, LONDON, Aug 13 – At the end of the 2012 Olympics, Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined other world leaders in endorsing a proposal to prioritise the war on malnutrition ahead of the next games.
Odinga called for a global alliance between governments and private corporations to fight malnutrition among children as part of wider plan to guarantee economic growth.
He also appealed for a global collaboration against early marriage of girls saying the practice has enormous economic impact.
“Many girls get married, just too young and under-nourished. They then bear children, who are born weak and under-nourished. The vicious cycle thus continues. All girls must be protected by society until they reach age 18,” the PM said.
Addressing a Global Hunger Event convened by British Prime Minister David Cameron at No. 10 Downing Street, Odinga said malnutrition is a drain on the economy of many developing nations including Kenya.
He called for Private-Public Partnership in provision of nutrient-fortified food and milk products on commercial networks and direct deliveries to the refugee camps and schools.
The PM said malnourished children would likely grow up to be unemployed and frustrated.
They are also likely to become a source of discontent, and social and political instability, rather than a demographic dividend.
The PM said an estimated 39 percent of children in Kenya are under-nourished, with the proportion being much higher in the arid and semi-arid areas.
Odinga said it is estimated that Kenya’s GDP is lower by $2.8 billion due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
He called for a joint push to ensure manufactures adopt iron-fortification of staple foods and universal salt iodization.
Odinga said the Government of Kenya is about to launch this programme with the support of the Children’s Investment Fund.
“We need to urgently scale up the School-Based Deworming Programme to cover all children in the affected areas. We should rapidly extend the free distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets. The aim will be to provide bed nets to more than one half of our children who still sleep without a treated bed net,” he said.
The meeting was convened by the British Government on the sidelines of the London Olympic to increase global political commitment and action to tackle malnutrition.
It aims to mobilise the private sector to develop market-based solutions that improve poor people’s access to a range of nutritious foods at prices they can afford.
Odinga said Kenya faces two major challenges in ensuring nutrition.
The influx of a very large number of Somalis refugees, many of whom are children, has frustrated the Government’s efforts, he said.
The situation has been worsened by Climate Change induced drought, floods, and extreme and irregular weather particularly in the Horn of Africa.