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Remarks by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group at TICAD7 - Ending Malnutrition in Africa: Towards Nutrition for Growth 2020 and Beyond - Yokohama , August 29, 2019
Allow me to make a few observations on the fight we are all engaged in – the fight against global hunger and malnutrition.
In spite of incredible natural resources, we face a paradox of abundance. Food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition, especially among children, whose mothers themselves are poorly nourished.
One of the reasons why I remain passionately driven by agriculture and the elimination of hunger, is that I have always believed that “stunted children today, lead to stunted economies tomorrow.”
According to the World Health Organisation, malnutrition through poor-quality diets is a greater public health threat than malaria, tuberculosis or measles.1 This is why investments in grey matter infrastructure – which is the collective brainpower of the African continent – will ensure a competent, healthy, nourished, and protected human capital base that drives inclusive growth across the region.
It is also why the nutritional status of children should be recognized as a fundamental indicator of economic development in Africa.
Africa is most affected by the triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. Of 41 countries globally that struggle with all three forms of malnutrition, 30 are in Africa.
Stunting among children in Africa has decreased in percentage terms from 38.3% in 2000 to 30.3% in 2017. On a sobering note, however, due to increases in population growth, the actual number of stunted children has risen from 50.6 million to 58.7 million between the 2000 and 2017.
A number of African countries are making excellent progress in tackling malnutrition. Ghana reduced stunting from 36% to 19% between 2003 and 2014. Ethiopia reduced stunting from 58% in 2000, to 38% in 2018. Many other countries have made tremendous efforts in other areas to address the challenges of malnutrition.
We have a responsibility in our time to unite, to defeat the twin scourges of stunting and malnutrition.
The African Leaders for Nutrition was established based on the need for commitment at the highest political levels for advocacy and accountability on nutrition. And that political leadership is very strong.
Endorsed by the African Union and African Heads of State, the African Leaders for Nutrition is helping to give visibility to malnutrition. Thanks to the support and partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dangote Foundation and the Big Win Philanthropy, we are now able to hold ourselves collectively accountable for decisive actions.
A nutrition scorecard provides African countries with critical indicators on nutrition, services, governance and socio-economic impacts, by highlighting areas for targeted financial resources and support. It catalyzes action at the highest levels of executive power to keep nutrition at the top of political agendas.
An estimated $2.7 billion in investments will be needed, yearly, over the next 7 years, to scale-up high impact nutrition interventions to deliver on nutrition targets 2. Without these investments, the number of stunted children will continue to rise in Africa, depriving economies of opportunities to grow to their full potential.
The Universal Health Coverage, which is one of the priorities of TICAD, cannot be achieved without ensuring that children are well fed with nutritious, high quality foods, to grow to their full potential. No child should ever go hungry.
And no mother must ever have to endure the agony of a child with a rumbling stomach saying “I need food, Mama”. All forms of hunger and malnutrition, especially those affecting children, diminish our collective humanity. I am convinced that we can solve this problem. And just imagine what the world would look like, with happy and healthy children growing towards their better future. That is a big win!
So, let’s get started. Thank you very much!
1 Nutrition in the WHO Africa Region, 2017
2 Stunting reduction in sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank, 2017