The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa, a body comprising of 47 health ministers from African countries meeting this week in Brazzaville, is expected to discuss ways to alleviate the plight of populations affected by malnutrition.
Basing their discussion on a document called ‘’Strategic plan to reduce the double burden of malnutrition in the African Region (2019–2025)”, which they have adopted, the WHO Africa Regional Committee said that it was deeply concerned that despite sustained efforts the prevalence of undernutrition remains high and that overweight and diet-related noncommunicable diseases are increasing in all age groups.
A report released jointly in February 2019 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Africa Office and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) showed that 237 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were suffering from chronic undernutrition.
Undernutrition in the early years of life increases the risk of noncommunicable diseases in later life, the WHO Regional Committee said, urging member states to develop and strengthen national policies, legislation and regulations, monitoring their implementation, and applying incentives to promote and protect healthy diets.
Progress to tackle all forms of malnutrition remains unacceptably slow, the Global Nutrition Report said.
Stunting, low weight and low birth weight are together responsible for 2.2 million deaths among children under five years worldwide and for 21% of disability-adjusted life years, according to ‘’Long-lasting Effects of Malnutrition’’, an article published in June 2011 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Despite the decrease in stunting prevalence in Africa, the number of stunted children has steadily increased from 50.6 million in 2000 to 58.7 million in 2017, the Global Nutrition Report revealed.
Therefore, the WHO Africa Regional Committee urges governments to integrate actions to control the double burden of malnutrition in national development plans, and strengthen nutrition-sensitive agriculture and trade policies.
Establish financing targets and increase sustainable domestic funding for nutrition, thus honouring the Malabo Declaration and high-level political commitment to end hunger, it said.
Brazzaville, capital of the oil-rich Republic of Congo, is the headquarters of the WHO Africa Regional Committee.