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1,000 days in Tanzania

I recently attended a meeting with US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister), Eamon Gilmore and Tanzanian prime minister, Pinda, to mark the next stage of the 1,000 days movement in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

The meeting was held in the Kempinski Hotel in Dar. Concern was one of only three organisations invited to the event – a powerful recognition of our work in the area of childhood under-nutrition.

While I waited for the meeting to start, I read the brief. The facts are pretty appalling. Nearly half of all Tanzanian children are stunted. The numbers of children who are underweight are also very high – and this in an African country which can produce enough food for its people.

The speeches

When everyone had arrived, prime minister Pinda welcomed us all. He then made it clear that he recognised the scale of the problem and intended to position a nutritionist in every district in Tanzania. This would make a huge difference if it happened.

Then Hillary Clinton spoke, with that extraordinary mix of authority and informality which very few people can manage. She made it explicit that the Obama administration supports the 1,000 days movement and she committed to quadrupling the US financial commitment to work on nutrition in Tanzania. The speech was short but she effectively conveyed how seriously she takes this important issue. 

Next up was Eamon Gilmore, whose speech was measured, word perfect and passionate without being over the top. As an Irish person I felt proud of him. Ireland rarely gets to share a platform on an equal footing with the world’s only superpower to discuss an issue as important as this. 

Making it happen

And then the Tanzanian ministers spoke. These are the people whose committment is needed to affect real change. Donors can provide help and support but if Tanzanian children are to get the nourishment they need then it is the Tanzanians themselves who will have to make it happen.

After the meeting, I chatted to Hillary and thanked her for the video message for the Concern conference in Washington DC. She told me how happy she was to do it for us. Then I heard the click of the camera as a photographer from Irish Aid captured the moment. I intend to hold on to the photo.