News out late last year on the state of global hunger provided troubling updates on much of Africa.
Despite progress throughout the continent over the last decade, the 2017 issue of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), which measures progress and failures in the global fight against hunger, found that six countries in Africa were rated as having alarming or extremely alarming hunger situations. The only non-African country in this group was Yemen.
This is disheartening because Africa is also the only region in the world where malnutrition is on the rise. Africa is home to 22 out of 34 countries with the most children suffering from malnutrition, and governments are losing up to 16.5 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) annually as a result of poor nutrition.
As a nutritionist, I cannot look the other way while women and children are dying of poor nutrition on our watch. And I believe that despite this grim portrait, we can end hunger and malnutrition. To do this, however, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach: we need civil society to be a better watchdog, advocate and incubator for solutions.
A key challenge in addressing the issue of poor nutrition is that it lacks a clear institutional home in many governments. There is no country that has a “Ministry of Nutrition”, and so ministries of agriculture or health are allocated funds to help reduce hunger and malnutrition among vulnerable populations. And as a result, those funds are harder to keep track of.
That’s where civil society and activists come in. To serve their watchdog function, they need to hold institutions and governments accountable for national investment in these sectors.
They must make sure that activities that can address hunger and malnutrition are prioritised and sufficiently funded – and that those funds are monitored and their results fully accounted for.
To end hunger and malnutrition in Africa, we must put money where we have the best returns on investment.