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The potential of school meals to change the nutrition landscape in Africa
by Daniel Balaban
IPS, World Food Programme
Feb. 2018
“There’s every reason to care: poor nutrition is the main cause of death for millions of children under five. Three million children die every year in Africa from malnutrition. If current trends continue to 2030, Africa will have lost a mind boggling 36 million children because they didn’t have enough to eat or to eat well enough.” – African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.
Tackling malnutrition is essential for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and will be critical for the African continent to reach its full development potential.
Studies in Africa evidence that the economic impact of undernutrition can reach up to 16.5 percent of a country’s GDP, not to mention the social burden in terms of wellbeing and health of the population, among others. The magnitude of the impact malnutrition has highlights the need investments capable of delivering results on the multiple factors influencing nutrition indicators. School meals is one of such investments.
School meals can play an important role by connecting different elements of food systems such as child nutrition, nutrition education and agriculture that are essential to promote sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets.
An analysis of 47 African countries indicate that over half of them have high or very high rates of stunting, with overall number of stunted children having risen in recent years.
At the same time, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is on the rise with an increase in child overweight by 50 percent from 2000 to 2015, setting a new public health challenge.
African countries have committed to the elimination of malnutrition in all its forms at the International Conference on Nutrition 2 (ICN2), and have endorsed its recommendations with measures to promote an enabling environment.
Among others, these recommendations call for: enhancing political commitment and social participation; strengthening national cross-government, multi-sector mechanisms; increasing investment in nutrition with domestic finance; promoting South-South and triangular cooperation; and strengthening nutrition governance.
Overall, they require the expansion of national nutrition frameworks, which should encompass the expansion of school meals programmes. School meals can play an important role by connecting different elements of food systems such as child nutrition, nutrition education and agriculture that are essential to promote sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets.
Home-grown school meals programmes act in this sense as important platforms to promote sustainable food systems that will lead to better nutrition in countries. School feeding programmes can improve nutrition rates among children through the delivery of adequate and balanced meals.
In addition to influencing the eating habits of children and their families through the choice of food included in school menus, school means can also envisage nutrition education to children and the school community.
Another potential of these programmes is to foster local production, specially from smallholder farmers, through local purchases. Considering the multiple policy areas encompassed by school meals, the involvement of various government sectors in programme design and implementation is central to achieve programmes’ intended results.
The WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil has promoted South-South Cooperation to enhance national food security frameworks from a multi-sector perspective, through home-grown school meals. It works closely with African governments to strengthen multi-sector coordination mechanisms, and several of them are making significant progress in this area.
The political support provided by the African Union is also fundamental for the expansion of nutrition specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes, as well as for increased domestic investment in them. The Centre of Excellence is supporting the AU in the elaboration of the Sustainable School Feeding across the African Union study, which provides policymakers with an evidence-based overview on how national school feeding features affect multiple infant and juvenile health and nutrition in the African continent.
Its evidences indicate that national school feeding programmes contribute to positive outcomes on schoolchildren’s anthropometric measurements – such as height, weight, and body mass index – micronutrient status, reported short-term hunger, and incidence of illness.
In order to continue progress in strengthening national nutrition frameworks, the Centre of Excellence supports governments to leverage schools as spaces to promote better nutrition and sustainable food systems.
Governments should also increase coordination among different sectors to improve the delivery of nutrition outcomes in nutrition sensitive programmes, as for example in school meals and cash transfer programmes. Other measures that can contribute in this sense are the strengthening of local food systems that will provide fresh and nutritious food, and promoting consumption of traditional food with high nutritional value.
Addressing current generations’ malnutrition and ensuring that new ones enjoy healthier lives require intense dedication to improving children’s access nutritious diets. As we empower children to have access to adequate food and make choices that contribute to healthy diets, we contribute to changing the nutrition landscape in Africa.
