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Scaling up nutrition in focus at the 13th ECOWAS Nutrition Forum

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The 13th Nutrition Forum of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was held from 5-9 November in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The theme of the Forum was “Roles of local governments, communities, civil society and the private sector in scaling up nutrition interventions“.

The Nutrition Forum provides a platform for ECOWAS countries to build a deeper collective understanding of sustainable and integrated approaches to food security and nutrition as well as to regularly report back on progress made towards previously agreed approaches and actions. The forum plays a critical role in enabling different groups to learn from and support each other, in particular to share innovative experiences to scale up nutrition.

Nearly 150 stakeholders across key sectors participated in the Forum, including representatives from 14 ECOWAS member states, other African nations, civil society, private sector, local communities and international organizations. The Forum, under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, was chaired by the Minister of Health. The Minister of Agriculture and Water, as well as the Managing Director of the West African Health Organization also participated in the Forum.

The Forum participants worked in focused discussion groups to analyze the current state of nutrition in their countries, and to identify strengths, challenges and opportunities. This intensive work allowed every country to elaborate an action plan to scale up nutrition interventions.

The most critical challenges identified by countries were: resource mobilization; capacity building of different stakeholders; involvement of all sectors; and coordination of interventions and actors through a multi-sectoral approach. The role of the private sector and the importance of public-private partnerships were also discussed.

The next ECOWAS Nutrition Forum will take place in Liberia in 2014 on the theme “Nutrition and MDGs in ECOWAS countries: progress, challenges and perspectives.”

ECOWAS is also involved in a regional food security and nutrition project, which contributes to the Zero Hunger Challenge, an initiative launched by the UN Secretary General earlier this year. The 3-year project will bring together civil society, the business community and other stakeholders to support 15 member states of ECOWAS to eliminate hunger in western Africa by building on existing policies and programs, increasing stakeholder engagement and amplifying the current political commitment in the region.

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