Boitshepo Bibi Giyose, NEPAD
Investing in the future
Boitshepo Bibi Giyose, Food and Nutrition Security Advisor, NEPAD secretariat
We are living in very challenging times, times of several crises. It has been referred to as the "crises of the four 'F's": food, fuel, fertiliser and now, finance. When we look at these together, the challenge they bring is that they continue to push people over the poverty line; this means that more and more people are suffering and are going to be suffering in terms of food insecurity and malnutrition. But I believe this situation can be prevented.
When we talk about hunger and malnutrition, I can tell you just how many summits, meetings, conferences and consultations have taken place over the years. We started as far back as 1974 with the World Food Summit, where leaders and professionals - the experts - sought to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Now more than 30 years later we are still talking about preventing them. Is it because those that are affected are mostly poor people, who are often not seen, or heard?
Facing up to the evidence
Why do we as leaders, experts, professionals, service providers, not give sufficient attention to those whom we purport to be serving? I really think there's a bit of hypocrisy here and I honestly wish everyone could bring themselves to step back and ask the hard questions. What if we could experience a malnutrition-free, hunger-free world tomorrow, starting with our own immediate families?
The effect and the consequences of malnutrition have been documented, but you don't have to see them on paper; just go to any village in Africa, Latin America, or Asia and you will see hunger and poverty walking around. You will see people so unproductive, not because they don't want to be productive but because malnutrition has affected their physical and mental potential. They are not in a position to help themselves, and that is a very sad situation. It is sad to watch and observe and know that the children being born will never reach their full potential, because of malnutrition. This means that the development of communities, regions, nations, and continents is being hampered by something as preventable as malnutrition.
A right to survive...
The reason that more is not being done to prevent malnutrition is because there is not enough true commitment. Commitments are talked about in the form of declarations, resolutions, and the outcomes of meetings. But, when everybody returns to their normal lives, they forget the real client, the person who is affected by hunger and malnutrition. Excuses are given about competing priorities but everybody has to eat in order to survive, in order to produce, in order to contribute to some kind of social and economic development, to maintain their own individual health and development. The real priority is that of food.
Until individuals, leaders, countries, systems, organisations and agencies, truly commit to improving food and nutrition security, we will forever be singing the same old song. And it is becoming such a wornout record that, as a nutrition professional, I really get frustrated with hearing it. It should be everybody's business to deal with food and nutrition security. I speak to all sectors; they seem very convinced, but invariably they go back to business-as-usual. I have been told on numerous occasions that nutrition is difficult. I have to ask, what is so difficult about it? My response is: you have to coordinate better, organise yourselves better, you have to be more comprehensive and cohesive in strategic planning and implementation.
...to be part of a better world
My message for political leaders in 2009 is: if you do not invest in nutrition today, so much is going to be lost and it will be hard to catch up. Most of the consequences of malnutrition, even by the time a child is two-years-old, are irreversible. And that is why most of the developing world is suffering like it is. The bottom line for the most part is that nutrition has not been addressed. When you address nutrition, you invest in food security. Then you look forward to a better tomorrow, not only for individuals but for the economic development of our society.
Food and nutrition issues are addressed through CAADP - the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme of NEPAD, which aims to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by boosting agricultural productivity across Africa.
Date published: January 2009
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