Akinwumi Adesina, the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), has expressed concern over the rising cases of stunted children caused by malnutrition in Africa.
Mr Adesina expresses concern at the African Leaders for Nutrition High-Level Dinner for Heads of State at Addisa Ababa.
The speech presented by AfDB president was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) by the bank's Communications and External Relations Department on Sunday.
He explained that Africa was the only continent where the number of stunted children had increased over the last two decades.
He said the stunted children in Africa had increased to 58.5 million in 2018, from 50.3 million at the turn of the century.
According to him, 39 per cent of the world's stunted children and 28 per cent of the world's wasted children are in Africa.
"They are prone to inhibited intellectual and physical growth, and sometimes even premature death. These are not just statistics. These are people. Our children.
"Like I have always said, stunted children in Africa today means stunted economies tomorrow. We know that a loss in adult height by just one per cent due to childhood stunting can lead to a 1.4 per cent loss in economic productivity.
"We cannot, and we will not, accept this. We must turn the tide. And to turn the tide, you need Leaders. And you, present here today, are the Leaders.
"In my culture, there is a saying elders can't be in the market place and observe a baby's neck slump over their mother's back.
"You, our Heads of State and other leaders present here today, are our elders. We are in a market place where the heads of babies are slumping. As elders, we can't let this happen.
"We need you, the elders, to turn the tide" he stated.
Mr Adesina said it was because of this development, the bank set up the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) where it brought together Heads of State, Finance Ministers and other eminent leaders.
He added that the aim of bringing these leaders together was to raise awareness, ensure accountability, and reinforce investment by African governments to end malnutrition among children.
According to him, a lot has been achieved since it kicked off at the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, in February 2019.
"We inaugurated the Continental Nutrition Accountability Scorecard at the African Union Summit in February 2019. We provided Heads of State with a snapshot of progress and areas where action is needed to meet the agreed nutrition goals.
"And Data which enables us to maintain the good, and improve where we can do better. As the late Kofi Annan once said 'If you can't see it, you can't solve it.'
"The bank will continue to work with all of you to design and implement investments to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms, and promote safe, affordable, accessible and healthier diets.
"That is why the AfDB also inaugurated the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) to help scale up Africa's agricultural productivity by delivering high yielding and nutritious seed varieties such as water efficient maize, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and high iron beans" he added.