When African heads of state met to discuss food and nutrition security at the African Union Summit in Kampala in 2010, the theme for the occasion was vivid and with resonance: “Africa must feed itself and no child should go to bed hungry: Reduce child stunting by 50 percent in the next five years and beyond”
It was on the basis of this that the leaders set aside October 30, as the Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security, an occasion marked every year, with assessments and plans on how best to increase food security in Africa. The initiative for the Day was driven by the late President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika, who lamented that food and nutrition security remained low on development agendas and consequently is poorly funded.
Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security, commemorated on the last day of October every year, is aimed at creating a platform in which food and nutrition security stakeholders can discuss solutions and make recommendations on food security issues in Africa, as well as strengthen momentum towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Nutrition experts marked this years’ Day with renewed efforts to tackle malnutrition and under-development in Africa, and called on the need for policies which will enable the African continent to feed itself. The main outcome of the meeting was to get political commitment and adoption of food and nutrition security priorities based on continental, regional and national frameworks.
“The leadership of the African Union has resolved to move towards implementing the already numerous recommendations ranging from those of Abuja Summit 2006, the Kampala Side Event on Food and Nutrition Security and recent global fora that outlined a set of actions and interventions for mitigating chronic and transitory food insecurity crises” said Mrs. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture
The meeting also focused on food and nutrition security issues facing the continent such as Stunting, Malnutrition and the first “1000” days. This refers a reduced growth rate in human development. It is a primary manifestation of malnutrition in early childhood, including malnutrition during fetal development brought on by the malnourished mother in the first 1000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and the first twenty-four months of the child’s life.
“We need to shine a spotlight on nutrition, and to target those windows of opportunity such as the first 1000 Days from conception to the first two years of life as this provides the biggest impact on saving lives and improving lifelong cognitive and physical capacity and enhanced productive capacity in adulthood” said Dr, Mayaki, NEPAD Agency CEO. The most recent UNICEF statistics indicate that 54 million children under five years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from chronic malnutrition and that 20 percent of those in that age group weigh too little for their age
The same sentiments were shared by Haile Gebreselasie, UN Goodwill Ambassador and Ethiopian Marathon champion during this year’s event “ As a father and as a person in the public eye, I feel it is my duty to speak up for children. Children are a key to Africa’s success and they must grow up healthy. But for this to happen, they must be given the right nutritious food at the right time” he said.
“Agriculture in its broad sense - including livestock, fisheries and forestry - is key to economic diversification in Africa, which implies a far more extensive role for agriculture than the provision of raw materials and food stuffs. There is a clear need to expand agriculture to involve smallholders in the food system and create earning opportunities particularly within Sub-Saharan Africa” David Nabarro, UN Coordinator of the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis
© UN Photo
The commemoration ended with leaders, food and nutrition security experts and stakeholders all encouraging member states to embrace the day and fully utilize it for improved food and nutrition security.