NewsNorth AfricaIs Africa getting fat?


Posted on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 10:12

Is Africa getting fat?

By The Africa Report

Africa's GDP is growing but so too are africans' waistlines, according to new data. The story of african malnutrition is well known, but is the continent now facing a new and equally deadly challenge: obesity?

Yes The World Health Organisation has shown that in 2009 Africans were fatter than they were in 2002 with predictions suggesting a progressive increase in the coming years. Unlike in high-income countries, in low- to medium-income countries, Africa included, women of all ages are the most vulnerable group. In addition to obesity being a strong risk factor for non-communicable diseases it also impacts the economics on the continent. Not so long ago Africans were grappling with under-nutrition, but today over-nutrition rivals under-nutrition with some countries such as South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Mauritania and Gabon presenting unbearably high levels of over- nutrition. Urbanisation has been implicated, in that the rise in caloric and fat intake in a region where exercise is not a defining part of the culture has also added to the overall increased percentages of [people that are] overweight and obese. In summary, in Africa, increasing urban migration has an effect on Africans adopting Westernised lifestyles. Moreover, Africa is recognised for its diversity in culture, traditional beliefs and attitudes, of which some are putting communities at risk of developing obesity and its co-morbidities. This, therefore, calls upon swift response by African governments to effect primordial prevention strategies that include health education and the regulation of sales of 'energy-dense but nutrient-empty' foods. ● Dr Zandile Mchiza - Senior specialist scientist, Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa




No Africa has a food problem. It is not, as is commonly thought, that there is not enough food; it is more often that millions of Africa's poorest people cannot afford it. The reality for most people is not the threat of obesity but of hunger and under-nutrition. It is estimated that 5.3 million children suffered from severe acute malnutrition in the West and Central Africa region in 2012. Last year, more than 1.3 million children aged below five were treated for severe acute malnutrition in this region, which demonstrates the need to reach and treat even more children. These are children that face the possibility of mortality owing to severe wasting, a massive loss of body fat and muscle tissue, or nutritional oedema. Sadly, more than half those children estimated to be severely acutely malnourished will not receive appropriate treatment. Exacerbating the problem, conflicts such as those in the Central African Republic, Northern Nigeria and Northern Mali have forced more than 750,000 people to flee their homes depriving them of their land and other means of earning money. Africa is making great strides economically, and widening waistbands may be considered one measure of that success. But the dietary habits of an emerging middle class should not blind us to the fact that millions of Africans remain desperately poor – and tonight will sleep with little in their bellies. ● Naida Pasion - Regional programme director, Save the Children, West and Central Africa regional office

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