global nutrition targets in Sub-Saharan Africa would require an increased investment of approximately $1.8 billion annually from donors and $750 million annually from African governments over the next decade.

“Malnutrition remains a major barrier to development in many African nations, but we have global consensus on what targets we need to reach, along with a roadmap for action,” said Kofi Annan, chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

“One of the most critical steps we can take to achieving nutrition security is to transform the continent’s agriculture sector, because it’s not just about the amount of food we grow, it’s also about the type of food that we eat.”

Annan lauded the ongoing efforts, but further underscored the role of agriculture in defeating malnutrition. “We need agriculture to be nutrition-smart,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to opportunities for collaboration with the African Leaders for Nutrition on creating agriculture and food production systems that are diverse, efficient and resilient in order to meet the nutritional needs of every community and nation.

Kofi Annan

Similarly, John Kufuor, former President of Ghana and co-chair of the Global Panel, said he would spearhead efforts by the newly created African Leaders for Nutrition, ALN, which aims to bring together heads of State, finance ministers, and leaders from key sectors across the continent to champion and increase investments in nutrition.

For Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who spoke through a video presentation at the AfDB event, there is need to accelerate progress against malnutrition and unlock the potential of children everywhere.

“We have a set of cost effective interventions that, if scaled up globally, would save 2.2 million lives and reduce the number of stunted children by 50 million in the next ten years,” Gates said, pointing out that broad commitment from the highest levels, and African Leaders for Nutrition can play a critical role in making nutrition a national priority.

The May 23 event in Lusaka builds on Investing in Nutrition in which Bill Gates joined President Adesina and global development leaders to launch the first ever investment framework for nutrition and lay out research from new groundbreaking analysis that gives policymakers and advocates a roadmap for how the world can accelerate progress against malnutrition. The event was held in Washington, DC during the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in April 2016.

—  June 6, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT


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