3 January 2013

Africa: World Makes Progress in Hunger Reduction - Report

THE world has registered progress in reducing hunger over the past two decades.

The latest report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has revealed.

The FAO report titled: "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012" released last week, indicates that progress in reducing hunger during the past 20 years had been better than previously believed.

It also stated that given renewed efforts, it might be possible to reach the Millennium Development Goal hunger target at the global level by 2015.

MDG 1 requires countries to halve hunger by 2015.

Rwanda is on track to achieve MDG 1 having reduced people under extreme hunger from 36 per cent in 2000 to 16 per cent in 2012, according to the Minister of Agriculture Dr Agnes Kalibata.

However, the report noted that the number of people suffering from chronic undernourishment was still unacceptably high, and eradication of hunger remained a major global challenge.

In Rwanda, between January and November 2012, moderate malnutrition fell by half from 1.2 percent to 0.6 percent at community level, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Health's community health information system.

The rate of stunting among children under the age of five was 44 per cent in 2010 while the prevalence of underweight children had declined by roughly 30 percent, from 18 percent to 11 percent over the same period, Leopold Kazungu, in charge of Community Based Nutrition in the Ministry of Health told this paper, quoting the 2010 Demographic Health Survey (DHS).

He added that this percentage was still high although he hastened to add that various initiatives are being implemented to control malnutrition.

"The ministry together with other stakeholders established different programmes to deal with malnutrition in Rwanda," Kazungu said.

He cited the National Girinka campaign (one cow per family) program, one cup of milk per child programme and Akarima k'igikoni (kitchen gardens) which have all improved nutrition and a balanced diet among children and adults.

Schools from 14 pilot districts of the country now receive one litre of milk per pupil each week, and plans are underway to scale up this program to cover every school in Rwanda according to information from the ministry of health.

Kazungu added that parents, health workers and community health workers are all being sensitised on how to improve nutrition.

The health workers, he said, are trained to offer the same training to the community and parents who come for health services.

The FAO report also noted that economic growth was necessary but not sufficient to accelerate reduction of hunger and malnutrition.

This year's report also discussed the role of economic growth in reducing undernourishment.

It said sustainable agricultural growth was often effective in reaching the poor because most of the poor and hungry live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for a significant part of their livelihoods.

The report said, however, growth would not necessarily result in better nutrition for all.

"Policies and programmes that will ensure 'nutrition-sensitive' growth include supporting increased dietary diversity, improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and health services and educating consumers regarding adequate nutrition and child care practices," the report said.

The report adds, economic growth took time to reach the poor, and might not reach the poorest of the poor.

According to the report, economic growth was necessary but not sufficient to accelerate reduction of hunger and malnutrition.

"Therefore, social protection is crucial for eliminating hunger as rapidly as possible and finally, rapid progress in reducing hunger requires government action to provide key public goods and services within a governance system based on transparency, participation, accountability, rule of law and human rights," it added.

Copyright © 2013 The New Times. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.