MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Lesotho's King Letsie III on Friday warned that growing levels of malnutrition in Africa threatens sustainable development in the continent.
Letsie III told reporters on the sidelines of the AU heads of state summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea that countries have not responded effectively to malnutrition.
"Governments should be reminded that there is still a huge malnutrition crisis in Africa. It is abundantly clear that solving malnutrition will revitalize development," said the King of Lesotho.
He was appointed by African heads of state and government to be a champion for nutrition during the AU summit in Malabo.
An estimated 50 percent of African children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
The King of Lesotho said that childhood malnutrition has derailed economic growth in Africa.
"There are grave socioeconomic consequences associated with malnutrition. Under-nourished children have impaired cognitive abilities and have less chances of securing gainful occupation as adults," said King Letsie III.
Stunting among children has created a health crisis in rural villages across Africa.
He noted that countries with high levels of malnutrition are grappling with poor economic performance.
"Malnutrition impacts on the education sector, erodes labour productivity and performance of strategic economic sectors like agriculture," he told reporters.
As a champion for nutrition, the King of Lesotho will engage African leaders, policy makers and health advocates to lobby for increased commitment towards malnutrition.
"I call upon African leaders to pay special attention to the challenge of malnutrition. It is a multifaceted problem that requires coordinated response," said the King of Lesotho.
He urged governments to embed food and nutrition security in their national development policies.
"There are huge savings to be made if countries solve malnutrition," King Letsie III said.
Agriculture, food and nutrition sufficiency have been identified in the Agenda 2063 as building blocks to Africa's sustainable development.
The AU commissioner for social affairs, Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, said that AU member states will focus on food and nutrition security this year.
"Governments have agreed that access to nutritious food in the right quantity is not only a human right but an imperative to realize growth," Kaloko told journalists.