Andris Piebalgs in Malawi: Let's discuss nutrition

From left to right: European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva and Malawian President Joyce Banda during their meeting on March 5, 2013. Photo by: Amos Gumulira / EU

Child stunting was an issue that took the spotlight in yesterday’s talks between European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and Malawian President Joyce Banda. The meeting was a prelude to next week’s release of a communication that sheds light on the European Commission’s policy on global nutrition.

Addressing child stunting is a primary focus of the European Union in the African country. In Malawi, almost half of the children suffer from the condition. 

“In some aspects, Malawi has done better on agriculture, but overall the situation of nutrition, particularly that of children and the issue of stunting, is something that were not acceptable,” an EU spokesperson told Devex.

Piebalgs has already announced the EU’s commitment to reduce the number of stunted children worldwide by at least 7 million by 2025.

“I am fully committed to make this pledge a reality,” he said prior to the meeting, which was also attended by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Apart from nutrition, talks focused on education and other priorities of the EU’s next development cooperation strategy for Malawi. Discussions with the government are ongoing, and the EU has yet to offer Malawi any figures as negotiations concerning EU funding for the next seven years under the 11th European Development Fund continue.

We are in the “beginning of the process,” the spokesperson noted, adding that Pieblags is set to meet with civil society representatives tomorrow to discuss priorities in the country.

Rest assured though, the EU will “continue to be involved, at the minimum, at the same level in Malawi in the years to come,” he added

The leaders likewise discussed the need for Malawi to diversify its economy, ensure capacity building reaches all levels of government as well as farmers, and the need for Malawian leadership in these endeavors.

“We are there to support financially, to give guidance,” the spokesperson said. “We work with FAO, but at the end of the day, the leadership needs to come from the government.” 

How nutrition will form part of the EU’s development policy will be the main message of the nutrition communication to be released Tuesday next week. Piebalgs, who will be back in Brussels Friday, will also deliver a speech at a Scaling Up Nutrition high-level event on Thursday, where he will try to mobilize more donor support for the cause.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.