Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Health: African First Ladies sign Declaration to end maternal and child malnutrition

Source: GAIN

As part of the opening of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, H.E. Ida Odinga (photo), wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya, today convened the First Ladies of Africa Roundtable, to champion effective solutions to end women and children malnutrition. The event highlighted the First Ladies' commitment to raising awareness of the growing burden of malnutrition globally.

The invitation-only event was hosted by Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Jay Naidoo, Chairperson of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Moderated by John Defterios, award-winning anchor, correspondent and special series producer for CNN, the roundtable convened the First Ladies of Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Cote d'Ivoire.

"Quite simply, it is our moral obligation to tackle the dire situation of undernutrition on this planet. Real, concerted actions and efforts to reduce undernutrition for women and children are critical if we are going to successfully achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The declaration that was signed today is therefore most meaningful to us, in its open commitment to build this strong global movement," said Jay Naidoo, Chairperson, GAIN.

Undernutrition is one of the world's most serious, but least addressed, problems. An estimated 200 million children suffer from chronic undernutrition worldwide. Malnutrition kills an estimated 3.5 million children annually, and contributes to more than a third of all deaths in children under the age of five. Sixty percent of the world's chronically hungry are women.

"Malnutrition destroys young bodies and minds, harms education and work performance later in life, and ultimately damages communities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa. We know the solutions to prevent this cycle, and it is urgent that we, as women and as leaders, set our goals in action," said Mrs. Odinga.

While undernutrition is a critical human development issue across the globe, it is especially prevalent in Africa, where one in four people suffer from malnutrition. In Africa, twenty-five percent of children are undernourished and forty percent are stunted. Fifty three percent of pregnant women in Africa are anemic – a public health problem in itself. Malnutrition links directly to poverty, child mortality, maternal health, AIDS and many other infectious diseases. Furthermore, it limits the achievement of education and gender equality.

As part of the roundtable, the African First Ladies signed a declaration committing themselves to put nutrition at the heart of development. The declaration contains six key goals:

  1. To work closely with Heads of State, ministries of health, the private sector, international organizations and various leaders to champion awareness about improving nutrition.
  2. To urge African leaders to improve food and nutrition security within the context of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), quickly and efficiently.
  3. To personally support the annual Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day on October 30th.
  4. To mobilize their respective societies and support advocacy efforts in their individual countries, involving grassroots stakeholders, nutritionists, healthcare experts, farmers and more.
  5. To call upon world leaders to put improved nutrition at the heart of development, via greater investment and more priority within donor budgets to stimulate and support national actions against malnutrition.
  6. To invite peers from other regions to join this campaign.
"The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to host the Africa First Ladies roundtable convened by Mrs. Odinga," said Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin. "The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to creating a green revolution in Africa that focuses on eliminating hunger and assuring that all Africans, particularly vulnerable women and children, have access to a range of crops and products that can provide them with a complete and nutritious diet. As the agricultural sector continues to grow and strengthen in Africa, we stand with the First Ladies of Africa in encouraging all leaders to prioritize nutrition."

GAIN realizes that ensuring adequate nutrition for those in need will require a multi-stakeholder engagement and the organization supports the global effort to Scale Up Nutrition (SUN), with a goal to reduce hunger and undernutrition and contribute to the realization of all the MDGs. Along with more than 100 entities from national governments, the United Nations system, civil society organizations, development agencies, academia and the private sector, GAIN endorses the SUN Framework and SUN Road Map.

On Tuesday, September 21st, GAIN will also participate in the "1000 Days to Improve Child Nutrition" event, co-hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, and Micheal Martin T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, on the margins of the Millennium Development Goals Summit. The goal of the event is to focus international attention on the problem of child undernutrition, focused on the 1,000 day window of opportunity (the period beginning with a woman's pregnancy and continuing until a child is 2 years old).

About GAIN

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. GAIN is a Swiss foundation that mobilizes public-private partnerships and provides financial and technical support to deliver foods to those people most at risk of malnutrition. GAIN's innovative partnerships in more than 25 countries are reaching over 200 million people. Its portfolio is growing and its target is to reach one billion people with innovative nutritious foods. GAIN is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Offices in Beijing, Cairo, Johannesburg, and New Delhi support programs where they are needed most.