WASHINGTON, December 19, 2013 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved funding to help Benin fight widespread malnutrition that has seriously affected growth and cognitive development among young children, and accounted for half of the country’s under-five mortality rate.
The US$ 28 million International Development Agency (IDA)* credit will support community-level monthly nutrition services for about 150,000 babies and periodic services for 250,000 young children in Benin’s poorest and most food-insecure regions. In addition, about 75,000 pregnant mothers and adolescents will also benefit from nutrition services and training to overcome or prevent their being underweight or anemic.
The Multisectoral Food Health Nutrition Project will help local government councils focus on improving feeding practices for infants and young children—including stressing the importance of breastfeeding for infants—and reproductive health and nutrition in each community. The project will also help households prevent and manage childhood diseases and diversify family diets to include more nutritious food.
“Recognizing that childhood malnutrition impedes normal cognitive development and lowers productivity in adulthood, the Government of Benin is taking strong action to improve nutrition services for mothers and children,” said Olivier Fremond, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Benin. “This will help Benin, which has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, to make faster progress on several of the Millennium Development Goals related to nutrition, child survival, and maternal health.”
Measured in terms of ‘stunting’ or low height for age—which is a strong indicator of long-running malnutrition and deprivation during childhood—43 percent of children in Benin are chronically malnourished. This is a higher rate than the 39 percent average across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) already operating in Benin will play an important role in mobilizing communities on behalf of the local government councils and helping to bring about social and behavioral change. NGOs are the best placed at the community level to implement this part of the project.
“Several other African countries have achieved excellent results on the nutrition front, including Ethiopia and Senegal,” said Menno Mulder-Sibanda, Senior Nutrition Specialist with the World Bank. “The Benin project will draw lessons from the experiences in these countries, including the importance of coordination among various sectors, and of developing working partnerships at both the local and national levels.”
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing zero-interest loans and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 82 poorest countries, 40 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $16 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.