African First Ladies make a case for women and children at UN MDG meeting

This morning as global leaders meet in New York to discuss prospects for meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), First Ladies from Africa will be making a case for mothers and children.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is hosting the African First Ladies Summit which will push for efforts to find effective solutions to reach maternal health goals and prevent child deaths – MDGs 5 and 4 respectively.

Women and girls suffer 60% of all malnutrition with gender discrimination and social practices contributing to female suffering, inequality and child maternal deaths, a media alert issued by GAIN and copied to has said.

According to GAIN, food fortification has been identified as the most effective and cost efficient remedy, delivering development goals and reaching the poorest people most in need on a mass scale. It costs just one cent per person per day.  Currently only 19 of the 68 countdown countries are on track to meet the UN targets and with aid budgets under pressure, proven remedies must be embraced.  Nutrition is crucially important to MDGs 1,3 4 and 5, the group said.

Malnutrition (the lack of vital micronutrients) affects two billion people worldwide, with one in four children in Africa physically and mentally stunted as a result, it added.

GAIN said malnutrition is particularly hazardous for mothers and their unborn children.  Zinc deficiencies mean that women are more likely to bleed to death in childbirth and a newborn has a window of just 1000 days to get the vitamins and minerals they need to become healthy, productive citizens in later life.

Some of the First Ladies who will be present at the Summit include: Lady Ida Odinga  of Kenya; Viviane Wade of Senegal; Sarah Mosisili of Lesotho; Penehupifo Pohamba of Namibia; Sia Nyama Koroma of Sierra Leone and Callista Chimombo  (Malawi).  Also in attendance will be WFP Chief Executive Josette Sheeran and Mary Shawa, Malawi’s Secretary of Nutrition.

GAIN which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, as well as CIDA has been successful in initiating fortification programmes worldwide, helping over 100 million people to break the cycle of malnutrition and poverty.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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