Experts call for early-warning systems against malnutrition in Africa

Continental early-warning systems for nutrition are urgently need to curb cases of malnutrition, experts attending a nutrition-focused forum said on September 7, 2017.

The nutrition experts recommended that the African Development Bank (AfDB) should develop these early-warning systems in partnership with organizations involved in food security initiatives.

The calls for the development of an early-warning system, building intelligent systems to predict, and respond to droughts and partnerships to achieve an agriculture revolution were made at a special session of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which took place September 4-8, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The AfDB was one of the main sponsors of the event, which featured nutrition and jobs for youth in agriculture as key points of intervention to anchor the food security agenda.

2017 Africa Food Prize Laureate, Ruth Oniang’o, a professor of nutrition, who was awarded the prestigious African Food Prize for her work in enhancing nutrition at the Forum, said addressing illiteracy and healthcare challenges was also important to advance public health.

“We need a nutrition revolution. We need people in Africa to rise up peacefully to demand for their right to food. Without food, people lose their dignity, but before they can demand for their food rights, they need public awareness on their rights,” Oniang’o said.

The AGRF, holding under the theme “Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture,” featured discussions about the link between nutrition and technology.

Moustapha Cisse, Facebook Artificial Intelligence Researcher, said policy makers and senior government representatives should meet to create joint partnerships and agree to build intelligent solutions to solve the nutrition challenges.

The experts advocated for the use of technology to respond to droughts and said drought prediction should form part of the partnership.

“The leaders of the continent have not always failed to act on drought (leading to hunger and starvation) because they lacked information, but because they lacked the innovation and the investment needed to respond to nutrition,” Oniang’o said.

“We still have issues that need to be addressed before we can address the nutrition challenges. We need the African Development Bank to partner,” Oniang’o said.

Meanwhile, the African Food Prize Laureate welcomed the award as the recognition to the importance of nutrition in Africa.

Oniang’o said the resurgence of malnutrition in Africa was a new development challenge which did not exist in traditional African societies because communities had access to traditional crops.

“I am happy this award elevates nutrition amongst the policy makers. We need more nutrition champions as this issue allows us to re-examine the traditional value chains. This would be possible through marketing and having communities with educated children,” Prof Oniang’o said.

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