Hungry children taking bite out of Africa's gross domestic product
Long-term malnutrition leads to life-long disabilities, hindering national growth
A series of reports examining 12 African nations has found that child malnourishment is costing them up to 16.5 percent of their gross domestic product, or GDP. The message is clear: When children go to bed hungry, develop life-long disabilities, it drastically undercuts social and economic growth.
The message is clear: When children go to bed hungry, develop life-long disabilities, it drastically undercuts social and economic growth.
"Work is in progress in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda. Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya and Mauritania will follow," Rachel Quint, a consultant at the U.N.'s World Food Program says.
Led by the African Union, the study involves several local and international institutions including the World Food Program, the U.N.'s Economic Commission for Africa and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, national statistical agencies and several ministries.
Undernourished children are defined as those who weigh too little for their age or are of a low height for their age, or stunted, a condition that causes long-term physical impairments. These children are at a higher risk for anemia, various infections and death, the reports explain.
On a less dramatic note, but still an important one ion gauging national growth, under-fed kids repeat school classes or to quit education altogether, the reports say. As adults, due to their reduced physical capacity and educational attainment, earn less in both manual and non-manual jobs, the reports add.
Increased medical and school expenses, reduced income and the loss of workers due to early deaths also weigh heavily on families and on the healthcare and education systems and the wider economy.
A model used by the study estimates the health and economic impacts on the current population of their undernourishment before the age of five. More than seven percent of school repetitions in Uganda are attributable to under-nutrition, costing $9.5 million a year. In Ethiopia, the mortality rate due to child malnourishment has reduced the workforce by eight percent.
The main differences are that in Latin America under-nutrition was estimated only by assessing how many people are underweight, while in Africa stunting is considered too. And productivity estimates consider manual labor, important in African economies, in addition to non-manual labor.
"Though the data refer to 2009, they should not be very different today because stunting is declining slowly globally and more so in Africa," Robert Black, professor in international health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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