* In 2016, 59 million African children suffered from stunting and 14 million suffered from wasting. Daniel Balaban is the Director for World Food Programme’s (WFP) Centre of Excellence against Hunger. He led the Brazilian national school feeding programme as the President of the National Fund for Education Development (FNDE), which feeds 47 million children in school each year.

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The Financial Secrecy Index
by Tax Justice Network
30 Jan. 2018
The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.
An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world. Secrecy jurisdictions - a term we often use as an alternative to the more widely used term tax havens - use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows.
Illicit cross-border financial flows have been estimated at $1-1.6 trillion per year: dwarfing the US$135 billion or so in global foreign aid. Since the 1970s African countries alone have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, while combined external debts are less than $200 billion. So Africa is a major net creditor to the world - but its assets are in the hands of a wealthy élite, protected by offshore secrecy; while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.
Yet all rich countries suffer too. For example, European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees partly by decades of tax evasion and state looting via offshore secrecy.
A global industry has developed involving the world''s biggest banks, law practices, accounting firms and specialist providers who design and market secretive offshore structures for their tax- and law-dodging clients. ''Competition'' between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of financial globalisation really took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets.
The problems go far beyond tax. In providing secrecy, the offshore world corrupts and distorts markets and investments, shaping them in ways that have nothing to do with efficiency. The secrecy world creates a criminogenic hothouse for multiple evils including fraud, tax cheating, escape from financial regulations, embezzlement, insider dealing, bribery, money laundering, and plenty more.
It provides multiple ways for insiders to extract wealth at the expense of societies, creating political impunity and undermining the healthy ''no taxation without representation'' bargain that has underpinned the growth of accountable modern nation states. Many poorer countries, deprived of tax and haemorrhaging capital into secrecy jurisdictions, rely on foreign aid handouts. This hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike.
What is the significance of this index?
In identifying the most important providers of international financial secrecy, the Financial Secrecy Index reveals that traditional stereotypes of tax havens are misconceived. The world’s most important providers of financial secrecy harbouring looted assets are mostly not small, palm-fringed islands as many suppose, but some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest countries. Rich OECD member countries and their satellites are the main recipients of or conduits for these illicit flows.
The implications for global power politics are clearly enormous, and help explain why for so many years international efforts to crack down on tax havens and financial secrecy were so ineffective, it is the recipients of these gigantic inflows that set the rules of the game.
Yet our analysis also reveals that recently things have genuinely started to improve. The global financial crisis and ensuing economic crisis, combined with recent activism and exposure of these problems by civil society actors and the media, and rising concerns about inequality in many countries, have created a set of political conditions unparalleled in history.
The world''s politicians have been forced to take notice of tax havens. For the first time since we first created our index in 2009, we can say that something of a sea change is underway.
World leaders are now routinely talking about the scourges of financial secrecy and tax havens, and putting into place new mechanisms to tackle the problem. For the first time the G20 countries have mandated the OECD to put together a new global system of automatic information exchange to help countries find out about the cross-border holdings of their taxpayers and criminals. This scheme is now being rolled out, with first information due to be exchanged in 2017.
Yet of course these schemes are full of loopholes and shortcomings: many countries are planning to pay only lip service to them, if that -- and many are actively seeking ways to undermine progress, with the help of a professional infrastructure of secrecy enablers.
The edifice of global financial secrecy has been weakened - but it remains fully alive and hugely destructive. Despite what you may have read in the media, Swiss banking secrecy is far from dead. Without sustained political pressure from millions of people, the momentum could be lost.
The only realistic way to address these problems comprehensively is to tackle them at root: by directly confronting offshore secrecy and the global infrastructure that creates it. A first step towards this goal is to identify as accurately as possible the jurisdictions that make it their business to provide offshore secrecy.
This is what the FSI does. It is the product of years of detailed research by a dedicated team, and there is nothing else like it out there. We also have a set of unique reports outlining detailed offshore histories of the biggest players in the game.

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