Multi-stakeholders comprising line ministries, Health, Agriculture, Education and Commerce, the United Nations agencies, as well as civil society organizations, on Friday, February 1, 2019, held a one day consultation meeting in Monrovia to brainstorm on how to improve nutrition in Liberia.
According to 2018 Food and Nutrition Security reports on Liberia, 35.5 % of children in the country suffered stunting.
The multi-stakeholder platform provides an opportunity for members to regularly meet with the aim at building consensus on the current status of nutrition governance, perceived gaps and potential activities that could be supported.
It is being supported by the United Nations in Liberia through the “Renewed Efforts against Child Hunger and Under-nutrition (REACH) and “Scaling Up Nutrition” (SUN). REACH is an inter-agency partnership between WFP, FAO, WHO, UNICEF, and IFAD and other UN agencies devoted to improving multi-sectoral nutrition governance. SUN is a country-led approach, funded by Irish Aid, addressing child undernutrition through the partnership and coordinated actions of UN agencies, civil society, donors, and the private sector, under the leadership of national governments.
The UN Resident Coordinator for Liberia, Yacoub El Hillo, challenged participants at the meeting to work harder, stating that nutrition is a serious national issue that must be addressed by all citizens.
“Over 30% of the children in Liberia are malnourished according to recent reports. This is unacceptable. Mal-nutrition should remain a primary concern by the government and all the citizens if the country is going to progress,” he said.
He said to advance education in Liberia among children the issues of improving nutrition must be taken serious.
“It takes practical will and commitment from the government to improve nutrition. This is a political will that is highly needed.
According to him, Liberia cannot continue to spend huge amount of money to import food and expect to adequately improve nutrition.
“There has been wrong policies instituted by previous governments which contributed to food insecurity. The Government must put into place right policies that can change the nutritional trend of the country,” he emphasized.
The Chargé d’Affaires of Ireland, Kate Brandy, said the issues of helping countries improve nutrition is a priority for the government of her country.
She pledged Ireland’s support to Liberia in reducing malnutrition and called on stakeholders to remain committed toward the process.
The Assistant Minister for Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health, Joyce W. D. Sherman, said that malnutrition seriously affects many child-bearing mothers, posing a serious nutrition challenges for children.
“We must ensure that women are educated on the importance of nutrition,” she said. “The education should always be provided at every clinic, as most nutrition issues are preventable.”
She urged the participants to collaborate at all times as they fight malnutrition, adding that there are lot of nutrition challenges.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) was represented at the meeting by the Director of the Agricultural Sector Coordination, Francis W. Mwah. Mr. Mwah who proxied for the deputy minister for development and research, Robert Fagans, said that the MOA has done a lot in ensuring that nutrition becomes a paramount issue for Government.
“The Ministry has initiated the status of nutrition in Liberia by working with our in international partners. This effort is helping to find the solution in addressing the many problems of nutrition,” he said.
For her part, the Focal Person for SUN, Mameni L. Morlai, said the vision of her organization is the make the world free of malnutrition.
“SUN’s approach is to work together across the sectors, using unique methods that work for every country. Together we combined efforts of all countries to make up the core of the Movement,” she said.
Meanwhile the SUN Focal Person stressed the need for the Liberian Government to provide funding for the multi-stakeholder platform to succeed in its goal in scaling up nutrition in Liberia in a timely manner.