Urgent action needed to tackle the double burden of malnutrition and to achieve Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals in Africa
Under nutrition, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases are leading to catastrophic costs to individuals, to communities and to national healthcare systems in Africa. Every year, it is estimated that 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare. According to experts attending a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, nutritional status, a critical component of a person’s health and wellbeing, must be recognized as a necessary building block towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“Not only do current figures mean we are unlikely to achieve the six global nutrition targets for 2025 but also the more ambitious target of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030, which is integral to the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all, at all ages,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. She added that “an exclusive focus of our energies – and finances – on curative services and related medical equipment, supplies and medicines to treat diseases that often are rooted in malnutrition will limit our chances of achieving health and wellbeing for all.”
In 2016, an estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted and 14 million suffered from wasting – a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000. In a 2014 report on Africa it was estimated that 5 percent of males and 15 percent of females over 18 years of age were obese. The same report showed that 8 percent of adults above 25 years of age had diabetes and that is expected to double by 2035, while hypertension affected 46 percent.
Poverty, hunger and disease are the main drivers of malnutrition in the African region and are linked with poor living conditions, lack of education, insecure livelihoods, and lack of access to basic services including health care and healthy, safe, nutritious foods.
“The burden of undernutrition still persists across the African region, and today its impacts are being felt alongside overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases in many poor households,” said Dr Felicitas Zawaira, Director of the Family and Reproductive Health Cluster at the WHO Regional Office. “In recent years, we’ve rightly focused many of our energies on addressing hunger, but what we must recognize is that ending hunger does not guarantee improved nutrition”, she added.
Obesity and diet-related NCDs are largely the result of lifestyles characterized by limited physical activity and the consumption of unhealthy diets consisting of highly processed foods that are rich in calories, sugars, fats, salt and additives, but low in essential nutrients.
When micronutrient deficiencies are taken into account, Africa is in fact experiencing a triple burden of malnutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies, which often pass unnoticed, are responsible for reduced bodily resilience and resistance to infections. They compromise early child development, negatively affect reproductive health and reduce work rate capacity. It is estimated that almost 50 percent of pregnant women in Africa suffer from anaemia which increases death risk for themselves as well as their unborn babies as well as incidences of low birth weight.
According to Dr Zawaira, “improving nutrition sustainably requires consideration of how to produce, deliver, and ensure access to healthy diets and essential nutrients, not just greater quantities of food” which is the vision of the Rome Declaration and Framework of Action endorsed by Ministers of Agriculture and Health at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in 2014.
“Tackling all forms of malnutrition for the achievement of UHC and the health-related SDGs requires remedial actions from multiple sectors and on many fronts,” Dr Zawaira added. These actions, she explained, include policies and community action to control the marketing and consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages (including breast milk substitutes); setting nutrition standards and dietary goals; nutrition labelling of processed foods; policies to promote consumption of healthy foods through taxation and subsidies; initiatives to promote consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and increased physical activity; social marketing campaigns and multi-component community-based interventions, among others .
Sector-specific recommendations by participants include:
The Experts warned that unless countries in Africa start enacting measures to tackle the double burden of nutrition affecting the continent, the road towards UHC will be marred with obstacles as will the aspiration to achieve health and wellbeing for all by 2030.
Published on WHO on April 17, 2018
By Ana Maria Lebada
On World Water Day, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) launched the ‘International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development’ (2018-2028). Promoting the integrated management of water resources, the Decade aims to create a platform for sharing good practices, advocacy, networking and partnership-building at all levels. It will support achievement of the water-related aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Organized by the UNGA President, the high-level launch event took place on 22 March 2018 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. World Water Day is celebrated annually on 22 March.
Delivering remarks on behalf of the UNGA President, Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan and UNGA Vice President, noted the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water, and underscored the centrality of water to the achievement of all the SDGs. He said the Decade of Action needs to be defined by: water and sanitation as priorities for the budgets and policies of national governments; a surge of cooperation on water management and disaster risk reduction (DRR) between different stakeholders, including the UN, governments, international financial institutions, businesses and civil society; and increased water-related investments and innovations.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said with demand for freshwater projected to grow by more than 40% by 2050 and climate change having a growing impact, water scarcity is “an enormous concern.” He added that, by 2050, at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent. He further noted that: 40% of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity; 80% of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment; and more than 90% of disasters are water-related. More than two billion people lack access to safe water and more than 4.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation services.
The Secretary-General presented the Action Plan of the Decade for Action, which has three objectives: transforming the current silo-based approach to water supply, sanitation, water management and DRR into an integrated one to better tackle water stress, combat climate change, and enhance resilience; aligning existing water and sanitation programmes and projects with the 2030 Agenda; and generating the political will for strengthened cooperation and partnerships.
Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan and Initiator of the Decade for Action, presented the report titled, ‘Making Every Drop Count: An agenda on Water Action’ on behalf of the members of the High-Level Panel on Water. Autumn Peltier, civil society representative, explained why water is sacred and noted that water should be protected by human rights.
During the ensuing plenary, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan said, in the future, water will possibly be the key element in the relations between states and communities. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, for the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), stressed the need for investment in developing infrastructure for the effective management and efficient use of water. He also called for capacity building support for data collection. The Minister of Water of Ethiopia emphasized the need for international support and partnerships to address the gap in access to clean water and sanitation. The Minister of Water and Irrigation of Jordan called for advancing effective management of shared water resources.
