Regional legislators and experts from UN agencies have called for strong collaboration between governments, private sector, civil society and legislature in fighting hunger and malnutrition so as “to reduce its bad impact on countries’ GDP.”
They were speaking during a two-day Eastern Africa Parliamentarian Dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security in Kigali.
The meeting, that ended yesterday, brought together lawmakers from eastern Africa and experts from both the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).
The legislators are from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan.
Tanimoune Mahamadou, a nutritionist at WFP, said a 2014 study on the cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA), provides an estimate on economic losses associated to child malnutrition in African countries.
Citing Uganda, Mahamadou said 15 per cent of child mortality and 7 per cent of school repetition is associated with malnutrition, while 33.4 per cent of adults suffered from the same issue through their childhood, all which, among others, cost UShs1.9 trillion to GDP, which is 5.6 per cent.
The nutrition expert also says the study revealed that Ethiopia loses ETP40 billions (11.5 per cent) of GDP as 24 per cent of child mortality while 4 per cent of school repetition are associated with stunting.
Mahamadou said, overall in Africa, the annual cost associated with malnourished children are estimated at 1.9 per cent to 16.5 per cent of GDP.
“The study tells us that eight to 44 per cent of all child mortality is associated with under-nutrition in Africa; between one to 18 per cent of repetition in schools are associated with stunting,” he said, adding that eliminating hunger is key to inclusive development because if we invest $1 in nutrition, it yields $16 in returns.”
Angela Kimani, a nutrition officer at FAO sub-regional resilience team for East Africa, said there has been reduction in malnutrition but there are 36.5 million people in food security crisis compared to 30 million a year ago as measured by Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.
“We have to put people at the heart of agriculture to address food insecurity,” she said.
The food crisis is mainly due to adverse climatic conditions, a slow global economy and conflicts.
MPs speak out
Parliamentarians said there is need to harmonise the policies and promote cooperation, common market, enhancing agriculture in a well-coordinated way so as to suitably implement laws on agriculture and food security.
Speaking during the dialogue, Speaker Donatille Mukabalisa said there is a need to boost agriculture technologies to end poverty and hunger as agriculture is the milestone to the economy.
“In developing countries, we need right mechanisms, technologies as well as investments in addressing the issue of hunger. Smallholder farmers need to access to financial services, technical training so that they be able to make improved crop intensification, irrigation … there is a need to empower youth and women in agriculture since they are the ones dealing day-to-day with hunger in the families,” she said.
Parliamentarians said, with ensured access to sufficient food to all people at all times, decision makers need timely accurate information on effects of unexpected changes such as climate change, animal and plants pests and diseases, youth unemployment, conflicts, and refugees that can trigger food insecurity.
Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, the chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, said MPs play a critical role in ensuring the right legislation is put in place for the realisation of right to access adequate food and sustainable improvement in nutrition.
“MPs also monitor the implementation of related laws, policies, budget spending and the allocation of budgets so they impact on citizens,” Nyirarukundo said.
She said 16 per cent of Rwanda’s budget for 2017/18 fiscal year was allocated to agriculture to help achieve the target of food availability of 2,500 Kcal per capital per one day by 2022.