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Global legislators urged to lead malnutrition fight

Legislators at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) have been urged to push for policy actions and budget initiatives aimed at mitigating malnutrition amongst young children.

During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence.

"You are the well placed people who can influence things to happen. You legislate and call government to account. So, it's time for you to play the legislative and accountability roles as you ensure that child deaths due to malnutrition are alleviated," Schultink told the panel.

Malnutrition results from having an unbalanced diet. The condition is prevalent amongst children and has been discovered to have implications on their intellectuality. According to a UNICEF Report, more than 20 million children around the world suffer from severe malnutrition with 300,000 of them hailing from the Horn of Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa over 40 percent of the children are malnourished.

The main causes of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa are high levels of poverty, poor government policies and drought. All these have contributed to limited food stocks. UNICEF findings indicate that malnutrition in Uganda is due to lack of food, lack of knowledge, as well as primitive practices made worse by calamities like drought, famine, and floods. Malnutrition contributes to about 60% of childhood deaths in the country. This has had a knock-on effect in the sense that it has eroded agricultural productivity.

Presenting a paper on "investing in nutrition to promote resilience and sustainability (current practices in Africa)", former Cape Verde President, Antonio Manuel Mascherenhas Gomes, who is the UN's Nutrition Advocate in West Africa, said the legislators should make political commitments to reduce malnutrition.

"Scaling up nutrition in Africa requires political commitment to demand the allocation of resources, high impact interventions in health targeting mothers and children, programs in food security, agriculture, water, hygiene and sanitation and social protection, which can all be done through the parliaments," Gomes noted.

In the discussion chaired by First Lady, Janet Museveni, legislators shared their various experiences in tackling malnutrition. For instance, Indian legislator, Shri Francisco Cosmes Sardhina said comprehensive plans like designing of national policies on food productivity, planned actions on nutrition and interventions on healthy improvement can help in the anti malnutrition fight.

"Twenty million children are born every year in India, but through our parliament we have made some progress to fight the child deaths that are due to malnutrition," she said.

skakaire@observer.ug

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