Transform political commitment to action to achieve nutrition targets in Africa, Nutrition Champion urges

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photo caption: King Letsie III of Lesotho speaks during the High-level Dialogue on Nutrition Financing held in Maseru, Kingdom of Lesotho;

King Letsie III of Lesotho has urged African leaders to translate commitments into action to meet regional and international development targets.

The monarch addressed a high-level meeting on financing nutrition hosted by the African Union from 23-24 March. He stressed the urgency for adequate financing to end hunger and malnutrition in all its forms as a prerequisite for achieving Africa Union Agenda 2063 objectives and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

King Letsie, who is an African Union Nutrition Champion and also serves as an African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) Champion, said: Failure to translate political commitment into action remains a primary reason for the low priority that food and nutrition interventions receive from national governments.  Therefore, generating country-level political commitment, and translating those commitments into action, backed by adequate financial and human resources, will be critical in accelerating the progress we make towards achieving the 2025 targets.”

The king commended the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) initiative for providing heads of state the opportunity to “demonstrate and offer high-level political leadership in their respective countries,” and for rolling out multi-sectoral nutrition programs coordinated directly by their offices.

“The African Leaders for Nutrition, which I am part of, is at the forefront of using the African year of nutrition declaration to create the necessary political momentum and legislative, policy, and budgetary mechanisms to address malnutrition in Africa.  The ALN is also working closely with the African Union Commission to drive the development of a multi-sectoral policy framework and a nutrition financing target that can unlock resources for nutrition programming,” he added.

Africa, the continent with the highest percentage of stunted children in the world, has struggled to make inroads into combatting malnutrition. Despite regional and national efforts to address malnutrition, almost 4 in 10 of the world’s stunted(link is external) children live in Africa, with the majority found in just 15 nations.

Studies show that for every $1 invested in nutrition, there is a $16 socioeconomic return(link is external), making investing in the nutrition of African people not only crucial to creating a healthy and productive society, but an economic imperative that should sit at the very center of Africa’s transformation agenda.

“Family photo” of participants during the High-level Dialogue on Nutrition Financing held in Maseru, Kingdom of Lesotho; 24 March 2023

The African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategic priority has made eliminating hunger and malnutrition one of its four key goals. The strategy sees food and agriculture as a business and wealth-creating endeavor.

“Under the strategy, the Bank is supporting countries to improve productivity while investing in viable climate-smart, tech-enabled SMEs owned by youth and women along priority agriculture and food value chains,” Dr. Martha Phiri Director, Human Capital Youth Skills and Development at the African Development Bank said.

“The food industry in Africa is projected to reach one trillion by 2030, and for countries that will position themselves well, this will create an opportunity for better nutrition, increased intra-Africa trade, jobs and wealth for youth and women, and increased fiscal revenues.”

The meeting culminated in a call to action for increased investments in nutrition across health; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); education; food; and social protection systems, as well as for better food systems and nutrition governance and accountability.

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