Lack of data on nutrition is a major challenge to the fight against malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to Gladys Mugambi, head of Nutrition at Kenya’s Ministry of Health, unreported and low quality data makes it difficult to compare nutrition data across countries.

There is little data from the worst affected areas such as refugee camps, which makes the formulation of response strategies almost impossible, Mugambi adds.

“We must commit to end malnutrition by investing more and allocating better funding. - Gladys Mugambi

She made the remarks during the launch of the 2016 Global Nutrition Report in Kenya last month, where delegates from academia, civil society, government and non-governmental organisations gathered to discuss the actions and steps towards accountability that will advance nutrition and sustainable development globally.

One of the findings is that data on women and children is underreported, but it should be prioritized during collection because these two groups are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

Increased commitments from governments and other stakeholders could help the continent achieve the World Health Assembly (WHA) global targets on nutrition by 2025. One of the targets is reducing anaemia in women of reproductive age by 50 per cent.

The experts called for improvements in agriculture, environment, education, health and sanitation to help address malnutrition.

According to the report, the world experiences insufficient progress towards combating all forms of malnutrition, especially anaemia.

A US$70 billion funding gap exists in the fight against stunting, severe acute malnutrition, breastfeeding and anaemia.

“We must commit to end malnutrition by investing more and allocating better [funding],” Mugambi added, further noting that doubling funding could help Sub-Saharan Africa meet WHA targets in time.

The experts at the launch lauded efforts by countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Malawi for tackling malnutrition. Evidence suggests that intervention measures are working, with stunting rates in Ghana reducing from 39 to 19 per cent in 11 years. Malawi is also on track to meeting global targets on breastfeeding and reducing anaemia.

One of the report’s authors, Jessica Fanzo, says that the findings are particularly relevant for Sub-Saharan Africa as many countries on the continent are dealing with a multiple forms of malnutrition.

“Investments in key areas including capacity building for the continent, more targeted actions and better accountability will help make a significant progress towards WHA targets along with the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Fanzo, a distinguished associate professor of ethics and global food and agriculture at the US-based Johns Hopkins University. Fanzo calls for collection of data at both national and subnational levels to better understand financial spending and coverage of nutritional interventions.

Margaret Kenyatta, Kenya’s first lady, added: “Investing in solutions at all levels to end malnutrition is necessary.”

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