Former President elects to fight childhood malnutrition
DAKAR, Senegal, 21 July 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."
Note to Editors:
The Nutrition Working Group for West Africa brings together organizations actively combating malnutrition in the region and committed to close collaboration, such as Action Against Hunger (ACF); Counterpart International (CI); the European Commission Directorate-General For Humanitarian Aid (ECHO); the FAO; Helen Keller International (HKI); the Micronutrient Initiative (MI);REACH; Save the Children UK; UNICEF; the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID / OFDA);The World Bank; the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization.
The Group aims to support countries to scale up their action in nutrition and focuses on: coordinated advocacy and communication; the development of effective regional and national coalitions; regular situation analysis and dissemination, technical harmonization and updating; and expanding and improving human resources in national and regional governments.
Mr. Monteiro was the President of Cape Verde from 1991 to 2001. Affiliated with the Movement for Democracy, he was the first president elected in a multi-party election in Cape Verde. He was re-elected without opposition in 1996, receiving 80 per cent of the vote. After serving two five-year terms, he stepped down in 2001.
During his career, Mr. Monteiro has served as Deputy President of the OAU Ad-Hoc Committee for Southern Africa, and President of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). Mr. Monteiro is also a member of the Club of Madrid, member of the Global Leadership Foundation that seeks to promote good governance around the world, member of the Africa Forum, and was appointed the fifth Lloyd G. Balfour African President-in-Residence at Boston University’s African Presidential Archives and Research Centre. He was an active participant in drafting the African Charter on Human Rights and has participated in a number of human rights conferences in Nairobi (Kenya), Strasbourg (France), and Bologna (Italy).
President Monteiro is a strong advocate for transparency and good governance as well as an activist for social justice, human rights and equality.
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