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Nutrition Advocate West Africa - Antonio Monteiro

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Uploaded on Jul 25, 2011

António Manuel Mascarenhas Gomes Monteiro aims to help combat childhood malnutrition in West Africa through his new role as Nutrition Advocate. The former President of Cape Verde will advocate directly with leaders of West African nations to encourage them to place nutrition at the heart of development strategies and advise on approaches to secure policy focus.

Each year around 600 000 children under five in the region die from causes related to malnutrition, as the condition contributes to 35 per cent of all the child deaths in the region.

"I am extremely happy to be joining this effort to bring home what this issue means to the future of children and our countries," said Mr. Monteiro. "Children who do not receive the right type of food and nourishment fall sick more often. When they survive, they can suffer from irreversible mental and physical impairment. Yet much more can be done at all levels to make sure this does not happen, and to head off food emergencies that involve thousands of personal tragedies."

Among the 15 countries in the world with the worst under five mortality statistics, 7 are in West Africa where one out of four children is underweight. Countries in the Sahel have also suffered cycles of acute deprivation due to drought and crop failure, exacerbating the issue.

According to Felicite Tchibindat, the Regional Nutrition Adviser for UNICEF, "Proven approaches and policies are not always a high priority for governments because of a lack of expertise and funding. But if we are to break a cycle of poverty, death and chronic emergency there has to be an improvement in the nourishment children receive from the moment they are born."

ECOWAS Governments have made great strides in improving nutrition levels in the region by implementing two important resolutions: the 2006 Food Fortification Resolution and the 2009 Nutrition Resolution. As a result of these commitments, some 180 million people in West Africa consume fortified cooking oil (vitamin A) and wheat flour (iron, folic acid, and zinc). In addition, Vitamin A supplementation reaches around 80 percent of children twice a year in the region.

But more still needs to be done to: prioritise nutrition as a building block of development in policy formulation; increase government spending; develop capacity; address common misconceptions such as food security alone will ensure adequate nutrition; and ensure that commitments made by governments are followed through.

"We need to better engage with national governments --working with civil society, private sector and NGOs-- to build more political commitment to support those policies and actions to make sure that all children, especially those most at risk of malnutrition, are able to live healthy and productive lives," said Kinday Samba, the World Food Programme Senior Nutrition Adviser for West Africa. "Mr. Monteiro is well positioned to help with this endeavour."

Mr. Monteiro is supported by the regionally-based Nutrition Working Group for West Africa which brings together expertise from UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and donors.

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