Wednesday 7 December 2016

Obama finishes Ethiopia tour with strong address on 'child stunting'

Katy Migiro

Published 29/07/2015 | 01:30

U.S. President Barack Obama salutes delegates after delivering remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
U.S. President Barack Obama salutes delegates after delivering remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L of the group under wing) talks with Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (L in group) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2nd R in group) after viewing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Ethiopian Airlines at Bole International Airport before departing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles after arriving to deliver remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

US President Barack Obama, wrapping up a visit to the continent of his father's birth, toured an Ethiopian factory making baby food on Tuesday to show how investment in farming can cut hunger and stunting.

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Child stunting has fallen by up to one-third over the past few years in African countries targeted by the U.S. government's global hunger initiative, Feed the Future, a report released on Tuesday said.

U.S. President Barack Obama (C), flanked by Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (L) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2nd R), talks to reporters after viewing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Ethiopian Airlines at Bole International Airport before departing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama (C), flanked by Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (L) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2nd R), talks to reporters after viewing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Ethiopian Airlines at Bole International Airport before departing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama talks about presidential term limits during remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama said on Tuesday that democracy in Africa was threatened when presidents did not stand aside at the end of constitutional term limits and pointed to violence in Burundi where the president has secured a third term. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L in centre group), flanked by Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam (L in group) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2nd R in group), talks to reporters after viewing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Ethiopian Airlines at Bole International Airport before departing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Obama has made food security a priority of his development agenda, saying in 2013 it was a "moral imperative" to end hunger on the world's poorest continent.

"The goal is to drastically increase the productivity of smallholder farmers all throughout Africa," Obama said while examining maize cobs at the Faffa Food plant in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on the last leg of his African tour.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama told Ethiopia's leaders on Monday that allowing more political freedoms would strengthen the African nation, which had already lifted millions out of a poverty once rooted in recurring famine. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama told Ethiopia's leaders on Monday that allowing more political freedoms would strengthen the African nation, which had already lifted millions out of a poverty once rooted in recurring famine. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

"With just a few smart interventions, a little bit of help, they can make huge improvements in their overall yields."

One of the farmers Obama met at the factory said she had increased her yield threefold after getting better seeds, which allowed her to buy a cow and send her children to school.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama told Ethiopia's leaders on Monday that allowing more political freedoms would strengthen the African nation, which had already lifted millions out of a poverty once rooted in recurring famine. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama told Ethiopia's leaders on Monday that allowing more political freedoms would strengthen the African nation, which had already lifted millions out of a poverty once rooted in recurring famine. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In Ethiopia, stunting fell by nine percent between 2011 and 2014, the report said.

The improvement was more dramatic in Ghana, which recorded a 33 percent drop in stunting between 2008 and 2014, and in parts of western Kenya, where it fell by 25 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Africa has the world's highest rate of stunting, affecting two in five children on the continent. It is caused by undernutrition in the first 1,000 or so days of life.

Millions of poor African farmers rely on cheap staple foods to fill their children's stomachs because they cannot afford the nutrient-rich diets they need.

Stunted children learn less in school and usually earn less, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.

Twelve of the 19 countries where Feed the Future works to help farmers grow their businesses are in Africa.

Ethiopia - once known for famine although its economy is on track for 10 percent growth this year - is one of them.

Faffa Food, Ethiopia's largest baby food supplier, received technical assistance from Feed the Future, in partnership with U.S. multinationals, to expand the range and quality of its nutritious baby foods.

"It is a model that's working," said Obama, who toured Kenya and Ethiopia, and addressed the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Reuters

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