UNITLIFE, the United Nations trust fund dedicated to countering chronic malnutrition, was officially launched yesterday on the sidelines of the Generation Equality Forum. The announcement was made at a virtual event co-hosted by Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation.
Despite affecting 149 million children globally, chronic malnutrition lacks both widespread attention and adequate investment. Through innovative finance and partnerships, UNITLIFE seeks to close that investment gap to finance nutritious food systems and climate-smart agriculture while empowering and educating women.
UNITLIFE was created by UN Women, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Government of France, and Reaching the Last Mile, a portfolio of global health programmes driven by a commitment of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who provided US$2.5 million of funding.
Commenting on the announcement, Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy said, “I am honoured to announce our support of UNITLIFE and the effort to protect millions of children around the globe who are vulnerable to chronic malnutrition. Reflecting the UAE’s decades-long focus on global health, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed is committed to creating a healthier future, particularly within the world’s most vulnerable communities.”
Al Hashimy continued, “UNITLIFE’s efforts to fight chronic malnutrition are steeped in innovation and sustainability, ideologies that the UAE shares. Our holistic approach to global development reflects an understanding that we can only uplift humanity if we first work to improve health systems and their quality.”
One in five children do not eat a diet that meets their nutrient needs during the first 1,000 days of their lives. As a result, they face life-long consequences affecting their physical growth, cognitive development and immune systems – issues that can impact a child’s entire life and present them from thriving into adulthood. Chronic malnutrition is also linked to approximately 45 percent of deaths among children under five worldwide.
The consequences of chronic malnutrition extend beyond individuals and contribute directly to continuing the cycle of poverty in communities – children who are well-nourished are over 30 percent more likely to escape poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need to combat chronic malnutrition even more acute. Disruptions in food, health and social protection systems are expected to result in an additional 2.6 million chronically malnourished children by 2022.
In his opening remarks Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “Food insecurity and malnutrition remain one of the greatest challenges of our century. While historic progress has been made, we unfortunately know that they remain insufficient and they are never taken for granted.”
“As you know France is taking determined action to reduce this scourge by focusing a significant portion of its efforts on pregnant or breastfeeding women or infants during the crucial 1000-day period surrounding the birth of a child,” continued Le Drian. “We are therefore very proud to be a permanent member of UNITLIFE with, among other, UN Women, which contributed to the creation of this initiative with the support of UN Capital Development Fund. I would also like to hail the support of the United Arab Emirates’ continued support, a very decisive support in the development of this initiative.”
Since starting operations in February 2021, UNITLIFE has forged several strategic partnerships. Most notably, the organisation has partnered with Ecobank Group, the Pan-African banking institution, and OnlyOne, the French fintech firm, on awareness and fundraising campaigns.
UNITLIFE aims to address chronic malnutrition through a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, exploring innovative funding opportunities that address gaps in global health systems, including investing in sustainable and scalable agriculture projects, as well as programmes that empower women to address chronic malnutrition in their families and communities.
Speaking of UNITLIFE’s role in empowering women, Al Hashimy said, “UNITLIFE puts women at the centre of the solution – empowering them to grow and purchase nutritious foods for their families and giving them a better chance of continuously improving their lives. Our support for UNITLIFE is part of the UAE’s longstanding commitment to achieving gender equality and advancing the role of women worldwide.”
The virtual event was held before the start of the Generation Equality Forum led by UN Women and co-hosted by the Governments of France and Mexico. The Generation Equality Forum is a multi-stakeholder, global gathering for gender equality with the aim to accelerate progress towards gender equality in the next five years.
The virtual event featured a high-level panel attended by Gerda Verburg (Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and United Nations Assistant Secretary General); Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Executive Director, UN Women); Tala Ismail Al Ramahi (Associate Director, Office of Strategic Affairs, Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi); Ade Ayeyemi, (Group CEO and Executive Director, Ecobank Group) and Preeti Sinha (Executive Secretary, UNCDF).
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation