By Baboloki Semele
African leaders and the United States government have underlined the need for increased investment and prioritization of nutrition across the African continent.
According to a press statement from the African Development Bank, the bank through the African Leaders for Nutrition, the Nutrition CEO Council, and the African Union Commission convened a high-level discussion on 12 December, on the sidelines of the US-African Leaders Summit. It is during the meeting that the leaders called on the US government and the global community to prioritse nutrition in global frameworks and policies, and increase investment in nutrition in Africa. They emphasized the opportunities for collaboration between the United States and African nations to address the continent’s nutrition challenges.
Speaking at the event, the African Union Nutrition champion, Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane of Lesotho, reiterated that the African Year of Nutrition is an opportunity to recognize the progress made and outline additional steps that need to be taken to address child malnutrition.
“Several regional commitments have been made as part of the AU Year of Nutrition which recently culminated in the Abidjan Declaration, adopted on the 8th of December 2022 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The declaration calls for accelerated investment, implementation, and coordination to improve nutrition and food security in Africa,” he said.
In her remarks, USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman said: “With sufficient targeted resources and simple, evidence-based interventions, this (malnutrition) crisis is not only treatable but preventable. Last year alone, USAID supported nutrition programming that reached over 25 million children with nutrition-specific interventions in 21 African countries.”
She added: “Thanks to bipartisan support in Congress, the U.S. Government is committing $760 million to expand and scale agricultural programs that support farmers and communities around the world buffeted by rising food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. As Covid-19, climate change, and Putin’s war against the people of Ukraine continue to undermine food systems, it is on all of us to keep striving to feed the world.”
Representing the African Development Bank, Dr. Dunford, the Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, noted the urgency to ensure “affordable, safe, nutritious food to address the crisis of hunger, malnutrition, and famine that many parts of the African continent are experiencing. “Strong health systems with the capacity to support those most vulnerable to malnutrition – women, adolescents, and children – are also essential,” she said.
The event was attended by ambassadors and high-level officials from African Countries; the AU Commission; the International NGO community, including Nutrition CEO Council members; U.S. Government agency officials, including those from USAID and the State Department. Also present were Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Minister of Health for Rwanda, and Dr. Eyob Tekalign, State Minister of Finance, Ethiopia.
The African Development Bank has boosted resources to tackle malnutrition-related issues in Africa: over the past four years, the Bank re-allocated $2.8 billion of its investment portfolio for “nutrition-smart” initiatives, meaning Bank projects will have one or more nutrition-related objectives or goals, a nutrition-related activity or intervention, and a nutrition-related indicator at the outcome or impact level. This reallocation marks a significant increase from a baseline of $700 million in 2018.