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"Malnutrition undermines economic growth"

Apr 9, 2010, 5:27 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The Vice-President and Minister of Women's Affairs Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy has said that malnutrition undermines economic growth and consequently brings about poverty.

Vice-President Njie-Saidy, who was deputised by Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, the Minister of Tourism and Culture at the validation of the Draft Nutrition Policy 2010-2020, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, said good nutrition is a basic building-block of human capital, and as such, contributes to social and economic development.

According to her, there exists ample evidence that shows the two-way relationship between nutrition and economic development.

She noted that it is obvious that one of the contributing factors towards the world’s poor progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially poverty’ reduction is due to the failure in tackling malnutrition by the international community and most governments in developing countries over the years.

Vice-President Njie-Saidy noted that persistent malnutrition has contributed immensely to the failure of meeting the MDGs of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equity, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

"Investing in nutrition is judicious and beneficial in that it yields very high returns, such as improved physical work capacity, cognitive development, school performance, good health, reduced morbidity and mortality, which in turn lead to increased productivity, economic development and poverty reduction," she added.

The Vice-President further stated that it is now quite apparent that nutrition is a crucial component of any development plan and should be made central to development so that a wide range of economic and social improvements that depend on nutrition can be achieved.

Speaking earlier, the Officer-in-Charge of UNICEF Dr. Meritell Relano noted that the validation marked a further step by the government of The Gambia towards tackling the menace of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency, noting that it would have a critical impact on The Gambia's efforts in reaching the Millennium Development Goals for children.

According to Dr. Relano, although the situation of malnutrition is not as serious as is in most countries within the sub-region, it is still an issue that merits our collective urgent attention, in order to respond to the MDGs and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Investing in nutrition, she said, is judicious and beneficial, in that it yields very high returns, such as improved cognitive development, improved physical work capacity, enhances school performance, and has overall health benefits by reducing morbidity and mortality, which in turn leads to increased productivity, economic development and poverty reduction.  

"The development of this draft to guide and inform policy interventions in the nutrition sector is therefore timely and I would like to commend the government of The Gambia for their vision and leadership on this matter," she added.

For his part, Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations representative to The Gambia said freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a basic human right. He noted that their alleviation is a fundamental prerequisite for human development.

"It is therefore important to ensure that a good nutrition policy recognises the importance of ready access to health and nutrition services through a collaborative approach of all development partners," he concluded.