Making diversity nutrition in Africa’s strength
What a delightful moment when you manage to achieve your goal. Such was the excitement of the organisers of the 2016 ANLP symposium, held on 13th March 2016 at Elgro River Lodge in South Africa. Diversity is Strength: How can the ANLP 2016 Participants Advance the Nutrition Agenda was the topic of discussion among 26 participants from 13 African countries. The subject was a timely considering that the SUN Movement countries are to meet in Rio, Brazil in August this year to take stock of the progress made after the London 2013 Nutrition for Growth Summit. And to commit to continued prioritization of nutrition on the development agenda that should lead to increased domestic resources being allocated to nutrition as we strive towards achieving the World Health Assembly Nutrition Targets by 2025.
Chantel Witten, Maryse Uwaneza, Anteneh Girma and Linda Sizibe were the speakers of the day and Jane Badham set the scene. Africa now suffers from a quadruple burden of disease, with a shift from undernutrition and infectious diseases to overnutrition and non-communicable disease. The challenges these pose for nutrition are great.
Diversity was discussed and, it is clear that nutrition itself is diverse (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs). But alone it cannot solve the enormity of the challenges. We need to link with and engage diverse players and not act alone.
Last year we witnessed the United Nations General Assembly endorse the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD’s), a global response to some of the world greatest challenges, including malnutrition. The importance of the first 1000 days remains an important focus area, but a lot need to be done beyond these critical years. If we are to succeed in improving the global nutritional status, we must engage the private sector, media, industry, agriculture and social development, among others. A global, regional and national multi-sectorial response is going to be central in the fight against malnutrition in all its forms.
As ANLP 2016 participants and the greater ANLP Alumni, we are challenged to stand up, speak out and lead from where we are if we want to improve the lives of Africa’s people. There is much to be done. We must lead the way. The time is NOW.
- Do not ignore the fact that diversity and culture are equally important elements in addressing malnutrition in Africa.
- Be encouraged to see culture as a positive element in tackling malnutrition and use it as a vehicle for driving the desired change.
- Forge networks within countries and across the continent.
- Use your expertise to raise the voice loud enough to make sure that nutrition gets adequate attention.
The take home message for the symposium: For nutrition interventions to succeed and be taken to scale, we must think and act outside our silos, always remembering to think global but act local.