Reducing hidden-hunger in Africa – Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security

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Accra - During the commemoration of the 7th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security which took place in Accra, Ghana, Kefilwe Moalosi, the NEPAD Agency’s Nutrition Programme Officer, called for more action to reduce hidden hunger and eliminate hunger in Africa through investing in food based dietary diversity approaches such as biofortification.

Micronutrient malnutrition, or hidden hunger, is caused by chronic or prolonged lack of essential minerals or vitamins required for proper child growth or development.

Affecting more than 2 billion individuals, or one in three people, globally, hidden hunger is a form of undernutrition that occurs when intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals (such as zinc, iodine, and iron) are too low to sustain good health and development. Prolonged hidden hunger has been known to lead to mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and even death. In addition to affecting human health, hidden hunger can curtail socioeconomic development, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Convened under the theme Investing in Food Systems for Improving Child Nutrition: Key to Africa’s Renaissance, this year’s Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security aimed at motivating commitments by decision and policy makers and all relevant actors to deliberately prioritise investment in nutrition in development planning, resource allocations and programme implementation.

During his keynote address on the last day of the event, Ghanaian Minister of State, Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah pointed out that malnourished children lead to malnourished nations. The effects of hidden hunger on child health can be dire, especially within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, resulting in serious physical and cognitive challenges.

Moalosi elucidated the work that the NEPAD Agency has been doing since 2011 in mainstreaming nutrition and the uptake of biofortification. She explained that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth (for example through biofortified seeds), rather than through manual means during processing of the crops. It presents a means through which large populations may be reached where supplementation and conventional fortification activities may be difficult to implement or restricted.

The NEPAD Agency’s Food Security and Nutrition programme launched the Nutrition Scorecard for Africa from the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, which serves as a useful barometer of in-roads and progress made by individual countries to effectively deal with the problem of undernutrition.

During a Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) side-event, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan said that, “Previously the emphasis by governments and even consumers had been on ‘filling stomachs’ but now, awareness has been created on the importance of nutrition - the consumption of nutritious and quality food.”

“Developing biofortified crops can only happen through science, and hence African leaders must invest more in agricultural research. Biofortification needs to be pursued but no one sector can do it alone as it requires multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches,” Dr Alhassan added.

Through the Malabo Declaration to accelerate agricultural growth and transformation, African leaders committed to ending hunger and reducing stunting to ten percent by 2025, since malnutrition continues to hamper development efforts across the continent.  Therefore, a key target of the regional advocacy on reducing hidden-hunger is the inclusion of biofortified crops as prioritised value chains in the post-Malabo Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme’s (CAADP) national and regional investment plans.

The main purpose of the Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security is to serve as a platform for rallying political and financial commitments at all levels to address contemporary challenges of food and nutrition insecurity in Africa. The event provides a platform at national, regional and continental levels to share experiences, knowledge and mutual learning, as well as measure progress in assuring food and nutrition security for all by governments and multi-stakeholder partners.

Source: NEPAD Agency