Malnutrition costs Ghana economy $2, 6 billion annually
According to the UN’s Global Nutrition report titled: The cost of hunger in Africa: the social and economic impact of child under nutrition on Ghana’s long-term development, which was released on Tuesday, malnutrition in children has increased the country’s healthcare costs and put a burden on the country’s educational system.
The losses to the economy can be averted through strategic interventions
Human and economic costs of malnutrition gobbled 6.4 percent of the West African country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the report says.
“In the Northern Region of Ghana, 30 percent of children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished,” the report said. “This not only affects their growth but also their educational development and economic potential, and consequently the future of the country.”
“The losses to the economy can be averted through strategic interventions, which ensure adequate nutrition for mothers and young children,” it added.
The report said when children missed out on critical nutrients, including proteins, vitamins and minerals, their growth while in the womb was hindered. If that happened during the first two years of life it caused stunting, which was of particular concern, it added.
“People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood, such as frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and low workplace productivity,” the study explained.
The study also revealed that 37 percent of the adult population in Ghana suffered from stunted growth. At least 24 percent of child mortality cases were associated with under nutrition, it said.
The UN said child mortality associated with under nutrition had also reduced Ghana’s workforce by 7.3 percent.
The study said although Ghana has made some progress in improving child nutrition over the past two decades – such as reducing chronic malnutrition or stunting from 23 to 19 percent – the study highlighted the critical need for further progress.
The report pointed out that stunting was more than a health issue and had to be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach, which prioritised development programmes, from community to national levels.
“We believe that the realisation of Agenda 2063 [the AU’s vision and action plan for the next 50 years] and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without fully harnessing the potential of all sectors of the population and this includes our children,” Margaret Agama Nyetei, the African Union Commission’s head of health, nutrition and population division, said.
She said the study had exposed the economic implications for sectors such as health, education and labour, which underpinned national development.
Ghana’s Development Planning Commission chairman, Kwesi Botwey, said the report had opened “our eyes to the long term deleterious effects of malnutrition on health, productivity and human deployment.”
“Ghana is poised not only to deal with its own challenges in eliminating malnutrition, but to offer leadership expected from her,” he said.