Calling for a rapid scale-up to tackle malnutrition and boost long-term resilience

At the African Union Humanitarian Summit, UNICEF, AU and the Democratic Republic of Congo call for stronger commitments from African leaders to strengthen multi-sectoral nutrition investments and prevention

A group of people standing together in front of an event banner
27 May 2022

27 May 2022 - In a context of conflicts, global food price rises, poor harvests, climate change and COVID-19, the African Union and UNICEF used the side-lines of this week’s African Union Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit in Equatorial Guinea to call for stronger commitments from African leaders to strengthen multi-sectoral nutrition investments and prevention.

“The continent is facing a series of challenging shocks from internal conflict, climate change and global food price rises,” said the moderator of the event, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Dr. Felicité Tchibindat.

It is time for us to place much more attention on finding a multi-sectoral and long-term solution to child malnutrition.

UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Dr. Felicité Tchibindat
A woman sitting on a panel and speaking into microphone

The high-level side-meeting on 25 May 2022 was attended by around 70 summit participants. The panel included representatives from governments, sub-regional bodies (ECCAS), bilateral partners, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Without scaled-up humanitarian interventions, 1.2 million children under five will face severe wasting this year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with major needs also in Ethiopia (1.2 million), northern Nigeria (671,890), Niger (491,822), Chad (348,160), Somalia (330,000), South Sudan (300,000), Mali (309,821), and Burkina Faso (179,252). On current trends the situation will worsen in the coming months.

“This event is extremely timely,” said Mamadou Diop, Action Contre la Faim’s Regional Representative for West and Central Africa. “In the next few weeks or even days around 40 million people will be in food and nutrition insecurity. In the last ten years we have not seen these sorts of numbers.”

The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) co-hosted the side event. His Excellency Modeste Mutinga Mutushayi, Minister of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and National Solidarity for the DRC, called for more solidarity between African Union member states: “In spite of everyone’s efforts, our humanitarian appeals are underfinanced and that means only the children in the worst stages of malnutrition can be helped. With the current trends, Africa is unlikely to meet the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce malnutrition by 2030. We need to urgently change the paradigm and to concentrate on prevention through a multi-sectoral response.”

The African Union has named 2022 as the ‘’Year of Nutrition’’ with the goal of tackling malnutrition in its forms on the continent.

Attendees of the summit sitting and listening in the crowd

With much global attention focused elsewhere, a strong emphasis at the side event was placed on local solutions and improving access to nutritious local foods. African leaders were also called to make nutrition a government priority to safeguard child rights to life and health, and to build future human capital.

“Governments need to take a stronger leadership approach in supporting nutrition services,” said panellist David Rizzi, Nutrition Expert for the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO)’s West Africa office. “Undernutrition is not purely a humanitarian matter. We count on governments to give every child the chance to survive and thrive. We have seen the impact of the Ukraine crisis and how advocacy at a high-level can prevent millions of children slipping into malnutrition.”

He said multi-year funds were a key part of building resilience and a more agile response to malnutrition.