Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), and John Kufuor, former President of Ghana and Co-chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, on Monday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire hosted the first official meeting of the African Leaders for Nutrition.
The Champions of the African Leaders for Nutrition also include Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President of Madagascar; Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Aliko Dangote, Founder and CEO of the Dangote Group; Jamie Cooper, Founding Chair and President of Big Win Philanthropy; Graça Machel, Founder of the Graça Machel Trust; and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organiation (FAO).
“Stunted children today will lead to stunted economies tomorrow,” said Dr Adesina. The most critical time for optimal development in children is during the first 1,000 days of their lives. During this period the child’s immune system and mental capacity is developed.
In Africa, 58 million children under the age of five are short for their age (stunted), 13.9 million weigh too little for their size (wasted), and 10.3 million are overweight. Unlike underweight and wasting, the effects of stunting are irreversible. This includes impaired learning potential, poor scholastic success and ultimately reduced adult labour capacity and productivity.
Africa accounts for 20 of the 24 countries with stunting rates of over 40%. Furthermore, 22 of the 34 countries that collectively account for 90% of the world’s stunting are in Africa. President Adesina called on all partners and African leaders to join him in “the Coalition of Alliance against Malnutrition in Africa.”
“Good leadership is important for good governance. Without transforming the lives of people, we cannot hope to transform countries and the continent,” said former Ghanaian President John Kufour.
The African Leaders for Nutrition Champions will use their high-level membership to drive increased visibility of nutrition on the continent, strengthen political will, increase national-level prioritisation, and encourage specific policy and financial commitments to nutrition. The political dialogue with Heads of States and Ministers of Finance is expected to spark further progress to deliver the nutrition targets and Sustainable Development Goal 2, to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, through sustained and increased investment for nutrition.
The African Leaders for Nutrition will champion a Nutrition Accountability Scorecard, which is country-owned and will focus on monitoring progress on country and regional level nutrition specific results. “There is no reason for a child to be unable to attain education achievements or have an economically productive life just because of poor nutrition,” said President Adesina.
“Madagascar has suffered the extreme consequences of climate change, which has resulted in recurrent drought and frequent El Niño occurrences. Madagascar cannot meet the new challenge of chronic malnutrition alone without the support of its partners,” said François Rakotoarimanana, the country’s Minister of Finances and Budget.
The African Leaders for Nutrition Champions emphasized the need for better political leadership and a significant increase in improving nutrition outcomes on the continent. “The African Development Bank will work with the partners to further develop innovative financial instruments which are results-based and provide incentives to countries and the private sector to increase investments in nutrition,” said President Adesina.