Japan and WFP launch innovative projects in Ghana and Sierra Leone to scale up nutrition
FREETOWN–The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a US$1.5 million contribution from the Government of Japan. The funds will be used to launch innovative nutrition projects in Ghana and Sierra Leone, as part of Japan and WFP’s expanded partnership to scale-up joint nutrition efforts to support governments in Africa, with a particular focus on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children who are most at risk from under nutrition.
The announcement of US$ 1 million in support for Ghana and US$500,000 for Sierra Leone was made during the visit to Ghana on 7 August, by Dr Toshiko Abe, Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, when she met Felix Gomez, WFP Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.
“WFP is extremely grateful for Japan’s strong commitment, leadership and investment in improving the nutrition of vulnerable mothers and children. Children’s physical and intellectual development can be irreversibly damaged if they do not receive proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days (from conception until a child reaches two years of age). Together with Japan, and working in close partnership with our host governments, we will proactively move to prevent under nutrition from taking root,” said Gomez.
To determine suitable methods of collaboration on nutrition, WFP has initiated discussions with the governments of both Ghana and Sierra Leone, as well as with UN agencies and several Japanese partners including the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. In Sierra Leone, WFP is also partnering with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on issues of health, well-being and nutritional status of adolescent girls and women particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Japan’s contribution will be used to purchase nutritionally-enhanced blended food, which will be provided to children under five and pregnant and nursing mothers, as part of WFP’s on-going nutrition programmes.
This financial package follows the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in Japan in June, when WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Vice Minister Abe reaffirmed the importance of adequate nutrition for mothers and children, and agreed to launch nutrition programmes in Africa.
An estimated 165 million children suffer from stunting globally, and in sub-Saharan Africa a staggering 40 percent of children under the age of five are stunted. Although stunting rates in Ghana average 23 percent, in food-insecure areas, such as in the Northern Region, the rates are as high as 37 percent. In Sierra Leone, according to the 2010 SMART survey, the stunting rate among children under the age of five was 34.1 percent nationally but exceeds the critical threshold of 40 percent in four districts.
Stunting is caused mainly by insufficient nutrition during the crucial first 1,000 days of life, which leads to a person’s physical and cognitive development being reduced, in turn diminishing their future productivity and earning capacity. Proper nutrition is therefore essential in nurturing the next generation and increasing the national incomes of developing countries.
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