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Ending hunger key to unlocking African children’s potential

CHRISTINE MUYAMA

Analysis: CHRISTINE MUYAMA
GLOBAL leaders say the time to act on ending hunger is now. The G7 leaders recently agreed that ending hunger, achieving food security, improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by the year 2030 is one of their key goals.

They were unanimous at the just ended G7 meeting in Taormina, Italy, to raise collective support for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture in sub- Saharan Africa through actions, such as increasing Official Development assistance, better targeting and measuring interventions in line with the food security and nutrition-related recommendations that reach women and girls, backing efforts to attract responsible private investments and additional resources from other development stakeholders to reduce hunger in the development countries out of hunger and malnutrition.
These initiatives by the G7 will lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The goal to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, starts with laying the necessary foundation early enough. The intentions of the G7 for looking out for the world’s most vulnerable is therefore applauded.
We at Graça Machel Trust are hopeful that this G7 document will not just be put on the shelves and be forgotten. In 2015 the G7 committed to taking out 300 million people from developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition, without the financial commitment and the clear source of funding. Despite a strong-worded communique in Taormina promising to act on poverty and hunger, the worrying part is that there is still no clear financial guarantees again. The G7 further says that they are rapidly mobilising humanitarian assistance and will continue to support political processes addressing the underlying causes of the crises. They are committed to strengthening the international humanitarian system to prevent, mitigate and better prepare for future crises, while strengthening engagement to build resilience.
Promise to impact
At the Trust, we believe that all children should grow to their full potential and what better way to do that than through adequate nutrition. The world will also be able to accelerate the protection, empowerment and provision of equal opportunities for children through food security and proper nutrition. We hope that global leaders will walk the talk.
As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, it is crucial to remember that children are the most vulnerable group to food insecurity and malnutrition. Research has shown that during the first five years of a child’s life, balanced nutrition is essential for brain development, healthy growth and the development of a strong immune system.
Early malnutrition can have devastating consequences which include irreversible damage to a child’s brain development and physical growth. This can further impact an individual’s quality of life in areas such as the workplace and later have further health implications. This can negatively affect emerging economies across Africa. According to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, out of the 667 million children under the age of five in the world, 159 million are too short for their age and 50 million do not weigh enough in relation to their height due to malnutrition. These statistics become worse in Africa with almost half of the children under the age of five not developing to their full potential due to malnutrition. This situation is likely to deteriorate as the UN declared that over 20 million people are currently facing famine in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia due to civil conflict and instability, many of whom are children. The number of stunted children under five is declining in every region except Africa and Oceania.
The same report further notes that malnutrition and poor diets are the number one driver of the global burden of disease. The annual GDP losses related to low weight, poor child growth, and micronutrient deficiencies average 11 percent in Asia and Africa.
The consequences of malnutrition are dire but entirely preventable if leaders and their communities take collective responsibility and action in ensuring proper nutrition for all their children
The author is nutrition programmes officer of Graça Machel Trust, an advocacy organisation.

 

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