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Ethiopia’s First Lady addresses the Global Nutrition Summit held in Milan, Italy

Her Excellency Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, Ethiopia’s First Lady, addressed the Global Nutrition Summit-2017-Milan on November, 04-2017, where she also met with high-level representatives from the Italian Ministry of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the side-lines. The Summit was held with the aim to review existing commitments and make new promises and support packages to accelerate the global response to malnutrition. The three priority areas under discussion were: i) Improving Nutrition Within Planetary Boundaries: Cities Taking the Lead; ii) Closing the Nutrition Gender Gap; and iii) The Future We Want: Transforming our food systems for improved nutrition.

The Summit which was concluded by a pledging moment where countries and stakeholders made new commitments and funding packages amounting US$3.4bn including US$640 million in new commitments was organized by the Italian Ministry of Health and City of Milan in close partnership with a number of international stakeholders. These include the U.K.’s Department for International Development, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Coalition on Advocacy for Nutrition.

In her remarks, H.E. Mrs. Roman Tesfaye addressed the Summit on the current status of Ethiopia in discharging its previous commitments of reducing undernutrition and additional new initiatives in the pipeline. On this, the First Lady expressed the Ethiopian Government’s leadership commitment to the cause as it makes nutrition one of its main development agenda that puts holistic, community specific and gender sensitive approaches at the centre of its strategies to address the challenges of food security and undernutrition. The strategies, she said, ranges from ensuring adequate food production, diversified diary practices and complementary feeding to food fortification measures. Ethiopia’s agricultural programs including the Second Agricultural Growth Program has so far enabled to maximize food security and self-sufficiency at national level with plans to sustain increased production to ensure food self-sufficiency at household levels soon. 

She said, the “Seqota Declaration”, which puts evidence-based nutrition interventions in its implementation with aims to end child undernutrition in Ethiopia is part of Ethiopia’s dedication to discharge its global nutrition commitment of zero malnutrition in 2030 being laid out in the SDGs. The Ethiopian Government’s measure of increasing its nutrition financing since 2013, which she said reached 455 million USD in 2015/16 only, could be seen as a solid step to discharge its agreed commitment in the 2013 Nutrition for Growth Global Summit with additional measures taken sees the inclusion of pregnant and lactating women in the country’s existing Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). Of the total nutrition outlay of $455 million in 2015/16, split across sectors were: nutrition-sensitive programs ($333 million; 73 percent), nutrition in emergency response programs ($68 million; 15 percent), and nutrition-specific programs ($54 million; 12 percent).

In addition, the First Lady said that the Ethiopian Government has established National Nutrition Coordinating Body (NNCB) and the National Nutrition Technical Committee (NNTC) which are responsible to support and devise an integrated approach for planning across all sectors to end malnutrition. The Government is also implementing the Second National Nutrition Program across 13 sectors which runs for the years 2012020. The Ethiopian Parliament’s endorsement of a policy which extends the country’s maternity leave to 120 days will also be of value to encourage breast feeding mothers with additional food and nutrition policy related to food fortification standards is under discussion in Parliament being expected for endorsement soon.

The nutrition measures taken so far, First Lady Roman Tesfaye said, has enabled Ethiopia to reduce child stunting from what it was 44.4% in 2011 to 38% in 2016, and decrease percentage of women with anaemia from 27 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2016. 73% of mothers in Ethiopia has begun breastfeeding their children within one hour of birth and 92% has begun within one day of birth. Exclusive breastfeeding rate is consistently increasing from 49% in 2005 to 58% in 2016. These trends, she said, are clear indications that Ethiopia is moving on the right track towards achieving its “Nutrition for Growth” commitments.   

However, she said, rates of chronic and acute malnutrition are still high in Ethiopia, with the prevalence of stunting and underweight of children under five stood at 38 and 24 percent, and the prevalence of wasting hovering at about 9 percent since 2011. In addition, 24% of women of reproductive age have anaemia and 22% are undernourished. Construed from this fact, the Government of Ethiopia is working on a plan to cut stunting from what it is 38% now to 26% by 2020, underweight from 24% to 13% and wasting from 9% to 4.9%. She underlined that the Ethiopian Government guided by its strong commitment to ensure food security and zero malnutrition and also as a trusted partner guided by the global vision of “better nutrition for all, everywhere” is always devoted to accomplish the set targets. But then again, she said, such an effort demands a more broadened and predictable support from the donors’ in a way consistent to national priorities of countries as the issue of gender equality and the global vision of “better nutrition for all, everywhere” goes beyond “national borders and political agenda”. The Summit commends Ethiopia’s effective measures and programs being devised and implemented to ensuring food security and recognizes the progresses made so far in reducing children and women undernutrition.  

First Lady Roman Tesfaye also met with the representatives of partners including from the Italian government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the side-lines of the Summit where she discussed on ways of further strengthening cooperation on nutrition and promotion of gender equality. 

 


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