Despite recent progress, stunting rates in Southern Africa remain high, especially compared to other countries with similar income levels. About 30% of children under five in the region—including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zimbabwe and Zambia—are stunted as a result of chronic undernutrition.
This reality has wide-ranging, long-lasting and negative consequences. Being malnourished in early childhood elevates the risks of morbidity and mortality, increases costs of and returns to social sector investments, and decreases lifelong income-earning potential and productivity. It results in a downward cycle of poverty, ill health and poor nutrition across generations.
Through various policies and programs, government leaders throughout the sub-region have recognized the importance of proper nutrition to reducing poverty and inequality and made early childhood nutrition a national priority.
Hosted by the Government of Lesotho, with support from the World Bank and UNICEF, the high-level forum on October 3 aims to highlight this commitment and catalyze further action to improve early childhood nutrition outcomes. Senior government representatives, together with partner organizations, will exchange experiences and seek commitment to improve outcomes for their countries’ children.
To complement the forum, the event includes technical panels and a nutrition exhibition on October 2. The technical panels and nutrition exhibition will provide a deep-dive on new global research, country-level experiences and specific programs on improving nutrition outcomes.
Financial support for this work was provided by the Government of Japan through the Japan Trust Fund for Scaling Up Nutrition.