King rolls sleeves against hunger

King rolls sleeves against hunger

MASERU – KING Letsie III has rolled his sleeves up against hunger following his appointment as FAO’s Special Ambassador for Nutrition last December.
In his end-of-the-year message to the nation the King said “it is our responsibility to secure food, for our families and the nation at large”.
The King appealed to the research department of the Ministry of Agriculture to do its utmost to find means of securing food despite the climate change that makes our harvests unpredictable.
The King had just attended the high-level International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition a few days earlier when he made this clarion call.
The symposium was held to explore country-level challenges and successes in the reshaping of food production, processing, marketing and retail systems.

It was at this forum where malnutrition – including obesity and micro nutrient deficiencies – was said to impair the lives of billions of individuals and can trap generations in a vicious cycle of poverty.

The King said he was aware that nutrition is now firmly on the global agenda, also noting that in Africa just a few years ago, “nutrition was not a priority for discussion, let alone investment”.
“Let us all remember the positive correlation between nutrition and the socio-economic development of nations. It is well fed and well-nourished individuals that can drive the economic development agendas of their countries,” he said.

Two years earlier the King had been appointed as the African Union’s Champion for Nutrition after the continental bloc observed that he was playing an active role in promoting better diets.
The King promised world nations that “through my ambassadorship I can contribute to the promotion of better nutrition and food security through the world”.
He emphasised that it is high time that “we do appropriate research on the traditional foods and promote them more and better within our countries”.

“We need to expose and elevate the importance of traditional foods and their nutritional value so that we can grow locally and eat more of them for the benefit of our health and society in general.”
He also promised to “make contact with many people, particularly policy makers, not only in the health and agriculture sectors because nutrition is a multi-sectoral issue which needs a multi-sectoral approach”.

He said while other problems afflict the African continent and the world are declining, malnutrition is rising.
“I’m hoping by the end of the decade we will see malnutrition in all its forms declining in both the developing world and the developed world,” the King said.
“I hope we can follow up on the commitments that we make and we have made with tangible actions and with appropriate policies in our different countries to make sure that happens,” he said.
During his visit to AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat in August last year, King Letsie III called on African leaders to invest in nutrition in order to address the chronic hunger and malnutrition challenges in the continent.

He bemoaned the fact that Africa is the only region in the world where the number of stunted children had increased over the past 20 years.
“Ending malnutrition and giving children the best start in life requires more integration and sustainable investment from different sectors of our society.”
The King reiterated his commitment and determination to continue advocating adequate investment for the nutrition sector in Africa.

Africa has adopted the African Task Force on Food and Nutrition Development and the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) under the NEPAD initiative.
African states committed themselves to earmark 10 percent of their respective national budgets to agriculture.

The Africa Renewed Initiative for Stunting Elimination (ARISE) is advocating putting nutrition high on the continent’s development agenda.
King Letsie III supports the AU Commission’s initiative to address nutrition in areas of conflict and the Commission’s “Sustainable School Food and Nutrition Initiative” in order to scale up continental school feeding programmes in partnership with FAO, as well as assist with humanitarian needs.

Earlier last year King Letsie III, launched a Zero Hunger Strategic Review Report at a ceremony held in Maseru.
This review aims to define the food and nutrition situation in Lesotho, consolidate progress that has thus far been made by national food and nutrition policies and programmes, identify gaps in the response, and propose priority actions required to accelerate the target of no hunger in Lesotho by 2030.

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations (UN) system in Lesotho, UN Resident Coordinator, Salvator Ninyonzima, said the event marks an important milestone in Lesotho’s journey towards reaching the goal of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
He said the journey began in July 2017 when the Government of Lesotho and its partners, with the support of the UN family embarked on the important task of translating the global Zero Hunger Challenge for the Lesotho Context.

The number of food insecure people in the SADC, including Lesotho will increase by 13 percent, to 29 million people for the years 2018/2019, according to the ‘State of Food and Nutrition Insecurity’ report compiled from the 2018 vulnerability assessment and analysis of 11 SADC member states.

The report says increasing regional food insecure population reverses the improvement seen in 2017/2018 when the number fell to 27 million from the 38million in 2016/2017.
“Over the past ten years, the regional food insecure population has remained above 22.7 percent,” Lesotho’s Disaster Management Authority (DMA) CEO Haretsebe Mahosi said last week.
He said with increased climate-induced shocks, there needs to be urgent action and sustained resilience building, or the food insecure population is likely to grow.

Mahosi stated that the SADC region is off-track in reducing childhood stunting by 40 percent which is the World Health Assembly target by 2025.
The proportion of stunted children is increasing in Angola, Botswana, DRC, Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles and South Africa.
However, the DRC, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zambia have a high prevalence of stunting of above 40 percent.
Stunted children are more likely to fall ill and develop poor cognitive skills and learning.

“Their labour productivity, employment potential, and the socialization are also affected later in life,” Mahosi said.
At a regional meeting held last week in Maseru, representatives of the Member States and development partners said it is important to focus on sustainable strategies that address chronic food and nutrition insecurity which has plagued the region.

The report stipulates that there is a need to employ new ways of working to address food and nutrition insecurity because it is a threat to the region.
Mahosi further said climate change is the primary driver of food and nutrition insecurity because Southern Africa is prone to climate change and variability, which adversely affects the food security and livelihood of the population.

“Between 2014 and 2016, the region suffered the worst drought in 35 years caused by the El Nino phenomenon. Climate change continues to manifest as prolonged drought, floods and cyclones,” he said.

In addition, the region’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture has also led to volatile output levels from one year to the next.
The report says only seven percent of the arable land in the region is irrigated, yet 70 percent of the population relies on agriculture for a living.
The first half of the 2017/2018 agricultural season was affected by an extended dry spell from late December 2017 to late January 2018 in central parts of the region, causing a significant negative impact on early-planted crops.

The report also notes that global models run by international climate forecasting institutions predict an El Nino phenomenon during the 2018/2019 season.
El Nino has historically been associated with the more frequent occurrence of below average rainfall in central and southern parts of the region, while the northern-eastern parts of the region have historically experienced a more frequent occurrence of above average rainfall during El Nino years.

The report advises that food and nutrition insecurity negatively impact the uptake of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) among people infected with HIV and Tuberculosis.
Southern Africa experiences is one of the hardest hit regions by HIV in the world, with adult HIV prevalence over 10 percent in several countries including Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.

At an estimated 26 percent, Swaziland has the highest prevalence rate in the world, followed by Lesotho at 25 percent, Botswana at 23.4 percent.
The report says food insecurity is a significant driver of HIV in the region and calls for more investment in community mobilization to improve access to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services.

The report also calls for creating synergies with other development sectors such as education, health, social protection and gender equality to improve HIV outcomes.”
It makes short-term and longer-term recommendations to address chronic food and nutrition insecurity and vulnerability including building the resilience of people to prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with and recover from shocks.

It also says when the region receives sufficient rainfall that is well-distributed, the number of the food insecure population drops but when the region experiences extreme weather conditions, the numbers increase. Given the increasing frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events that are influenced by climate change, new ways of sustaining food security systems must be employed and climate-proof national strategies and plans, the report says.

BY; Tokase Mphutlane

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