Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, the UN Messenger for Peace, arrived in Liberia today to visit UNICEF and World Food Programme (WFP)-supported projects targeting vulnerable households in Gbojay Town and Suehn Town, Bomi County.
While acute malnutrition rates in the country have improved, the rate of stunting, which is caused by chronic malnutrition remains at over 35 percent, among the highest rates in the world. The government of Liberia has recently joined the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and has committed to expanding proven interventions designed to combat malnutrition. Malnutrition is the underlying cause for nearly one-third of child-related deaths in the country.
“Liberians under President Sirleaf’s leadership are making great strides in food security and nutrition. Liberia should be proud that it leads Africa in reducing mortality among young children under five years,” said HRH Princess Haya.
During her one-day visit to Liberia, HRH Princess Haya visited the Gbojay Town community grain reserves (CGR) project where WFP is supporting local women to run “rice banks”. Households can borrow rice from these reserves during the lean season and pay back at harvest time thus mitigating hunger.
In Suehn Town, HRH Princess Haya visited the Suehn primary school and interacted with the students receiving school meals as part of the National School Feeding Programme supported by WFP.
HRH Princess Haya also visited a lowland rice production site, a component of WFP’s Livelihood Asset Promotion (LAP) initiative, through which smallholder farmers are supported to create and maintain agricultural assets; and benefit from interventions to increase agricultural production through multiple cropping, improved irrigation systems, high yielding seed varieties and environmentally sustainable farming practices.
“WFP is strongly committed to helping Liberians as they work to build a hunger-free country”, said WFP Representative Mrs. Adama Diop-Faye. “We are implementing a wide range of initiatives that are geared toward addressing hunger in the short, medium and long terms,” she said.
HRH Princess Haya also met with beneficiaries of the EU-funded Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme, which aims to lift poor families out of abject poverty by providing them with small cash grants. UNICEF is implementing the programme in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Development.
Launched in Bomi County in 2009 and expanded to Maryland County in 2012, the SCT programme assists 3,800 households that support over 5,000 school-aged children. These households use the cash grants for a variety of purposes: from purchasing food for their families, to repairing their homes, to buying school supplies or medicine for their children. The impact is far-reaching, with target households reporting improved food security, increased school enrolment, decreased child labour, better health and an overall improved economic situation.
In addition to meeting with SCT programme beneficiaries, Princess Haya observed UNICEF-supported programme to screen and refer for medical care children at risk for malnutrition.
“A malnourished child is condemned to a life shorter than his or her peers,” said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett. “A malnourished child has a poorer cognitive capacity, and less ability to learn at school and to earn adequate wages later as an adult.” “In short,” the UNICEF Representative added, “malnutrition kills opportunity.”
An avid proponent of peace and development, much of Princess Haya’s work focuses on eliminating poverty and hunger by advocating and supporting the rights of children and underprivileged communities to have access to food, healthcare, education and security. The SCT programme and the nutrition interventions directly contribute to these goals.
“It was so gratifying to see the strong community spirit in Bomi County,” said HRH Princess Haya after the visit.
HRH Princess Haya is the wife of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. She is the daughter of the late King Hussein bin Talal and late Queen Alia of Jordan.