Malnutrition hindering development of countries

Malnutrition hindering development of countries

The Adviser to the Chief Executive Officer on Nutrition and Food Systems, Africa Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD/FAO), Bibi Giyose says malnutrition is really hindering the development of countries across Africa in a very big way.

She revealed that AU’s findings show that if a country invests US$1 in nutrition, it stand to benefit somewhere between US$30 to US$60. But if it doesn’t invest that money, the country stand to lose about US$35.

Speaking in an interview following the AUDA-NEPAD Youth and Media Awareness and Orientation on the AU Year of Nutrition held in Accra, Ms Giyose said “For the longest time, in decades, we have been ignoring this important issue; it is now that we are recognizing that malnutrition is actually hindering our development in a very big way.”

She noted that early childhood development and nutrition are intrinsically connected. In essence, good nutrition in a child’s early years can increase their cognitive development and ability to learn for years to come.

“The health and development of many young children in African is, however, compromised by malnutrition, leading to the urgency to step up efforts to reverse this,” Ms Giyose said. “Child undernutrition has long-term negative effects on a person’s life, most notably in the aspects of health, education, and productivity.”

From the cost of hunger studies, which calculated the economic losses due to child undernutrition, the Adviser to the CEO said, countries are losing anywhere between 2 percent to 17 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP). “That’s a lot of money. So we are basically not putting our money where our mouth.”

Per the Malabo targets, child undernutrition is expected to be eliminated by bringing down stunting to 10 percent and underweight to 5 percent by 2025, in the 21 Member states. Accordingly, this will lead to a total annual average saving of US$8.1 billion can be achieved as well as a 38 percent reduction in the costs associated with child undernutrition.

Notable progress has been made in Member States at the policy level, as nutrition has been firmly placed on national development agendas in countries that have undertaken the cost of hunger in Africa (COHA) study which the effects of this will be impactful in the coming years.


Stunting growth poses a significant threat to children in Africa, affecting brain development and leading to lower physical and mental capabilities. Even after they recover, the damage to their health continues. Studies show that rapid weight gain after age two among stunted children can increase the risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life and can contribute to heart disease, stroke, hypertension, or Type-2 diabetes.

Ms Giyose noted that people with childhood stunting tend to have learning challenges.

“As a result, they are less prepared when they enter the job market and tend to earn lower wages than those without childhood stunting. Their lifetime earnings are estimated to be 10 percent less than their counterparts,” she said.

Collectively, this translates into reduced economic productivity in developing countries and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Research shows that reducing the prevalence of stunting can increase gross domestic product by up to 11 percent a year in Africa.


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