His Majesty King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho made a commitment to mobilize and engage with African Heads of State and Finance Ministers to rally behind the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative in the upcoming African Union Summit in January 2019.
The announcement follows a joint visit of African Development Bank Director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development, Oley Dibba-Wadda and African Union Commission Head of Health Nutrition and Population, Department of Social Affairs, Margaret Agama-Anyetei to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
"Our joint efforts with the African Union Nutrition Champion, His Majesty King Letsie, reinforces our efforts within the African Development Bank through the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative to advance nutrition in Africa and to build and protect Africa's grey matter infrastructure," said Director Oley Dibba-Wadda.
The African Leaders for Nutrition is a high-level political movement championed by the African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina and former President John Kufuor of Ghana with the goal of strengthening political will that addresses the complex root causes, and encouraging specific policy and financial commitments to end the burden of malnutrition.
New data reports Africa recording the least progress towards reducing stunting while most regions of the world registered surmountable progress between 2012 and 2017. Without increased efforts, there is a risk of falling far short of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal target of hunger eradication by 2030.
Approximately 59 million children under the age of five in Africa are stunted, the impact of which are long lasting, irreversible and affect the 'grey matter infrastructure', and physical development of children, particularly in the first 1000 days of a child's life - from conception to 24 months of age. According to the Cost of Hunger for Africa studies, economic losses attributed to child undernutrition ranges from 1.9% to 16.5% across different countries in Africa. This is impeding Africa's economic growth and social development.
African Heads of State demonstrated strong political will by endorsing the African Leaders of Nutrition initiative at the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union during the 30th African Union Summit in January 2018. The endorsement was an unprecedented commitment that has the potential to translate commitments into improved nutrition.
"The endorsement not only reaffirmed African Union's commitment to end hunger and childhood stunting in Africa by 2025, it also acknowledges His Majesty King Letsie III as an African Union Nutrition Champion that the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative needs to work and support," said Agama-Anyetei. She described the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative as stimuli for policy change and action for nutrition in Africa.
The African Development Bank discussed with King Letsie III, the African Leaders for Nutrition Champion Engagement Plan and agreed on areas of collaboration and key strategic opportunities to engage King Letsie III towards the Global Nutrition Summit, which will be hosted by Japan in 2020.
"This is great opportunity to strengthen dialogue among African Leaders about nutrition accountability and investment, a conversation that is usually silent but equally important to elevate and showcase nutrition successes in Africa," said Director Oley Dibba-Wadda. This a moment in history to spur and build a political movement and leadership to advance nutrition further.