High level advocacy for nutrition in Africa

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By Ibrahim Mayaki

Recognising the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, African governments and stakeholders have over the years been implementing several strategic interventions. Among the interventions are food fortification, dietary diversification, vitamin and mineral supplementation, public health interventions such as deworming and of late, biofortification.

As part of their efforts to promote Food and Nutrition Security for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), organised a one-day high level advocacy event the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in Cairo, Egypt. During the event, it was noted that increased efforts and support from governments and stakeholders to improve nutrition and food systems are still needed. ‘Embracing food-based approaches including biofortification in national and regional agriculture and nutrition policies, strategies, programmes and investment plans,’ was the theme of this event.

H.E Hon Kone Gognon, Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Agriculture opened the meeting and stressed that the theme for the meeting was pertinent, with a focus on ensuring food and nutrition security. He pointed out that biofortification was already flagged as crucial in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the FARA Executive Director, Dr Abdulrazak Ibrahim stated that FARA recognises the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, and highlighted FARA’s efforts, over the last years, in mainstreaming FNSSA within the National Agricultural and Innovation System (NAIS). This was echoed by Dr Rose Omari, from FARA’s Building Nutritious Food Basket project, who elucidated the fact that micronutrient deficiency and its consequences are not widely known, asthis is ‘hidden hunger.’ “Therefore,” Dr Omari said, “Enhancing micronutrients content of staple crops during production is a critical intervention.”

Ms Bibi Giyose, Senior Advisor on Nutrition, spoke on behalf of the NEPAD Agency’s CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki. She brought to the fore the fact that nutrition should not be viewed as a technical issue, as it also has political, structural and numerous other dimensions that dictate the need to find multi-sectorial solutions.

Prof Francis Zotor from the University of Health and Allied Sciences and African Nutrition Society, expressed a similar sentiment with a call to strengthen synergies in moving the nutrition agenda forward on the continent.

Present at the event were legislators from the following countries: Central African Republic; Coted’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

It was concluded that while hidden hunger is real, reversing it is also possible. Increasing micronutrient content of commonly consumed foods through biofortification, especially to improve nutritional status of low income households will go a long way in redressing hidden hunger. African Parliamentarians were called upon to follow up on declarations made by governments to ensure their implementation.