Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, yesterday unveiled an initiative to combat malnutrition in Africa at the World Economic Forum which just ended in Abuja.
The initiative entails drawing technical and financial support from global food and nutrition agencies, research institutions and donors and will see the injection of $50 million by Nigeria’s leading industrial and agricultural group, Dangote, into the project.
Others, who have indicated interest in the project, aimed at eliminating malnutrition, poverty and agricultural losses by farmers around the continent, are the United Nations International Children Fund, UNICEF, and World Food Programme, WFP.
Others are United States Agency for International Aid, USAID, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, DfID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Harvestplus, Global Action for Improved Nutrition, GAIN, and Syngenta.
According to Adesina, the initiative known as “Transformative Partnership for High-Energy Nutritious Foods, would see to a high level multifaceted effort aimed at arresting the scourge of malnutrition and hunger in Africa.
Giving a grim statistics of hungry and malnourished people around the world, the minister lamented that nearly 850 million of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, are hungry.
Adesina pointed out that malnutrition is the cause of 45% of deaths in children under five, taking the lives of about 3.1 million children each year at a time global wealth in 2013 reached a new all time high of $241 trillion, up 68% within the past ten years.
“In Africa, malnutrition, especially the lack of essential minerals and vitamins poses major challenges in most countries.
“It is estimated that 12 Africans die every minute as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Almost 240 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not eat well enough for their health and well-being.
“Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world afflicting almost one in four people. Eighty percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 14 countries, of which eight are here in Africa. This is not a pretty picture at all,” Adesina said.
In a bid to reverse the ugly trend, the minister said effort was being made to transform agriculture from a mere development programme to a money-making business.