Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO, NEPAD Agency
There is sometimes pleasing news about the progress of our continent. Recently, for example, a report of the Malabo-Montpellier Panel was published as part of the Forum for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRF), which met in Abidjan. This report, entitled “Food: How can Africa build a future without hunger or malnutrition?” revels that many African countries have been able to drastically reduce malnutrition over the past 15 years. But what is stressed above all by the food security experts involved in this study is that these good results have been achieved through strong political will in each of the states concerned.
Disparities remain large by country, but the report points out that the proportion of people suffering from hunger has declined overall from 28 to 20% in Africa between 1990 and 2015. However, the total number of people is increasing due to population growth which is indeed a multiplier of the problems of our countries (see previous articles).
According to the report, “some countries have made remarkable progress. Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda all reduced the number of people suffering from malnutrition and the number of children suffering from stunting by more than 50%. Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Togo have achieved reductions of more than 40%. “
Panel Co-Chair Joachim von Braun explains that “Governments are able to fight malnutrition when they put it first in their agenda and in their inter-ministerial implementation programs and in close collaboration with partners. Investment is needed for crisis prevention and the development of programs to build resilience to climate stress.” Several initiatives are highlighted in the Panel’s report because they have borne fruits in countries as varied as Angola, Senegal or Ghana.
In Angola, a multi-sectoral approach to reducing malnutrition and coordinating actions and programs at the level of the Ministry of Agriculture supported by the Ministry of Health has greatly contributed to the successful outcome of the National Food and Nutrition Security Strategy. In Senegal, a unit to fight malnutrition was set up in 2001, followed by the launch of the Nutrition Enhancement Program in 2002.
Finally, in Ghana, which has succeeded in halving the number of inhabitants affected by hunger, the authorities have decided to integrate the nutritional issue at all levels of government policy.
It should be remembered that malnutrition is not just hunger. Indeed the fact of eating poorly and not eating enough, has long lasting and profound consequences on the physical, but also mental development of children, and these consequences will always be there when these children become adults, especially intellectually. Secondly, there are obviously consequences of malnutrition that are part of public health. This question must therefore be taken very seriously by the rulers.
An example, contrary to what one might think, Africa is also threatened by obesity. Experts reminded us: “The consumption of low-cost, low-nutritional foods, as well as the reduction of physical activity in the middle class, increase the levels of obesity. The estimated prevalence of obesity among children is expected to reach 11% by 2025.
Finally, the report points out that despite these encouraging results, much remains to be done. "Significant challenges still need to be addressed. To achieve the goals set out in the African Union’s Declaration of Malabo and Agenda 2063, governments must learn from their past successes and redouble their efforts to address the triple scourge of hunger, malnutrition and obesity on the continent," said co-chairman of the Panel, Dr Ousmane Badiane. Climate change is of course a particularly important threat, but so is urbanisation, which is causing a lot of pressure on food producers.