‘If we neglect nutrition, we risk the potential and the future of this country‘

Global maternal and newborn health advocate Princess Sarah Zeid on her visit to Burundi

Jun 25, 2018 · 4 min read
Princess Sarah meeting children outside their classroom in Kigoti Primary school, Gitega province. Photo: WFP/Djaounsede Madjiangar

In Burundi, levels of child stunting are among the highest in the world. An estimated one million children in the country are stunted, over half of children under 5 years, and this has massive repercussions for the future of the country.

When children don’t get the right nutrition in their first 1,000 days — starting from conception up to their second birthday — they will grow up to be stunted. Stunting goes beyond height, it affects a child’s brain development so children will have a hard time learning in school. They are also more prone to infection and disease. After the age of 2 years the effects of stunting are irreversible so there is only a small window of opportunity.

In an effort to have a better understanding of the needs, realities, challenges and opportunities relating to malnutrition, Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan conducted a three-day visit to Burundi between 15 and 17 June 2018.

Hosted by the World Food Programme (WFP), Princess Sarah travelled around the country meeting top Government officials, the First Lady of Burundi and WFP partners. An advocate for women, girls, children, adolescents and newborns’ health, nutrition and wellbeing she also met and interacted with extraordinarily strong girls and mothers of Burundi who work so hard every day for their families and communities.

Take a look at the key moments of her visit and see how WFP is making the difference for food insecure families, malnourished children and women in Burundi.

L: Princess Sarah distributes locally produced milk to schoolchildren in Kigoti primary school. R: Visiting a WFP-supported supplementary feeding distribution in Kiremba health center and discussing nutrition with pregnant women and nursing mothers.Photos: WFP/Djaounsede Madjiangar

Thanks to contributions from the ‪EU, ‪Netherlands, ‪Canada, ‪Monaco and the Government of Burundi, WFP provides daily school meals to 600,000 children in 700 primary schools in order to encourage school attendance and increase dietary diversity. The locally produced long-life milk is an important source of protein and is distributed in 57 out of 700 primary schools supported by WFP. Discussions are ongoing to expand the milk project as it not only improves nutrition of the children but contributes to boosting the local economy by offering a market to local farmers and dairy producers.

Princess Sarah discusses reproductive health and nutrition with a group of adolescent girls at Kigoti primary school, Gitega province (Central Burundi). Photo WFP/Didier Bukuru

As part of its school meals programme, WFP in partnership with UNFPA works with school clubs to sensitize young people, especially adolescent girls, on early marriages and family planning which is key to breaking the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition.

“Women and girls deserve our support and respect. They are the hearts of their families and communities,” Princess Sarah said.

Princess Sarah interacts with women at a stove distribution site in Gitega province (Central Burundi). Photo: WFP/Didier Bukuru

Supported by WFP, the production and use of energy-efficient stoves contribute to improving livelihoods for vulnerable communities and protecting the environment; they reduce households’ spending on cooking fuel and tree cutting for firewood.

“I have been humbled to meet with the extraordinary mothers and grandmothers who work so hard every day for their babies, their children, their families and their communities,” Princess Sarah said.

Princess Sarah and the First Lady of Burundi discuss chronic malnutrition with members of the Batwa community in Muyinga, Ngozi province (Central Burundi). Photo: WFP/Djaounsede Madjiangar

WFP and its partners are committed to supporting the government to make sure children get the right nutrition today to offer the best future for them and their country. High population density in Burundi means that some communities, like the Batwa, live on marginal lands and are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition

“I appreciate the leadership and commitment of the First Lady and Government Ministers to engage with partners and make nutrition their priority for the wellbeing of women, children and newborns,” Princess Sarah declared.

Princess Sarah discusses nutrition needs and opportunities with Burundi’s Second Vice President at the end of her three-day visit. Photo: WFP/Djaounsede Madjiangar

The nutrition advocate noted that the needs are high but the opportunities are higher. She called on all stakeholders (private sector, government, NGOs, UN agencies and media) to work together in a dynamic and impactful way to scale up nutrition and wellbeing of children and women in Burundi.

“Women and girls are the heart of the wellbeing of children, families and communities, and nutrition is the foundation they need so they can have healthy pregnancies and healthy deliveries,” Princess Sarah said. “If we neglect to include the focus on nutrition and to urgently act in a unified and committed way to improving nutrition in Burundi, we risk the potential and the future of this country,” she concluded.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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