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A regional nutrition strategy for West Africa

West Africa has a population of close to 372 million, of which 62.3 million are children under five years of age (CU5). Over one third of these – 19 million CU5 – are stunted, while the prevalence of CU5 wasting and overweight is nine per cent and two per cent respectively (GNR 2017). Overweight and obesity also affect the adult population, with 14 per cent and 37 per cent of women affected, respectively (GNR, 2017). Nearly half of women of reproductive age (49 per cent) have anaemia and 47 per cent of children aged 6-59 months have vitamin A deficiency.

The existence of a single economic community in the region – the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – offers opportunities to align regional strategies and policies to tackle malnutrition collectively.

About 100 people from 14 ECOWAS countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) attended a five-day conference on nutrition surveillance in Guinea-Bissau in October 2017. The conference was jointly organised by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO; an ECOWAS institution) and the Guinea-Bissau Ministry of Health (MoH). Presentations and discussions ranged from food fortification initiatives and monitoring food safety to tracking nutrition financing and the use of cost-of-hunger studies for decision-making. Those attending were SUN country focal points, nutritionists or health information officers in the MoH or from the National Bureau of Statistics. There was also wide representation from donors and other partner organisations, both in the region and from Eastern and Southern Africa.

On day five participants debated the WAHO regional nutrition strategic plan (2018-22), of which the overall objective is to scale up nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive activities through the provision of key activities. Strategic objectives are:

The regional strategy, costed at US$41.3 million (to be funded mainly by community resources, NGOs and the private sector), aims to support existing country plans by providing a regional framework for nutrition. Recommendations include: strengthening the monitoring framework for the implementation of commitments and progress made by countries; supporting the creation of national and regional nutrition knowledge-management centres; and strengthening the budgetary monitoring framework for resources allocated to nutrition activities.

For more information on the regional plan, please contact: William Bosu, WAHO

Read more...

Reference

GNR 2017. Development Initiatives, 2017. Global Nutrition Report Nutrition Sub-Regional profile: West Africa, 2017. Bristol, UK: Development Initiatives. 

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A regional nutrition strategy for West Africa. Nutrition Exchange 9, January 2018. p7. www.ennonline.net/nex/9/nutstrategywestafrica

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