Three Initiatives To Help Africa Meet Health, Development Goals

Writing in New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog, Shawn Baker, Helen Keller International’s vice president and regional director for Africa, discusses three initiatives “that are poised for the kind of success at scale that will help us keep our promises” for health and development in Africa. “Breastfeeding is one of the easiest ways to deliver the essential nutrition that has been shown to increase IQ and brain development,” but “the development community hasn’t invested enough in promoting sound breastfeeding practices,” he states. However, “Malawi has reached a rate of 72 percent and the Alive and Thrive initiative has seen spectacular improvements in Bangladesh and Vietnam,” he notes.

“The last decade has seen a veritable revolution in treatment of severe acute malnutrition,” Baker states, adding, “There is a moral imperative to identify and treat severely malnourished children, but even more so, we need to double down on efforts to prevent any child from becoming malnourished.” Finally, “[t]here remains an urgent need to address the end stage of trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, trichiasis,” he writes, concluding, “It is important that programs address both the immediate and long-term prevention of blindness from this forgotten disease” (10/9).