An estimated one million children under five die annually from causes related to undernutrition in the Western and Central African Region (WCAR). MPs from the region met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 27 to 29 June, to discuss how parliaments could contribute to improving maternal and child nutrition. The regional parliamentary seminar was co-organized by the IPU, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Alive & Thrive with support from the Parliament of Burkina Faso.
Children who do not get enough nourishment during the crucial first 1,000 days are in danger of being stunted—smaller, more vulnerable to disease and unable to develop their full intellectual potential. In 11 WCAR countries, under-five mortality rates are among the highest in the world, while in eight countries, 40 per cent or more children are stunted.
Discussions centred around the significance of nutrition security for development and economic growth; the problems of undernutrition and the emerging concern of childhood overweight and obesity in the region; overcoming structural and environmental barriers to nutrition and how parliaments can leverage their powers to effect legislative, budgetary and policy advances in promotion of maternal and child nutrition; and creating a political commitment to take a pro-nutrition agenda forward.
The outcome document lists priority actions for parliamentarians. These include reviewing existing legal and policy frameworks through a nutrition-sensitive lens; allocating sufficient funds to key ministries responsible for child nutrition; scheduling annual full-fledged debates on the national status of nutrition; and undertaking to make data collection and interpretation an inclusive and transparent process. MPs also pledged to use their positions to draw attention to and take action on malnutrition.
The Scaling Up Nutrition Movement offered to facilitate, in collaboration with the IPU, UNICEF, Alive & Thrive, civil society organizations and development partners, the establishment of a global community of parliamentarians active on nutrition issues. The community would provide support to parliamentarians and provide a platform to share experiences across countries and regions.
A delegation of participants called on the Head of State of Burkina Faso, Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who committed to working closely with the National Assembly, to advance nutrition in his country. Mr. Kaboré also agreed to join the group of African Leaders for Nutrition.