Lack of data hampers Africa’s fight against malnutrion

centre for malnourished children
Copyright: Nyani Quarmyne / Panos

Speed read

  • A report says US$70 billion is needed to help end malnutrition globally
  • Experts bemoan lack of data on nutrition as a challenge in Africa
  • They call for more investments to end malnutrion in Africa

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[NAIROBI] Lack of data on nutrition is a major challenge to the fight against malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, an expert says.
Gladys Mugambi, head of nutrition at Kenya’s Ministry of Health, says unreported and low quality data  makes it diificult to compare nutrition data across countries.
“We have little data especially from refugee camps,” Mugambi adds.

“We must commit to end malnutrition by investing more and allocating better [funding.”

Gladys Mugambi, Kenya’s Ministry of Health


She made the remarks during the launch of the 2016 Global Nutrition Report in Kenya last month (14 June) where delegates from the academic institutions, civil society, government and non-governmental organisations gathered.
According to Mugambi, data on women and children should be collected because they are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
The experts said that increased commitments from governments and other stakeholders could  help the continent achieve the World Health Assembly (WHA) global targets on nutrition by 2025. The targets include reducing anaemia in women of reproductive age by 50 per cent.
The experts called for improvements in agriculture, environment, education, health and sanitation to help address malnutrition.
According to the report, the world experiences insufficient progress towards combating all forms of malnutrition, especially anaemia.
The report shows that a gap of US$70 billion exists in the fight against stunting, severe acute malnutrition, breastfeeding and anaemia.
“We must commit to end malnutrition by investing more and allocating better [funding],” says Mugambi, adding that doubling funding could help Sub-Saharan Africa meet WHA targets in time.
The experts lauded efforts by countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Malawi for tackling malnutrition. For instance, stunting rates in Ghana have reduced from 39 to 19 per cent in 11 years. Malawi is also on track to meeting global targets on breastfeeding and reducing anaemia.
In an interview with SciDev.Net, one of the report’s authors, Jessica Fanzo, says that the findings are particularly relevant for Sub-Saharan Africa as many countries on the continent are dealing with a multiple forms of malnutrition.
“Investments in key areas including capacity building for the continent, more targeted actions and better accountability will help make a significant progress towards WHA targets along with the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Fanzo, a distinguished associate professor of ethics and global food and agriculture at the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

Fanzo calls for collection of data at both national and subnational levels to better understand financial spending and coverage of nutritional interventions.
Margaret Kenyatta, Kenya’s first lady, added:  “Investing in solutions at all levels to end malnutrition is necessary.”
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.


Global Nutrition Report 2016: From promise to impact: endingmby 2030 (International Food Policy Research Institute, 2016)