Fighting childhood malnutrition: Resource-rich African countries rise to the challenge

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Four countries agree to use revenues from extractive industries in fight against child malnutrition

The Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali and Niger today announced a new fund for the fight against malnutrition. The announcement was made at the launch of UNITLIFE, a new innovative financing mechanism that uses micro levies from extractive industries to increase resources for the fight again malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.

Under UNITLIFE, participating nations with abundant natural resources will channel a small portion of revenues derived from the sale of oil, gas and mining into a UNICEF-hosted fund dedicated to improving child nutrition. For example, the Republic of Congo will contribute $0.10 per barrel of oil sold by its national state oil company.

“This is the first fund based on an innovative financing mechanism being launched only days after the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted at the United Nations,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, the architect of the initiative and an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Innovative Financing for Development.

“I am delighted that a number of African governments accepted this idea because we have already proven with the air ticket levy that innovative financing works and generates results. I also want to thank UNICEF for agreeing to host the initiative,” Douste-Blazy said.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali and one of the first supporters of the fund, said: “I am very pleased that Mali is one of the founders of this innovative financing mechanism because we want to scale-up the fight against child malnutrition in our country and in the region.”

“Chronic malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa affects more than 1 in 3 children under the age of five, stunting their growth and threatening their cognitive capacity, thus limiting their opportunities in life,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “New and innovative financing mechanisms can make a big difference in the fight against malnutrition.”

Robert Filipp, President of the Innovative Finance Foundation (IFF), who spearheaded the work on the fund design, said, “This fund has real game changing potential. If all countries with oil, gas and mines joined, we would have a real chance to eliminate malnutrition.”

Although financing commitments to nutrition have increased in recent years, around $50 billion are still needed over the next 10 years to reach the World Health Assembly target of reducing the number of children under the age of five who are stunted by 40 per cent by 2025.

The proposed levies from extractive industries in African countries are a bold demonstration of African leadership to address the financing gap for nutrition in the continent. Under the UNITLIFE initiative, the levies are expected to initially generate between $100-$200 million a year.

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About UNITLIFE:
UNITLIFE is a new innovative finance fund dedicated to the fight against undernutrition in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Participating countries invest a small portion of revenues derived from the sale of oil, gas and mining towards improving the nutrition conditions of children, through a common, pooled and scalable approach.

Originally Published: UN.org | September 28th, 2015