By Asmau Ahmad
The recently concluded Global Nutrition Summit 2017 gathered an impressive array of governments, international agencies, foundations, civil society organizations and businesses to Milan, Italy. It was convened with the objective of taking stock of nutrition commitments made to date, celebrating progress toward global goals on nutrition, and announcing additional commitments to accelerate the global response to malnutrition in all its forms.
The summit drew a strong African contingent including world leaders Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and Graca Machel, Founder of the Graca Machel Trust; high-level representatives of the governments of Tanzania, Niger, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Zambia and business leaders such as Aliko Dangote, Founder of the Aliko Dangote Foundation and Chairman of the Dangote Group, Africa’s largest home-grown conglomerate. They joined international stakeholders including the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID), the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Coalition on Advocacy for Nutrition.
The Global Summit highlighted the cost of malnutrition to both societies and individuals. The Global Nutrition Report 2017 launched at the Summit, showed that despite progress, 155 million children globally are stunted and the world is off track on meeting internationally agreed nutrition targets. Compounding the issue, global financing to tackle malnutrition has been alarmingly low. Donors spend only about 0.5 percent of overseas aid on nutrition, and countries allocate between one and two percent of their health budgets to the issue.
The major highlight of the summit was the unprecedented pledge by the Dangote Foundation to invest US$100 Million over five years to tackle malnutrition in the worst-affected parts of Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s high malnutrition rate is undermining progress towards improving child health and survival and putting the brakes on economic development,” said Zouera Youssoufou, Managing Director and CEO of the Aliko Dangote Foundation. “By investing in nutrition, we aim to directly improve the lives of Nigerian families and to empower our citizens to reach their full potential.”
African governments also announced new commitments: Ethiopia, through its National Nutrition Program, pledged to reduce the prevalence of stunted; underweight and wasted children under five. Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Zambia, also made commitments to expand domestic programmes to improve nutrition for mothers and children. In total, the Summit succeeded in galvanizing US3.4 billion according to the organizations.