Guyana, for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called for increasing official development assistance (ODA), awareness, and cooperation on water issues at all levels. Supported by Palau for the Small-island Developing States (P-SIDS), she emphasized the centrality of SDG 13 on climate action to achieving SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. Egypt, for the Group of the 77 and China (G-77/ China), called for developed countries to increase their investments in water and sanitation projects in developing countries. Paraguay, for Land-locked Developing Countries (LLDCs), said integrated approaches to water management are essential to achieving the Vienna Programme of Action for the LLDCs (VPoA) for the LLDCs.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced the inclusion of water-related issues in its humanitarian efforts. Israel highlighted the importance of developing innovative technologies, explaining that it solved the issue of water scarcity by making its agricultural system rely on treated waste-water. Peru and the Netherlands spoke about water’s importance to achieving SDG 16 on peace and security through creating a conducive environment for peace. He announced the planned launch of the ‘Valuing Water’ global coalition in collaboration with the World Bank, the UN, and other water stakeholders including youth and indigenous people, on the margins of this year’s High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF). Peru spoke about the development of indicators for the implementation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) water governance principles.
Germany said it would support the strengthening of UN-Water and the creation of a dedicated space for intergovernmental discussions on the implementation of water-related goals and targets within the UN. Japan highlighted the need for investment in DRR. Australia presented the Water for Women Fund which has invested US$110 million and partnered with civil society to address the gender aspects of water-related challenges. Switzerland called for greater emphasis on water within the UN.
During a panel on the ‘Contribution of the Water Decade to the implementation of water related SDGs,’ Ali Al-Ghezawi, Minister of Water and Irrigation of Jordan, emphasized that regional cooperation on water issues is especially important for LLDCs. Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of Netherlands, noted that UN’s approach to water is currently unorganized, and the Decade for Action should contribute to addressing this issue.
Danilo Türk, Chairman of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace and former President of the Republic of Slovenia, suggested that water specialists should be included in UN Peacekeeping operations to enable them to address the water-related aspects of civilian protection. Priscilla Achapka, Executive Director Women Environmental Programme, highlighted the need to integrate the gender-related aspects in water planning and management. Sadhguru, Founder of the Isha Foundation, stressed the need to make ecology a lucrative field for the vast number of people involved in it.
During a panel on the ‘Role of relevant stakeholders in mobilizing necessary resources for the implementation and follow-up of water related SDGs,’ Katalin Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary, said the importance of water should be accurately captured by the current efforts of reforming the UN development system. Mohamed Asim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, spoke about the involvement of private sector, through public-private partnerships, in an ambitious series of desalination projects that are essential for providing Maldives with drinking water.
Andries Nel, Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of South Africa, highlighted the need for strengthening the rural-urban linkage when it comes to water access and management, as well as for a citizens’ participatory approach to urban planning. Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, President of Women for Water Partnership, underscored the important role women play in water management and called for them to participate on an equal footing with men in water programs. She added that women’s experience with water resources will be essential for water programs’ success.
Published on IISD on March 27, 2018
🔎 Sustainable Development Goals; Food Waste; Zero Hunger
By STEFAN JUNGCURT PH.D.
Only one-quarter of the food wasted globally would be enough to end hunger. Reducing food waste by half, as called for by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 12.3, would not only contribute to more sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12), but also go a long way in achieving zero hunger (SDG 2) and climate action (SDG 13).
To raise awareness of these linkages and boost collaboration to address food waste, participants to the High-Level Event ‘Championing 12.3 as a Pathway to Zero Hunger’ called on the global community to renew its commitment towards zero tolerance for food loss and waste. Organized on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the event brought together high-level speakers, including the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to discuss measures and initiatives to advance the global agenda on reducing food waste.
FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva outlined the economic benefits of reducing food waste, noting that food loss also represents a loss of labor, water, energy, land and other inputs. He said that “investing in measures to prevent food loss and food waste also means making investments in pro-poor policies as it promotes sustainable food systems for a zero-hunger world.”
Coinciding with the event, FAO and Unilever, an international consumer goods company, announced a deepening of their strategic partnership to support countries in reducing food loss and waste. The partners have agreed to pursue interventions in five strategic areas, including digital innovation, land governance, resilience building for smallholder farmers, reducing food loss and food waste, and climate change in support of achieving the SDGs. Building on an existing initiative in Argentina, FAO and Unilever will work to scale up interventions globally, including joint awareness raising campaigns and actions to engage governments, civil society and the private sector. Unilever will also continue taking action towards achieving its internal commitment to halve food waste from its operations by 2025.
The High-level event was sponsored by FAO, IFAD, WFP, Rockefeller Foundation, The German G20 Presidency and Champions 12.3. Champions 12.3 is a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilizing action, and accelerating progress toward achieving SDG Target 12.3.
Food loss and food waste was also discussed at a recent ‘Food Tank Summit’ held on 13 September, in New York City, US. Organized by FoodTank, ReFED, Rockefeller Foundation and other partners, the event brought together food system leaders from business, nonprofit organizations, foundations and governments to discuss “how to stop food waste once and for all.” A recorded live stream of the event is available on the Food Tank website.
Published on IISD on September 26, 2017