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UNIQUE MOMENT

TO ENSURE WELL-NOURISHED CHILDREN BECOME CORNERSTONE OF AFRICA'S DEVELOPMENT

The Thomson Reuters Foundation - June 12, 2013

by Moushira Khattab

Well-nourished children are the cornerstone of any country’s economic, social and political development and power, giving them and their countries a chance for future growth and well-being. Yet over 50 million children in Africa suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting), and 60 percent of deaths in children under five years old are due to malnutrition.

There has been little improvement over the past two decades and at least almost half of countries in Africa are showing a deteriorating nutritional situation. Persistent poverty, increasing food prices and inadequate access to water and sanitation, decreasing food security are some of the factors that underpin the situation throughout the continent.

Given this grave scenario, it is no surprise that malnutrition was one of the critical issues that those involved in a High Level Dialogue on Children and the post-2015 Development Agenda focused on ahead of the “Nutrition for Growth” summit being hosted by the UK government on June 8.

Evidence shows that malnutrition – specifically stunting – has the potential to impede economic growth and productivity. Experts estimate that a 1 percent increase in the prevalence of stunting leads to a 1.4 percent decrease in productivity and studies show that an increase in prevalence of stunting leads to poor scholastic performance, fewer years of school completed and a reduction in lifetime earnings. Investment in actions that reduce malnutrition and ensuring food and nutrition security in Africa would clearly have the highest economic returns.

Whilst causes of malnutrition in Africa are complex and multifaceted, they are also preventable – from better promotion of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life (which despite progress in the practice across the region still only has an uptake rate of 25-31 percent), to improving women’s nutrition, especially before, during and after pregnancy, and specific nutrition programmes such as, school feeding, complementary food and micronutrient interventions.

Equally important, a greater investment in multi-sectoral interventions – including health, water and sanitation, agriculture and education – which address the underlying causes of chronic malnutrition and effectively reverse current levels of stunting, is critical to enable Africa to reach its economic and intellectual potential.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are not new to the continent, but with current negotiations on what will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gathering pace, and the up-coming Nutrition for Growth Summit ahead of the G8, we have two unique opportunities to make concerted and comprehensive steps to tackle these problems in a multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional way. Now more than ever we need a development agenda that leads the way in the battle against child hunger and malnutrition, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes economic and development sense.

Ambassador Moushira Mahmoud Khattab is the vice president of Aflatoun Child Savings International based in Amsterdam. She is a former minister of family and population of Egypt and former vice chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

A position paper entitled Towards an African Position on Children and the Post-2015 Development Agenda has been developed by ACPF through research, analysis and consultations with child rights experts throughout Africa and includes a range of recommendations. Details can be found at www.africanchildinfo.net





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[ Africa ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Moushira Khattab ]

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